Elon, North Carolina
One of the mostly hotly debated topics among Christians is predestination. Believers from different denominations hold very different views on predestination and passionately defend those views. The problem is that those who hold one view of predestination often have a very poor understanding of any other view. It is difficult to have any kind of dialogue on this topic among many Christians, since emotions tend to run high.
The goal of this lesson is to give an introduction to the topic from Scripture, interacting with arguments from both sides. Many come to this issue from a different framework than I do. I would ask them to do three things. One, read it all of the post, not just part of it. Two, read it with an open mind. Three, compare everything in it to Scripture. I will begin with several basic observations about the topic.
An Advanced Topic
This is a very deep topic. The Bible talks about the milk and meat of the word. Most people think of milk as simple truths of the Bible. This doctrine is part of the meat of the Word. Sermons on predestination are rare. The topic is often ignored in the pulpit. As a result, many Christians know very little about this topic and what they know is often inaccurate. This is an advanced topic. Many of the issues involves are complex and some of the post will be semi-technical.
A Misunderstood Doctrine
Many have grossly misunderstood this doctrine. It has been misunderstood by many unbelievers. It has also been misunderstood by some Christians. There are many myths about election. Many think predestination is unloving. The opposite is actually true. The Apostle Paul said, “IN LOVE he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4-5). Predestination is an act of love. Election is God’s secret weapon for saving people, as Donald Grey Barnhouse used to say, “without it, no one would get to heaven.”
Election is a good thing, not a bad thing. Predestinatoin is one of the reasons that Paul praised God from his prison cell in Rome. He wrote in Ephesians 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” The first spiritual blessing that he mentions is election in the very next verse. However, election is a very misunderstood doctrine. There are many myths about election.
Myths about Predestination
One myth about predestination is that it was started in the sixteenth century by the French Protestant reformer John Calvin. That is simply not true. Calvin was not the first theologian in the church to believe in predestination. St. Augustine in the fifth century believed in unconditional election. He wrote a book entitled A Treatise on the Predestination of the Saints.
Many think that predestination is the same thing as fatalism. That is incorrect. Others are absolutely convinced that if predestination is true, there is no need to accept Christ as Savior or even evangelize the lost. They believe that predestination eliminates human responsibility. If election to salvation is true, then man has no free will of his own. He must do as he is programmed to do. That is also not true.
The problem with this is that the Bible teaches both predestination and free will. Jesus’ death was decreed before the world began and yet the people who put him to death did so voluntarily. The sin of Adam and Eve was also planned before the world began and yet they sinned of their own free will. No one forced them to sin.
Another myth about election is that it is about us choosing God. There is a reason many believe this. Joshua 24:15 says, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”
However, biblical election is done by God, not man. In fact, when it took place, there were not even any people around. It took place before the world began, as we will see.
Election in the Bible involves God choosing people. John Piper said, “Your salvation did not begin with your choice to believe in Christ—a choice which was real and necessary. Your salvation began before the creation of the universe when God planned the history of redemption, ordained the death and the resurrection of his Son, and chose you to be his own through Christ“
An Unpopular Doctrine
The doctrine of election is very unpopular in the Church. It is perhaps the most hated doctrine of the Bible. The doctrine of election is very unpopular in the Church. It is perhaps the most hated doctrine of the Bible. It is a doctrine hated even by many Christians. Whole denominations of Christians do not like this doctrine.
John Wesley in his famous sermon entitled “Free Grace” even called predestination “blasphemy.” Wesley said on April 29, 1739, “Such blasphemy this, as one would think might make the ears of a Christian to tingle! …This is the blasphemy clearly contained in the horrible decree of predestination! …On this I join issue with every assertor of it. You represent God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust…This is the blasphemy for which (however I love the persons who assert it) I abhor the doctrine of predestination”
The question is not whether it is popular or unpopular. The question is whether it is biblical. The doctrine of Hell is also unpopular with the world but it is biblical. Even Jesus spoke of Jesus speaks of hell. He described it as “eternal fire,” “unquenchable fire” and “a furnace of fire.”
