Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 4 Study # 8
Thesis: The foreknowledge of God has to do with the "knowing" aspect of the "purpose" of God.
Introduction: As we dig more deeply into the motivation of believers for loving God, we are confronted with the necessity for "purpose". Since no one, neither God nor men, takes action to accomplish nothing, we have to conclude that "purposefulness" is a very fundamental issue of Life. To have no purpose regularly leads to either despair or rage. To do things that are constantly frustrated as to intent regularly leads to bitter anger and deadening despair.
Once we get this reality firmly fixed in our minds -- purposefulness is an integral part of Life -- the biggest issue that we face is whether we will be "motivated" by our own purposes, or those of another. Christianity, at its most basic roots, is both a summons and a means to the creature's delighted submission to the purpose of the Other. This is what Love for God is.
This means, then, that the "purpose of God" is seen by Christians to be the only valid object of pursuit. As soon as "not my will but Thine" becomes "not Thy will but mine", the "purpose" is no longer Christian in any sense: it is diabolical, and the proposer ceases to function by Love.
So, in our last study, we considered the fact that God is "intentional". He has a "purpose" for His creation. We also saw that purposefulness requires selectivity and effectiveness. Thus, we can understand Paul's declaration that "those who love God" are those who have been summoned by Him into His purpose. Because that purpose cannot be accomplished in a rebellious setting by simply letting things develop as they will, the summons of God must be seen as effective. And, if effective, that summons must also have been selective -- for that not all are effectively brought into a loving submission to the purpose of God is both declared by Jesus Himself, and is also easily seen.
It is because Paul knew that Love for God is absolutely tied to His effectual summons and is often a major stumbling block to a rebellious creation that he determined to explain more fully. This evening we are going to embark upon his explanation. At the beginning of Romans 8:29 he wrote, "because those He foreknew, He also predestinated...". The "because" signals his explanation. The issue of "foreknowledge" is his first "issue".
March 4, 2008
- I. Exactly What is Foreknowledge ?
- A. There is a common, but potentially misleading, partial perception of "foreknowledge" that consists of "knowing something before its historical reality".
- 1. This is actually the sense that Peter was addressing in 2 Peter 3:17 in the context of the issue of that third chapter.
- 2. This is the sense of "prophetic utterance" when it has to do with detailing certain events that will take place in the future.
- B. But, there is more to "foreknowledge" than the ability to see into the future with certainty.
- 1. For clarification, let us turn to Acts 26:5 to better understand Paul's meaning of "foreknowledge".
- a. In this text, it is clear that Paul used "foreknowledge" as "before-knowledge" where "before" means "before this present moment".
- 1) This is actually in harmony with the way the word was originally "coined": the Greek puts the preposition "pro" on the front end of the verb "to know"..."to know before" in the sense of "to know in the past", NOT in the sense of "to know the future before it is".
- 2) It is clear that Paul's use is "time" oriented so that "before" means "in the past" in distinction from "in the present" as well as "in the future".
- b. It is thus clear from this text that Paul did not use "foreknowledge" as "predictive knowledge".
- 1) Those who knew him "before" could easily testify as to what they had known of him in that "before" time.
- 2) But, those who knew him "before" would have been astounded at what he had become because it was so contrary to what they had "foreknown".
- c. The point: "foreknowledge" simply means "to know something" in respect to some kind of "time" orientation.
- 1) Because "fore" indicates a time orientation of the present in respect to either the past or the future, we must be careful to understand which it is in any given context.
- 2) Thus, once the "time" issue is determined, the next most crucial issue is the meaning of "to know".
- 2. To better understand the verb "to know" as it is given, we must set aside a previous distinction made erroneously.
- a. The erroneous perception.
- 1) OnLine says of this verb that it means "knowledge grounded on personal experience".
- 2) Richard Trench said of this verb that it means a knowledge based upon "intimacy" and "acquaintance".
- 3) The regular use in the formulaic statement "XXX knew his wife and she conceived and gave birth..." seemed to me to justify this perception.
- b. The more accurate perception.
- 1) We shall begin with Jeremiah 1:5 where God is recorded as saying that He "knew" Jeremiah before He formed him in the womb.
- a) This rules out "personal experience" as an element in the "foreknowledge" of God (how does even God "experience" what does not exist?).
- b) This also rules out "intimacy" and "acquaintance" for the same reasons.
- c) The issue is this: God "knew" what he intended to create in Jeremiah's mother's womb and what Jeremiah was to be after his birth.
- d) The subsequent deduction: this kind of "knowledge" is rooted, not in experience, intimacy, or acquaintance, but in intention/purpose.
- 2) Then we shall proceed to Genesis 4:1 in comparison with Matthew 1:25.
- a) If we understand that there is an intention in the husband to produce a child when he "knows" his wife, we understand correctly the figure of speech that "Adam knew Eve and she conceived...".
- b) If we understand that there is an intention in the husband to produce a child, we better understand the statement regarding Joseph that "he knew her not until" she had had the Son which God had created in her.
- i. There was no reason to abstain from sex once conception had occurred as far as "having sex" was concerned.
- ii. But if intentional begetting was involved, it would have been impossible for Joseph to "know" her.
- 3) Then we return to 2 Peter 3:17 in context.
- a) The issue in "prophecy" is not to simply reveal the future.
- i. According to Isaiah, "prophecy" was the only way one could distinguish between the "gods" so as to be able to tell which was the One.
- ii. There is no point to discovering which god is the One unless the discovery leads to a realignment with that One.
- b) Peter's point in giving prophecy was not so that his readers would know, but so that they might fulfill the intention for the prophecy: to remain faithful in a confusing situation.
- 4) Conclusion: "knowing" with the kind of knowledge Paul's word addresses means "knowing what and how an intention is to be fulfilled."
- a) There is "knowing" that accomplishes nothing in respect to a certain purpose: this is simply acquaintance with data.
- b) There is "knowing" which, because the data is embraced and applied, results in the fulfillment of the "purpose" for which is was given.
- II. The "Explanation" of "Called According to Purpose".
- A. Paul had said in 8:28 that those who love God are those who have been effectively summoned by Him into an effective execution of His purpose.
- B. By way of explanation, in the opening of 8:29 he said, "Because those whom God foreknew..." as a way to explain how God intended to execute His purpose.
- 1. The foreknowledge was "intentional knowing" prior to the present execution of the Plan.
- 2. The foreknowledge was, as with Jeremiah, not rooted in human acquiescence; it was rooted in the wisdom of a Planner.
- a. Jeremiah, John the Baptizer, Saul of Tarsus, etc., ad infinitum, are examples of God executing His plan with no regard for the "willingness" of the humans involved.
- b. A plan may, or may not, include the choices of others, but its success is rooted in the wisdom and skill of the planner.