Foreknowledge and Omniscience
Ephesians Lesson #014
January 6, 2019
“Our Father, we’re thankful that You have revealed Your Word to us. Father, as we read Your Word, as we study Your Word, we grow, we mature. It is by Your Word, our Lord prayed, that we would be sanctified. It is the basis for our spiritual growth. It is what You use to transform our thinking, to conform us to the image of Christ as we learn to think as He thinks.
“Father, today we are studying a difficult passage in Ephesians, we’re studying difficult concepts. Help us to think clearly and to understand what You have revealed that we may be strengthened and encouraged and grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“We pray this in His name, amen.”
We are in Ephesians 1, so you might want to turn with me there as we began, although we will not be spending much of our time in Ephesians 1 today, because we are developing our understanding of that which Paul refers in Ephesians 1:4, when he talks about the fact that “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…”
This opens up a whole series of issues and questions that have been debated since about the 5th century AD, and there’s been a lot of division, there’s been a lot of conflict over some of these things within the church.
There are people and groups that break fellowship over these things. There’s a lot of poor methodology in terms of the study of Scripture. There’s a lot of poor translation due to translators who interpret rather than translate. What I mean by that is they are giving you their theological interpretation of a verse without simply translating it.
One of the things that opened my eyes to this years ago, I read book on evangelical hermeneutics by one of the foremost scholars of hermeneutics, Robert Thomas, and he made the point that the role of a translator of Scripture is to translate what the text says, not what he interprets it to mean. That is the role of the pastor in the pulpit to interpret the text.
Unfortunately, there are too many translations, and the one that comes to mind the most is the NIV. That’s not the worst, most egregious, but it’s the one that’s most popular within evangelical circles.
I always liked what Wayne House said. He referred to it not as the New International Translation, but the New International Commentary. It’s not really a translation. There are too many places where you will look in vain for the words they chose in English to be a meaning for the Greek or Hebrew word that lies behind it, and this, of course, changes the meaning of the text. That’s one reason I do not recommend the NIV.
But the terms that we are looking at this week and further development from last week is, what does this term foreknowledge mean in Scripture, and how does that relate to omniscience, the omniscience of God?
Just to contextualize these first verses. This is part of the opening praise by Paul related to the blessings that we have given to us believers in this Church Age. The more I read through this, the more I am coming to understand that as we do so, what Paul is describing for us is the blessings that we have in Christ.
The context here is he is talking about what believers have and enjoy as members of the body of Christ. So his focal point is not really in terms of being individually saved, but he’s expressing the blessings we have corporately in Christ. That’s the framework, and it helps us to understand phrases like what we see in Ephesians 1:4, that He chose us in Him.
Too often, as I’ve been pointing out several times, the way this is read by people is that, “He chose us,” and then they just stop, or they will read it, “He chose us ‘to be’ in Him,” which is a selection to be saved. Doesn’t say that. There’s no “to be” there.
It is more the idea “us in Him” is talking about us who are in Him, so his focal point is on what is provided for those who are in Christ. It is the not so much that he is talking about God selecting those who would be in a certain building or in a certain house, but he is talking about those who are already in that building or in that house.
We are all in Christ; we are in Him, and He chose us in Him for certain purposes. It’s talking about the destiny and the purpose of the church. Those who are united with Christ by faith in Him. The context of that has often been ignored.
That there are several words that tie this passage to other passages. We have the mention here of the word “to choose,” which is the foundational word for “election.” It is connected to the word “foreknowledge” in 1 Peter 1:2 and also to “predestination” in Romans 8:29.
These are foundational verses to understand what precedes this mention of “choice.” Also, there’s no mention in Ephesians 1:3 of what the basis might be for the choice. We will have to deal with that as we move along.
1 Peter 1:2 says that it’s choice. There we will get into some other issues, but it is choice not election. Choice refers to the quality of the group. They are choice, and the reason we know it’s not “chosen” or “elect” is because you get the idea, especially in the second phrase “by means of sanctification of the Spirit.” It’s not chosen by means of sanctification of the Spirit. The word is choice, and we will get to passages that talk about that.
