Foreknowledge

Foreknowledge means to have knowledge of something before it happens. In scripture there are are references to God’s foreknowledge of those who will believe in Jesus. Those whom God foreknows, he also elects to be saved.

The Greek word – proginosko
Proginosko is the word used in the New Testament that today we translate as “to foreknow”. It literally means “to know before”. The word breaks down like this: Pro (before) ginosko (to know).

We are familiar with this word in English. For example: a doctor will give a prognosis. And someone who makes predictions is called a prognosticator.

The word in its noun or verb form is used several times in the New Testament to explain the foreknowledge of God or of individuals. Here are some passages where the word is used:
Acts 2:23
Acts 26:4-5
Romans 8:29
1 Peter 1:1-2
1 Peter 1:20
2 Peter 3:17

Arminians believe that foreknowledge works like this: God has exhaustive knowledge of the future, thus He “prognosticates” it perfectly. God knows who will believe in Jesus. Those who believe are elected. Election is corporate in scripture (those who believe) as opposed to individual election. The Arminian understanding of foreknowledge is apparent in passages like Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2

(Bold mine – represents the Greek word for foreknowledge)

Romans 8:28-29: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (NKJV)

1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (NKJV)

Calvinists err in their understanding of foreknowledge, confusing foreknowledge with predestination. They believe that God decrees whatever happens, so foreknowledge is only a byproduct of His decree. In Calvinist thought, foreknowledge is a synonym of election. But Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2 show instead that God’s election is a result of His foreknowledge, not the cause of it.

Another Calvinists interpretation of foreknowledge is “to forelove” instead of “to foreknow”. However, there is no justification for this interpretation in the context of the passages in the New Testament.

God is working for the good of those who love Him! He sees everything, he always knows what will happen, and He is always working on the behalf of those who He knows will believe. He is for us!

12 Comments

Filed under Arminianism, foreknowlege, Greek

12 responses to “Foreknowledge

  1. Good post. The case might be strengthened if antecedent of the relative pronoun “whom” (Gk. ous) is “those who love him.” So whom does he foreknow? He foreknows “those who love him.”

  2. Good point, thanks Matt.

  3. Michael

    Notice that it never states foreknowledge of choice, but foreknowledge of the person. The Lord foreknew that you would be saved, not foreknew that you would choose Him. 2 Timothy 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; John 6:37,39; John 6:44–45; John 6:65; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 9; John 14. And so on and so on. Give God the glory for your salvation. It is His to have.

    • Calvinistic predestination is in error. It takes away from God’s glory.

      • Michael

        How about I take the Bible’s word for it rather than yours :) Show me one place where election is based on foreknowledge of one’s faith or acts and I will say you are right. The bible always talks about foreknowledge in regards to people, not their faith or their acts. As a bible believing Christian you must submit yourself to scripture, not to the way you think God should be. Paul is clear about this in Romans 9. Any proper hermeneutical study of Romans 9 and all the other verses I stated shows that Divine Election is God’s sovereign will and His alone. Otherwise we would be able to boast.

      • The Bible doesn’t say foreknowledge = predestination. That’s just your assertion. As I said, Calvinistic predestination takes away from God’s glory. It presents Him as too weak to handle a world of humans who make decisions.

        I agree that election is in regards to groups, not individuals. Which is why i hold to corporate election. It puts the focus on being in Christ. God chooses individual corporately in Christ, rather than choosing particular individuals because of hidden reasons. If someone believes in Christ, God accepts that person as a consequence of his identification with Christ. Although God certainly has knowledge of what individuals will do as well.

        See Eph 1:1-14. Election is “In Christ”. Notice especially v 13-14 “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

        Observe the the order. We are chosen “in him” before the foundation of the world. When do we become “in him”? Scripture says “when you believed you were marked in him”.

      • Michael

        “It presents Him as too weak to handle a world of humans who make decisions.”

        That is completely false. I believe in compatibilism where my free will choice and God’s sovereign will are always aligned.

        Your idea of corporate election is destroyed by Romans 8:29-30. If you are predestined you are called and if you are called you are justified. Paul never says of those who are called, some are justified. This is an absolute statement and is even more emphatic in the Greek.

        Additionally, you still haven’t discussed Romans 9 or John 15:16. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” And “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16).

        Give God thanks for choosing you when you were unable to choose Him (John 6:44; Romans 3:11; Romans 8:7). The fact that God saved you is the only reason that you are not lost right now. Give Him the glory for that so you cannot boast.

        BTW thanks for the civil discussion. I am usually attacked by now :)

      • Show me where the Bible teaches compatibilism. It’s a Calvinistic philosophy unsupported by scripture. Compatiblism means to always follow one’s strongest desires (with no ability to do otherwise). It’s really just simple determinism, where it seems like you’re making decisions, but everything you do is already decided (by your desire), and everything you do is part of a necessary and inevitable script. IE determinism. That presents a very weak view of God’s sovereignty. It presents a God who just wants puppets, and is too weak to handle free will. The Bible instead presents a God who desires genuine relationships, with people who make real decisions. As AW Tozer said, “A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.”