A Controversial Topic
Entire denominations are split on this topic. There are good people who disagree on this topic. Christians are divided into two different categories (Arminians and Calvinists). Both believe that their system is completely biblical. Entire denominations are split on this issue. Presbyterian and Reformed Churches are Calvinistic. Other churches (such as the Roman Catholic Church, Methodists, Wesleyans, Church of the Nazarene, Church of Christ, Pentecostal Church, Assemblies of God, Mennonites) are Arminian.
Some denominations are divided on this issue. There are Free Will Baptist Churches (which are Arminian) and Reformed Baptist Churches (which are Calvinistic). Some very famous Baptists were Calvinists (John Bunyan, C.H. Spurgeon and William Carey), while other Baptists are Arminian on most of the five points, except for one or two (John R. Rice, Billy Graham, Charles Stanley, Norman Geisler) . The Southern Baptist Convention has had some presidents who were Calvinists (e.g., Albert Mohler) and presidents who were Arminian (e.g., Frank Page).
Historically, Calvinism came first. Arminianism was a response to Calvinism. John Calvin never summarized his system of belief into five points. That was done by people after him and then the Puritans later put those five points into an acronym (TULIP).
Calvinists and Arminians see election very differently. While both groups would say that they believe in election, they have radically different views of what election involves.
|Election is collective||Election is individual|
|Election is done by man||Election is done by God|
|Election is for believers||Election is for unbelievers|
|Election is conditional||Election is unconditional|
|Election is based on merit||Election is based on grace|
|Election is the result of faith||Faith is the result of election|
|Election is for service, not salvation||Election is for salvation and service|
A Biblical Doctrine
Some Christians say that they do not believe in predestination. The problem with this argument is that if you do not believe in predestination, then you do not believe the Bible. The word “predestinate” is in the Bible. It is a biblical term. Election, predestination and the sovereignty of God are not a man-made doctrines, as some think. They are not something that someone just thought up.
They did not originate with John Calvin or St. Augustine. They are not Calvinistic doctrines. They are biblical doctrines (cf. Ephesians 1:3-6, 11). Predestination may not be a popular doctrine or one that is easy to understand but it is biblical.
The word itself does not come from Greek but from Latin but it is definitely a biblical concept. In fact, there are several different Greek words used to describe it. The NT uses three different verbs and two nouns to describe election.
Greek Words for Predestination in the NT
1. The NT uses the Greek verb for to choose or select (έκλέγομαι).
It is used of people choosing certain things. “Mary has CHOSEN what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). “When he noticed how the guests PICKED the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable” (Luke 14:7).
“This proposal pleased the whole group. They CHOSE Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). The word is also used of God choosing people in a soteriological sense in Ephesians 1:4 (“Just as he CHOSE us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love” [NRSV]).
2. The NT uses another Greek verb for choose (αίρέομαι)
This word is used three times in the NT. It is used of both man and God. This word is used of Paul choosing whether he will continue to live in this body (Philippians 1:22). It is used of Moses choosing “to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). The word is also used in a soteriological sense of God choosing people for salvation (II Thessalonians 2:13). This word is used of people choosing things and God choosing things. It is used in a human and a divine sense.
3. The NT uses the Greek verb for “predestinate” (προορίζω) six times in the NT.
The word προορίζω is a combination of two words – προ (before) and όρίζομαι (to appoint or determine). The word προορίζω means to predetermine or to predestinate. Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew he also PREDESTINED to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
Ephesians 1 says, “He PREDESTINED us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (1:5). “In him we were also chosen, having been PREDESTINED according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (1:11).
4. The NT uses the Greek noun for “election” (έκλογή).
This word refers to refers to the process of God choosing or selecting people. Romans 9:10-11 says, “Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in ELECTION might stand”. II Peter 1:10 says, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and ELECTION sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall.”
5. The NT uses the Greek noun for “elect” (έκλεκτός).
That is the term for the term for the group of people who are chosen by God. Matthew 24:22 says, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of THE ELECT those days will be shortened.” Matthew 24:31 says, “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather HIS ELECT from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
The Apostle Paul said in II Timothy 2:10, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of THE ELECT, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.“
The Doctrine of Predestination in Ephesians
One of the strongest passages in the Bible on the topic of election is found in Ephesians 1.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves…. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12)
The Source of Election
The source of election is God. Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “For HE chose US in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love HE predestined US to be adopted as his sons.” It speaks of God choosing us, NOT us choosing God. We are not doing any choosing in that passage. God is the one doing the choosing. He chose us. He picked us. It sounds similar to John 15:16 (“You have not chosen Me but I have chosen you“).
