THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD Lesson #5
Divine Foreknowledge 1 Peter 1:2
Peter declares that all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ unto life everlasting are “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” How we rejoice in God’s electing love! God’s gracious, sovereign election of our unworthy souls unto salvation is the source and cause of every heavenly, spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3-4). Christ redeemed us because God elected us. The Holy Spirit called us and gave us faith because God elected us. We are kept by the power of his grace because God elected us. We shall obtain and enter into the glory of our inheritance in heaven because God elected us unto salvation, that he might make us holy and without blame forever in his sight, to the praise of the glory of his grace. We rejoice in God’s electing love!
“Tis not that I did choose Thee, For, Lord, that could not be.
This heart would still refuse Thee, Hadst Thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me Hast washed and set me free,
And to this end ordained me, That I should live to Thee.
`Twas sovereign mercy called me And taught my opening mind;
The world had else enthralled me, To heavenly glories blind.
My heart owns none before Thee, For Thy rich grace I thirst,
This knowing, if I love Thee, Thou must have loved me first.”
In this text Peter tells us four things about our election of God. 1. Election is an act of God the Father. There are some men and women in this world who must and shall be saved, because God the Father chose them in eternal election (2 Thess. 2:13-14). The names of God’s elect were written in the Lamb’s book of life from eternity. And in the end of time they will all be found seated before the throne of God and of the Lamb, arrayed in the white robe of Christ’s perfect righteousness. We do not know who God’s elect are. Therefore, we preach the gospel to all men, calling upon all to repent and believe on Christ. As soon as a sinner believes on Christ, confessing faith in him, we declare, “Here is one of God’s elect.” Faith in Christ is the fruit and the proof of God’s election. If you now believe on Christ, you are “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” You now believe because God before the foundation of the world chose you in Christ as the object of his eternal love and grace.
2. Our election by God the Father was “through sanctification of the Spirit.” The word “sanctification” simply means “to separate.” Before the world began God the Holy Spirit separated us from the rest of Adam’s race and separated us unto God, making us holy. Sanctified men and women are holy people, holy because they belong to God. Our sanctification is threefold. All who believe have been sanctified to God in Christ...
· By election, which gave us positional righteousness (Jude 1),
· By redemption, which gave us judicial righteousness (Heb. 10:10-14),
· And by regeneration, which gave us imparted righteousness (II Pet. 1:4).
3. This election of grace which took place in eternity was unto salvation. Election is not salvation. Election is unto salvation. We were chosen “unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” The obedience Peter is talking about is not our obedience to God, but Christ’s obedience to God as our Representative by which we are made righteous (Rom. 5:19). And the sprinkling of the blood of Christ refers to the accomplishment of redemption by which our sins have been put away. It refers both to the sprinkling of the blood in heaven upon the mercy-seat (Heb. 9:11-12) and to the sprinkling of the blood upon our consciences in conversion (Heb. 9:13-14). Though election guaranteed and secured our salvation by the grace of God, we could not be saved without the obedience and death of Christ as our Substitute; and we could not be saved apart from the application of Christ’s atonement to our own hearts by the Spirit.
4. And our election, Peter tells us is, “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” What is this “foreknowledge”? That is the question I want to answer in this study. It is a matter of great importance. Though divine foreknowledge is not really an attribute of God, it is an act of God’s grace intimately related to his attribute of omniscience. It is a subject so commonly misunderstood by men that it needs to be carefully explained from the Word of God. It is the common practice of false prophets to pervert God’s foreknowledge into a denial of his total sovereignty in salvation, making election and grace conditional not upon the will of God, but upon the will of man. Such teaching contradicts the plainest statements of Holy Scripture. The Bible plainly declares that salvation is not, in any way, dependent upon or conditioned upon the will of man (John 1:13; Rom. 9:16). Yet, satan’s messengers of deceit, in their effort to uphold the great “free-will” of man and to deny the sovereignty of God’s grace, tell us that God’s foreknowledge is foreseen faith and obedience in man!
They tell us that God foresaw that some sinners would be willing to respond favorably to the gentle impulses of the Holy Spirit upon their hearts. Therefore, because God knew they would believe, he predestinated them to salvation and elected them as the objects of his grace. Is this what Peter means when he declares that we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God”? Of course not! Such perverse doctrine has the slime of the serpent’s tail upon it. It is a base perversion of the grace of God. It is the doctrine of antichrist, for it makes salvation the work of man rather than of God in Christ. It is a denial of man’s total depravity, for it suggests that there is something good and noble in some men, a willingness to trust Christ by nature. It denies the sovereignty of God, for it makes God’s election to be determined by the will of the sinner. It frustrates the grace of God, turning the whole work of grace upside down. We are told that because God foresaw that some people would believe in Christ he predestinated them to eternal life. But the Bible says exactly the opposite (Acts 13:48). False religion makes God’s foreknowledge of man’s faith the cause of election and grace. But the Word of God declares that God’s election and grace is the cause of our faith. Though God’s foreknowledge of his elect in Christ has been terribly perverted by those who despise the gospel of his free and sovereign grace in Christ, it is a matter of comfort and joy to the believer. It inspires praise and honor toward our God. Study it carefully in the light of Holy Scripture and you will find it both edifying and comforting to your soul.
