Contend Earnestly: God's Foreknowledge

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

God's Foreknowledge

Some, if not most, think that the argument on God’s foreknowledge and election started with James Arminius and John Calvin at the time of the reformation. Yet, it actually started way back between Augustine and Pelagius at the conclusion of the apostolic era of Christianity. This post is not to get into all the “he said, she said” or to exegete tons of passages, but I want to try and find out the meaning of what “foreknew, forknowledge or foreordain” means in the Bible. God’s election and/or foreknowledge is not the debate for these are biblical terms that are used many times over in the Bible, but the debate is what did God foreknow and why did he elect. Look at these passages that mention “foreknew, foreknowledge and foreordain:”

For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained (to be) conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Romans 8:29,30

Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will;

Eph 1:4-5,11

Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know; him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay:

Acts 2:22-23

Now the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee; I have appointed thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord Jehovah! behold, I know not how to speak; for I am a child. But Jehovah said unto me, Say not, I am a child; for to whomsoever I shall send thee thou shalt go, and whatsoever I shall command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid because of them; for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith Jehovah. Then Jehovah put forth his hand, and touched my mouth; and Jehovah said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth: see, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.

Jer 1:4-10

You get the point and there are many other times where election and the “fore” words are used. Some believe, as James Arminius taught, that God seeing through the “portals of time” saw who would respond to Him and those are His elect and that is what it means to “foreknow;” He foreknew the person’s ACTION of belief. (By the way, both Pelagianism and Arminianism were both declared heresy by the early and reformed church leaders. You can read the whole history of the two by clicking here)

For one, this is never mentioned in Scripture. Does God know man’s action before we actually do them, of course we see that with David in Psalm 139. But my point is this, look at Jeremiah and Jesus. Did God elect Jeremiah to be a prophet because God knew Jeremiah would speak out against the great apostasy in Israel or did God choose Jeremiah to be a prophet first, to speak out against the people? What about Christ? Did God, because He saw that this man, Christ, was going to die on a cross, make or elect Him to be the Saviour of the world? No, absolutely not. He chose Christ, His Son to be the Saviour, and the way he foreordained that redemption was by the hanging on the cross. Just as God chose the elect, so that they would believe in His name, not the other way around.

But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep
John 10:26

It does not say you are not my sheep because you do not believe or you are My sheep because you believe. No, it plainly states that you do not because you are not of My sheep, and if you are one of My sheep, if I foreknew you, you would believe.

I hope this small post puts some clarity in the issue of the “fore” words of the Bible. Much more explanation of verb tenses in the original Greek can be sought and taught but even the simple look at Jeremiah and Christ helps us to understand that God foreknew the person and His call and did not base it on their action or response. How humble that should make us to know it was literally nothing in us but everything in Him.

Soli Deo Gloria!


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Anonymous said...

The explanation about foreknowledge was disappointing. You stated that some believe foreknowledge is that God foreknew the person’s ACTION of belief and chose them for salvation accordingly. You went on to say that this was not taught in scripture. If this is a wrong definition, what IS the definition of foreknowledge? Your definition states that God ordained people to act a certain way therefore they act a certain way. But where does foreknowledge come into play? The word has not yet been defined. Why did God say in Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate. In this verse one seems to be dependent on the other, or at least both words are important to the sentence. In your end statement, "Just as God chose the elect, so that they would believe in His name, not the other way around", doesn't explain foreknowledge at all. Please explain what it does mean.

Seth McBee said...


Thanks for stopping by. This post was written almost 4 years ago. This next post gives a better explanation of foreknowledge and to foreknow.

You'll notice that although God does know all actions beforehand, the understanding of "know" when speaking of God, is overwhelmingly meant to speak of an intimate knowlege of a PERSON, not merely their actions.

here is that post.

Unconditional Election

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