(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 8/24/03 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
It's good to be back in the house of the Lord. Let's turn to Romans chapter 8. I'll be reading verses 28 through 30:
Romans 8: (28) But we know that [to] the [ones] loving God all things work together for good, [to] those being called according to purpose; (29) because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be [the] First-born among many brothers. (30) But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
I spent three sermons on Romans 8:28 going over three different aspects of this verse. The first sermon was on the truth of God's sovereignty - the truth that God works all things according to His own will. The first part of the second sermon was on the truth of God's love - the truth that God is only loving, merciful, and gracious to His people. The second part of the second sermon put the two truths together, which results in the truth that God works all things for the good of His people. The third sermon was on the two things that God's people are called in Romans 8:28. They're called "the ones loving God," and they are called "those being called according to purpose."
Today, the Lord willing, we'll be going into the second part of the sentence that started in verse 28. So let's read verse 29 again:
Romans 8: (29) because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be [the] First-born among many brothers.
The first word is "because." And you should know by now that this is a word that connects this part of the sentence to the first part of the sentence. What is said in verse 29 about foreknowledge and predestination is CONNECTED to what is said in verse 28 about God working all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to purpose. We know that God works all things together for the good of His people BECAUSE of what we see in verse 29.
So let's go into the first doctrine of verse 29, which comes from the phrase "whom He foreknew." This doctrine is the doctrine of God's FOREKNOWLEDGE. God FOREKNEW certain people. What does it mean to FOREKNOW? The Greek word is pro-gin-OSE-ko, which comes from the prefix PRO, which means "before," and the verb gin-OSE-ko, which means "to know." This corresponds with the English word "foreknow," made up of the prefix"fore" which means "before," and the verb "to know." So it's talking about a "knowing before." God KNEW certain people BEFORE. Before what? Well, from the context of this sentence and the sentence that follows, this is talking about God's KNOWING certain people BEFORE the foundation of the world. So when the Bible says that God FOREKNEW people, it means that He KNEW them BEFORE He created the universe. Now what does it mean that He KNEW them? Some would say that this is talking about God's foreSEEING that certain people would choose to be saved of their own free will. So in this scheme, God KNEW AHEAD OF TIME that certain people would choose to be saved of their own free will. Or, as some of them say, God, before the foundation of the world, "looked down through the telescope of time" to see who would choose Him. And then, based on this FORESIGHT, this PRESCIENCE, God elected those whom He already knew would choose Him. So verse 29 would be explained to say that God looked into the future, found out who would choose to be saved, and then decreed to save these people whom He already knew would choose to be saved. Now who but a fool can't see through this blasphemy? For one, just the mere ridiculousness of it is plain to see. Suppose there's a man who can see into the future and know that certain events will take place. Now suppose he sees that Mr. X will eat a sausage on May 9th, 2009, at 1:05 PM. Now suppose this man then says, "I predestinate Mr. X to eat a sausage on May 9th, 2009, at 1:05 PM." Has this man who can see into the future actually decreed or ordained anything to come about? No - he actually used his foresight to MAKE PEOPLE THINK he had the power to predestinate. He actually didn't predestinate at all. He actually didn't ordain or decree ANYTHING to happen. That's the way some people see God's foreknowledge as it relates to predestination. There's a little god who has the power to see into the future but doesn't have the power to actually DETERMINE what will happen in the future. And so, to make up for this impotence, this little god makes the bold pronouncement that he has PREDESTINATED things to happen, but it was only based on his ability to FORESEE that things would happen. In this blasphemous scheme, this little god has control over NOTHING. He cannot control any action or event. All he can do is see what will happen and then get on his pedestal, puff up his chest, point his finger to the sky, and squeak, "I hereby decree and predestinate that such and such will happen." The universe, the world, and the actions of men and beasts are all outside of his control, and all he can do is see what they're going to do and then make a powerless decree. This is not the almighty God of the Bible, the creator and sustainer of the universe, the one who has sovereignly foreordained and controls all actions and events. So it makes God into a weakling. But it does more than that. It conditions salvation on the sinner. In the TRUE plan of salvation, God the Father CHOSE whom He would save from eternity past, God the Son lived and died for the people God chose, and God the Holy Spirit regenerates these chosen people in time. Their salvation is not conditioned on anything they do or are enabled to do. But what about this FALSE plan of salvation? Well, it's really not a plan at all. The initiative to be saved is taken by the SINNER in time, who CHOOSES to be saved by his own free will. Salvation is conditioned on the effort of the SINNER. All this little god does is to look down through history to see who chose to be saved and then decides to choose them. Thus, the choice was whose? Was it first this little GOD'S choice to save whomever he willed? Or was it the SINNER'S choice to be saved, with this little god merely acknowledging that choice and making his choice BASED ON the sinner's choice? We know that in this blasphemous scheme, it was the SINNER who chose GOD who made the difference. And this is damnable. There is not a single regenerate person who believes that God chose to save people based on His knowledge that they would choose Him.
