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How Prevenient Grace Helps Me Sleep

John MacArthur has a famous sermon that he preached on Mark 4:26-29 on the theology of sleep in which he argues that the doctrine of unconditional election allows him to sleep at night.  He argues that the doctrine that God alone saves gives him comfort because if the salvation of others depended on him, he would not be able to sleep at night.  MacArthur argues that he cannot understand how ministers who deny unconditional election can sleep if in fact the saving of souls depends upon them.

I for one reject unconditional election but I sleep well at night not because I deny the lostness of men nor because I turn a blind eye to their desperate need for salvation.  I sleep well because of the doctrine of prevenient grace.  I agree with MacArthur that salvation is the work of the Lord.  Regeneration is the work of the Spirit (John 3:1-5; Titus 3:5-7).  The entire work of salvation is by the power of God (Romans 1:16-17).  While I believe the Bible teaches that people believe the gospel as a duty (John 3:15), I deny that this belief is works (Romans 4:5).  Sinners are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

However, my job is not to save sinners.  It is the Lord’s work to save sinners.  MacArthur’s appeal to Mark 4:26-29 is right.  The harvest is the Lord’s harvest (Matthew 9:38).  Paul argues this way in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.  While Paul and others did work to tell people the gospel, the Lord is the One who saves sinners.  Our job is to simply preach the gospel.  This is a point that both Arminians and Calvinists can agree.

Obviously, the key difference here then is not over the gospel.  It is not over whether the Lord saves sinners.  It is over whether the Lord treats sinners as people or does He treat them as something else like robots or chess pawns?  I believe God treats people as people who can think, hear, respond.  God is the one who saves and He deals with sinners by His grace.  His Spirit woos the sinner but He does not force the sinner (John 6:44).  The Spirit opens the sinners heart to hear the gospel and be saved (Acts 16:14-15, 30-34; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:13-14).  The Spirit is the one who empowers the disciple to first preach the gospel to the lost (Acts 1:8) and then He also is the one who opens sinners minds and hearts to the gospel though He allows the sinner to believe in their own freed will.  Over and over again the New Testament calls the sinner to believe the gospel and repent (Acts 17:30-31).  As the Spirit works, the sinners respond (Acts 2:37).  The sinner either repents (Acts 2:38, 41) or they rebel (Acts 7:51; 13:46).  Those who believe the gospel become the elect of God (Acts 13:48; Romans 8:29-30; 1 Timothy 4:10).

As Arminians our dependence in evangelism must not be on gimmicks or tricks or rock concerts or skits or movies.  It must be on the gospel that saves sinners!  The Spirit empowers the Church to preach to the lost.  Our dependence must be on the Word of God that saves the lost.  In Mark 4:26 we read of the scattered seed.  In Mark 4:14 the seed is the Word.  The Word brings forth fruit as we preach the gospel!  Our job must then be to preach the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2, 5).

The bottom line is that Arminians can take comfort in the work of the Spirit in drawing sinners to salvation.  Calvinists often contend that the term “prevenient grace” is not found in the Bible.  What they fail to realize is that Calvinists theologians have also used the term for the term means “beforehand” grace.  This is a biblical concept even if we disagree over whether this grace can be resisted or not.  Both Arminians and Calvinists affirm that salvation is the divine work of God and His grace.  While we Arminians would contend that God grants free grace to draw in souls through the preaching of the gospel, the result of regeneration is the divine working of God.

Why Did God Choose Me?

The differences between Arminianism and Calvinism over the issue of the doctrine of election are revealed when we seek to answer the question, “Why did God choose me?”