Many do NOT believe that God chooses people. They only believe that we choose him but God is the one who does the electing in Ephesians 1:4. God the Father is the source of election. Does this mean that God plays favorites? Did God play favorites when he chose the nation of Israel? God could have chosen any nation. He could have chosen to make a covenant with the United States.
Instead, he chose to make a covenant with the nation of Israel. He could have made the Chinese the chosen people. Instead, he made the Jews the chosen people. He chose the Jews “out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deuteronomy 7:6). The Bible says that God set his affection on the ancestors of the Jews and loved them, and chose them and their descendants, above all the nations (Deuteronomy 10:15). It does not prove that God has favorites. It does prove that God is sovereign.
On what basis did God make his decision to choose us? Were we chosen randomly? Was his decision completely arbitrary? According to Ephesians 1, we were chosen solely based on the good pleasure of God. We were chosen based on the free, sovereign grace of God. Ephesians 1:3 says, “In love He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS PLEASURE AND WILL” (Ephesians 1:5).
Ephesians 1:11 says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything IN CONFORMITY WITH THE PURPOSE OF HIS WILL.” The decision was not random. God never does anything without a reason. He simply has not revealed what that reason was. Everything God does is fair and righteous.
The Nature of Election
Many see election as collective and corporate. According to this view, God did not choose individuals before the world began. He chose a people for himself, the church. He chose the body of Christ corporately. Election in the OT was primarily corporate. It was national. God chose the Jews as a nation. The Jews are the Chosen People. That did not mean that everyone in the nation was saved. The standard Arminian interpretation is that Paul is talking about class election in Ephesians 1:4 and not individual election.
Is Election in the New Testament Corporate?
While election in the Bible is often corporate, especially in the OT, several things should be pointed out about election in Scripture.
1. There are clear examples of individual election, even in the Old Testament.
Romans 9 gives three of examples of individual election and they all come from the OT. God chose Isaac, not Ishmael (Romans 9:6-9); Jacob, not Esau (Romans 9:10-13); and Moses, not Pharaoh (Romans 9:14-18).
2. Election of the NT church is slightly different from the election in the OT.
The church is not a nation but is made up of people from every nation and race. To say that we are chosen is very different from talking about the chosen people in the OT.
3. Many passages have to refer to individual election and cannot refer to corporate election.
Romans 8:29 also deals with individuals, rather than groups being elected. The passage says, “For THOSE God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
Acts 13:48 CANNOT refer to corporate election. It has to refer to individual election in the context. “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”
Paul was talking about Gentiles who came to faith when the Jews rejected the gospel message but not every Gentile in the city came to faith. Only some of them did. Acts 13:48 explains why they came to faith and others did not. It is not because some were more spiritual or more intelligent than others.
The text says that all who were “ordained to eternal life believed” (KJV). The word “ordained” (τάσσω) has also been translated “destined” (NRSV), “appointed” (NIV) or “predestined” (Weymouth).
According to the old Methodist scholar Adam Clarke (1762-1832), the Greek word used in Acts 13:48 for ordained “includes NO IDEA of pre-ordination or pre-destination of any kind” (emphasis mine).
However, C. K. Barrett, who ranks as one of the greatest British scholars of the 20th century, would take issue with that statement. Barrett was the greatest NT scholar since J. B. Lightfoot. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 94.
In 2004, he was the author of one of the finest commentaries on the Greek text of Acts in the International Critical Commentary (ICC) series. Barrett says that verse “is an unqualified term of absolute predestination as found anywhere in the NT” and Barrett happened to be a Methodist. 
Predestination is a common theme in Luke (e.g., Luke 10:20; 22:22; 24:44; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28;17:26). While many in Acts believed after hearing the Word preached (4:4; 8:12; 18:8), the Book of Acts is very clear that faith or repentance is not just the result of a personal decision or inclination.
In Acts, we are told that the ability to repent is a GIFT from God (5:31; 11:18). People believe and respond to the gospel because God first OPENS hearts (16:14). In fact, people in Acts are said to believe THROUGH GRACE (18:27).