But isn't it true that God sees and knows all things, including all things that will happen in the future? Absolutely. But God SEES and KNOWS all things because He has DECREED and IS IN CONTROL OF all things. God knows what I'm going to be doing tomorrow because He has DECREED what I'm going to be doing tomorrow and IS IN CONTROL OF what I'm going to be doing tomorrow. God declares the end from the beginning because whatever He has decided will happen WILL HAPPEN, because He CONTROLS what will happen. We've seen many verses in previous sermons on this very thing. There is nothing that happens that was not foreordained by God and that God did not cause to happen.
Before we see what IS meant by foreknowledge, I would like to read from the commentary on this passage from B.W. Johnson in the "People's New Testament," who is obviously Arminian. Here's what he says first: "To foreknow and to predestinate are not the same thing. One is an act of foreknowledge, or knowing something before it occurs; the other is to decree something. We only have knowledge of the past, but God foresees the future even as he sees the past; foresees it, not because he has decreed it, but because there are no limitations on his knowledge." But wait a minute. If this is talking about merely foreseeing the future, did God not foresee ALL human beings? After all, there are no limitations on God's knowledge. So, if this is the way the passage is to be interpreted, then whomever God foresaw in the future, which would be everyone without exception, He predestinated to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, He called, He justified, and He glorified. Of course, this is not what the God-haters would admit. They would have to limit God's foreknowledge to the ones whom God foresaw would believe. Who, then, are those who were predestinated, according to the God-haters? Even though we haven't gotten to this part of the verse, I'd like to read what B.W. Johnson had to say about this, since it ties into this heretical notion of foreknowledge. Here's more from the "People's New Testament": "Whom does God foreknow? Those who shall love God. As he looked into the future these were present to his mind; foreknown. What did he predestinate of them? Not that they should love God. Not that they should believe; nor that some should be saved and others damned; but that those who he saw beforehand would love God, should be conformed to the image of his Son. The only thing predestinated, or foreordained, is that those who love God as revealed in Christ shall become Christlike in life, and like Christ in eternity. This is the only decree in the passage." So, according to this heretic, God did not predestinate certain people to love God and God did not predestinate them to believe, since God had seen them in his foreknowledge as already having loved and believed in God. Christians can easily see this as blasphemous filth. It is salvation conditioned on the sinner. No regenerate person would ever believe such heresy, and no regenerate person would ever speak peace to someone who says what the "People's New Testament" says here.
Now compare this heresy with two passages I'm about to read. Remember, this heresy states that God chose people because He saw that they would choose Him. First, Deuteronomy 7:7-8:
Deuteronomy 7: (7) Jehovah did not set His love on you or choose you because you were more in number than any people, for you [were] the fewest of all peoples. (8) But because Jehovah loved you, and because He kept the oath which He swore to your fathers, Jehovah has caused you to go out with a strong hand, and redeemed you from the house of slaves, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Did God set His love on Israel or choose Israel because of something He foresaw in them? Next, Isaiah 65:1:
Isaiah 65: (1) I have been sought, not by those who asked. I have been found, not by those who sought Me. To a nation not calling on My name, I said, Behold Me! Behold Me!