The Calvinist answer is that God chooses people purely based on His arbitrary choice.  God does not choose people because He loves them or because of faith in Christ but based purely on God’s sovereign choice.  Calvinist theologian Sam Storms writes:

To say that God is impartial means that he is not moved or motivated by human characteristics such as race or gender or color of hair or socio-economic achievements. When God set his electing love on some but not all, he was not influenced by wealth or power or beauty or education or skill or potential or any other human consideration. God favored the elect, God was partial toward them, because that is what he wanted to do. He was not obligated by anything in any person to show favor to anyone. If God grants preferential treatment to his elect it is solely because it pleases him to do so, and not because the elect distinguished themselves from the non-elect by fulfilling some condition, either spiritual or physical.

Arbitrary in His choosing.  God’s choosing is based purely on His sovereign right to choose.  It is not based on the person at all.  God does not treat the person as a person but a part of His plan.

John MacArthur defines unconditional election as follows:

It is the doctrine taught by Scripture throughout Scripture that God sovereignly, independently, uninfluenced by any other person chooses who will be saved and that that choice was made by God before time began, before the world was created in eternity past and that He is in response to that choice redeeming His chosen people through human history until finally they are all together redeemed and gathered into His presence forever.

Notice again that election among Calvinists is purely arbitrary.  It is based on God’s sovereignty alone.  Humans play no role in the Calvinistic understanding of election.

Yet I will be fair here that MacArthur (and most Calvinists) deny double predestination despite the fact that Calvin taught it from Romans 9:22-23.  MacArthur is clear that he holds that God merely endures the non-elect while not making them that way.  However, if the sovereignty of God is to be maintained (as taught by Calvinists) then MacArthur must ignore the role that God’s sovereignty would play upon the non-elect.  They are non-elect because God will it so and this is a fundamental point of disagreement from us Arminians.

The Arminian answer to the question of “Why did God chose me” is based on the Christ-centered approach to Scripture.  God chose me because of Christ (Ephesians 1:4-13).  Scripture reveals that the heart of God is fully revealed in His Son (John 1:14).  Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and Jesus was fully God and fully man (John 1:1).  Jesus is the heart of Scripture (John 20:31).  All of Scripture testifies about Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27).  Jesus is the very center of Scripture and we must view all things through Him and His saving work.

In light of the cross, election would then be based on the work of Jesus.  Those who embrace the cross become the children of God, the elect of God found in Christ (1 Timothy 4:10).  Jesus is the elect one and we are elect if we are in Him through faith (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Jesus shed His blood for all men (Matthew 26:28) and His blood alone is able to cleans sinners from their sins (Ephesians 1:7).  Only those who appropriate the work of Christ are the elect of God (Romans 5:17).  Only those who trust in Christ alone are saved (Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).  God foreknows the elect (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2) because He is God and He knows all things but He does not make people believe but people believe out of their own freed will (John 6:44).  In Romans 9 Paul clearly shows that those who have faith in Jesus are saved and the Jews are lost because of their rejection of Christ and His saving work (Romans 9:30-31).  God’s heart is now to have mercy on all and not merely Israel (Romans 11:32).

Thus election in Arminianism is not arbitrary but is based on love.  I know that Calvinists claim that their teaching on election is also based on love but one cannot ignore the sovereign arbitrary choosing of God that, according to both Storms and MacArthur above, is based on God alone.  God, in Calvinism, then chooses people purely because He wants to and not because of Christ, faith, or even love.  It is His glory alone that God chooses people in Calvinism and hell exists because of God’s glory.

The fact that God treats people as people made in His image is a strong point for us Arminians.  Despite mankind’s sinfulness, God still reaches out to men and He still interacts with men based on love and God speaks to people in the Bible as people.  Even MacArthur acknowledges this.  He preached:

I think we preach whosoever will may come. I think we preach Isaiah 55, everyone that thirsts, come, come. Jesus says, “Why will you die? Why won’t you come?” Jesus weeps, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you, you that kill the prophets and stone those that are sent to you, how often I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her brood, but you would not and now your house is left to you desolate.” Jesus pleading, Jesus weeping. Jeremiah 13, God weeps in Jeremiah 13, shedding tears over Israel’s apostasy and unbelief and disobedience and defection from the truth. And the heart of God is broken and the prophet says God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. So I…I see clearly that the Bible holds the sinner responsible. The Bible calls the sinner to repent and believe the truth.