        Romans 8 fits perfectly with Arminianism and the corporate election view. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Our election is corporate and based on being in Christ. – “For those whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed in the likeness of his son.” The foreknowledge comes first, and then the predestination. And the predestination is not “predestined to be saved” but a promise that those who believe will be made like Christ “predestined to be conformed into the likeness of his son”. Notice how it goes on to say Christ is the firstborn of many brothers. Not the firstborn of many puppets. :)

        John 15 actually proves Arminianism, corporate election, and the possibility for apostasy. We are saved by being in Christ, and if we do not remain in him we are lost. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

        Romans 9 is about the nation of Israel and their disobedience (as are Romans 10 and 11). It is not about individual election to salvation, which we both agree is false. Election is always corporate and Christ focused. Romans 9:3-4 “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.”

        Regarding boasting, I find that it’s the Calvinists that do all the boasting. Because they think God only chose them and reprobates everyone else. That leads to a special type of pride that lacks compassion for the lost. This pride isn’t present in Arminianism and can’t be. We think God does the saving, and anyone can believe, so there’s nothing to boast about. Let us boast in Christ alone.

      • Michael

        Please excuse the long response, but I thought your comment deserved it :)

        1) Compatibilism is taught throughout the bible. When it says God works all thing, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” (Romans 11:36) “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,” (Ephesians 1:11) All things includes you by the way. The bible also says that man is accountable for his actions. The only thing that makes sense is compatibilism. The God of the universe who created all things will always have His will be done. I believe that He is complex enough to align your will and His sovereign will. You can choose to do whatever you want, but guess what, what you want to do is always what God wants to happen. It does not mean that you didn’t have the choice to do it only that God is not beholden to you to accomplish His will. God does not need your permission to do anything.
        2) Here is the problem with your reading of Romans 9. Verse 6 takes it from the corporate nation of Israel down to the individual. Your perspective would mean that none of Israel would ever be saved and that they were all vessels of wrath. This former Jew would say you’re wrong 
        Romans 9:6-33 in its entirety and in context is talking about individual unbelievers. That is why Paul attempts to answer objection about God’s predestination of people in verse 19. God chooses some men for honorable purposes (election) and some for dishonorable purposes (reprobation) (Romans 9:21) in order to show His wrath and to make His power known. The vessels of wrath which were prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22). Don’t infer anything into the text. Just read it and accept that this is God’s word. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean you can add inferences into the text to make it say what you want to hear. You are not a liberal Christian. Don’t read the bible like one.
        3) John 15:16 was not talking about all people but of those who believed. When he said that I chose you, how can you infer that He chose you based on something you did. If Jesus had I am pretty sure He would have said I chose you because you first chose me. He never said that. Please show me one place in the Bible where Christ said (or an apostle said of Christ) that shows election based on assent.
        4) Again, foreknowledge in regards to predestination is ALWAYS linked to the person and not to any fact of that person. God knew you before you were born. Never in the bible does it say God elected anyone based on their faith in Him. Not once. You believe because you were written in the book of life and were given the ability to believe. Not because of anything good in your but because God chose you in His mercy. Just like God chose Israel to be His covenant people external to any goodness in them. God chose you external to any goodness in you (Romans 3:20; Ecclesiastes 7:20).
        5) Who is boasting? Nothing in me warranted the gift of salvation. I am a sinner and outside of God’s work in me, I would never have chosen Him (I was an atheist for more than 30 years). My faith was not created by a decision based on all the facts all of a sudden making sense. My faith came from God opening my eyes to the truth. Trust me when I say that the moment God opened my eyes I could no more reject him than I could fly with my arms. My faith comes from God lovingly giving me the ability to love Him back and not from myself. A dead man can’t rescue himself. God does the saving.

        BTW, have you been to seminary? Reading this scripture in the original Greek really helps in this. I was a staunch Arminian until I really dove into John 17 and the book of Romans. You can’t read them external to inferences and not believe in God’s total sovereignty. Love God for Him total power and don’t relegate Him to a position where He has to wait on you doing something first in order to do His will. That is the definition of not giving Him the glory.

      • Thanks for the response.

        The verses you quote say nothing about compatibilism. You just assume they do, because you can’t envision any other way. You say “the only thing that makes sense is compatibilism”. But God is bigger than your ability to make sense of him. You are in effect saying that God is too weak to bring about his purposes UNLESS he does it with compatibilistic determinism. What if humanity can have genuine free will AND God can still bring about his purposes? That would be a stronger, more admirable God, one worthy of worship.

        Your view also has disgusting implications that impugn God’s character. You say “guess what, what you want to do is always what God wants to happen”. That is wrong, because God never wants us to sin. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. God wanted Hitler to kill 6 million Jews? God wants it when a man rapes a little girl? God planned it when my brother-in-law was killed in a car accident last month when another driver veered into his lane? You go tell that to my widowed sister and her two little children. Calvinism turns God into a monster. It’s the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches about His character and compassion. I will go as far to say the view makes God worse than the devil.

