Foreknowledge

The word “foreknowledge” appears, in some form, in reference to God, four times in the King James Version (Acts 2:23; Romans 8:29; Romans 11:2; 1 Peter 1:2).  At times, this word is joined with other words, which also, we will define in this series “predestined” or “foreordained” (Romans 8:29-30); “elect” or “chosen” (1 Peter 1:2).  However,  for simplicity sake, now we will consider only those passages where the word is not joined with these other words.

DEFINITION

The verbal form, proginosko, literally means “before to know.”

ACTS 2:23

“Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.”

God knew what man would do.  God foretold these things “by the mouth of all His prophets” (Acts 3:17-18; cf. Isaiah 53).  Jesus foreknew (Matthew 16:21; 20:17-19).  It was not a surprise.

He used this foreknowledge to accomplish His purpose, “It pleased the LORD to bruise Him” (Isaiah 53:10).  It should be understood, that to say God knew man would do this is not to say that God made man to do this; now is it to say that He approved of the personal behavior of the wicked in this.

Illustration:  Joseph’s brethren sold him into slavery (Genesis 37).  God used their evil to accomplish good.  Joseph said, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?  But as far as you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is today, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:19-20).

Illustration: God used Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon to punish Judah (Jeremiah 25:9).  Yet, He did not approve of their behavior (Jeremiah 25:12). His use of them did not mean approval of their actions, or conduct.

Romans 11:1-2

“I say then has God cast away His people?  Certainly not!  For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.”

The word “know,” frequently, in scripture, carries the idea “to approve of,” or “fellowship” (1 John 1:6 cf. 2:4; 1 John 1:7 cf. 2:3; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 8:3).  Thus, Roy Deaver commented on this verse saying, “Reference here is to those Jews whom God formerly regarded with favor, those He accepted… those to whom He had a very special relationship” (Deaver, Romans: God’s Plan For Man’s Righteousness, p. 393).  Robert Taylor Jr. commented, “The people He foreknew (recognized or approved) were obedient Israelites” (Taylor, Studies in Romans, p. 192).  Again, he writes, “God had rejected them as a nation for a surety and for good reason (see Matthew 23:34-36 cf. Genesis 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 cf. Genesis 15:16 – B.H.), but national rejections had not as much as a particle to do with whether they, as individual could be saved” (Romans, p. 191).  Paul, himself, was proof that God had not rejected the people of Israel as a whole (Romans 11:1).

1 Peter 1:18-20

“…You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  He indeed was foreordained (foreknown ASV) before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”

Notice – Though, I did not list this as one of the four passages in the King James version ( see paragraph one) due to the fact that it uses the word “foreordained,” this is the same word, and is so rendered by the American Standard Version.

This verse is much like Acts 2:23.  Christ’s coming was planned before “the foundation of the world.”  His death was no accident.  It was according to the planning of God.

BAD SOLUTIONS

The Calvinist has difficulty understanding that God can foreknow something, without man being preprogrammed and without choice.  Therefore, they deny fee-will to man. However, God is not bound by time as man is (Isaiah 46:10).  Here is an illustration: Think of man standing on a building rooftop in a city.  He is standing at a corner of the building so that he can see two perpendicular streets intersect.  This man sees two cars accelerating to go through the intersection.  he might conclude that there would be an accident.  However, such does not mean that he caused the accident.

Certain non-calvinist have also had a difficulty with God’s foreknowledge and man’s free-will.  T.W. Brents taught that God limited His knowledge in order to not violate man’s free will (Brents, The Gospel Plan of Salvation, chapter 4).  Guy Woods likewise had difficulty with this same point saying, “To project a plan of redemption into a period prior to the fall of man raises immediately and inevitably the question of the free agency of Adam and Eve.  If God had already devised a plan for the redemption of man from a sin which was certain to be committed, how could Adam and Eve have avoided its commission?”  (Woods, Peter, John and Jude p. 47).  Thus, he suggested that the foundation of  the world in 1 Peter 1:20 refers to the Jewish system (p. 48).  However, consider: (1) The terminology seems to refer to creation (cf. Luke 11:50-51; John 17:5 cf. 17:24).  (2) This simply moves the issue to a later time.  Did God’s foreknowledge of what Judas and the Jewish nation would do with Jesus (cf. Revelation 13:8; John 6:71; 13:18-ff; Matthew 26:24 take away their freewill?  Did it take away their responsibility?

Remember: We should not think that God`s foreknowledge removes man’s ability to choose, or man`s ressponsiblity.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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