Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Response to Dan's Use of Pluperfect

Recently (link to mp3 of July 30, 2009, Dividing Line Program), Dan called into the Dividing Line radio program. He was calling to discuss the following verse:

Acts 13:48 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.

Dan recognized that the expression "were ordained" is, in Greek, a periphrastic pluperfect. Dan also noted that, grammatically speaking, one gets the timing of the action of the verb from the context. Both of these observations are correct.

However, Dan unfortunately seems to have misunderstood how the timing is indicated by the context. In this case, the reference timing is the time when the Gentiles, heard the gospel message, were glad, glorified the word of the Lord, and believed. The pluperfect indicates an action that was "past" with respect to those events.

That means that the ordaining was done before hearing, the being glad, the glorifying, and the believing. That does not necessarily specify when exactly the ordaining was done, which is a point that Dr. White tried to emphasize.

If we only had this verse we could not say whether the ordaining had been done (notice my own use of the pluperfect) in eternity past, a week before the message was preached, or five minutes before the apostle spoke.

Thankfully, we are not limited to this verse, but instead have the remainder of the Bible, which provides further light as to when folks are ordained to eternal life. Dan's apparent error of thinking that the ordaining should occur at some time mentioned in the context is a simple grammatical error that would have suggested that the ordaining took place when they people were hearing, being glad, glorifying, etc.. This mistake has, we trust, been fully addressed above.

On the other hand, however, could not be more clear: they are not ordained to eternal life after they believe. They did not first believe and then consequently were ordained to eternal life. No, the verse makes plain that the ordaining preceding the believing. This may not directly undermine some non-Calvinist views, but it does undermine the view (not Dan's view, I trust) that men ordain themselves for eternal life by believing.

I'm glad Dan called in, and I hope he'll call in again sometime.


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