And I agree.  God deals with people as people.  He calls them to repent. He calls them to turn.  He calls them to be saved.  The call of Acts 2:39 is that all can come.

The bottom line is that the Calvinist is hard pressed to define election apart from God’s arbitrary choice.  The Arminian position is that God deals with people on a personal level based on the work of Christ.  Election then in Arminianism is Christ-centered with Christ receiving the glory, worship, and honor for saving sinners.  His blood was not shed in vain as the gospel goes forth (Romans 1:16-17).

Our View of God

I saw this statement floating around several Calvinist sites.  It reads:

God is glorified in the salvation of His people, and He is also glorified in the just condemnation of the wicked.

Now at just a reading of this, I have no problem with it.  It is true!  Those who repent and are saved are His people (1 Timothy 4:10) and God is glorified through saving them.  The opposite is true as well.  Those who reject the Lord Jesus and reject His salvation, these two glorify His name because they will bow their need and confess that He is Lord as well (Philippians 2:5-11; Revelation 20:11-15).  None will escape the judgment of our God (Hebrews 9:27-28).  Those who go to hell go there because of their own sinfulness and their own rejection of the truth of God (Romans 1:18-32; 2:7-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:10).  John 3:18 reads:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The error that Calvinists make about this statement is that they are meaning that God is sovereign in His choosing whom He will save and in whom He will condemn.  They see this as God glorifying His name either way.  God is glorified when He acts to save by His unconditional electing and irresistible grace to salvation of His elect (notice “His people” which typically means “His elect”) and the Calvinist reasons that God is also glorified in His just condemnation of the wicked.

The problem is not in the glory of God.  The problem is in the reasoning.  If election is based on a condition then those who meet the condition that God has established are saved and bring Him glory  The condition in Scripture is faith and repentance.  This is contrasted to works in Romans 4.  Works can never produce eternal salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  What we do does not earn God’s perfect righteousness.  This is a gift given to those who have faith and repentance that is wrought in us by the aid of the Holy Spirit (John 6:44).  I have no problem teaching that salvation is a gift or that faith is a gift or that repentance is a gift since all of these only come to sinful mankind by the goodness of God (Romans 2:4).

The problem I do have is when we begin to discuss God’s glory in the condemnation of the wicked.  I understand the condemnation and I agree with it.  However, Calvinism seeks to establish that God is glorified in His just punishment of sin even though the wicked are simply doing what God elected for them to do.  Some Calvinists teach that God simply “passes over” the non-elect (this seems to be the view of John MacArthur).  God does not actively harden the non-elect and in fact, some Calvinists argue that He loves them to a degree by giving them this world, this life, the air they breathe, etc.  Yet Calvin was clear that God does harden the non-elect.  Calvin even taught that God will allow some to think they are elect only to condemn them on the day of judgement.

Calvin wrote:

“I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them.”

And then he wrote:

“Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate. Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add, that the reprobate never have any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them.”

Notice that Calvin even asserts that there is “an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate.”  Remember that reprobate are all non-elect.  Calvin is saying that the Holy Spirit works in the life of the non-elect to even give them false hope.  Notice that Calvin even writes that the reprobate “accept the gift of reconciliation” but are “under a covering of hypocrisy.”  The reprobate believes himself to be elect but Calvin says they are wrong and only the elect receive regeneration.

So God misleads the reprobate? For what purpose?  The Calvinist would say for His own glory.  This is why they read Romans 9:22 and see the vessels of destruction as the reprobate whom God sovereignly has not chosen.

