Monday, June 29, 2009

Predestination in Acts, Part I

“In Corinth on his second missionary journey, Paul, discouraged by Jewish opposition, stops preaching in the synagogue and turns to the Gentiles (Acts 18:5-8). The Lord speaks to Paul in a vision one night telling him to continue preaching the gospel (Acts 18:9). God promises the apostle, ‘I have many people in this city’ (Acts 18:10). Paul obediently stays on in Corinth for eighteen months ministering the Word of God (Acts 18:11). Luke teaches that people in Corinth BELONGED TO GOD EVEN BEFORE THEY BELIEVED THE GOSPEL. Again we see God’s election of people to salvation. Interestingly, although some claim that an emphasis on God’s sovereignty in salvation hinders evangelism, that emphasis encouraged Paul to continue preaching” (Robert A. Peterson & Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” pp. 52-53).

Robert Peterson and Michael Williams attempt here to do what they’ve done throughout all of the Gospel of John as well as Revelation: hide certain details about the text.
In Acts 18, they write regarding verse 10, “God promises the apostle, ‘I have many people in this city.’” The problem with this, however, is that they leave out the earlier part of verse 10:

“For I AM WITH YOU, and NO ONE WILL LAY A HAND ON YOU TO HURT YOU, because I have many people in this city” (Holman Christian Standard Bible).

So the reason why the Lord tells Paul that He has many people in the city is so that Paul would be assured that “no one will lay a hand” on him. This is why in Acts 18:9, the Lord tells Paul, “Don’t be afraid, but KEEP ON SPEAKING AND DON’T BE SILENT.” There would be people in the city who would believe the gospel and profess faith in Christ. As a result of the gospel, Paul would have friends amongst the unbelievers in the city.

As we see, the Lord’s words to Paul about not keeping silent had to do with Paul’s fear of losing his life—not primarily about those who would believe the gospel, although the new converts would be protection for Paul. We do read in verse 11 that “he stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
If we look back to the early verses of Acts 18, we find that in Corinth, the Jews refuse to believe the gospel:

“When Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with preaching the message and solemnly testified to the Jews that the Messiah is Jesus. But WHEN THEY RESISTED and BLASPHEMED, he shook out his clothes and told them, ‘Your blood is on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles’” (Acts 18:5-6, HCSB).

Notice that the Jews “resisted and blasphemed” in response to the gospel message. Just like those Jews of Acts 7 who heard Stephen preach, these Jews resist Paul’s preaching of the gospel as well. To the Calvinist I pose the question, if we have in Acts TWO INSTANCES (chapters 7 and 18) where people are resisting the gospel, then how is it that there can be a concept of “Irresistible Grace”? And to make matters worse, how is it that Christians, after getting saved, can RESIST the Spirit of Grace (if grace is irresistible)?

As I said earlier, the Lord told Paul about many people of His in the city because this would serve as proof that Paul would be protected by the Lord.
We have one more passage to tackle in Acts: Acts 13. And that is what my next post will be all about.

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