"To testify the gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20:24
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WHOM HE DID FOREKNOW
By Wayne Camp
"FOR WHOM HE DID FOREKNOW, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29).
I have before me a Sunday School Quarterly in which there is a discussion of the verse that I have used as a text for this message. In that quarterly the writer asks a couple of rhetorical questions, "Whom did God foreknow? Is there any person he did not foreknow?" The context of these questions reveal that he believes that every person of the human race was foreknown of God.
But, I ask, "What about those people to whom Christ will say, 'Depart from me, I never knew you'?" It is apparent that he did not know these people in the sense of foreknow in Rom. 8:29. According to Rom. 8:29, everyone whom he did foreknow, he did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. And, according to Rom. 8:30, all those foreknown and predestinated in v-29 are called, justified and glorified in verse 30. There are no exceptions. God did not lose one person from foreknowledge to glorification. Read the verses carefully and see if that is not obvious.
Some, and with valid and biblical grounds, say that the word foreknow in our text means "foreordain." Dr. Ben M. Bogard said, "The word foreknow in the text (Rom. 8:29) is the same word which in other places is translated foreordain, and rendered thus, the text would read: 'For whom he foreordained, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son'."
Due to the misunderstanding of many on this matter of foreknowledge, and at the request of some who have asked that I share this material, I want to deal with the matter of Divine foreknowledge as it is used in our text.
THIS FOREKNOWLEDGE IS OF PERSONS, NOT OF ACTIONS OR EVENTS
There is a vast difference in "What" and "Whom." The text does not refer to what God knew; it refers to whom God knew. In our text Paul is writing of certain persons whom God foreknew. He set his electing love on them. To read into this foreseen faith is to seriously distort the verse. Try substituting what for whom in the passage and see if it sounds at all sensible. For WHAT he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover WHAT he did predestinate, them he also called: and WHAT he called, them he also justified: and WHAT he justified, them he also glorified. (KJV) Does it make sense? Is it grammatically correct?
We read of God's foreknowledge of his people, Israel. "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew" (Rom. 11:2). We also read of the saints of God as being foreknown. "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (I Pet. 1:2). And, of course, there is the use in our text, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." Even a casual reading of this passage will reveal that a special and specific group of people are the objects of this foreknowledge. It will reveal that the persons foreknown are the same persons who were predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's Son. Those foreknown and predestinated are the same persons who were called. Those foreknown, predestinated, and called are the same persons who were justified. Those persons who were foreknown, predestinated, called and justified are the very same persons who were glorified. None were dropped off as Paul progressed from foreknowledge to glorification.
I call your attention to the fact that this is a foreknowledge of persons. It says nothing of their actions. There is not even a hint of foreseen faith in this passage. It is a foreknowledge of persons, not of their actions that is the subject of our text, and our discussion.
THIS FOREKNOWLEDGE OF THESE PERSONS IMPLIES MORE THAN PRE-SCIENCE, PRECOGNITION, AND OMNISCIENCE
As to omniscience, pre-science, and precognition, God, and Jesus Christ, knew every man. Jesus "needed not that any man tell him what was in man" for "he knew all men" (Jn. 2:25, 24). In fact "Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him." These unbelievers did not surprise Jesus Christ. From eternity he could call their name, and give their address. He knew before he ever came to this earth who would not believe on him. Neither did Judas Iscariot fool him for a second. When he made Judas an apostle, he already knew that the man would betray him for thirty pieces of silver. This knowledge he had from eternity.
Of the house of Judah God said, "I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb" (Isa. 48:8). No one has ever slipped up on God's blind side for he has no blind side. Every one that will ever die in sin was known of by God and his Christ from the foundation of the world. However, this knowledge is never referred to as foreknowledge.