It talks about the quality of the group. They are choice or excellent because they possess the righteousness of Christ. This happens by the sanctification of the Spirit. They are choice by means of that work—of the sanctification of the Spirit.
Romans 8:29, which we will look at later this morning, gives us an order of distinct events. In Romans 8:29–30, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined…” It’s very clear here that whatever foreknowledge is, it is different from predestination.
That’s important because for a lot of Calvinists, foreknowledge has this sense of “to be preordained,” which is almost identical to predestination. And theologically they will tie those together very closely, but here, even some Calvinists who are objective in their commentaries will indicate that these are distinct categories, distinct acts. But then when they start to talk about it, they go back to conflating them together.
I reviewed last time the history, the development, of what is called Calvinism in contrast to Arminianism. In the late 1500s as these theological issues began to boil up within the Reformed Church in Holland, there was a group that was becoming condemned by the more Calvinistic group, who were really developing their theology more beyond Calvin, so they were known as Remonstrants.
They became identified historically more as Arminians because they were following the teaching of Jacobus Arminius. They held to five points:
- Total depravity, which we’ll talk about more when we get to Ephesians 2:1–2, and its distinction from total inability, which is what Calvinists countered with.
- A conditional election because they understood that the foreknowledge of God was not ignored in the process of salvation and God’s plan.
- Unconditional election is articulated at the Synod of Dordt, that there is no condition revealed for God’s choice; and therefore, there is no condition. It is arbitrary. You will find High Calvinists saying that it is arbitrary, and that is counter, I will say, to what the Scripture says. It’s based on foreknowledge. They ignore that. They say God’s omniscience has nothing to do with His elective choice.
- Third was unlimited atonement, which was countered by Calvinists with limited atonement. Arminians understood that Christ died for all, and Calvinists said he died only for the elect.
- Fourth, the Doctrine of Prevenient and Resistible grace was articulated by the Remonstrants, and it was countered by the idea of irresistible grace. If God chose some to be saved, Christ only died for those to be saved, and so God is only going to call those who are elect, and He will do so in a way that you really can’t resist.
- Fifth, Arminians believed in the possibility of losing salvation, whereas in strict Dordtian Calvinism, the true believer would persevere. He may fall into sin at times, but ultimately, he will not turn his back on the cross, and he will not fall into permanent apostasy in this life.
On the light side of that point, we have those who interpret it simply as eternal security. I referred to that with Lewis Sperry Chafer.
These are the five points of Calvinism versus the five points of Arminianism. The five points of Calvinism are often remembered by their acronym of the first letter:
“T” for total inability,
“U” for unconditional,
“L” for limited,
“I” for irresistible,
“P” for perseverance. That spells TULIP.
Those tongue-in-cheek respond that it’s either TULIP theology or its Daisy theology, because you’re never certain if you’re saved. The Arminians think about God like maybe plucking the petals off the daisy: He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. You’re never really certain.
Calvinists often assert that there’s only one other option and that is Arminianism: you’re either a Calvinist or you’re Arminian. That is a logical fallacy that has excluded a middle. There is clearly a middle way that numerous theologians have articulated and developed down through the centuries that is neither in full agreement with the five points of Arminianism or the five points of Calvinism.
I defined these terms for us, that a Hyper-Calvinist is not someone who’s just a little more deterministic than you are. A Hyper-Calvinist believes that because God has determined who will be saved, God will make sure they’re saved without any help from you or me. No need for evangelism. If God has determined that they will be saved, they’ll be saved, and so you don’t need to worry about giving them the gospel.
A High Calvinist is the term for a Dordtian or a five-point Calvinist; whereas, the term Moderate Calvinists describes anybody who is somewhat less than a five-point Calvinist.
We have these words that we need to understand:
What does it mean to choose?
What does it mean to be predestined?
What does it mean in terms of His will?
Where does God’s sovereignty end and man’s volition begin?
How are those related?
It all begins with understanding this term, “foreknowledge,” which we began to look at last time.
We looked at the meaning of foreknowledge, at how it’s defined across the spectrum in the Lexicons. With only a couple of minor exceptions, it is understood to mean prescience—that is to know something ahead of time—and it should be translated that way. Yet that is not the way that Calvinists will say the term should be understood or translated.
