Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 4 Study # 8
March 4, 2008
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
1901 ASV Translation:
29 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:
30 and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
- I. The Explanation: Because...
- A. Those He knew beforehand...
- 1. The term in its uses in the New Testament
- a. Peter, in Acts 2:23, addresses the crucifixion of the Christ in terms of the "determinate counsel" (the 'boulai" which has been ordained) and "foreknowledge" of God. In this "address", he gives no indication whatsoever that the actions of men are excused by these issues. He did not seem to see any "problem" with condemning men for actions they had taken that God had "determined". A notable fact of this text is this: the condition of the Christ being "delivered" is tied to both the "determinate counsel" and the "foreknowledge" of God. Those who wish to remove "foreknowledge" from the issue of "impact" -- the "delivering of the Christ" -- need to reconsider by asking themselves this question: in what sense was Jesus "delivered" by the foreknowledge of God as the text plainly says?
- b. Paul used the term translated "foreknew" in Acts 26:5 to refer to "knowing before this present time". He spoke of those who had known him many years before as having "foreknown" him. He did not use the term in the sense of "knowing so that one could legitimately anticipate what the 'known' would do"; rather, he used the term in the sense that there was a real history between two or more that was, simply, past. They could "testify" now of what they had known of him then.
- c. Romans 8:29 brings "foreknowledge" into the picture without prior prejudice and leaves its meaning up to other considerations. It, apparently, has a direct, fundamental place in the concepts of a previously established "purpose" and an effectual "calling" for the fulfillment of that purpose.
- d. Romans 11:2 raises the theologically heretical notion of God "casting off" a "foreknown" people, and the following context establishes those "foreknown people" as the True Elect, not the false, apparently elect. That Jesus deliberately used the verb involved in this concept in His denunciation of the accursed ("Depart from Me....I never knew you...) is in agreement with Paul's idea that it would be heresy to think that God could "cast off" those with whom He had a "knowing" relationship. Jesus can no more say, "I never knew you", of those who are "foreknown" than He could say "Up is down".
- e. 1 Peter 1:2 ties "election" to "foreknowledge" in a 'kata plus accusative' sense. That sense is generally, according to A.T. Robertson, that of the introduction of a standard by which a thing is measured. This makes "foreknowledge" a preexisting phenomenon in respect to "electing". The rather popular notion that "God looked down the corridors of time, saw who would accept Him, and then 'chose' them to be His people" is merely one of the ways men attempt to put the purposes of God under the heel of human volition and dominion.
- f. 1 Peter 1:20 marks a distinction between a "foreknowing" of a spotless Lamb (Who was "foreknown" before the foundation of the world) and the historical demonstration in time of that which was known long years past.
- g. 2 Peter 3:17 addresses those who presently "foreknow" because of prophetic utterance. They are to use their "foreknowledge" to protect themselves from deception when the things prophesied actually come into history. Clearly Peter thought that "knowledge" is a tool of "Life" that is to be used to guide one's choices, regardless of whether that "knowledge" is "fore" knowledge or "currently obtained" knowledge.
- 2. The term in respect to some of the implications that men have drawn from it.
- a. Some say, "foreknowledge is not determinative". What they mean is that knowing beforehand that a thing will be does not mean that what will be is determined by that knowledge.
- b. Others say, "foreknowledge establishes predetermination". What they mean is that if a thing is truly known ahead of its time, it must come into its time or the knowing was false.
- c. The facts are:
- 1) According to Paul's use in Acts 26:5, "foreknowledge" does not necessarily mean "to know ahead of time". It can mean "to be in possession of knowledge in the present time that one received in a past time". This is no small observation. It means that "foreknowledge" does not have to have any special abilities. It can be a person's possession simply by virtue of that person's experience in time and the on-going passage of time. If one learns something in his "present"; that is a foreknown commodity in all of the future afterwards. It is not "foreknowledge" at the point in time when it is obtained, but afterwards it becomes such simply by the passing of time. In a word, "foreknowledge", by this usage, is simply "knowledge" that was gained prior to the present...something known before the present time.
- a) There are two parts to "foreknowledge": "fore" and "knowledge".
- i. The "fore" part refers to "time" in contrary respect to the present. This can mean "fore" in the sense of an earlier time that is now "past time", or it can mean "fore" in the sense of "before Time even existed".
- ii. The "knowledge" part refers to two things: what is known"; and "how it came to be known". Jesus, Himself, as we mentioned above, forced a distinction into the issue of "how" a thing is known when He said that in the judgment He would say "Depart from Me, I never knew you." This, coming from the Judge Who has to be privy to every salient fact in order to execute judgment justly, cannot mean that He did not know everything about those to whom He declared His "ignorance" of them.
- b) The major problem with "foreknowledge" as a special kind of knowledge arises from the divine claim to have this special kind of knowledge of people before they exist as separate entities from Him. He told Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). The typical distinction between "kinds of knowledge" is, as we have claimed, the way a thing/person is known. If the "knowing" arises from "experiential exposure", it is one kind of "knowing". If the "knowing" arises from "logical deduction", or some other "impersonal" means, it is another kind of "knowing". Omniscience is not the same kind of thing as foreknowledge. But in what sense does anyone "know" out of experiential knowledge when the object of that knowledge does not yet exist?
- 2) Peter gives the answer. He said that those who had been instructed in the prophecies so that they had some personal interaction with the content and meaning of them could be fore armed because they were fore warned (2 Peter 3:17). Herein is at least a part of the solution to the idea of divine foreknowledge as distinct from omniscience: the issue for Peter is that his readers will use the knowledge that they have been given ahead of time (so that they "foreknow") in keeping with the purpose for which they have been given that knowledge ahead of time. This establishes a key difference regarding "knowledge": information that is not put to use in the service of harmonious relationships is one kind of "knowing"; but, information that is used to make harmony an on-going reality is a different kind of "knowing". Peter prophesied to his readers ahead of time so that their relationships with God could proceed through the predicted realities without any interruption of their walk with God in the light. Thus, perhaps, there is a "knowing" that will result in the purpose for its being made known, and there is a knowing that, though it imparts facts that are absorbed by "intellect", fails to accomplish its intention. Thus, the statement, "XXX knew his wife and she conceived..." uses the concept of 'fulfillment of purpose' whereas, if she did not conceive, it remains open as to whether her husband "knew" her. This also addresses the issue as to whether "knowing" creates its result: would the wife have conceived without the husband "knowing" her and, if not, was not the "knowing" the cause of the pregnancy? It may also be important to note that it was the husband's "knowing" that caused the wife's "pregnancy". In Paul's statement, it is God Who "foreknew". And, finally, Peter's statement is of a "knowing" that is of things that do not yet exist.
- 3. The relationship between "foreknowledge" and "predestination". Since "foreknowing" is "knowing unto the accomplishment of a purpose before the present time", there is a potent sense of intentionality. The common understanding of "predestination" also carries the same sense of intentionality. So, in what sense is "knowing before" different from "determining before"? For one thing, "knowing" has to do with the conception of a plan and how it is to be executed while "ordaining" may well have more to do with the execution of what is known. The one is, in a sense, "intellectual" and the other is, in a sense, "spiritual" (the actual energizing of activity).