WE CANNOT COMPREHEND DIVINE FOREKNOWLEDGE BY HUMAN REASON. What does the word “foreknowledge” mean? If you take down a dictionary and look the word up, you will find that it means “knowledge of a thing before it happens; prescience.” But if you try to apply that definition to the word, as it is used in the Bible, it will not work. We must interpret the words of Scripture as they are used by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit’s use of a word always defines its meaning and scope. For example: The word “flesh” does not usually mean the physical body, but the Adamic nature (Rom. 7:18). The word “world” does not usually refer to the whole human race, but to a specific part of it (Lk. 2:1; John 3:16). “Immortality” does not merely refer to the indestructibility of the soul, but to the resurrection body as well (I Cor. 15:51-57). And the word “all” does not mean all without exception, but all of a specific number (Rom. 5:18-19). In the Bible the words “knowledge,” “know,” and “foreknowledge” have a much deeper meaning than “to be aware of.” The word “foreknowledge” is never used in the Old Testament. But, the word “know” is often used to describe God’s gracious favor and affection for his people. God’s knowledge, in this sense, is not a possession of his nature, but an act of his will (Ex. 33:17; Deut. 9:24; Jer. 1:5; Amos 3:2). In all these places the word “know” means “to love” or “to appoint.” The word “know” is used in precisely the same way in the New Testament (Matt. 7:23; John 10:14; I Cor. 8:3; II Tim. 2:19). God’s foreknowledge of his elect is his love for them. It is an act of God’s heart, which separates and distinguishes his elect from all others.
GOD’S FOREKNOWLEDGE IS NEVER RELATED TO EVENTS, THINGS, OR ACTS, BUT ALWAYS TO PEOPLE. Look up every text where the word “foreknowledge” is used. You will see that the Bible never speaks of God foreknowing world events or the actions of men. It only speaks of God foreknowing people (Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:29-30; 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:2). The word “foreknowledge” is found only in these four places in our English Bible. We do not read, in any of these, that God foreknew that some people would repent and believe on Christ, or that he elected to save some because he foreknew that they would be willing to be saved. God foreknew his own elect. In every place where “foreknowledge” is used, it means that he loved, approved of, and accepted his elect in Christ, and foreordained us to be conformed to his image.
THE BASIS OF GOD’S FOREKNOWLEDGE IS HIS OWN ETERNAL DECREE. God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of his decree. His decree is the cause of his foreknowledge. God’s foreknowledge of Christ as our Substitute was the result of his determinate counsel that Christ be our Substitute (Acts 2:23). God’s foreknowledge of us as his sons is the result of his decree of election by which he purposed to make us his sons (Rom. 8:28-29). God foreknew us because he elected us. He predestinated us to be his sons, not because he foreknew we would be; but he foreknew us as his sons because he predestinated us to be his sons (I John 3:1). Why is this so important? To make foreseen or foreknown faith the cause of election would be to declare that (1.) Faith is a meritorious act; (2.) God’s grace is determined by the will of man; (3.) Man is his own savior; (4.) The difference between the saved sinner and the lost sinner is not the grace of God, but the free-will of man; and (5.) God must share the glory of salvation with man, because man’s decision is ultimately the determining factor in salvation. Such absurdities are blatantly contrary to the revelation of Holy Scripture. God’s saints affirm and rejoice to know that “Salvation is of the Lord.” With the Apostle Paul, every regenerate sinner says, “By the grace of God I am what I am”. We were chosen by grace (Rom. 11:5). We were redeemed by grace (Rom. 3:24). We were called by grace (Tit. 3:4-5). We “believed through grace” (Acts 18:27). And we are kept by grace (I Pet. 1:5).
DIVINE FOREKNOWLEDGE IS A SOURCE OF GREAT COMFORT AND CHEER TO GOD’S PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD. If foreknowledge were nothing but what God foreknew we would do or be by our own free-will, what possible comfort could we find in it? Thank God, it is not so. But when we understand, according to the Scriptures, that God’s foreknowledge is his immutable love and approval of us in Christ, our hearts rejoice (II Tim. 2:19). Those whom God foreknew he will never cast away. In the midst of our trials, our souls are sustained in peace by God’s foreknowledge (Nah. 1:7). We rejoice in our knowledge of God, but our hope and confidence is in God’s knowledge of us. He knows us in Christ. He loves us in Christ. He approves of us in Christ. He accepts us in Christ. Child of God, your heavenly Father’s foreknowledge of you ought to fill your heart with cheer. God knows who you are, what you are, where you are, what you need, and what he will do with you. But this is even better - He knows you! That is enough!