We started looking at what the Bible teaches about foreknowledge.
I gave you this quote from Louis Berkhof, a foremost reformed theologian. They base their meaning, in the New Testament they go back, and they go to the Old Testament, but they make these various little shifts.
The Greek word is PROGINOSKO. GINOSKO is the word for “know,” PRO means “to know beforehand.” They will drop the suffix, forget that suffix, and they’ll say, “Well, GINOSKO also has the sense of a choice, of an elective love,” and they’ll say, “See, we see this in the Hebrew word yada’, which also means “to know.”
I pointed out last time that there are over 922 uses of the word yada’ in the Old Testament, and they can only come up with five that they say has this meaning of what Berkhof says is not merely knowing something ahead of time, not merely taking cognizance, or being aware of some things about somebody.
He says it is “taking knowledge of one with loving care—that’s importing a whole host of ideas that are not substantiated by the data—or making one the object of loving care or elective love. In this sense it serves the idea of election…”—and then list three verses where he believes substantiate that.
It’s really interesting that as I was beginning my new plan for reading through the Bible this year, as I’m reading through Genesis this last week, I came to the section from Genesis 16–20. I read in Genesis 18:19, the episode when God is talking to Himself about whether or not to tell Abraham about what He is about to do to Sodom and Gomorrah. As He is reasoning through this in this Scripture, He says, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has promised him.”
This is the ESV. I like to read different English translations, so this year I’m reading through the ESV. I didn’t catch this because the New King James translates this, “For I have known him.” But ESV has not translated it. The translator has interpreted it.
I used my iPad, and I have LOGOS on that, and so I did a click on the word just to see, “Well, wait a minute. I don’t remember ‘chosen’ being there.” So I clicked on the word to see what it was in the Hebrew, and it opens up my HALOT—the Hebrew Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, which is one of the most scholarly, respected lexica for Hebrew.
I read through—it must be three or four pages of data given in the print version—and there wasn’t one item in any of the stems that indicated anything close to being chosen or selected or elective love. It wasn’t in there. It all had to do with knowing something about someone, because that’s what yada means. The only exception is the idiom when it refers to sexual intimacy between two adults. That is the only difference. There is nothing about this selective or elective love.
Slides 12, 13
Yet Calvinists base this doctrine of elective love on simply these five uses, Genesis 18:19, as well as the others, and they read that into that.
The conclusion we came to is that the lexicons can provide no examples outside of the Bible where PROGINOSKO means anything other than prescience. That’s important. Sometimes you can go to the Bible, and Paul will clearly use a word that is within the lexica of koine Greek, but he will use it a different way. That happens, so you have to be careful.
What we find is their arguments are not based on GINOSKO, they are based on PROGINOSKO. In coming to their conclusions, they ignore a certain amount of data because they take the prefix off, and they do their study simply on the basis of the root verb and not on the whole verb.
Let me give you an example. If you understood the meaning of the word “stall,” that word could have a couple of meanings. A stall may be a place where you locate an animal; You put him in a stall. Or it could refer to something that happens to an aircraft, an engine suddenly stops, and it is now in a stall position.
If you understand the word “stall,” does that help you understand the word install, as you are opening up a Microsoft Word manual? Not at all, because when you add a prefix to a word, it will change the meaning of the word.
So they have a fundamental logical or semantic fallacy in the way they approach the meaning of the word, taking the word GINOSKO, which means to know, and then trying to use that to support the meaning for PROGINOSKO. There are only five uses in the Bible, and each one, as we will see today, emphasizes the idea of knowing something ahead of time or prescience.
The first one that we’re going to look at, and you may wish to turn there in your Bible, is in Acts 26:5. Now this is a good use to establish as our baseline or benchmark for understanding the word, because it is not in a theologically significant passage. There are two of these that we will look at of these five that are not in theologically significant passages, but what that does is it helps us to understand how the word was used in every day sort of language.
