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Gen. James Green
A CTS 13:38 records this: "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins." What Good News! Acts 13:48 records this: "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the Word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
The "forgiveness of sins" was both an Old Testament doctrine, and New Testament doctrine. Forgiveness is the Divine pardon of human sin. Actually, Luke wrote Acts. He was familiar with our word "forgiveness." Both Paul and Peter were familiar with this word. Paul uses it in Col. 1:14 and Eph. 1:7, in both texts in close conjunction with the word "redemption," which elsewhere, rather than "forgiveness," is the characteristic Pauline word.
From the get-go, Christianity was more than a way out of trouble. Too many use it this way. Biblical Christianity was, and is the WAY OUT of sin into newness of life, eternal life in Christ Jesus. It involves God's rescue operation—not of man's achievement. Man rests upon the finished (perfect/completed) work of Christ. Our works do not save us. Man must see what is imprisoning him in order to desire to be free. It is a sad fact that today's preachings revolve around "have your best life now" junk. Not the forgiveness of sins, but the "good life" that Christianity [supposedly] provides. People under this type of teaching are not free but ENSLAVED.
Ordained to Life (v. 48)
Verses 47 and 48 are a quotation taken from Isa. 49:6, the original reference being to Israel as the servant of Yahweh. The word "ordained" might mean little more than "disposed," with reference merely to human choice. But, it is much more likely that God's predestination is in view (not the Calvinistic type). God predestinates all those who are born again to live holy lives—this is His perfect Will.
Honest and serious Bible scholars confess that v. 48 has been pitifully misunderstood. Many suppose that v. 48 simply means that those in that assembly who were "foreordained," or "predestinated" by God's decree to eternal life, believed under the influence of that decree. Whatever τεταγμενοι (From Strong’s G#5021) may mean (“ordained”), it is neither προτεταγμενοι nor προτεταγμενοι, which the apostle uses, but simply τεταγμενοι, WHICH INCLUDES NO IDEA OF PRE-ORDINATION OR PRE-DESTINATION.
So, what does τεταγμενοι mean? According to Greek scholars, the verb ταττω or τασσω (Strong’s #G5021) signifies "to place, set, order, appoint, dispose;” therefore it has been considered here as implying the "disposition" or "readiness" of mind of several persons in the congregation such as the religious proselytes mentioned in v. 43, "who," as Dr. Adam Clarke says, "possessed the reverse of the disposition of those Jews who spoke against those things, contradicting and blaspheming, verse 45."
What do we have? The Jews contradicted and blasphemed; the proselytes heard and received the Word of life: the one party were utterly indisposed, through their stubbornness, to receive the Gospel. The other party, destitute of prejudice and prepossession, were glad to hear, in the order of God, the Gentiles were included in the (new) covenant of salvation through Christ Jesus. You see, they believed and received.
Men's Blind Folly
I like how New Testament scholar William Barclay addressed this issue: "Although men in their blind folly rejected and crucified Jesus, God could not be defeated; and the resurrection is the proof of the undefeatable purpose and power of God." Jesus became the author of eternal life. Amen.
The wonderful Good News is that in Jesus Christ men/women, boys/girls find FORGIVING POWER WHICH SETS THEM FREE from the awful condemnation that should have been theirs, and therefore restores broken fellowship with God.
The Bad News is that all who reject God's offer of eternal salvation will live eternally separated from the author of eternal life.
"If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned…If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love...If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 15:6, 10 and 7:17).
Note this small word "if." I did a study on this two-lettered word when I wrote several articles against the "Once in grace, always in grace" LIE. What I found from Genesis to Revelation was God's "if-conditions" (note how many times the word "if" is used in Leviticus 26:3-28 etc.).
For the record's sake, here are some points worthy of consideration:
In the Greek New Testament, "if" has the same conditional meaning in those texts as in the English. It is used to express a condition. It is also understood in this sense by law courts. As Bible covenants are legal transactions, their "ifs" would be interpreted in law courts as would be "if" in any other document.
Jesus said, "if a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch…and burned." He goes on to say, "If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love…"
He says also, "if any man willeth to do His Will, he shall know the teaching." This latter quote is used with full force of thelo, "to will to wish." So, Christ's "if-essential" demands the continual "wish"/"will"/"obedience"/ and "love" of those who claim salvation. God's covenant of salvation is an eternal life guaranteed to all who ABIDE in it. It is a "sure Word of prophecy" to all who CONTINUALLY believe (2 Pet. 1:19).
When men sin (as Christians) without repentance, these sins will mount up against them, eventually sapping his salvation entirely. IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT WE KEEP REPENTING WHEN NEEDS BE. THIS KEEPS US IN CHRIST.
The "ifs" in Christ's teachings are sufficient evidence for our conclusion that salvation is conditional. The Greek New Testament teaches in Jn. 3:15; 5:24; 6:35; 6:54; and 11:25: "Whosoever is continually believing has eternal life." "He that believes on Me continually shall never thirst"—"He who keeps eating My flesh and drinking My blood (symbols) has eternal life"—"He that persistently believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." We have an action begun, and to be continued. Read all the Words of Jesus, COUNT the times He uses "if."
Here is what I've tried to convey: Our salvation depends upon our response to God's invitation. We must repent before we can be forgiven. The same holds true after we are Christian. We must continually abide in Him in order to keep our salvation. We may be appointed to salvation, receive it, yet neglect it and lose it. First John says, "If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness [continually] is born of Him." What happens when a "Christian" stops doing righteousness and starts doing unrighteousness? That person DIES spiritually, period!!
Now, note how 1 John 2:24 is worded: "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father." But what if that Word does not remain in you, as the "if" clause declares? John told his listeners they would CONTINUE in the Father and Son "IF" what they had heard from the beginning REMAINED (continually) in them.
Those who believe in salvation without repentance are deceived. Those who believe "once in grace, always in grace" are also deceived. It has been stated by more than a few New Testament scholars that “John Calvin found the…fatal facility of reading into Scripture what he wished to find there.” Boy, this is a real plague in today's church.
Salvation was conditional from the beginning. God told Cain, "if thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?" The New Testament WARNS us about the "way of Cain." One scholar has counted 63 "if-texts" in the Old Testament TO PROVE THE JEWISH COVENANTS CONDITIONAL.
The "if-emphasis" Jesus gave to the New Covenant was continued by the apostles. It should be continued by us today. Top lexical authorities have been quoted for the Biblical definitions of predestination-election-and foreknowledge. In these definitions, there was not a single word about "unconditional salvation." Foreknowledge knew what men/women would do with their FREE CHOICE, but freedom of decision is at the controls of human actions.
Jesus said plainly: "If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed." Reverse that. What do you see? There are 41 New Testament "if-texts." 63 Old Testament ones. These 104 "if-proofs" must be considered. We can't go on ignoring them because they disagree with our faulty theologies.
I don't want to end this article refuting Calvinism, but that "forgiveness of sin" is a miracle to be had. If you've never repented of your sin, do it today—RECEIVE GOD'S GIFT OF GRACE, AND HIS FORGIVENESS. You'll never be the same. Amen.