Acts 13:48, 52 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know if John Calvin was particularly fond of this passage, but the wording certainly seems to agree with the concept of predestination. We do not have God’s perspective, seeing the end from the beginning, so we need to work as though everything depended on us, but at the same time we need to realize that actually everything depends on God, and so rest in Him. That’s what Hebrews is talking about when it says, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.” (Hebrews 4:11) We can’t save anyone in our own strength, but God chooses to use human agents to draw people to Himself. That’s that same tension between His actions and ours. Here, Paul and Barnabas were earnest in declaring the Gospel, but it was those who were “appointed for eternal life” who received that message with faith. (The Japanese expresses that as “entered into faith,” but I don’t know if that follows the Greek or simply reflects the Japanese idea of “joining a religion.”) What struck me about the last verse is that it says “the disciples.” To me, that includes not only Paul, Barnabas, and those with them, but also those who had newly committed themselves to Jesus in faith. Discipleship is a lifelong commitment, but it starts at the moment of salvation. We tend to forget that and not expect it, of new converts or even of ourselves. That’s much like the term, “saints.” Paul’s usage of it makes it very clear it applies to all believers, not some special class of people who are to be venerated. We all need to grow in our obedience (discipleship) and holiness (sainthood), but positionally we are already there by faith in the completed work of Christ; we just have to live it out. (Philippians 2:12)
This of course applies to me as much as it does to anyone. I am certainly no more perfect than Paul, (Philippians 4:12-14) but I have the same Holy Spirit working in me that he did, (Philippians 2:13) so I have no need to be anxious. I strive to bring all into a right relationship with Christ, but it is God alone who knows who is “appointed for eternal life.” That work can be heartbreaking at times, when people stubbornly resist submitting themselves to the Holy Spirit, but I must keep speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and trusting God.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for all You are doing in and through us on this trip. May we continue to grow in our availability to You, so that indeed, all who are appointed for eternal life may enter into Your full salvation, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!