Acts 26:5, Paul is speaking, “They knew—and I’ve inserted words in brackets because they are inferred by the way these words would be used—They knew about me—that is, they knew beforehand about me—from the first—the word for knowledge there is PROGINOSKO—They knew about me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.”
The context here is that Paul is speaking to Herod Agrippa II, and reminds him that he, that is Agrippa, is very knowledgeable about the issues facing the Jews at that particular time. Paul is giving an APOLOGIA, a defense of his position.
Paul goes on to remind him that he was in Jerusalem where he received his training, his rabbinical training that he probably went there at the time of his bar mitzvah when he was 13 or shortly thereafter. He was schooled under one of the most famous rabbis of that generation, Rabbi Gamaliel.
So all of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem at this time, which would be early- to mid- AD 50s, would know a lot of facts about who Saul of Tarsus was. This is the traitor. This is the one who has apostatized from Judaism. He has rejected the teaching of the rabbis, and he has now believed that this Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, so he is known, he is arguing by these leaders in Jerusalem already.
He is saying, they knew me from the first. They knew who I was, and they knew of my background. As he is telling them this, he’s simply using the word PROGINOSKO, as they knew about me, because that’s the context.
When it says, someone knows me, a Calvinist will read they have an intimate elective love for you. Now did the Pharisees—have you gotten there already? Did those Pharisees really have an elective love for Paul? Is that right? No, that will not work there. Simply, the root meaning of this word is they knew something about him ahead of time. It’s prescience.
That’s important to understand, and it’s also important to understand that when certain verbs in Greek are used, where it just states the verb and then the object “they knew me,” in English we would supply the preposition “about.” That’s implied within the Greek word itself. He is talking about the fact that they would know about me. Knowledge is about something. It’s knowing facts; it’s knowing information about someone.
I talked about this verse briefly at the end of last time. We see this usage in Matthew 12:33 where Jesus says, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.”
You know ABOUT the tree. You know something ABOUT the tree. See, that’s implied there. You know something about the tree: because you know its fruit, you know what the tree is. This idea of something being knowledge about someone in terms of the object of the verb PROGINOSKO is to know something about someone ahead of time.
That becomes clarified when we get into the second verse where PROGINOSKO is used in the New Testament in 1 Peter 1:20; let’s turn now to 1 Peter 1:20.
You’ll get a little bit of a sword drill this morning, which is good for some of you as you try to figure out where the books of the Bible are. 1 Peter should be knowledgeable by those of you who have been coming on Thursday night.
Let me pick up the context. He is talking about Christ and redemption in 1 Peter 1:18, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers—tradition from the fathers is the oral law that the rabbis taught, so he’s rejecting that at this point—but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
“He indeed—now who is that describing? That pronoun ‘He’ is describing Jesus—He indeed was foreordained—that’s the New King James version—was foreordained.”
That idea, the term “foreordained,” is pretty close to a synonym for predestination, but this is not the Greek word PROORIZO, this is the word PROGINOSKO.
See in the New King James version here, you have another illustration of a translator interpreting the word instead of translating the word. It should be translated “He—referring to Christ—was known about beforehand. He was known about by God the Father from “before the foundation of the world.”
This also sets up a contrast in the two clauses between something that was before the foundation of the world and something that is “in these last times.”
Just as a side note, when Peter refers to “these last times,” what’s he talking about? He’s talking about the Church Age. He’s not talking about the Tribulation. When you get Christians together, they want talk about the “last days.” Well, here’s a use of the phrase “last times,” and it is at the very beginning of the Church Age.
We are in the last times. We just don’t know when they’re going to end and Jesus will return, and then the last days for Israel will begin. But all of the Church Age are the last times of the Church Age, biblically speaking. So don’t get caught up into that sort of false understanding of this terminology.
Peter is saying that “He indeed was foreordained…” What’s interesting is the NASB and the NET translate it correctly as “foreknown,” but I put the NIV up here, just so you see that there are some other problems with the NIV, as they are interpreting it rather than translating it.
They translate it, “He was chosen before the creation of the world…” What I’m pointing out is that when you come to translations, and you’re looking at the Greek, don’t impose your theology on the translation. Translate it. Go with what the lexica are saying.
