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.