I do believe in the justice of God.  I do believe that all people will stand before a holy God and apart from being clothed in Christ, they will not be saved.  I do believe the way to eternal life is narrow and hard (Matthew 7:13-14) and I believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6) which is why we must preach the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:19).  God certainly foreknows those who are His (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2) but I disagree that God is actively misleading people, condemning people apart from their sins.  Ezekiel 18:4 tells us that the soul that sins shall die.  Ezekiel 18:32 tells us that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.  His desire is for us to turn and live.  This is done by the preaching of the gospel of His grace (1 Corinthians 1:21, 30-31; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

Now go and preach the gospel to all (Romans 11:32).

The Definite Plan of God and Free Will of Mankind

Acts 2:23 shows us both the definite plan of Almighty God and the freedom of mankind.  While God offered His Son according to His own purposes and plan, He also still held the people responsible who crucified the Lord of glory (Acts 3:13-15; 5:30; 7:52; 13:27-28; cf. Luke 22:22).  While this verse clearly shows the sovereignty of God in the giving of His Son, it does not speak of man’s relation to God nor of our individual salvation.  To read into Acts 2:23 “unconditional election” to personal salvation does not do justice to the text and is reading our theological notions into the words of Dr. Luke in Acts 2:23.

What we do see in Acts 2:23 is that God decreed that His Son would be given for the sins of the world.  Jesus died according to the definite plan of God.  However, the acts of evil men in killing the Son of God on the cross is their own acts that God will hold them accountable for.  To read into Acts 2:23 that God “caused” people to mistreat the Son of God and kill Him is misleading.  God foreknew all this because of His omniscience but He did not cause the evil acts no more than He did not cause the fall of mankind into sin.  God foreknows all things but He does not cause all things.  He controls all things and upholds all things by His own power (Hebrews 1:3) but He does not directly cause all things otherwise He would be guilty of sinning (James 1:12-15).  Furthermore, that God foreknows is not the same as cause.  Foreknowledge means that God knows beforehand.  God knows does not mean God causes.  That God knows evil acts will occur does not mean that He causes them.  Because He foreknows all things, He is able to take the evil acts of mankind done by their own sinful will and He is able to turn them for His own purposes and glory (Romans 8:28).  This is the case here in Acts 2:23 and with other passages such as Genesis 50:20.

Dr. Harry Ironside wrote about Acts 2:23 some good words:

Notice how two things come together here that often trouble thinkers among men.  First, God’s predetermined purpose and wicked man’s free will.  God had predetermined that His blessed Son was to come into the world and give His life a ransom for sinners.  But God had not predetermined that men should curse Him, spit upon Him, and heap every kind of indignity upon Him.  These things were of men’s godlessness led on by Satan.  Peter says, “God sent Him; God knew all that would take place; but you are responsible for your sins in that you laid hold of Him and with your wicked hands crucified and slew Him.

One point about this is that God did foreknow the evil acts of men toward His Messiah.  Notice in Psalm 22:16-18 how the Scriptures prophesy about how evil men would treat the Lord.  Further, Isaiah 53 points to the evil acts of men toward the Lord’s suffering Servant, our Savior.  God did foreknow all that be done to the Lord Jesus but He allowed these free acts to continue to fulfill His own decreed purpose, salvation to those who have faith in Him (John 3:14-18).

The twin truths of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are clearly seen in this text.  God foreknows the evil acts of sinful men but He also has His own definite plan that will come to pass according to His own will.  What a mighty God we serve!

Jesus’ Foreknowledge and Causation

There are certain events in the ministry of the Lord Jesus that demonstrated that He foreknew them and that this shows He was God.  For instance, we read that Jesus knew that He would die on the cross (John 12:32), that He would die on the cross and details about His crucifixion (Mark 10:33-34).  Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him (John 13:18-27) and that Peter would deny Him (Mark 14:29-31).  He was able to read the thoughts of the Jews in Mark 2:8.  Clearly, Jesus was God (John 1:1; Philippians 2:6).