This is also in Romans 10:20. Did God choose to reveal Himself to the Gentiles because He foresaw that they would seek Him or call on His name? The answer to both questions is a resounding NO. God chose those who WOULD NOT have chosen Him, who were His ENEMIES by nature. It is only because HE chose THEM and then CAUSED them to come to Him, DRAGGED them to Him, that they were saved. This is in total opposition to the heresy that God chose people because He foresaw that they would choose Him.
So we've seen what this foreknowledge CANNOT be. Let's now see what it MUST be. Remember when I said that the Greek word for "foreknow" is pro-gin-OSE-ko, which comes from the prefix PRO, which means "before," and the verb gin-OSE-ko, which means "to know"? Well, let's see how the verb gin-OSE-ko is sometimes used in Scripture. First, turn to Matthew 1:24-25:
Matthew 1: (24) And being aroused from sleep, Joseph did as the angel of [the] Lord commanded him, and took his wife, (25) and did not know her until she bore her son, the First-born. And he called His name Jesus.
Does this mean that Joseph did not see or know about or was not aware of Mary until Mary gave birth to Jesus? No - the verb gin-OSE-ko here means an INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE; specifically, in this instance, it means sexual intercourse. But if we just see the sexual part of it, we're missing the real meaning of gin-OSE-ko here. It is a kind of KNOWING that is INTIMATE. It is an INTIMATE LOVE.
Now over to Matthew 7:22-23:
Matthew 7: (22) Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name do many works of power? (23) And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; "depart from Me, those working lawlessness!"
Does this mean that Jesus never saw or was aware of or knew about these lawless men? Of course not. God is all-knowing. These people won't take Jesus by surprise; Jesus won't LEARN anything on Judgment Day. So what does it mean when Jesus will say, "I never knew you"? He's talking about that INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE, that INTIMATE LOVE for them. Jesus is here saying that on Judgment Day, He will tell the reprobate that He NEVER LOVED THEM! That sure pokes a big whole in the universal love heresy, doesn't it? Jesus is saying that there was NEVER a time when He LOVED the reprobate. The Arminians and the Free Offer heretics will say that God is showing his love for the reprobate when He offers them salvation through the preaching of the gospel, or when He causes good things to happen to them. But the TRUTH is that God NEVER loved the reprobate. He hated them with an eternal hatred from before the foundation of the world. And on Judgment Day, Jesus Christ will declare to them, "Get away from Me, I NEVER LOVED you"!
Now over to John 10:14-15:
John 10: (14) I am the Good Shepherd, and I know those that [are] Mine, and I am known by the [ones that are] Mine. (15) Even as the Father knows Me, I also know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
When Jesus said that He KNOWS those who are His, does this merely mean that Jesus sees them and knows about them and is aware of them? Well, if that were the case, Jesus could have also said that He KNOWS them that are NOT His, right? But this is a SPECIAL knowledge that goes FAR BEYOND mere awareness. In fact, it is that SAME knowledge with which God the Father KNOWS God the Son and God the Son KNOWS God the Father, as we see in verse 15. This is no mere knowing about their actions or being aware of them and what they do. This is an INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE, an INTIMATE LOVE, an INTIMATE FELLOWSHIP. Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, LOVES those who are His and IS LOVED by those who are His, the same way that God the Father LOVES Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ LOVES the Father. Is there any more intimate love than that love between God the Father and God the Son? Now just think about it: This is the SAME love that God the Father and God the Son have for His people. This is not based on any of our works or efforts; instead, it is based on the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. God only loves those who are as perfectly righteous as He is. And God's people are perfectly righteous based on the righteousness that Jesus Christ established for and imputed to His people. Why did Jesus say He never loved the reprobate in Matthew 7:23? It's because they never had a righteousness that equaled the demands of God's law and justice.
Now over to 2 Timothy 2:19:
2 Timothy 2: (19) However, the foundation of God stands firm, having this seal, "[The] Lord knew the [ones] being His;", also, Let everyone naming the name of Christ depart from unrighteousness.
Does this mean that the Lord merely sees them and knows about them and is aware of them? Again, if this were the case, then this could be said about EVERYONE, not just those who are His. But the TRUTH that this part of the sentence is putting forth is that God has an INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE, an INTIMATE LOVE, an INTIMATE FELLOWSHIP with those who are His.