A final passage which must refer to individual election is found in Revelation. Revelation 17:8 says, “The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth WHOSE NAMES HAVE NOT BEEN WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF LIFE FROM THE CREATION OF THE WORLD will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.”
That passage tells us that some people’s names will be written in that book from the creation of the world (the same time phrase as Ephesians 1:4). At the Great White Throne Judgment, God opens the book. “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
The fact that heaven contains a names of each and every saved person and the fact that these names were written in that book before the foundation of the world is a powerful proof of the fact that election is individual and not just corporate. If election was corporate and not individual, there would be no book of names in the Book of Life. There would just be one page in the book that says “the church.”
4. The context of Ephesians 1 is individual, not corporate election.
When we read the chapter, we do not read about groups being elect. Paul does not say that the church is elect or the people of God are elect. Paul does not say that the church is elect but individual believers in the church are not elect. The text says that He chose US (1:4). It says that He predestined US (1:5) and He lavished on US (1:8) and not some abstract group of people.
The Time of Election
The word “chose” is past tense (aorist). God did not choose us after we chose him. Long before we chose God, He chose us. He chose us BEFORE we ever came to faith in Christ. God chose us BEFORE we did any good or evil (Romans 9:11-12). He chose us BEFORE we ever existed. In fact, he chose us BEFORE the world even existed. He chose us “before the foundation of the world.” This was a pre-creation election. Long before God ever created the world, he chose certain individuals.
Arminians believe that one becomes a member of the elect WHEN he or she accepts Christ as Savior. Calvinists teach that a person is one of the elect BEFORE he accepts Christ as Savior. Ephesians 1:4 supports the latter, since this election takes place BEFORE the foundation of the world.
The great Baptist preacher C.H. Spurgeon made the following observation about election. He wrote:
“I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He would have never chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love”
What are the implications of this concept? God chose some to be saved. This means that other people were NOT chosen. The very nature of election is that certain people are chosen and certain people are not chosen. By nature this is selective. Not everyone was chosen. During the presidential election when you vote for one candidate, you automatically do not vote for the other candidate. That is offensive to many. The Bible teaches that “many are called but FEW are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
Is it unfair for God to choose some to be saved but not everyone to be saved? That is the wrong question. The question is NOT why didn’t God chose others? The question is, Why did God choose ANY to be saved? He was not obligated to save any. It was done at the pleasure of his sovereign will (Ephesians 1:5, 11). As Paul says in Romans 11, it was an “election OF GRACE.” Do we deserve to be chosen? No. Did we do anything to be chosen? No. Are we worthy to be chosen?
No. It is sheer grace that we were chosen. We are no better than anyone else. Israel was not better than the other nations (cf. Deuteronomy 12). The Apostle Paul deals with this objection and said the following in Romans 9:14-16: “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,’I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
The Result of Election
Election is for salvation. God chose some people TO BE saved. They were not saved when God chose them. They did not even exist when he chose them,. They still had to come to faith but they were chosen for salvation. Election is not the same thing as salvation. According to the Bible, election is UNTO salvation.
The Apostle Paul says, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (II Timothy 2:10). The elect still have to attain salvation, according to this verse. They still have to come to faith and get saved.
The lesson here is that salvation was not an afterthought to God. God did not find out that humanity was in rebellion to him after creating a perfect world and have to come up with a solution to the problem. Nor did God did not merely create a method to save the world and leave the results open to chance.
God is sovereign. He not only had a plan to save people, He chose certain people to be saved and adopted into his family before they were even born and before any humans even existed. God has a plan and that plan is unalterable.
Many Christians would agree that God does choose people but that election is never to salvation. God chooses certain individuals for a task, not for salvation.They would argue argument that Paul does not say that “God chose us to be in Christ” or to be put “in Christ.“ He rather says God chose us in Christ “to be holy and blameless.”
That argument does not make much sense. Everyone is NOT in Christ. Only certain people are in Christ. Those people had to be placed in Christ before they could be holy and blameless. Ephesians 1:4 tells us that this took place before the foundation of the world.
Is Election to Salvation Biblical?
The Bible teaches that God does choose people to tasks (cf. Acts 9:15) but he also chooses them for salvation. There are many passages which clearly teach that election is to salvation.
