Exploring the Biblical Concept of Foreknowledge
Exploring the Biblical Concept of Foreknowledge
The foreknowledge of God has been a topic of controversy throughout history. This is due to the fact that many people are ignorant of the meaning and Scriptural scope of the term. Therefore, it is easy for preachers and teachers to deceive their audience with false interpretations of this subject. The only safeguard against this is to be established in the faith through prayerful, diligent study of the Word of God.
When the subject of divine foreordination is expounded, some argue that election is based on the foreknowledge of God of future events. This interpretation means that God foresaw certain individuals who would be more pliable than others and respond more readily to the strivings of the Spirit, and therefore predestinated them to salvation. However, this interpretation contradicts the truth of total depravity, the independency of God, and the sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners.
Before defining the term "foreknowledge," it is essential to understand how words are used in Scripture. Many people assume they already know the meaning of a term used in Scripture and are too dilatory to test their assumptions with a concordance. This failure to apply the Holy Spirit’s usage of an expression is responsible for much confusion and error.
Foreknowledge is often interpreted to mean "to know beforehand," but it is crucial to find out how the word is used in Scripture. The Holy Spirit’s usage of an expression always defines its meaning and scope. Therefore, the significance of a certain word used in Scripture must be carefully examined by comparing every occurrence of it and studying each separate context.
The term "foreknowledge" is never used in Scripture in connection with events or actions; instead, it always refers to persons. "Those He foreknew" (Rom. 8:29) not "those events He foreknew". The individuals under consideration are the subject of the verb "foreknew," and they remain the subject without any additional qualification or characterization. The notion that presumes the anticipation of faith or the anticipation of individuals as believers must add a description that the apostle does not supply. The inquiry must be made as to whether the term "foreknew" possesses an inherent meaning that precludes the need to import extraneous ideas that are not validated within the text. If it does have such a meaning, which is supported by examples in the scripture, then it's not necessary to bring in extra ideas. This idea is plausible, as there's enough evidence to support the interpretation that the phrase "whom he foreknew" is understandable and appropriate without further explanation.
When the term "foreknew" is used in connection with God, it usually signifies to regard a person with favor, affection of covenant love. God’s foreknowledge of a person is not based on any merit or goodness in the person but is solely the result of God's sovereign choice. The usage of the word “foreknew” perhaps necessitates further examination. It is clear from its Scriptural usage that “know” carries the connotation of distinguishing affection and purpose, which comes to be interchangeable with love. This is apparent in the Old Testament, where “know” frequently represents “love,” as seen in Deuteronomy 4:37; 7:8, 13; 10:15; 23:5; 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chronicles 9:8; Jeremiah 31:3; Hosea 11:1; 14:4; and Malachi 1:2. Therefore, “foreknowing” means to know with a distinct regard and love from before the creation of the world (cf. Ephesians 1:4), with no further qualification needed for the persons.
Furthermore, Ephesians 1:5 supports this interpretation. It is evident that the theme of the two passages is identical. When Paul states, “In love having predestinated us unto adoption,” he implies that predestination arises from love and is dependent upon it. Romans 8:29 expresses the same connection when foreknowledge is interpreted according to the principles of Scripture and the context of the passage. Additionally, it emphasizes that this love and predestination extend to the conformity of the elect to the image of God’s Son. These two verses do not duplicate each other's ideas. Instead, love highlights the electing grace, and predestination focuses on the high destiny to which those selected by electing love are appointed. This order of thought is similar to Ephesians 1:4, which declares that election in Christ is for the purpose of being holy and blameless. Electing love always has a goal commensurate in magnitude with the love that motivates it and is never fruitless.
The concept of foreknowledge is often used in connection with God’s election of individuals for salvation. God, according to His sovereign good pleasure, singled out certain individuals to be recipients of His distinguishing favors. Therefore, He determined to bestow upon them the gift of faith. False theology makes God’s foreknowledge of our believing the cause of His election to salvation. However, God’s election is the cause, and our believing in Christ is the effect.
God's foreknowledge, therefore, is not a mere intellectual apprehension of future events. It is an act of the divine will, whereby God regards a person with favor and grants that person the gift of faith. God's foreknowledge is not conditioned upon any foreseen faith or good works on the part of the individual. Rather, it is solely the result of God's sovereign choice.
In conclusion, the meaning and Scriptural scope of the term "foreknowledge" is often misunderstood. It is important to understand that foreknowledge is never used in Scripture in connection with events or actions but always refers to persons. When the term is used in connection with God, it signifies to regard a person with favor, one He sets his covenant love and affection on. God's foreknowledge is not based on any merit or goodness in the person, but is solely the result of God's sovereign choice. Therefore, God's foreknowledge is not a mere intellectual apprehension of future events, but an act of the divine will, whereby God regards a person with favor and grants that person the gift of faith. It is important for preachers and teachers to be established in the faith through prayerful, diligent study of the Word of God, so as not to deceive their audience with false interpretations of this subject.
Additional Resources on Foreknowledge