Bible Study: God's Foreknowledge

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Van, Mar 5, 2011.

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  1. Van

    Van
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    God’s Foreknowledge

    Augustine asserted that to say God did not know, from before the foundation of the world, all things, was impiety. This is slightly off the mark. Rather, to assert that God could not foresee all things is impiety, for with God all things are possible. Alternately, it is also possible that God chose not to foresee all things and not to predestine all things, but to grant uncertainty as to the outcome of the individual choices of men, for all things are possible with God.

    To paraphrase Senator Baker of Tennessee, let’s explore “what did He know and when did He know it.” In the New Testament, Peter first mentions God’s foreknowledge (prognosis) in Acts 2:23 which says, “the Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”

    Here we see that God’s foreknowledge was coupled with a predetermined plan that God would bring to fruition by choosing individuals and compelling the events He foretold. So in this case, God’s foreknowledge does not necessarily indicate He is foreseeing future individual selections for salvation; rather it indicates that God knew before the time of Christ that He would bring His plan to fruition. Peter may only be acknowledging that the events of the cross were foretold in Scripture, and therefore foreknown and predestined by God.

    In Acts 26:5, Luke uses a similar word (proginosko), translated “known” to indicate that some Jews had previously known Paul, or known before, from the beginning. So here the word means something known before the time being, and is not tied with foretelling or predestining anything. So in this sense, knowledge that God held before the foundation of the world, He knew beforehand or foreknew during Biblical times.

    Based on these verses, two similar Greek words (transliterated prognosis and proginosko) are translated as foreknowledge and knowledge. Both are based on two root terms, pro meaning before and gnosis meaning knowledge. Ginosko is a form of gnosis and means to acquire or attain knowledge. The key to understanding the terms as used in the Bible is to ask the question “Before what”. The common misconception is to say before means before it happened or in the future. So based on this idea, foreknowledge means knowledge of the future. But this is completely wrong. Before refers to before the present time, in the past. So foreknowledge refers to something know beforehand, some idea or plan or concept learned or formulated in the past that is being used in the present. It has nothing whatsoever to do with foreseeing the future.

    Paul uses the word proginosko in Romans 8:28-30, which says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew [proginosko], He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born of many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called these He also justified, and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

    In this passage, those who are saved, who are “in Christ” are those who are called according to His purpose. Paul uses “called” in the sense of accepting the gospel, rather than hearing the gospel; and God’s purpose was to save that which was lost to the glory of God. “For whom He foreknew” refers to those who are called according to His purpose; those that accepted the gospel. The difficulty, which divides many Bible students, is whether this knowledge is specific; God foreknew each individual by name that would eventually accept the gospel, or God knew beforehand the knowledge of the plan and that His predetermined plan would result in a group of believers that would be called according to His purpose.

    In summary, God’s foreknowledge of those who are called unto salvation might be generic, all those that place their faith in Christ, rather than specific individuals. This passage does not say.

    Romans 11:2 says, “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.” Paul is making the case that since some, a remnant of Israel, have accepted Christ, God has not rejected His people, which He foreknew from the time of Abraham would be children of the Promise. So here again, foreknew is used simply to indicate knowledge of a prior time, or more accurately knowledge that there would be resulting children of the promise based on the covenant with Abraham formulated beforehand. But, since the subject relates to the Children of the Promise, God’s active role in history to bring about the fulfillment of His promises is also in view. Here, though, we have an example of a reference to foreknowledge clearly concerning a group (His people), and not specific individuals. This usage parallels the view that Romans 8:29 refers to a group, all those in Christ, whoever they may be, and is counter to the inference that God’s foreknowledge was specific to individuals.

    1 Peter 1:2 says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood; May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure.”

    Peter says to believers who reside as aliens, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood; grace and peace.

