All kinds of machinations are used to get around the fact that Acts 13:48 says that when the Gentiles being preached to heard the word of God, those that were appointed believed.
It comes in a few flavors, the most common are:
1.) They appointed themselves (or disposed themselves)
2.) Their believe is what caused the appointment.
Is it possible, given the grammar, syntax, and overall theme of the word, that these are viable options?
I think not…read on:
Here is the verse:
First; notice that the verse starts by saying that “when” they heard” they “began” to do something. This hearing is what started the action that follows. You notice that “began” isn’t actually in the Greek text itself, but is supplied by the translator…why? Because of the verb “ἔχαιρον which is to rejoice. They weren’t rejoicing before they heard this, it was the hearing that did it. (Does this align with scripture? Yes, Romans 10:17 “so faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”)
How many believed? “as many as were appointed.”
Let’s begin on the structure “as many as”. The word used is: “hosoi.”
Here is what BDAG says:
② pertaining to a comparative quantity or number of objects or events; how much (many), as much (many) as
all those who Mt 14:36; Mk 3:10; Ac 4:6, 34; 13:48; Ro 2:12ab; 6:3
So the meaning is simply all those who either did something, or had something done to them are being spoken about. This is the group whom the Holy Spirit is speaking of.
In this case the “as many as” is in the same case and gender as “appointed” and so it is referring to those who have been appointed, not those who have belief.
Keep investigating the cause; Could they have “appointed themselves by their belief”?
Let’s look at the word for “appointed” which is “tetagmenoi”
It’s used six times in scripture, and of those six, three of them are in the book of Acts, so let’s look at how Luke uses the work appointed in Acts:
|Acts 13:48||and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.|
|Acts 15:2||Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed|
|Acts 22:10||and there you will be told • all that is appointed for you to do.|
One of the verse is our verse so we’ll skip that and go to Acts 15:2. Paul and Barnabas were appointed to go and settle a debate, the church was the agent of the appointment, and Paul and Barnabas were the recipients of the action.
The next verse is where Saul is on the road to Damascus and Jesus Himself tells Saul to go and wait for everything that Jesus will “designate” him to do.
So in Luke’s use of this word, it’s meant that the individual has been acted upon by an outside force, and appointed to perform an action.
(It’s interesting to note that nobody asserts the following: “Maybe Paul appointed himself to do these things instead of Jesus” or “maybe Paul’s performing of “these things’ is what made Jesus “appoint” him to them.”)
It’s only when confronted with the idea that God appoints some to eternal life that men have an issue with this wording.
So what about the actual word “appointed”? What is it’s meaning?
This is what the BDAG entry says:
Τεταγμένοι verb, nominative, plural, perfect, passive
Lemma: τάσσω (appointed)
① to bring about an order of things by arranging, arrange, put in place
of a person or persons put into a specific position,
passive. belong to, be classed among those possessing ὅσοι ἦσαν τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον Ac 13:48.
Notice specifically that it’s definition is “of a person or persons put into a position.”
If we keep looking at the word, we next see that the tense is the “perfect” tense. This is the definition of the perfect tense:
perfect – The verb tense used by the writer to describe a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present “state of affairs” resulting from the past action.
No surprise there.
Let’s turn our attention to the mood of the verb; “passive” and this is where we get into the meat of things:
Here is the definition of the “passive” state of a verb:
passive – The grammatical voice that signifies that the subject is being acted upon; i.e., the subject is the receiver of the verbal action. A verb in the passive voice with God as the stated or implied agent is often referred to as the “divine passive.”
Well, that would certainly support the idea that these Gentiles are being acted upon an outside force, and being “appointed” by someone or something else. What about the “Divine Passive” as the definition said; is God implied in this passage? Absolutely!.
So we move on to the word “believe” or “epistusan”
ἐπίστευσαν Verb, third person, plural, aorist, indicative, active
Lemma: πιστεύω (believed)
What do we see about their belief? First, that it’s the “aorist” tense. Here is what that means:
aorist – The aorist verb tense is used by the writer to present the action of a verb as a “snapshot” event. The verb’s action is portrayed simply and in summary fashion without respect to any process.
In the indicative mood, the aorist usually denotes past time, while an aorist participle usually refers to antecedent time with respect to the main verb.
So it’s simply stating a fact, and little beyond that. But notice that when it’s coupled with the indicative mood, (which our verse does) then it’s a “past time” verb.
Here is the definition of the “indicative” mood:
indicative – The mood in which the action of the verb or the state of being it describes is presented by the writer as real. It is the mood of assertion, where the writer portrays something as actual (as opposed to possible or contingent on intention).
Again, no surprise there.
Let’s turn our attention to the voice of the verb:
active – The grammatical voice that signifies that the subject is performing the verbal action or is in the state described by the verb.
So the subject “the Gentiles” are either performing the action, or are in the state of the verb, i.e. “state of belief.”
So the grammar of the passage makes it clear;
The writer’s point is not that belief caused this appointment, but the appointment caused the belief, and because the verb “appointed” is passive that they weren’t responsible for it themselves. It’s a case of the “Divine Passive” where God is the instrument to bring it about.
We also saw that because the verb “appointed” is in the perfect tense, the action happened and was completed in the past but the emphasis is on the present state of being.
So does this align the “bigger picture” of scripture when it says that believers were “chosen before the foundation of the world” as in Matthew 25:34, Ephesians 1:4, Revelation 13:8, (in the negative) and Revelation 17:8.
Or when it speaks of the Elect in Romans?