While God knows all men, and Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not and who would betray him, there is a sense in which he does not know such persons. As I suggested in the previous paragraph, foreknowledge is never used with reference to these persons for foreknowledge goes beyond mere precognition. Jesus speaks of those whom he never knew. Though they call him Lord, he never knew them. Though they have preached and prophesied in his name he never knew them. Though they have cast out devils in his name, he never knew them. Though they have done many wonderful works in his name he never knew them in the sense of foreknowledge. Therefore, at the judgment of the damned they will hear those sad and tragic words, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:21-23). They were know but unknown. They were known but not foreknown as the word is used in our text. Obviously, the word has a deeper meaning than mere precognition.
Since all men are not called and justified, then all must not be foreknown in the sense of our text. Notice again, WHOM he did foreknow, he also did predestinate . . . Moreover WHOM he did predestinate, THEM he also called: and WHOM he called, THEM he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29- 30). Now, consider again the following facts that are set forth in these verses:
Those whom he foreknew are the very same persons whom he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.
Those whom he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son are the same persons whom he also called.
Those whom he called are the same persons whom he also justified.
Those whom he justified are the same persons whom he also glorified.
There is no room for equivocation, evasion, sidestepping, or begging the question. These verses have the same group of people, the same number of people, exactly the same persons in foreknowledge as they do in glorification. There is not even a shadow of evidence, not a tinge of evidence that some are dropped out along the way. Earlier I quoted a Sunday School quarterly in which the writer asks rhetorically, "Is there any person He did not foreknow?" In his context he indicates that all men, every last person in the human family, were foreknown in the sense and way used in Rom. 8:29. If his suggestion is true, then he has universal salvation. He infers the same universality in another question on the expression "whom he called." He asks, "Whom does God call: Is any person exempt from this Divine call? Does God call a select few to come to Him for salvation? Or, does he call all men to come to Him in repentance and faith?" (G. F. Crumley, Help for the Teacher, Second Quarter, 1972, Baptist Sunday School Committee of the American Baptist Association, P. 39).
Now, Readers, keep in mind that this S. S. writer was dealing with our text when he asks these questions. He is suggesting that all men were foreknown and called in the sense used in our text. If all men were foreknow in the sense our text, and if all men are called in the sense of our text, then all men will be justified and glorified. Universal salvation, plain and simple!
THIS FOREKNOWLEDGE MEANS TO REGARD WITH AFFECTION AND FAVOR
Foreknow, as used in our text, means "to regard with affection and favor." It means "to set one's love upon another." God set his affections, his love upon those whom he did foreknow and purposed to bless them by calling, justifying, and glorifying every last one of them. God foreknew Israel; he set his love on them. "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew" (Rom. 11:2). This foreknowledge is expressed in another way in the writings of Moses. "The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you . . . But because the Lord loved you . . ." (Deu. 7:7-8). The idea of the word includes both love and election. God foreknew certain persons, that is, he set his electing love upon them.
He uses this same idea in Amos 3:2, "You only have I KNOWN of all the families of the earth." Surely, no one would be so bold as to declare that God did not know of those other nations. He most certainly was cognizant of them. He knew of them before he ever made them. He knew of them after he made them. He knew of them before the foundation of the world. He knew Israel in a sense that he did not know these other nations. "YOU ONLY HAVE I KNOWN of all the families of the earth." He had set his electing love upon that nation and had done that for no other nation. In another place he says, "I did know thee in the wilderness" (Hos. 13:5). He regarded them with favor and love in the wilderness. This was the outflow of that love which he had set on them when he chose them.
Consider the case of Jeremiah. God said to him, "Before I formed thee in the belly I KNEW thee" (Jer. 1:5). Again we have his idea of foreknowledge. If God only knew Jeremiah in the same sense that he knows all men, what is the point in this declaration. He regarded him with special favor; He set his electing love upon him. Having done that, he sanctified him, marked him out for holy use, and he ordained him a prophet. In this verse we have the same kind of knowledge that is found in our texta knowledge, or foreknowledge that goes far beyond mere precognition or Divine omniscience.
Again we see this foreknowledge exhibited in the case of God's love for Jacob. "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth . . . it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:10-13). There is a sense in which God knew both of these boys. Yet, he set his foreknowledge, his electing love on only one of them, Jacob.