Yet what is striking about these events is that Jesus did not cause them.  He foreknew them, such as the sin of Judas, but He did not make Judas sin.  He simply knew it would be.  The same is true of the Father’s foreknowledge of the death of His Son in Acts 2:23.  Peter states in Acts 2:23 that the Father knew this would happen and He planned it so but the text does not say that the Father caused the people to kill Jesus nor does Peter remove their own guilt in the death of Jesus.

There is a difference here.  To foreknow sinful acts is not the same as causing them.  That God foreknew the fall of Adam into sin is not questioned.  To say that God caused Adam to sin is a different position altogether.  Some hyper-Calvinists hold that God caused the fall.  He didn’t just foreknow the fall but He planned the fall and He rendered the event certain.  Many Calvinists hold that God renders all things to come to pass for His glory.  They point to passages such as Ephesians 1:11 which says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”  They point to that underlined phrase saying that God renders all things certain for His glory.  As R.C. Sproul likes to say, “If there is one rebel molecule in the universe, God is not sovereign.”  This is because Sproul believes that sovereignty must mean total control of all things.

Arminianism holds that God is sovereign but this sovereignty is not defined as omnicausality.  God foreknows all things but He does not cause all things to be rendered certain otherwise this makes Him guilty of sin.  How could it not?  If God caused Adam to sin or caused Hitler to destroy people in the Holocaust, even if by secondary causes, this still makes God the ultimate decision maker in deciding and rendering certain sinful acts.  In fact, all sin is ultimately to be laid at the feet of the God who causes all things to come to pass.

Yet if we hold that God created the world with a limited amount of freedom of the will then we see that suffering is the direct result of sin and not God.  We live in a fallen, sinful world (Romans 8:20-22) and so this world is full of despair and despondency.  Sin abounds all around us.  Is this the act of God?  No!  Scripture is clear that God does not sin nor does He tempt anyone to sin (James 1:12-15) but the primary cause of all suffering and pain and hardships is laid at the feet of us.  As the Catholic thinker G.K. Chesterton put it, “The problem with the world is me.”  Our sin and our free will decisions to rebel against God lead to the evil that abounds around us.

This view does limit God.  I acknowledge that.  I believe that God limits Himself.  He could have created a world where He caused all things but He did not.  He created Adam and Eve with free will and gave them His commands (Genesis 2:16-17) to which they freely chose to rebel (Genesis 3:11).  Our free will now is tainted by sin and by our sinful natures that we inherit from Adam our father.  The only hope for us is the gospel and the work of the Spirit through the gospel.  Our free will is corrupted by sin and we cannot choose God.  We would not.  We dare not.  We hate God in our sinful natures (Romans 3:10-18).  We need the intervention of the grace of God to set us free from sin and its powers (Titus 2:11-14).  None of us will freely choose God and thus why we need the Holy Spirit to draw us to salvation through the gospel (John 6:44-45; Acts 16:14-15; 1 John 4:10).  We Arminians believe this work of the Spirit is called prevenient grace and this enables us to believe and be saved.

Yet we stop short of making God the direct cause of all things.  He is sovereign even when He does not cause sin or the free sinful acts of mankind.  No doubt God sees all things and He foreknows all things but He does not make people rebel against Him.  He allows them to continue in their rebellion all while reaching out to them with the cross (Matthew 22:1-14).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/25/2012 at 10:07 AM

Acts 13:48 and Calvinism by Dr. Jack Cottrell

QUESTION: Can you explain the meaning of Acts 13:48? It sounds very much like Calvinism to me.

ANSWER: This text summarizes the response of the Gentiles to the powerful preaching of the Apostle Paul at Antioch of Pisidia: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (ESV).

As usually translated, it is very true that this passage supports the key Calvinist doctrine of unconditional predestination (the “U” in TULIP). This is the idea that in his eternal pre-creation counsels and plans, God surveyed all the human beings whom he would ultimately bring into existence, all of whom as a result of Adam’s sin would become guilty of sin and condemned to hell. By God’s decree this universal sinfulness would also involve universal total depravity, including the loss of all free-will ability to turn toward God for salvation. The only way anyone could ever be saved was if God worked some basic supernatural change within the human heart that would not only make faith possible but would also actually implant that faith within the heart as an irresistible and irrevocable gift. (This last point is the Calvinist notion of irresistible grace—the “I” in TULIP).