The Goal of Election
One of the purposes of election is to make people holy. Election is not limited to salvation. Far from being the basis of election, it is one of the purposes of election. We were not elect because we were already holy or because God saw that one day be holy. God elected us to make us holy (Ephesians 1:4; 2:10; Romans 8:29; John 15:16; Colossians 3:12). That is why election should never be an excuse to sin. The very purpose of election is holiness. Election should not lead one to pride but to holiness.
Ephesians 1:4 says, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Not the two goals of election. One is positive (that we should be holy) and one is negative (that we should be without blame). One deals with justification and one deals with sanctification.
In fact, one way you know you are elect is by your life. According to the NT, it is possible to know if you are elect. It is possible to “make your calling and election sure” (II Peter 1:10). How can we do that? Peter says that we can do that by living a godly life. We make our calling and election sure by making “every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love” (II Peter 1:5-7).
Is Election Based on Foreseen Faith?
Arminians believe in the concept of election but believe in a very different type of election than Calvinists. They believe in conditional election, rather than unconditional election. They believe in an election based on foreknowledge of those who will put their faith in Christ. They argue that God does NOT predetermine in advance who will be saved.
He simply knew in advance who will accept Christ and who will reject Him. Those who accept Him are part of the elect. According to this view, God does not choose anyone for salvation. We choose. God simply knows our choice in advance. Arminians point out that many of the NT passages on predestination mention foreknowledge.
Romans 8:29-30 says, “FOR WHOM HE FOREKNEW, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
I Peter 1:1-2 says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect ACCORDING TO THE FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD THE FATHER, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”
There are several problems with the Arminian view of conditional election based on forseen faith.
1. Romans 8 says that PEOPLE are foreknown, not their faith.
Calvinists do not have a problem with foreknowledge coming before predestination. God could only predestine people that he knew about in the first place. What is significant is what Romans 8 does NOT say. Romans 8 says that people are foreknown, facts about them. It does not say that God knew anything about us. It says that He knew us. Election is not based on anything that God knew about us.
2. Foreknowledge does NOT merely mean “advanced knowledge”
The problem with saying that the word “foreknowledge” in I Peter 1:2 means “advanced knowledge” is that the same word is used in I Peter 1:20 and the word cannot mean it in that passage. I Peter 1:20 uses the verb “to foreknow” (Προγινώσκω) and I Peter 1:2 uses the known “foreknowledge” (Πρόγινωσις). They are two different forms of the same word. I Peter 1:20 says, that Jesus also was “foreknown before the foundation of the world” (NASB, ESV).
That simply cannot mean that God knew in advance what would happen to Jesus. The Bible teaches He planned this to take place. It was not an accident. It did not happen by chance. “He was destined (RSV) or chosen (NIV) before the foundation of the world.” So the word “foreknowledge” in its theological sense means much more than to simply know in advance.
3. Election in Ephesians 1:4 cannot be based on foreseen faith.
a) Election is based on God’s sovereign will in Ephesians 1
Ephesians 1:3 says, “In love He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS PLEASURE AND WILL” (Ephesians 1:5). It does not say that we were predestined based on our future faith but based on God’s sovereign pleasure and will. Ephesians 1:11 says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything IN CONFORMITY WITH THE PURPOSE OF HIS WILL,” not the purpose of our will.
b) Election brings glory to God, not man in Ephesians 1
It is “to the praise of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6). Election in Ephesians 1 exalts God, not man. Election is God-centered, not man-centered. Election based on foreseen faith brings glory to all who of their own free will chose to believe and accept Christ, in contrast to all of the people who did not do so. This brings praise to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
c) Election is based on grace, not works in Ephesians 1
Election is said to be “to the praise of his glorious GRACE which he has FREELY given us” (Ephesians 1:6). It is not based on merit or anything that we do or will do. Instead, it is an election based on GRACE, as the text says in Ephesians 1:6. The elect were “chosen by grace” (Romans 11:5-6) “not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” (II Timothy 1:9). It is an election “not by works (Romans 9:11-13).
d) Election results in holiness in Ephesians 1
God chose people in Ephesians 1:4 so that they WILL BECOME holy (Ephesians 1:4). This election was done TO MAKE US holy, not BECAUSE we were holy (1:4). Holiness is not the basis but the purpose of election. Election was not based on holiness.