        Evil is caused because of sin. Sin is when we disobey God, when we do things that he does not cause or prefer. Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world that is not according to God’s original design. Yet God is great enough that his purpose will be accomplished in spite of our sin. God can bring good through bad, but he didn’t create sin in the first place.

        BTW, Calvinism often leads to Atheism, precisely because of what Calvinism does to God’s character. I find that most Atheists don’t really disbelieve in God. They disbelieve in the Calvinist caricature of God. They say things like “There can’t be a good God, because the world is such a cruel place.” Arminians have a good answer for this. It’s because of sin. The Calvinist answer is “yep, God made the world a cruel place, that’s what he wants, deal with it.”

        I also find that Calvinists like yourself seek affirmation from non-Calvinists in order to ease your conscience. Deep down you really know God is not the sadistic monster Calvinism turns him into. I always have Calvinists coming here to debate. I rarely go to Calvinist blogs to argue with them.

        Romans 9 is about Israel, not individual predestination. Paul specifies in Romans 9:3-4 that he is addressing the nation of Israel. And again in Romans 9:30. This sandwiches the supposed Calvinist verses. It is the Calvinist who takes Romans 9 out of context. In fact all of Romans 9-11 is about the nation of Israel. Read it in one setting, and you will see this is the case. Paul specifically concludes in Romans 11:28 “As far as the gospel is concerned, they [Israel] are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” And check out Paul’s conclusion of the three chapters in 11:32 “God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” He comes to an Arminian conclusion.

        You ask where election is based on assent. You misunderstand election. Election is Christ centered, not man centered. Christ is the elect one. God chose Christ individually, not certain people. We become in Christ by believing in him. John 1:12, John 3:16, John 3:36, John 6:47, Mark 16:16, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9-10, Hebrews 11:6 to name a few.

        John 15 deals specifically with the disciples, one of which betrayed him. Even Calvin acknowledged this, writing: “True, this does not refer to the ordinary election of believers, by which they are adopted to be the children of God, but to the special election by which he appointed his disciples to the office of preaching the Gospel.” This also gives context to the warning in 15:6 “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” We know Judas did not remain. This verse makes sense only from the Arminian view.

        The Calvinist view does cause pride and boasting. It’s the only view that does. Calvinists think God chose them and rejects everyone else. This leads to pride. Wesley said Calvinism “naturally inspires contempt or coldness towards those whom we suppose outcast from God”. I don’t think you intend to have this pride, and many Calvinists fight it, but it’s a natural outgrowth of the world view. Churchill once said, “We are all worms. But I believe that I am a glow-worm.” The Calvinist thinks he’s a glow worm.

        Arminians believe God does the saving, and anyone can believe. There is nothing for an Arminian to boast about.

        I haven’t been to seminary, although I do have a Christian education. But I’ve read both Arminian and Calvinist resources about the meaning of “proginosko”. I find the Arminian explanations more scriptural and more convincing than the Calvinist ones. As Wesley said, “you can’t prove that the God of truth is a liar”. True even for Greek scholars.

      • Michael

        What a weak view of God you have. God allows evil to happen, He does not cause it. Your view of God makes Him look like an impotent being that is incapable of affecting the world in any real way. The truth is that all good things come from God, but God also works all things for good and that includes evil. Again, God is not the author of evil, but He certainly uses it for His purposes. Remember Joseph and His brother? Remember the cross?! Your view of God is horrifying. My God has everything under control and knows the beginning from the end. I’ll say it again, you really need to study more. Learn about the problem of evil if you are going to set yourself up as a theologian. This is an amateurish response to a doctrine that has been hashed out about a million times in the last 4 thousand years.

        BTW, the idea of God’s election is on Christ and not the individual is by a man named Karl Barth, a Neo-Orthodox heretic. He declared that because Christ is the object of election, all people are saved. You are literally quoting a universalist. You might be the first Arminian that I have heard say this which is impressive. They usually say that election is based on foreknowledge of faith, not that election is God’s election of Christ. Again, take theology more seriously than this…please!

        I would love to respond to the rest of your interpretations of scripture, but simply stating that my positions are wrong by pointing to other verses out of context does not make you right nor is it proper hermeneutics. Simply ignoring the clear teaching of scripture might make you feel warm and fuzzy but it isn’t the truth. Aim for truth.

        You really should go to seminary and research the proper way to interpret scripture from Arminians who know what they are doing and not regurgitate others because you like what they say. It will prevent you from falling further into error.

        I don’t know you from Adam and I hope that my tone wasn’t overly critical, but lay people read your posts. Remember that God judges those who teach more harshly.

        Finally, my pride is in Christ alone. We are not a glow-worms or a worms at all. We are children of God. He alone saved us because He loves us even while we were still His enemies from before creation. If we can agree on nothing I hope we can agree on that.

      • Michael,

        Thanks for the interaction. I think your last reply speaks for itself, so I’ll just leave it at that. Take your debate somewhere else.

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