Thus as Calvinists see it, God in his eternal counsels surveyed all these future helpless sinners and determined to save some of them; and he also determined precisely which ones he would save and which ones he would allow to remain in their sin and be condemned to eternity in hell. Why he decided to choose (elect) these specific sinners and not the others is not known to us. The fact is that he unconditionally chose some, and appointed or predestined them to become believers and thus inherit eternal life.

We can see how the usual translations of Acts 13:48 support this Calvinist view: only those appointed (ESV, NIV, NASB, NKJV) or destined (NRSV) or pre-destined (Weymouth) or ordained (KJV, ASV) or chosen (TEV) for eternal life actually became believers.

The question is this: how can this be reconciled with the Arminian (non-Calvinist) view? The key lies in the form of the main Greek verb, tassō. The basic meaning of this verb is “to place, to order, to appoint, to ordain, to determine, to arrange in order.” As it appears in this text, the verb form is the participle tetagmenoi. It is simply assumed that this is the PASSIVE form of the verb, thus: “to be appointed, to be ordained, to be destined.” What is often forgotten is that in the Greek language, often the passive and the middle form of verbs are spelled exactly the same way. That is the case here. The word tetagmenoi can also be the MIDDLE form of the verb. Here is the main point: that is how it should be understood in Acts 13:48.

What does this verse mean, then? The middle voice of a verb in Greek is sometimes used in a reflexive sense. The idea is that the action of the verb is something performed by the subject (not by someone else upon the subject), but in such a way that the action is directed back toward the subject or the self. Understanding that the verb means “to place, to set, to arrange in a certain order or position,” we can see that the statement in 13:48 can quite validly be taken thus: “As many as arranged themselves unto (eis) eternal life believed,” or “As many as turned themselves toward eternal life believed,” or “As many as disposed themselves toward eternal life believed.”

Why should we accept this approach to the verb—i.e., as middle voice rather than passive? For two reasons. First, it agrees with the general overall teaching of Scripture, that turning toward God is a matter of free will and personal responsibility, not something unconditionally and irresistibly caused by God.

Second, this agrees with the context, where the Jews’ response to the gospel is being contrasted with that of the Gentiles. In Acts 13:13-41 Paul preached a powerful Sabbath sermon in the Jews’ synagogue at Antioch. Many of the Jews were so impressed that they asked for an encore the next Sabbath (vv. 42-43). Then on “the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord” (v. 44). This crowd obviously included many Gentiles, because “when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him” (v. 45). This provoked Paul and Barnabas to speak this judgment upon the Jews: “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles” (v. 46). This verse is important because it shows that the exclusion of the Jews from the ranks of the saved was their own choice, not the result of some predestining activity of God. The Jews specifically judged themselves unworthy of eternal life.

This is exactly the opposite of the Gentiles’ reaction, especially when Paul and Barnabas applied Isaiah 49:6 to themselves: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (v. 47). Verse 48 then describes the reaction of the Gentiles to this preaching. It was in fact just the opposite of the Jews’ reaction: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord.” Then follow the crucial words: and as many as set themselves toward eternal life believed. How did they set themselves toward eternal life? By hearing and heeding the word of God (see Rom. 10:17).

We cannot ignore the symmetrical contrast between the reaction of the Jews in v. 46 and the reaction of the Gentiles in v. 48. Whereas the Jews rejected the gospel and judged themselves to be unworthy of eternal life (v. 46), the Gentiles received it gladly and embraced the message of eternal life (v. 48). In both cases the decision was a matter of free choice. There is no support for Calvinism in v. 48.

HT: Jack Cottrell

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