The second half of the verse rules out that interpretation. Election comes before faith. Faith does NOT come before election. God elected people and then they believed. They did not believe and then were elected. In fact, they did not even exist when they were elected.
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 676-677; Douglas Moo, Romans 1-8 (The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary), 569.
Many objections have been raised to the traditional reading of Acts 13:38. Below are several different ways to interpret the passage.
Objections to Acts 13:48
1. There is not a single instance in which τάσσω means foreordained in the NT.
Some argue that the word τάσσω is never used of predestination. The word is only used eight times in the NT (Matthew 28:16; Luke 7:8; Acts 13:48; 15:2; 22:10; 28:23; Romans 13:1; I Corinthians 16:15). That is incorrect.
While most of the time it is not used of predestination, the word is used in a theological sense in two of those eight passages (both in Luke). The word τάσσω is used theologically in Acts 13:48 & 22:10. Paul’s ministry was not an afterthought to God. It was planned out long before. Paul was set apart from birth (Galatians 1:15).
2. The Living Bible translates τάσσω “wanted”
The Living Bible paraphrases the verse, “as many WANTED eternal life believed” but there are three problems with that translation.
One, that is not what the Greek word τάσσω means. Any standard Koine Greek lexicon will verify this (e.g., Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich). The word τάσσω never means “wanted” in the NT. Note below how the word is used in the NT.
ΤΑΣΣΏ IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had APPOINTED for them. – Matthew 28:16 NKJV
For I also am a man PLACED under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it – Luke 7:8 NASB
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were APPOINTED for eternal life believed. – Acts 13:48 NIV
This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were APPOINTED, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. – Acts 15:2 NIV
‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been ASSIGNED to do.’ – Acts 22:10 NIV
They ARRANGED to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. – Acts 28:23 NIV
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been INSTITUTED by God (ESV) or PLACED THERE by God (NLT) – Romans 13:1
Two, the voice in Greek is passive, not active. The active voice in Greek would read, “as many as WANTED eternal life believed.”
Three, the Living Bible does not translate τάσσω “wanted” anywhere else in the NT, except in Acts 13:48.
The translation was clearly done for theological reasons. It supports what the translators believed but is not what the text says. Even the New Living Translation changes this to “all who were chosen for eternal life became believers” (NLT).
3. The word τάσσω should be understood as a middle voice.
Many Arminians have suggested that τάσσω be translated in a middle sense, rather than in a passive voice. In Greek, they have exactly the same form. In the passive voice the subject is acted upon. In the middle voice the subject acts upon itself. However, this is very rare in the NT. In NONE of the other uses of the word (Matthew 28:16; Luke 7:8; Acts 15:2; 22:10; 28:23; Romans 13:1; I Corinthians 16:15) do we see this usage.
I Corinthians 16:15 is often seen as a parallel but the word used in that passage is in the ACTIVE, not passive voice. It would also be a bit strange to translate the phrase, “as many as appointed themselves to eternal life believed.” That makes absolute nonsense theologically to say that prior to believing certain individuals appointed themselves to eternal life.
4. The word τάσσω means “rightly disposed”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses translate the verse, “When those of the nations heard this, they began to rejoice and to glorify the word of Jehovah, and all those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers.” (NWT)
However, nowhere else in the NT does τάσσω mean “disposed” (see above). Nowhere else does the NWT translate τάσσω “disposed.” The translation was clearly done for theological, rather than linguistic reasons. Many cite I Corinthians 16:15 as a parallel but there are some differences. The word τάσσω is used in an active, not a passive voice and there is a big difference between being disposed or inclined to do something and being devoted to doing something. The word τάσσω never means “disposed” in Luke.
In addition, Luke does not say that some were disposed to faith (as if he said “all who were inclined to believe Paul’s message came to faith”). He says appointed to eternal life, not appointed to faith. The type of verb used is significant. It is not as if people who were emotionally moved by Paul’s preaching came to faith. The disposing or appointment did not come at the time of the preaching but before it. The Greek participle used is in the perfect tense, which refers to a completed act in the past which has present consequences.
 The middle voice is used in Acts 28:23 and is used like an active verb but the aorist has a distinct middle form that is different from the passive middle. The perfect tense used in Acts 13:48 does not have two different forms, so Acts 28:23 is not exactly parallel.