The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Elect According to Foreknowledge

The Doctrines of Grace – Elect According to Foreknowledge, Part 1

In his first letter, Peter wrote to certain exiles as those who were elect according to the foreknowledge of God, 1 Pet 1:1,2. These exiles are believers scattered in ancient Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Precisely who these saints are is somewhat difficult to answer, that is, is Peter writing to Jewish believers who were interspersed among the Gentiles, or are they believers in general, Jewish and Gentile? Good arguments can be made for both interpretations. What is striking is that Peter uses language that is similar to Paul’s in his letters to Gentiles, e.g., Ephesians. Yet, generally speaking, Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, while Peter went to the Jews (Gal 2:7).
Regardless, whoever his readers were, what Peter declared to them is true for all of God’s people, and that declaration is this-- they are elect according to the foreknowledge of God.  Election refers not to a general choice by God to save some, but more precisely, election is God’s choosing certain individuals to salvation and rejecting others. This election, according to Peter, is an election according to God’s foreknowledge.
Theologians who hold that a man’s will is free such that the choice to believe is a choice they make completely on their own without any outside help will oppose any election which makes salvation a certainty. In their mind, this forces salvation upon the elect. There must be, they would argue, a reason that God made his choice to save this one rather than that one, a choice that cannot violate man’s free will. They hold that God does not want people to believe except as willing persons. God will force no one to believe in him, and therefore he grants all the freedom to believe or not believe. If, they argue, God chooses one beforehand, and that choice guarantees his becoming a child of God through faith in Christ, then he did not choose Christ freely; by decree, he is forced to believe. How is that honoring to God, they ask; is he not merely a puppet on strings that does not make his own choice but chooses only that which the puppeteer makes him choose?
Such theologians may appeal to the word foreknowledge as pointing away from that. They interpret foreknowledge to mean that God’s choice to save a sinner is based on something he knows about the sinner; God saw beforehand how the sinner would believe and on that basis, God chose the sinner unto salvation. Essentially, foreknowledge means to foresee.
This view is fraught with difficulty. It restricts God’s choice, not to reasons that are his alone, but to an influence that comes from without. It presents God as reacting to what a human being does. However, do not the scriptures present the opposite picture, that mankind ultimately does what God has determined beforehand to do, Acts 4:27, 28? Do not we love him because he first loved us, 1 John 4:19? Did the disciples choose Jesus, or did Jesus choose them, John 15:16? Paul repeatedly writes in his Ephesian letter that everything God does for the salvation of his people is according to his good pleasure, his purpose, his will, his counsel, his wisdom and prudence, Eph 1:5,8,9,11; 3:11; see also Rom 8:28; 9:11; 2 Tim 1:9. Next Sunday we will look more closely at this word, foreknowledge.

The Doctrines of Grace – Elect According to Foreknowledge, Part 2

Last Sunday we noted that some interpret the word foreknowledge as foreseeing. Consider this definition: Foreknowledge is a divine attribute of God, whereby God sees all things in the present tense.[1]

  The shift is away from viewing foreknowledge as an act of God, which (next Sunday) we will see is, in fact, a divine act. To pose incorrectly foreknowledge as an attribute (characteristic) of God, removes from God the making of choices about who will believe and who will not. There is no choice. God just knows who believes because that is the way God is. God mysteriously looks into the future (or bring the future into the present) and observes it.
There are a number of problems with this definition. To say God sees all things in the present tense is to say that for God, all things (past, present, and future) occur simultaneously in the present. This is a contradiction because it amounts to saying something that has not occurred yet is occurring right now, or something that has already occurred is also occurring in the present. Because of this blatant contradiction, the author of this definition probably does not mean it in this way. What is more likely meant is that God sees all things as though they were present, even though they really are not.
But if that is so then we must ask why does God have to see anything as if it were present to know anything about it? If it is necessary for God to see something future as though it were present in order to know it, then the element of discovery has slipped in. We are now saying that it is necessary for God to see the future as present, or otherwise, he would not know what the future holds. God discovers the future by seeing it as though present.
This notion of foreknowledge again equates it with the ability to foresee and has the implicit meaning of becoming aware. To explain this, recall the frenzy of predictions leading up to the U. S. Presidential election prior to November 6, 2012. Experts studied polls, trends, voting history, preferences, and so on, and then gave us their best assessment of how everything they looked at pointed to a win for a particular candidate. In effect, they said, I foresee who is going to win. Their foresight is a discovery based on expert analysis. With respect to God, according to the definition of foreknowledge above, discovery is based simply on God’s ability to peer into what has not yet taken place and see how it plays out.
This essentially disregards God’s omniscience, i.e., God’s ability to know everything fully and comprehensively in and of himself. God does not know all things because he has the uncanny capacity to look into the future and discover, or to look at something as though it is present and become aware. God knows all things because he knows himself – his intentions, purposes, pleasures. God knows who will believe in his Son because he knows whom he has chosen to be his people, and he knows all that he is going to do to bring about their coming to faith and repentance.

The Doctrines of Grace – Elect According to Foreknowledge, Part 3

The New Testament ties election and foreknowledge together: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion...., elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father1 Peter 1:1,2; See also Romans 8:29; 11:2. The Greek word translated foreknowledge is proginosko. It is a combination of ginosko (to know) and pro (before); hence, to know beforehand.
The word ginosko (know) expresses two different types of knowledge. In the first instance it means to discern, understand, or comprehend certain facts through observation and study. But in the second usage it means to have personal, intimate, thorough, first-hand experience. It is the difference, for example, between studying a cookbook and actually preparing a meal. The cookbook informs and gives pieces of information that the mind can analyze and evaluate. The preparation of a meal involves interaction with the cookbook, the raw foods, cookware, utensils, appliances, and the senses of sight, touch, smell, and taste. The cook not only knows (first meaning) what the recipe is, he also experiences (second meaning) something of it in the actual preparation and cooking of the food.
A biblical example of the first meaning is Paul’s description in Romans 1:18-21 that all men know God (ascertain his attributes of power and deity) through the creation. The problem is they suppress that knowledge and do not acknowledge those attributes. An example of the latter meaning is Philippians 3:10 where Paul writes of his desire to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. Here, the knowledge is personal as the words power and fellowship serve to elucidate that the knowledge of Christ is not merely an acknowledgement of certain facts about Christ, but experiencing a vital, personal relationship with him.
Another vivid example of the second meaning (experience) is when a husband and wife know each other sexually, And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, Gen 4:1; See Gen 1:17,25; 1 Sam 1:19.
Knowing something or someone personally is the idea behind foreknowledge; it means that before the creation of the world, God set his love on his people to save them from their sins. God knew, or loved his people from eternity. Out of his own pleasure, and for his own reasons, God loved certain ones and chose them for salvation.
The Old Testament supports this, “the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people.... but because the LORD loves you....the LORD has...redeemed you from the house of bondage, Deut 7:6-8.
God elects those whom he foreknew, that is, he chose those whom he set his love on before he ever created a single thing.


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