One of the things we should note about the Westboro articles, is the use of “pet” verses to “prove” their point without bothering to consult the entirety of Scripture. This is not a new tactic, and I have observed to many times. The supporters of false doctrines do this because of one of two reasons:
A. They are truly ignorant of what the rest of Scripture does declare, and consequently do not include verses that set aside the doctrine they are attempting to support.
B. They actually do know that verses contradicting their doctrine exist, and they refuse to include them and explain them as they know the explanation cannot stand the light of scrutiny.
Hence, we observe their use of the verse from Acts 13:48, where the Gentiles believed the gospel when the apostle Paul preached it at Antioch in Pisidia:
Furthermore, the only people who can believe are the ones whom God has ordained to eternal life. “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.” Acts 13:48.1
However, that verse sits in a passage that states the following:
And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 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. (Acts 13:42-48)
If we note, just prior to the statement about Gentiles being ordained to eternal life, another statement is made by Paul and Barnabas, to wit:
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46)
Now, it must be asked (because surely the Atheist will ask it): Isn’t it contradictory to say that the Jews judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, but God ordained the Gentiles to eternal life, particularly when II Peter 3:9 states that the LORD would have all men come to repentance? Moreover, that I Timothy 2:4 seems to agree with II Peter 3:9, but disagrees with Acts 13:48, and appears to be entirely contradictory in that regard — why then should we believe the Bible?
They have a point, and it must be answered. However, answering it cannot be with the trite phrase “It’s a mystery.” and let it go at that. Nor can it be answered by inserting words into the passages of I Timothy 2:4 and II Peter 3:9 and ignoring Acts 13:46 as if it will go away of its own accord. No, the instant you state the long rigamarole that the general epistles of Peter were to believers, and the epistle to Timothy was to a preacher, and thus the context is believers only . . . it is revealed that the true answer is being obscured and the Atheist will cease to listen. Why? Because that answer ignores the fact that a letter to anyone can contain several contexts, some or all of which would be familiar to the reader.
For instance, if I have a friend who is a believer (and I have several) and he happens to own a piece of property in which I desire legal permission to access, and my letter addresses that issue, then irrespective of the fact that my friend is a believer, the context of the letter is the property and my desire for legal access to it. For someone to come along 200 hundred years later and examine the letter, and then declare that the request for legal access was predicated upon the fact that my friend was a believer and thus that is the frame of the letter, is to read into the letter a context that is not there. Irrespective of the fact that my friend happens to be a believer, I desire legal access to a piece of property that he happens to own — and that is all. I could write the very same letter to a different friend who happened to be agnostic, asking the very same favor of legal access to property he happens to own. Hence, the context is defined by the subject(s) addressed in the letter, not by the beliefs of the person to whom I send it.
What I have described above (determining the context of an epistle by looking at the addressee) is one of the most misused methods of “interpretation” of Scripture by those who routinely distort Scripture to support their own perverse doctrines that cannot be reconciled to the rest of Scripture. Now, to be certain, the addressee of a letter does have bearing on the contents of the letter. However, the contents of the letter have a context all their own, irrespective of the addressee, and are only affected by the level of knowledge and understanding of the addressee. Thus, we must look to the various subjects addressed in the Epistles, the knowledge and understanding of the recipients of the Epistles, and how the writers of those several letters approached the various subjects broached to determine the true context of any passage we wish to study and use for doctrinal support. In short, we have to be careful and rightly divide the word of God, ever understanding that no passage in and of itself creates or establishes a doctrine. Rather, in Scripture all doctrines that are proper and correct are supported multiple times throughout Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments.
Now, there is also one additional point to consider when comparing Scripture with Scripture to determine whether a doctrine is actually correct. That is: the context of the passages compared must be the same. This would seem to be a common sense rule, but it is frequently ignored and/or misused. If the context of one passage is spiritual, and another passage physical, even if they say the very same thing, one cannot be used to support the other. If we violate this rule, we will, sooner rather than later, come up with a doctrine that is in no way Scriptural, and runs contrary to the whole tone and thrust of the Scripture itself. This is not to say that we will not find that there exists a certain continuity between the physical and the spiritual, it is only to make expressly clear the principle contained in what the Lord Jesus Christ told Nicodemus:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6)
Hence, that which applies to the spiritual, does not apply to the physical, and vice-versa. We must understand that the physical, which came out of the spiritual, is only a limited type and shadow of the real world, which is the spiritual.
All that being stated, let us go back now and begin to address the passage of Acts 13:48 in which it is recorded:
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. (Acts 13:48)
Now, on its face, this seems to support the contention of the folks at Westboro Baptist Church and is commonly used by Calvinists also in supporting their argument of predestination. However, we are expressly told that no scripture is of any private interpretation in II Peter 1:20, and that is a hard and fast rule. After all, as an aside (but still germane to the discussion) I could quote Daniel 12:2 which states:
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
and turn around and claim that the Scripture supports the doctrine of “soul sleep” which is a Seventh Day Adventist doctrine. Of course, they do use this very passage to support their contention, all the while ignoring numerous other passages in Scripture that flatly contradict the idea of “soul sleep.”
What am I saying here? Simply this: If we are going to lean upon “pet” passages and private interpretations of Scripture to support doctrine, then we have to allow that everyone else who does so must be correct as well in their doctrines — even if it flatly contradicts ours. Why? To be succinct: what’s good for the goose — is good for the gander. Otherwise, we are nothing more than elitist hypocrites.
Now then, let us go back and begin to examine the passage of Acts 13:48, but we will do so by including Romans 9:11-13, which seems to contain the same idea.
To be continued . . .