THIS FOREKNOWLEDGE HAS IN IT THE IDEA OF FOREORDINATION
"The word foreknow in the text is the same word which in other places is translated foreordain" wrote Dr. Ben Bogard (Baptist World, Nov. 1972). That this is true is seen in the first chapter of Peter's first epistle. In verse two Peter refers to those who are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God." He uses the word used by Paul in Rom. 8:29. In verse 20 of the same chapter, Peter says of Christ, "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world . . . ." Here he uses the same word as he used in verse two. In Acts 2:23 Peter says of Christ, "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." What God determined in his counsels he has foreordained and that is clearly the way that Peter uses the word here, although the KJ translators chose to use the word "foreknowledge" rather than "foreordain." Again, Dr. Bogard translated it in our text, "For whom he foreordained, he also did predestinate . . ." (Baptist World, Nov., 1972). Commenting on this, Dr. Bogard said, "It is clear that a Christian was saved in God's purpose before the world began" (Ibid.).
THIS VIEW OF FOREKNOWLEDGE IS SUBSTANTIATED BY MOST THEOLOGICAL WRITERS
The view of foreknowledge which I have set forth is the view that is substantiated by most of those who have written on the subject. I will now give a lengthy list of quotes, with their source, so that the readers may see that this idea of foreknowledge is no novelty of Wayne Camp.
David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas are Southern Baptist preachers who wrote a short study of the book of Romans. In it they say, "Broadly speaking there have been two general views as to the meaning and use of the word 'foreknow' in Romans 8:29. One class of commentators (the Arminians) maintain that Paul is saying that God predestined to salvation those whom he foreknew would respond to His offer of grace (i. e., those whom He saw would of their own free will repent of their sins and believe the gospel.) Godet, in commenting on Romans 8:29, asks the question: 'In what respect did God thus foreknow them?' and answers that they were foreknown as sure to fulfill the conditions of salvation, viz. faith; so: foreknow as his by faith.' The word 'foreknow' is thus understood by Arminians to mean that God knew beforehand which sinners would believe, etc., and on the basis of this knowledge He predestined them unto salvation.
" The other class of commentators reject the above view on two grounds. First, because the Arminians' interpretation is not in keeping with the meaning of Paul's language and second, because it is out of harmony with the system of doctrine taught in the rest of the Scriptures. Calvinists contend that the passage teaches that God set His heart upon (i. e., foreknew) certain individuals; these He predestined or marked out to be saved. Notice that the text does not say that God knew SOMETHING ABOUT particular individuals (that they would do this or that), but it states that God knew the individuals THEMSELVES--those who were the objects of God's love, He marked out for salvation.
"The questions raised by the two opposing interpretations are these: Did God look down through time and see that certain individuals would believe and thus predestine them unto salvation on the basis of this foreseen faith? Or did God set His heart on certain individuals and because of his love for them predestine that they should be called and given faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit and thus be saved? In other words, is the individual's faith the cause or the result of God's predestination? . . . it is not His knowledge of future events (of what people would do, etc.) which is referred to in Romans 8:29, 30, for Paul clearly states that those whom he foreknew He predestined, He called, He justified, etc. Since all men are not predestined, called, and justified, it follows that all men were not foreknown by God in the sense spoken of in verse 29" (Romans, An Interpretive Outline, p. 131-132).
In commenting on Amos 3:2 (cited above by this editor), Steele and Thomas said, "The Lord knew about all the families of the earth, but He knew Israel in a special way. they were His chosen people whom He had set his heart upon" (Ibid.).
