The verse doesn’t mention the critieria or reason for God’s choice to ordain individuals, unlike other verses (like Romans 9 and Ephesians 1) which clarify that it’s our FAITH that is the criteria. Neither does this verse say that God’s appointing is the CAUSE for people’s faith. Luke goes no further than saying that the ones that believe are the same ones that were appointed to eternal life.
All this verse is saying is that all the people who had eternal life were believers. It can be read:
”Those who believed were ordained to eternal life”.
”All those who won, ran the race.”
”As many as graduated, paid their dues.”
The Greek word tetagmenoi translated ordain “includes no idea of preordination or predestination of any kind” according to Adam Clark (Commentary on Acts 13:48). The word simply means “disposed” (to set in position). Therefore the verse is saying “as many as were disposed, or had such a disposition, to eternal life believed”. As Adam Clarke said, it teaches the “disposition or readiness of mind of several persons in the congregation” (Commentary on Acts 13:48). Their disposition to receive the Gospel is contrasted with the disposition of the Jews just two verse before.—-
Acts 13:46Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
The passage means that those who “judge” themselves “unworthy of everlasting life” did not believe, but those who “disposed” themselves to eternal life believed, and whether they believed or not depended on whether their heart rejected or accepted the Gospel which was preached to them. Those who hardened their hearts did not believe, but those who softened their hearts did believe. What made the difference was the disposition which they choose to have in response to the message that was preached. If we won’t accept the offer of salvation, we are sending ourselves to hell, and that is of course a very bad choice. God himself doesn’t want anyone to perish and that ALL should repent. This is the same story that we can read in Romans 1 and in the rest of the Bible.
No agent of the action is identified for the passive verb, meaning it could be another agent like God that prepared the subjects for eternal life, or Paul as the preacher of the gospel, or the preaching of the gospel itself, or even the subjects of the passive verb themselves (akin to saying “as many as were set for the test passed it”). Friberg’s lexicon lists “as many as had become disposed toward eternal life” as a possible translation. Max Zerwick suggests “who had been set (in the way)” as a possible translation in Zerwick and Grosvenor’s well known A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. And the most authoritative lexicon for NT studies (abbreviated BDAG) does not take the verb in question to mean “appoint” but construes it under the meaning of “to put in place”. The biblical scholar Henry Alford argued for the rendering “as many as were disposed” in his 4 volume work The Greek Testament.
Below we can read about a sorcerer who WITHSTOOD Paul and Barnabas and who tried to pervert the right ways of the Lord.
Acts 13:8But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. 9Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him. 10And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?— 12Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.
What would have happened if Paul and Barnabas were not present? Paul’s words make is sound like this wasn’t the first time this sorcerer had perverted the right ways of the Lord. Then he would have been more free to pervert the ways of the Lord. We can also read that the deputy started to believe due to what he saw. If men are elected to believe before the creation of the world, why did the deputy’s faith coincide with what he heard and saw? The Bible says faith comes from hearing the Word of God and we are expected to believe at least due to the works that we can clearly see.
Joh. 14:11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.
We can read that the Word is send to men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham:
Acts 13:26Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.
We can read that the Word is sent to ”WHOSOEVER among you feareth God”. To fear is something we do and if God would have chosen a lucky few to believe in Him, why can’t we read something like ”And God will make sure he places godly fear in you so that you can believe”?
GLAD TIDINGS are declared ”unto you” and why are not ”you” those mentioned in the verse above and in the other verses in the same chapter?
Acts 13:32And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers33God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
Paul continues to address ”men and brethren” and that the forgiveness of sins is preached unto them. Not only that, but we can read that ”ALL THAT BELIEVE are justified from all things”. This is an offer to all. We are also warned ”BEWARE THEREFORE, lest that come UPON YOU, which is spoken of in the prophets”. So even if Paul is telling a wonderful promise to his listeners and readers (and to all uf us since the NT is written also for us) there is also a condition for this promise. The risk is always that we can fall away if we don’t walk in the light:
Acts 13:38Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
Paul is telling us about despisers, which are those that perish. Does God want people to despise Him and to NOT believe in Him? No of course God doesn’t want people to rebel against Him. God doesn’t want anyone to perish. And yet again we can read about a warning from Paul where he persuades people to CONTINUE in the grace of God. It’s not self-evident that people will continue in the grace of God:
Acts 13:41Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.—43Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
Here again we can read that salvation is offered also to the gentiles and unto the ends of the earth. Not just a limited amount of people:
Acts 13:47For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
//Many thanks to Daniel Gracely