(This is part 1 of a series I will be writing on election)
It cannot be denied that there has been a lot of ink spilt on the subject of God’s foreknowledge. Throughout the history of the Church, there have been many debates on the matter, however one shouldn’t think that the diversity of views should lead one to be unsure of what the Scripture has to say on the matter. If anything, the discussion that has taken place for thousands of years have done nothing but give us clarity on the matter (Prov 18:17). The LORD expects us to reason with Him, as long as it is on His terms (Isaiah 1:18), so the Christian must seek to take every one of his thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5). He has come to restore us to true knowledge, which isn’t mucked up by sin, but is rather righteous, and holy (eph 4:24). So to put it simply, we must seek to think God’s thoughts after Him, by the Word of Christ in all matters. Even though it is good that there are teachers, and it is necessary that we have them until the LORD returns, the Triune God of Scripture must be our final point of reference, He must be the final court of appeal.
With the basis of our discussion being laid, we must then look to how God in Scripture discloses Himself. He has come down, and we are obligated to believe that which He has revealed about Himself, and not go forward in speculating. Deuteronomy 29:29 speaks to how we think about God:
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” So what has God revealed about His purposes in election? We can only go as far as He has disclosed, anything that goes beyond what is revealed is speculative, and we must halt immediately. We instead should fall on our knees in praise to the “ultimately incomprehensible” God who we can still know truly and intimately.
How does the bible speak of foreknowledge? Let’s glance at Peter’s usage of the word in his sermon on the day of pentecost, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:22,23)
Peter speaks of Jesus as a man whose work was marked with God’s stamp of approval, which were the “miracles and wonders and signs”. Peter argues that they knew that Jesus was a prophet sent by God (and he will later make the argument that He is the prophet of the LORD, who is the LORD). He then moves in describing the crucifixion, and the evil acts and decisions made by the “godless men” as part of the “Predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God”. The usage of foreknowledge denotes “seeing beforehand an event yet to take place”. However having foreknowledge implies Omniscience on the one hand, and that the event is fixed and certain. So a couple of biblical observations that we must make about this passage of Scripture is this:
A. That God knew that Jesus was going to be crucified by godless men (which involves all of the sinful choices and decisions that they made in the process)
B. That the event was fixed, and certainly going to happen.
Peter ascribes both A. and B. to God in v. 23, saying that Jesus was “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God,”. So to simply state it, God predetermined Jesus crucifixion would be carried out by the sinful actions of men, and that it was directed wisely, hence the usage of the term “delivered”.
So in this biblical instance, God is not being ascribed simply a “knowledge ahead of time”, Peter is rather asserting that God predetermined that Jesus would be crucified (along with everything else that happens) , directed by His own wise counsel from eternity past, including the sinful actions of the men.
The beauty that even though we are evil, that God has determined everything that happens (even the most horrific event in history) all for His glory, and for the believer’s good. This should bring hope and encouragement to the believer.
Some cross references to Acts 2:23:
Isaiah 10:7 “But this is not what he intends, this is not what he has in mind; his purpose is to destroy, to put an end to many nations.”
Isaiah 37:26 “Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone.”
Matt 20:19 “and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
Luke 22:22 “The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.”
Acts 4:24 “They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”