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Volume 11, Issue 3: Stauron

Foreknowledge

Gary Hagan

Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain"
Acts 2:23

Prognwsei, or prognosei, or foreknowledge.

Peter used that word in his sermon to the Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem for Pentecost. He was describing the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth at their hands and declaring to his Jewish audience that God had foreordained the events that happened. Many years after his Pentecost sermon, Peter again addressed pilgrims. He wrote to Christian pilgrims of the Dispersion and used a similar description of God's hand directing their redemption in the cross of Christ: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot; who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Pet. 1:20).
God decreed our salvation ahead of time. Literally, in fact, from eternity before time (2 Tim. 1:9). Before the first day, before the foundation of the world, before the opening lines of Genesis 1:1, before sin, God appointed the events of the crucifixion and determined our salvation. To the unbeliever, Christ's death is a meaningless accident in history, pointless, a waste, in shortfoolishness. To many biblically illiterate believers, Christ's death was an event which God could see coming and therefore gave the scriptural prophecies. But the word of God paints a very different picture. The Bible speaks of the sovereignty of God directing all of history, including the wickedness of both Gentiles and Jews who carried out the murder of Christ on the cross.
When Scripture speaks of the foreknowledge of God, it is not in the sense of a finely tuned telescope looking down the corridors of time. Rather, it is in the sense of causation, of design, of ordaining events. Consider Peter's prayer in the text of Acts 4:27 and 28. "For a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done."
The word Christ is Greek for anointed. Anointed means appointed to a purpose. Jesus was born to die (John 12:25-28). An earlier prophet was also told of his appointment in terms of God's foreknowledge. In Jeremiah 1:5, we note the parallel statements of God's foreknowledge in conjunction with His appointed purpose. "Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." The knowing of God in this context is explicitly linked to the design God had for Jeremiah.
Peter's epistle refers to the saints as the "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:2). The Greek word translated here into English as foreknowledge is the same word translated as foreordained in the earlier passage from 1 Peter 1:20. In God's economy, these are two sides of the same coin, not disjointed or tentative concepts as they often are from human perspectives.
Therefore, 1 Peter 1:2 could just as easily be rendered "elect according to the foreordination of God before the foundation of the world." In fact, this is what we see in Ephesians 1:4: "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world." When God ordained Christ, before time began, to be Redeemer, He simultaneously ordained those who would be the redeemed, "in Him."
Some of the early Lutheran reformers would confess the election of the saints, but would deny the "election" of the damned. But again the Scriptures are clear: "What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory"(Romans 9:22-23). Here, "fitted" has the sense of those whose end was already completely sealed. A similar pattern is seen in 1 Peter 2:8 "being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed." God appoints disobedience as well as obedience, all for the purpose of His glory. These are hard words, as Paul discusses in Romans 9:19. They are also words of great comfort (Romans 8:31).
God, in wisdom, ordained to save some and not others. He displays both His mercy and His wrath so that both His glory and His power might be seen. He foreknew the end from the beginning because He ordained that end before the world began. God foreknew and elected the Cross, and He foreknew and foreordained those who would obey the gospel of Christ crucified and receive mercy, and also those who would disobey and receive wrath. "To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever, Amen" (Rom. 16:27).

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