    The foreknowledge applies to the mechanism of salvation; all those placed in Christ by the Holy Spirit – will be saved, justified by the blood of the Lamb. The plan as known beforehand by God (termed foreknowledge) was that God would choose believers and the Holy Spirit would then baptize them into Christ - the sanctifying or setting apart work of the Spirit that you may obey Jesus - because following conversion you have a new heart, you are rewired so to speak, and you are sealed with the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit allows believers to be led by the Spirit and obey Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:16-18). The result of the transformation (conversion) - you are "in Christ" (justified by His blood) and Christ is in you. This whole transformation of believers is according to God's plan from all eternity. In the present - when the Bible books were written, God foreknew what He had planned and predetermined in the past - that whosoever believes in their heart in Jesus will be transformed at conversion such that over time following conversion they will be conformed to the image of Christ.

    It is unlikely that the foreknowledge is specific to which individuals are saved, since the foreknowledge is from the time that the plan was created, before the foundation of the world, and believers are chosen individually based on their faith exhibited during their lifetime. When we are set apart (chosen) by the Spirit, when we are baptized into the body of Christ, this is done because God accepts our faith. Therefore it is necessary that the foreknowledge concerns the mechanism of salvation and it is an unnecessary extrapolation to assert it concerns foreknowledge of foreseen specific individuals. In other words, God’s plan before the foundation was to save and transform believers, anyone who believes, and not specific individuals such as Van and Ron and Larry.

    1 Peter 1:20 says, “For He was foreknown, before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.”

    This usage mirrors the usage in Acts 2:23, where Jesus was delivered up according the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God. Peter dates the conception of the plan from all eternity. Clearly God chose Christ individually and all those who would be placed “in Christ” corporately as His elect before the foundation of the world. But this generic choice of a kind of people – believers in Christ - in accordance with His predetermined plan, was followed by His choosing individuals based on accepting their faith in Christ and sanctifying them by spiritually placing them in Christ. At the time of Peter writing this book, God had known beforehand that Christ would bring salvation to the lost. And this knowledge, termed foreknowledge, concerned both Christ and the plan of salvation because Christ’s appearing was for the sake of the lost.

    2 Peter 3:17 says, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness.”

    An excellent verse, considering I am trying to carry you away from your prior beliefs!
    Peter is saying, because the writings of Paul are hard to understand, untaught and unstable men distort them, as they do the rest of scriptures. Since, now that I (Peter) have written to you concerning this problem, you know beforehand, before any future event of distortion, so be on your guard. Peter is saying forewarned is forearmed, so the usage again has nothing to do with foreseeing future events, but rather carrying knowledge gained in the past, into the unfolding present. Therefore this passage, too, supports carrying knowledge gained in the past, when the plan was hatched, into the present and referring to it as foreknowledge.
     
  2. canadyjd

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    I believe the key to understanding any term in scripture is understanding the meaning of the word in the context in which it was written.
    I believe it is specific. The phrase "For whom He foreknew..." in Romans 8:29 is not referring to God knowing as in knowing His plan, but of God knowing in a relationship. That is the context. God had a relationship with these people (the saints) before the foundation of the world and He intervened to being about their salvation.

    This is consistent with Jesus saying He knows His own sheep by name (very specific call, not generic) and they follow Him when He calls them by name. (John 10)
    This is the crux of your argument. I believe you are wrong. God elects specifically, not generally.

    peace to you:praying:
     
  3. Tom Butler

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    So, basically, Brother Van, you are a foreseen faith kind of guy, it appears to me. I don't see any new ground being plowed here, but welcome to the board and thanks for giving it your best shot.
     
  4. Iconoclast

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    Wrong.... "whom he did foreknow". No accepting this, or deciding that.
    For whom he did foreknow....He also did predestinate.

    For you Van;
    http://www.wordmp3.com/files/gs/ordains.htm

    Here is some of it;
    What Christian could say, "No, I chose Him first!" or "I would have come even apart from His grace." On the contrary, since the Fall resulted in depravity for every son of Adam and daughter of Eve, God must change the hearts of those who will be saved (Rom 3:10-20). We are powerless to change ourselves. As Jeremiah 13:23 says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil." We are all, "by nature children of wrath" (Eph 2:3) and our hearts are "desperately wicked" (Jer 17:9, KJV). If we are to be saved, He must furnish us with all that necessarily brings us to salvation, including opening our ears to hear and embrace the gospel, changing our evil natures by regeneration, and granting us saving faith. In short, if we are to be saved, God must save us. Once this is believed, we rejoice in a truly "amazing grace." Our salvation is "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph 1:6).