This is very clear that this is talking about Jesus. He was known beforehand. It is not talking about elective love, because Jesus is eternally the Son of God, and He is the Choice One, and He in some passages you may translate it “elect,” but He is chosen as the One who would provide salvation. It is not talking about selection for salvation at all.
2 Peter 3:17, “You, therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand—PROGINOSKO. Again, this is the third use the verb, and this is the statement that—you, therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you fall from your own steadfastness.”
They are simply talking about “I have warned you about what is coming, so you know about it ahead of time.” That fits with the general usage and the meaning of the term.
Romans 8:28–30 is the next—I left 30 out of the slide. It’s the next section. So turn back to Romans 8. This is the fourth use of PROGINOSKO in the New Testament.
Romans 8:28 is a verse I hope many of you have memorized, and one that provides great comfort to many of us in times of difficulty when we don’t understand why certain things have happened to us or happened the way they have, and Paul gives us this statement that we know that all things work together for good. It doesn’t say all things are good. It says all things work together for good.
That is God’s providential care. He is not working them together for good by violating the volition of individual people. He works them together for good, because He is able, even with the chaos of autonomous creatures—who are autonomous to some degree—He is still powerful enough to work things out to His purposes without violating the volition of individuals in terms of their salvation, in terms of their eternal destiny.
“…we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose.”
Then Paul begins to describe how this happens. He gives a chain of events. It begins with foreknowledge,
“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. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
The first step there is the step related to the knowledge of God that He knew things ahead of time, and it is the knowledge of those things ahead of time that is related to what happens in the rest of that chain of events.
It is very clear here that foreknowledge is something that is totally distinct from predestination, and that predestination is grounded on or is based on this prescience of God, His knowledge ahead of time.
We come to understand that then is the basis; it just fits within foreknowledge. Now we have to connect this to 1 Peter 1:2, which we will do in a minute, but here it’s the verb. 1 Peter 1:2 is a noun, so I’m just taking us through the five uses of the verb first, and then we will look at the noun.
The next use is Romans 11:2 and we have to be reminded of the context here in Romans 9, 10 and 11. In these three chapters, Paul is talking about how God’s justice is being displayed to the Jewish people. And in the beginning of this section, He is going to talk about the fact that He has not discarded His plan for the Jewish people.
That is laid out in Romans 9:1–5, where Paul says,
“I tell the truth in Christ, I’m not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren—that is talking about those who are Jews by virtue of their relationship to him genetically—my countrymen according to the flesh, who were Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God and the promises of whom are the fathers, and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God.”
He recognizes that the Jewish people are still God’s chosen people. They are chosen as a corporate group for a purpose and that He has given them the covenants. And just because they have now, as a whole rejected—primarily the majority of the entity—they have rejected Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah, that doesn’t mean that God has cast them away.
That’s a question that would naturally occur, and so this is what is brought up in Romans 11:1–2, “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.”
“God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew…”
Again, this is used as a knowledge beforehand, who God knew beforehand. It may be talking about His relationship with the Jewish people from beforehand, just as yada is used to talk about He knew Abraham and He had a relationship with Abraham, but it’s not talking about elective or selective love. You can’t read that into it. Here that becomes clear.
“Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel.”
What we see here is a reference to Elijah, who was spiraling down into a self-absorbed pit of depression, thinking that he was the only one standing against the prophets of Baal and Asherah.
He starts complaining to God, as Paul describes in Romans 11:3–4, “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” God is going to correct him and He says, “I have reserved for Myself 7,000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
The idea here is He is talking about God’s foreknowledge, that God knows that there are 7,000 who have not apostatized. He is not saying that these are the only 7,000 that are saved, because we know that there are many who are saved, who would still apostatize, and they would fall away from the truth.
As I was reading this week thinking in terms of what I’m going to speak on next Sunday in Kiev and then the following Sunday in Zhytomyr, I was reading through the episode about Lot in Sodom. That’s a great example of grace. Peter calls him “Righteous Lot.” The angels had to drag him and his wife and daughters out of Sodom. He was still immersed in wanting to live in the midst of this horrid, pagan, perverted culture.
