Recently, I discussed God’s eternality with my seven-year-old twins. As I asked them to think of God being alive forever in the past and forever in the future, a far-off look of contemplation and wonder crossed their little faces. As they gazed into the distance, the look on their faces was priceless.
Like God’s eternality, there are many things about God that are awe-inspiring and difficult to comprehend, even if we have many more years to our credit than a seven-year-old. But, just because something about God is difficult or impossible to understand does not mean it is untrue. The realities of God’s character and works exist whether or not we are aware of them or accept them. For us to assume differently would be utter folly; who are we as creatures to expect the Creator to be fully comprehensible?
Thankfully, we have God’s revelation of Himself. In the Bible, God tells us who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. He tells us whatever He deems necessary for us to know now–nothing more and nothing less. Do mysteries remain? Of course they do. Our God is more vast in His character and works than what He has currently revealed. In heaven we will understand so much more; “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I have been fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).
In the meantime, He has given us faith to believe what our eyes fail to see and and what our minds fail to grasp. One of the teachings of Scripture that can be difficult to “see” and “grasp” is the first of the inevitables of our salvation, God’s foreknowledge of believers:
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many bretheren, and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified, and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29).
Did God Simply Comprehend a Fact?
Some people say that God’s foreknowledge of believers means the following: God looked into the future and saw who would believe in Him, and then He chose to save those people. According to this view, His choosing of believers is simply a response to, or confirmation of, the choice He saw they would someday make on their own. God did not foreknow them as persons whom He originally and individually chose for salvation. Rather, He foreknew, or comprehended, the fact that certain people would later believe.
Or, Did God Choose People?
A closer look at the original Greek meaning of “foreknew” in Romans 8:29 shows that the above explanation of God’s foreknowledge is lacking. According to the standard lexicon compiled and used by Greek scholars (BDAG), Proginosko (translated as “to foreknow” in English) is used two different ways in the New Testament:
1. First, “to foreknow” can mean “to know something beforehand or in advance.” This meaning is used only once in the New Testament and it refers to the knowledge of a fact, not a person. For example, in II Peter 3:17 Peter was referring to a fact that his readers already knew.
2. Second, “to foreknow” can mean “to choose beforehand.” This meaning is used multiple times in the New Testament when the object of knowledge is a person. In other words, when people (or a person) are the object of Proginosko, it has the sense of not just knowing something about the people/person beforehand, but rather choosing them beforehand in a personal, selective, and intentional way. This is how “foreknew” is used in Romans 8:29: ”For those whom He foreknew . . . ” God foreknew persons, not merely the fact that they would believe.
So yes, God chooses people; He did not merely have knowledge about their future faith. God chose the people themselves, who would then be predestined, called, justified, and glorified. He chose who would belong to Him, not on the basis of knowing they would someday believe, but rather by His grace and according to the “kind intention of his will”:
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Epesians 1:4-6).
For many, the idea of God’s foreknowledge (choosing) of His people is a difficult teaching of Scripture to accept. Friends have said to me, “I see it in Scripture, but I don’t like it,” or “I know it’s true, but I just don’t want to think about it.” I understand those sentiments, but the dislike or denial of truth does not make it untrue. Our reasoning falls infinitely short of the Lord’s wisdom, but as women seeking to walk wisely let’s carefully search God’s Word so that we will know Him better and understand His incredible grace.