The Arminian understanding of Acts 13:48 Refuted.

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:

pertaining to a comparative quantity or number of objects or events; how much (many), as much (many) as

  1. 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)

to bring about an order of things by arranging, arrange, put in place

  1. of an authority structure

  1. 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?


12 responses

27 04 2008

I think I remember saying the only translation that used the words “as many as were ‘disposed to’ . . . believed. I think it was Dr. James White who said it and it was the Jehovah witness New World Translation. That translation does use the term ‘disposed’. I remembered I have a copy on my shelf and just checked.

27 04 2008

I believe that you’re right about that. Of course if there is a way to get around the meaning of this verse…somebody will give it a shot!

God bless,

21 01 2014
Greg Hall

Isn’t it possible that there was a group of Gentiles there that day who had already come to a justifying faith through the revelation of God in the Old Testament? Through that faith they would have been “appointed to eternal life”. It seems like Paul is distinguishing a “God-fearing” group of Gentiles throughout his message (Acts 13:16, 26, 43).

If they “had been appointed” through past faith… and now they believed in the updated message of Jesus as Christ (that Paul was presenting)… wouldn’t that also fit the grammar of the passage? This wouldn’t be a believing unto justification… but rather a sanctifying step of an existing faith.

After all… it was a

21 01 2014

Hi Greg,
Wow…those are a lot of suppositions aren’t they?

I guess anything’s possible to try and massage the meaning of the passage but suppositions are just that…suppositions…they don’t have any argumentative weight. And “God fearers” was not the name for saved Gentiles, but Gentiles who followed Jewish rituals.

I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one…I think you are doing a lot of gyrating to get around this.

Have a good day

22 01 2014
Greg Hall

I’m ok with the term “God fearers” only describing the Gentiles who followed Jewish rituals.

Simple logic says that there would have been true believers in the God of the OT spread throughout the world at that time… and that Paul would have been coming in contact with them all the time when he visited different cities. Does simple logic have argumentative weight?

Where’s the most likely place an OT saint would be found in any given city? I would suggest they would be worshiping in the synagogue. How would they be acting? I would suggest they would be “following the Jewish rituals”. Why would a Gentile follow the Jewish rituals? Seems like at least one possible answer is that they are a person of true faith. That doesn’t seem like a “gyration”.

If everyone comes to initial faith when Paul preaches… where’s the remnant from the OT? Cornelius (Acts 10:2) was “one who feared God with all his household”. Seems to me he was a man of true faith in God even before Peter arrived.

Any thoughts?

22 01 2014

I’m glad you’re ok with that 🙂

Yes…simple logic is fine, no problems there, but the text itself must rule the day.

Why would a gentile follow Jewish rituals?

For a lot of reasons…but that doesn’t mean that they were converts or that they were saved.

Keep in mind, I’m NOT saying that there were NO believers in the crowd…that would be presumptuous of me, but I am saying that the text itself tells us what we need to know…we can suppose all day long but in the end…exegesis of the text rules….no?

As for Cornelius?

No…he wasn’t saved if that’s what you’re getting at…sure…he was a God fearer and he prayed etc…people now do that all of the time..does it follow that anyone who talks about God (whatever their God is) and prays to their god is saved?

I don’t think that you’d go there…I know I certainly wouldn’t. Kanye West said he prays…does that mean he’s saved?

I guess you can keep supposing whatever you’d like, but unless you see something in the text itself that would be important I don’t think that this will get us anywhere.

22 01 2014
Greg Hall

I agree… the text itself must rule the day. We must be open to the possibilities that the context allows… and then let the text speak for itself.

From the text itself: Cornelius… “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually”… this man was visited by an angel of the one true God who said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. (Acts 10:2-4).

If Cornelius’ prayers were prayed to a false god… they wouldn’t have ascended as a memorial before the one true God. Would they? It sure seems that the “text itself” is suggesting that Cornelius was directing his prayers to the one true God and that his prayers and “alms giving” were received, acknowledged, and accepted by that one true God.

When Cornelius is described to Peter in Acts 10:22 he is called, “a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews” who was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you.

This is a description of Cornelius recorded by Luke (the author) well after the events happened. If Cornelius wasn’t really a devout, God-fearing, righteous man who prayed to God continually… I have to believe that Luke would have inserted something in the text to suggest that this description of Cornelius wasn’t accurate. Without such a correction in the text… I must just let the text speak for itself and the text is presenting Cornelius as a righteous, devout, God-fearing man who gave alms and prayed continuously to the one true God.

I don’t think the Kanye West comparison you gave really fits in this context. I do think the Biblical text often gives us descriptions of people’s heart condition… and we must be open to the possibilities that the context allows before we let the text rule the day.

22 01 2014

I think you are right…looking at the text and given all of the descriptions…I’m going to say that Cornelius was (what we would call) saved.

I certainly agree with your assessment of Cornelius.

22 12 2015

Great stuff, brother. A question: Where did you get these cool definitions of the different Greek voices, moods etc from?

22 12 2015


I can’t remember now, It could have been:

dig around there and see what you find.

14 10 2016

Disagree with this

14 10 2016

You probably dont remember but your arguments are invalid they are easily refuted by scripture and logic.
The perfect passive.does not denote eternity past it refers to some time in the past but not eternity past itself. Im not gonna get in a debate with u but logic here is key to understanding the context of the passage. Acts 13:46 clears up the mess since that the Jews judged themselves unworthy of eternal life
Not that god judged them unworthy of life/or they were predestined to disbelieve. Acts 13:48 can be taken in context as both middle or passive but the Greek word does not denote predestination of anykind. Since if it did that would contradict the other scriptures that say whosoever,anyone, or everyone. Acts 2:21,acts 13:39, and acts 10:43. And lets not forget Luke 3:6

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