There was no “fruit” to look at in Lot’s life that would indicate that he was a believer, but Peter calls him “Righteous Lot.” Why? Because he had believed in the promise of Messiah. Therefore, he had received the imputation of righteousness just as Abraham had in Genesis 15:6. God had imputed to him as righteousness because he believed God, not because he had acted in a correct manner.
These 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal are not the only ones who are saved, they are just the only saved ones who are standing their ground. God in His omniscience knew that, and He knew both beforehand.
Romans 11 continues to be another argument that PROGINOSKO just means to know beforehand.
Those are the five passages that deal with verbs, and we see according to usage that any idea of reading God’s elective choice, elective love into those passages is fraudulent. It is a fallacy to do so.
Let’s look at two usages where the noun is used.
Acts 2:23. Talking about Jesus, this is Peter on the Day of Pentecost, and Peter is explaining what has taken place that day, and in Acts 2:22, “Men of Israel, here these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know Him—that is, Jesus of Nazareth—being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.”
It is PROGNOSIS, which is the noun “foreknowledge.” You have two words that are used here: A combination of HORIZO, which is translated “deliberate” or “established” and purpose, which is the word “will” or “plan.” Then the second word “foreknowledge.”
You have one article with two nouns here, and that is probably a Granville Sharp rule, but that doesn’t mean that the two nouns are synonyms.
We studied this a while back when we studied pastors and teachers. It means that these two things are intimately connected. In other words, God’s plan is connected to His knowledge of things ahead of time.
It doesn’t distinguish, and they’re not identical. That isn’t what the Granville Sharp says. It just says that these two nouns are going to be very similar, but they’re going to be connected to one another.
It does not mean “the determined purpose and intimate, loving relationship of God.” That doesn’t fit, but it does fit that His determined purpose is based on His foreknowledge. That’s the connection.
Peter brings this out very clearly. Remember, Peter’s the one who is speaking in Acts 2:23. Peter’s the one who is writing in 1 Peter 1:2, and he brings this out. He says to his recipients that they are elect, or I prefer the translation “choice,” according to the foreknowledge of God.
That word “according to” has the idea of “on the basis of” or according to a principle in consistence with the principal or the ground of which, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, when talking about the coming Antichrist, Paul writes, “whose coming is according to—or on the basis of or on the ground of—the working of Satan.”
What we have here are these clear statements from Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2 that there is a relationship between God’s plan and purpose and His knowledge—that He is not planning apart from His knowledge.
That brings us back to understand the relationship between God’s omniscience and His foreknowledge.
In Calvinism they will say that God does not know anything that He has not predetermined. That’s the only way God can know for certain that it will happen, is He predetermines it, and so they limit His omniscience. They limit His omniscience to that which He controls.
They will reject the idea that God knows everything that can happen, everything that could possibly happen, that which truly will happen, and that which could have, might have, or should have happened. That is a profound understanding of omniscience—that God has that level of it—is a knowledge that is beyond us.
Foreknowledge is a subset of His omniscience. He knows all that will happen, but in His foreknowledge, He knows beforehand what will happen. In Calvinism they rejected the idea that this has anything to do with who will be elect.
The problem with that is that they want to make faith meritorious. They separate saving faith from any other category of faith, so that saving faith is a special gift from God. That’s not what Ephesians 2:8–9 is talking about. It is talking about for our salvation by grace through faith; it’s the whole phrase, “is not of works.”
It is not faith. They are different genders in the Greek, so you have to understand the phraseology there. We will cover this a little more as we go forward. They will say that if God’s foreknowledge informs Him that someone will believe in Christ as Savior, then you’re putting the cause of their salvation and the merit of their salvation on their faith.
But the merit isn’t in faith. Faith is non-meritorious. Anybody can believe. What are the illustrations Jesus uses for faith? Eating, drinking. These are things anybody can do. The merit isn’t in faith, faith is simply the means. It’s not the cause of salvation. The Greek is very clear in that in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith…” It is DIA plus the genitive. If it were because of faith, it would be DIA plus the accusative.