    Eph 1:4 . . . just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.


    2Ti 1:9 . . . who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity . . .


    2Th 2:13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.


    1Th 1:4 . . . knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you.


    Rom 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God's elect?


    1Co 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."


    Mat 25:34 Then the King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."


    1Th 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ . . .


    Joh 6:37 All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. . . .44 No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, "AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD." Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.


    Joh 6:65 And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father."


    Joh 17:9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine.


    In the beautiful hymn, "How Sweet and Awful is the Place," Isaac Watts asked that grace-question the above verses answer, "Why was I made to hear Thy voice and enter while there's room when thousands make a wretched choice and rather starve than come? 'Twas the same love that spread the feast That sweetly drew us in; Else we had still refused to taste, And perished in our sin."(7)
     
  5. Van

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    Reply to Canadyjd

    Well I can certainly agree the key to understanding terms is to evaluate their meaning in context, including how the context answers the question concerning before knowledge. So no real difference here.

    If we consider the possibility that "whom He foreknew" refers not to the corporate election of whoever trusts in Christ as the target group of God's redemption plan, then we could back the before to those who have been spiritually placed in Christ. These then would be specifically elected and intimately known by God.

    Since the passage does not say whether the term is being used corporately, as in God's foreknowledge of the children of the promise or specifically, as in folks foreknowing Paul, I think my view is more consistent with the balance of scripture.

    To assert that foreknew indicates an intimate relationship from before creation seems week to me as I have found no support in scripture.
     
  6. Van

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    Reply to Tom Butler

    Let me try again. I am not a foreseen faith kind of guy. The faith God credits as righteousness is an existent persons actual faith. What God did before the foundation of the World was to choose Christ to be His redeemer. We know this because Christ was known as the Lamb of God before the foundation of the world. And when God chose Christ, He chose Him to be His Redeemer, the Lamb of God, and therefore God's plan was to redeem whoever believes in Him. Thus our election before the foundation of the world was corporate, "whoever believes in Him" and not individual.

    Why not individual? Because that creates a paradox in scripture. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says God chose us "from the beginning" (not before the beginning) through the sanctification by the Spirit - referring I believe to the Holy Spirit transferring us from the realm of darkness into the kingdom of God - and through belief in the truth. We could not have been chosen through belief in the truth (unless you are a foreseen faith kind of guy) until we heard the gospel and put our trust in Christ. To say we were individually chosen before creation and then individually chosen during our lifetime seems weak to me.
     
    #6 Van, Mar 5, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 5, 2011
  7. Robert Snow

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    God foreknew those who would trust in His Son, and He predestinated them to be conformed to His Son's image. Simple!
     
  8. Van

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    Reply to Iconoclast

    I see several assertions without support.

    God must change a person's heart before they can be saved? I see a reference to Romans 3:10-20 but no where in that passage does it refer to changing a person's heart.

    But since you brought it up, what you apparently believe is that no one understands at any time. I can add to scripture too and say no one understands at all times. Because when a person is sinning, and we all sin, we do not understand because our mind is set on flesh.
     
  9. Van

    Van
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    Reply to Robert Snow

    Yes, many Christians believe that God elected individuals before the foundation of the world, rather than corporately elected whoever will trust in Christ. However, that view (individual election before creation) is inconsistent with 2 Thessalonians 2:13 which says God chose us through belief in the truth. We did not believe in the truth before we heard the gospel during our lifetime, so God would not individually elect us twice. And what about John 15:19 which says God chose us out of the world. We were not in the world before creation.
    Or 1 Peter 2:9-10 which says we lived without mercy before we received mercy, and we lived not as a chosen people before we became a chosen people.
    To assert all this refers to some foreseen circumstance in the mind of God before creation seems weak to me.
     
  10. Tom Butler

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    I appreciate the thoughtful reply, even though I disagree with parts of it.