The same authors quote John Murray's argument on the word foreknew. He said, "It should be observed that the text says 'whom he foreknew'; whom is the object of the verb and there is no qualifying addition. This, of itself, shows that, unless there is some other compelling reason, the expression 'whom he foreknew' contains within itself the differentiation which is presupposed. If the apostle had in mind some 'qualifying adjunct' it would have been simple to supply it. Since he adds none we are forced to inquire if the actual terms he uses can express the differentiation implied . . . Many times in Scripture 'know' has a pregnant meaning which goes beyond that of mere cognition. It is used in a sense practically synonymous with 'love', to set regard upon, to know with peculiar interest, delight, affection, and action" (The Epistle to the Romans, John Murray, Vol. I, pp. 316-318). Murray goes on to cite at least 12 passages which prove his point.
In his commentary on Romans Charles Hodge says, "The idea, therefore, obviously is, that those whom God peculiarly loved, and by thus loving, distinguished or selected from the rest of mankind; or to express both ideas in one word, those whom he elected he predestined . . . the predestination follows, and is grounded on the foreknowledge. The foreknowledge therefore expresses the act of cognition or recognition, the fixing, so to speak, the mind upon, which involves the idea of selection . . . So God is represented as looking on the fallen mass of men, and fixing on some whom he predestines to salvation. this is the PROGNOSIS, the foreknowledge, of which the apostle here speaks. It is the knowing, fixing upon, or selecting those who are to be predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Son of God" (Commentary on Romans, pp. 283-284).
Perhaps it would also be profitable at this time to look at how some of the translations render foreknow in our text.
Moffatt's "For he decreed of old that those whom he predestined should share the likeness of his Son."
Goodspeed: "For those whom he had marked out from the first he predestined to be made like his Son."
Wuest: "Because, those whom he foreordained he also marked out beforehand." Amplified New Testament: "For those whom he foreknew, of whom he was aware." On Rom. 11:2 the ANT renders foreknow "set his heart on before hand."
The New English Bible: "For God knew his own before even they were, and also ordained that they should be shaped to the likeness of his Son."
It is obvious that translators saw much more than mere precognition, or prescience in the word foreknow as used in our text.
Another has written, "They were foreknown. God fixed His regard on them, noted them with favor, and this favorable regard is the commencement of the whole process of redemption" (St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, W. H. Griffith Thomas, p. 226).
On our text A. W. Pink wrote, ". . . those whom he 'foreknew' (i. e., loved and elected) he predestinated 'to be conformed'." (Attributes of God, pp. 19-26). Pink had much more to say on the matter but this will show that he held that there was more than mere precognition suggested in the text.
A. T. Robertson is commonly believed to be the greatest Greek scholar to live in the last two hundred years. He is quoted repeatedly by those who define Greek words. Of our word he says, "Foreknew (PROGENO). Second aorist active indicative of PROGINOSKW, old verb as in Acts 26:5. See Psalm 1:6 (LXXX) and Matt. 7;23. This foreknowledge and choice is placed in eternity in Eph. 1:4." (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV, p. 377).
Much more could be said on this matter. At one time I had approximately 15 typewritten pages of quotes that affirm what has been set forth in this article. Men may wrest this text and try to make it say that which is not there. But, it is eternally settled in heaven and will stand when this world is on fire. I urge you who may have problems with it to read it and re-read it and see if after many readings it does not still say the same thing.
Human reasoning and human wisdom should never be allowed to supplant the pure word of God in our study. I am reminded of a teacher in a Sunday School class once upon a time. He read Ephesians 1:4-5 and said, "If we did not know better, that would sound like unconditional election." He then began to give all kinds of human reasoning to explain that what, in the word of God, sounded like unconditional election could not possibly be that. When he finished his rambling and reasoning, the verses were still there and they still sounded like unconditional election.
The text for this message sounds as if God set his electing love on a people before the foundation of the world and predestined that people to be conformed to the image of his Son. In time he called and justified, and is calling and justifying those same people. In the future he will glorify every one of them on whom he set his electing love. Rationalize and reason if you will. But, the word of God will still be saying what it is saying when we are glorified. Believe it lest you make God a liar. Rejoice in it for it is deep and blessed refreshment for the heart and mind of those who love God and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
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Last updated on Friday, March 04, 2011