The grammar is very clear. It’s through faith. The merit is the object of faith. The merit is the cross of Christ. The merit is what Jesus did on the cross. We are not saved because we believe. We are saved because Christ died on the cross. We are saved through faith, because it is through faith that we appropriate that to ourselves.
I am not saying that the only factor in this is God’s foreknowledge, but what the Calvinist says is He excludes all of His omniscience from making this choice. That means His choice is arbitrary and not based on any factor of His knowledge. And God is not an arbitrary God.
God is not going “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” to determine who is going to be saved and who will not. Salvation is determined by our volition and our response to the hearing of the gospel.
God indeed does know what will happen if things were different. Jesus demonstrates this in Matthew 11:23 He says, “And you, Capernaum—which is where Jesus lived, where Peter lived. Those of us who have been to Israel have seen the house of Peter—you, Capernaum—they rejected Jesus, they rejected His miracles—You, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven—because this was where Jesus lived—will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it—meaning Sodom—would have remained until this day.”
Jesus knew what would happen if Sodom had made other choices, if there were other circumstances. He knows the alternatives. You can extrapolate that odd infinitum, and it will blow your mind—that no matter how many different choices you and I might’ve made in life, God knows exactly how all of that would’ve been played out and you just multiply that by the billions and billions of people on the planet.
Thomas Edgar was the head of the Greek Department at Capital Bible Seminary until he retired, and I got to know him to some degree because he was Dan Inghram’s Greek professor for many, many courses, and I had recommended Dan to go study under Dr. Edgar.
Mid 90s Dan called me up one day and said, “They’re going to kick me out of the Marine Corps before long. I’m going to have to go back to what my original plan was, and probably go in the ministry.” He’d been accepted to Dallas Seminary in ’72, but had decided to go into the Marine Corps, which instead of being four years turned into 28 years.
He said, “What should I do?” I knew he was living in DC; I said, “Hey, go up to Capital Bible Seminary. The head of the Greek Department there is Tom Edgar. He went to the Naval Academy and took his commission in the Marine Corps. You guys are going to find a lot in common. Then he went to Dallas Seminary and got is ThM and his ThD there, and he’s published a lot of books.”
He wrote an excellent article for the Chafer Journal on foreknowledge, and He concludes:
“Thus, God knows everything that will happen if He causes it, if He causes only some of it, or if He merely allows it to happen.”
Think about that. That’s a heavy sentence.
“God knows everything that will happen if He causes it, if He causes only some of it, or if He merely allows it to happen. Since He is omniscient, He knows what will happen even if He allows the universe to be completely random. He knows what will happen regardless of the cause. Whether man can philosophically explain how this works is irrelevant, since man has no ability to explain something only God possesses—that is the kind of knowledge God has—and about which man knows nothing apart from Scripture.”
I thought that was a well thought out paragraph. A good conclusion.
When we understand these issues related to God’s plan and purpose, God’s knowledge ahead of time provides data on which He makes choices and develops His plan and purposes.
Next we will plug this into our understanding of predestination and election.
“Father, we thank You for this time we have to study Your Word, to work our way through Your revelation, to understand how You have even structured Your Word. We can understand, to some degree, what Your Word teaches about Your foreknowledge, and to understand that, in Your plan and purpose, Your sovereign rule is not abrogated by the random or arbitrary decisions of creatures who exercise their volition in foolish, unwise, and sinful ways.
“But You are able even to control the consequences of the chaos from sin, and that is beyond our understanding. So that You bring about that which You intended. And above all, You allow us the freedom to decide whether or not to accept Your free gift of grace. That salvation is based on faith in Jesus Christ. And that’s the most important decision we will ever make.
“Father, we pray that those who are listening would come to understand that this is a decision for them to make. God is not going to abrogate your responsibility, for that is the issue: Are you going to obey Him or not? Are you going to believe in Christ or not? Are you going to trust in Jesus alone for salvation? And that is the gospel presentation, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.’
“Father, for the rest of us it gives us great comfort because we know that we are in line with Your plan and purpose when we trust in Christ, and that that places us in Him, and in Him we have incredible blessings and privileges and assets. Help us to understand these things as we go forward in Ephesians, and we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”