    It seems to me that if it is indeed corporate election, such choice by God must include every individual in that group. And, when you say "whoever believes in Him" is corporate, I, of course, disagree. "Whoever" must refer to individuals.

    Yes, God planned to redeem all who believe in him. But that is not election. Election is another word for choose. What we are discussing here is the basis of God's choice, not the method by which God saves those whom he has chosen.

    God's choice of me to be saved also comprehended all that he would do to bring about my salvation. Among those are his provision of a Savior; placing me under the sound of the gospel; illuminating my mind and opening my understanding; sending the Holy Spirit to convict me of my sin; drawing me to himself; granting repentance; creating faith; and giving me a new heart of flesh.

    Those things he does to individuals, not to a group as you define it.
     
  11. Winman

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    I agree with you Van (welcome to BB).
    I also see that Calvinists often ignore the phrase "in him" or "in Christ" which shows only a believer is chosen or elected. They will often redefine this to mean "TO BE in Christ".
    Non- Cals believe themselves chosen because they believe, Calvinists redefine this to say we are chosen TO BE in Christ, something the scriptures never say.
     
  12. jbh28

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    Actually, I say our election is in Christ. It was done before the foundation of the world, so obviously we were not alive yet.
     
  13. jbh28

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    That's not what 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says. It says, " God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:"

    Our salvation is through "sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth." this is the means as which God saves us.

    No body says that God elects us twice. We say that it was done "before the foundation of the world" as it says in Ephesians 1.
    No, but what's your point. We are going to be in the world. God isn't bound in time.
    We are not born saved.
    To assert all this refers to some foreseen circumstance in the mind of God before creation seems weak to me.[/QUOTE]
     
  14. Van

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    Reply to Tom Butler

    Many offer the argument that corporate election includes every individual within the group. I think the election or choice of a target group, whoever believes, is a valid concept.

    Similarly, I think He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, refers to a corporate election, He chose His Redeemer and therefore "chose" the target group of His plan. Moving forward in time to our present state in Christ, we can say He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world because we entered the chosen group - believers in Christ.

    Our individual election, during our lifetime, after we lived not as a people and without mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10) includes much of the individual rather than group actions you mentioned.
     
  15. jbh28

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    Individuals are saved, not groups. Ephesians is about individuals being saved. We are the ones being chosen in Ephesians, not Christ. "he chose us" It doesn't say because we entered into a group, but because "of the good pleasure of his will."
     
  16. Van

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    Reply to Jbh28,

    Lets discuss 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Here is the NASB rendering:

    13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you [a]from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

    The [a] footnote refers to a variant which reads "as first fruits" rather than "from the beginning.

    So we are chosen how: Through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. Thus to say we are chosen through faith in the truth simply unpacks the verse and does not alter its meaning in my opinion. So God chose us through faith in the truth, a conditional election.

    So if God chose us through belief in the truth during our lifetime, then to say God also elected us individually before creation, means God elected us twice.
    Are asserting that 2 Thess 2:13 does not say "God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through... faith in the truth?
     
  17. jbh28

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    It doesn't say that. It says that salvation is through sanctification through the Spirit and belief in the truth." you keep leaving out "salvation."

    No, never says that God elected us during our lifetime. Even if you were right that God elected us because we believed, it would still be before the foundation of the world.

    Salvation is through "sanctification of the spirit and belief in the truth. God doesn't have to be sanctified or believe in order to save us.
     
  18. Van

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    Reply to Jbh28

    My bible reads "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.
    Us is a group. Paul is telling individuals existing who are "in Christ" that one of the spiritual blessings we have is that He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.
     
  19. Winman

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    Of course we weren't alive, but you know very well election is according to foreknowledge.

    Now, if we are also chosen "in Christ" then this foreknowledge would HAVE to include God knowing of our faith in Christ would it not?

    The only reason you cannot accept this is because you hold to Calvinism.
     
  20. Van

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    John 15:19 says God chose us out of the world. Therefore our election for salvation occurred after we were in the world. And when we were in the world, we were chosen through belief in the truth.
     
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