Let's look in the Old Testament where the Hebrew word for "know" is used in the same kind of way. There are, of course, many instances in which the word "know" is used for the intimate knowledge and love of sexual intercourse. But let's turn to some passages that show God's knowledge of His people. First, let's turn to Psalm 1:6:
Psalm 1: (6) For Jehovah is knowing the way of the righteous, and the way of the wicked shall perish.
Now over to Psalm 37:17-18:
Psalm 37: (17) For the arms of the wicked shall be broken; but Jehovah upholds the righteous. (18) Jehovah knows the days of the upright; yea, their inheritance shall be forever.
Do these passages mean that God merely sees and knows about and is aware of the way and the days of the righteous? Again, if this were the case, then it could be said that God knows the way and the days of the wicked. This must be talking about a SPECIAL knowledge, which is an intimate knowledge of LOVE and FELLOWSHIP with the righteous.
Now let's look at Jeremiah 1:5:
Jeremiah 1: (5) I knew you before I formed you in the belly; and before you came out of the womb, I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
Does this mean that God merely saw and knew about and was aware of Jeremiah before Jeremiah was born? Again, if this were the case, then it could be said that God knew EVERYONE before He formed them in the womb. But again, this is talking about a SPECIAL, INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE of LOVE and FELLOWSHIP with Jeremiah in particular, and all God's people in general. Tie this in with Jeremiah 31:3:
Jeremiah 31: (3) Jehovah has appeared to me from far away, [saying], Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love! On account of this, with loving kindness I have drawn you.
That brings it all together nicely, doesn't it? That everlasting LOVE is an everlasting KNOWLEDGE. It reminds me of Romans 9:11-13 in which God LOVED Jacob before Jacob had done any works. God FOREKNEW -- He FORELOVED -- Jacob. And he did NOT foreknow Esau.
So now let's apply all this to the word "foreknowledge" in our text in Romans 8:29. Whom God FOREKNEW, He predestinated. "Fore" means "before," and "knew" means "loved." So, whom God FORE-LOVED, He predestinated. Those whom God LOVED from BEFORE the foundation of the world, He predestinated to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. THIS interpretation honors God in all His sovereign, redemptive glory. As we saw in the last sermon in 1 John 4, God first loved US, so that we would love HIM. Because God LOVED us with an everlasting love, He CHOSE us to salvation in Christ Jesus. Now contrast this with the heresy I mentioned a little while ago. This heresy says that because God foresaw that WE would love HIM, He chose US to be conformed to Jesus Christ. Can you see the world of difference between the two? These two never meet. There is no commonality between these two. The gulf is deep and wide. One is Christianity, the other is false religion. Let me put the two phrases side-by-side to show you the vast difference and the irreconcilability between the two: Number One: Because God foresaw that we would love Him, He chose us. Number Two: Because God fore-loved us, He chose us. The first is election conditioned on the sinner. The second is unconditional election by the sovereign grace of God. There never has been, never is, and never will be a true Christian who believes the first. All Christians believe in salvation by sovereign grace. That salvation is based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone.
To close, let's read 1 Peter chapter 1. Notice the precious foreknowledge in this passage:
1 Peter 1: (1) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to [the] elect sojourners of [the] dispersion of Pontus, of Galatia, of Cappadocia, of Asia, and of Bithynia, (2) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of [the] Spirit to obedience and sprinkling of [the] blood of Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you. (3) Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He according to His great mercy having regenerated us to a living hope through [the] resurrection of Jesus Christ from [the] dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, having been kept in Heaven for you (5) [the ones] in [the] power of God being guarded through faith to a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time; (6) in which you exult; yet a little [while], if need be, grieving in manifold trials, (7) so that the proving of your faith, much more precious than perishing gold, but having been proved through fire, may be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (8) whom having not seen, you love; in whom not yet seeing, but believing, you exult with joy unspeakable and being glorified, (9) obtaining the end of your faith, the salvation of [your] souls. (10) About which salvation the prophets sought out and searched out, prophesying concerning the grace for you, (11) searching for what, or what sort of time the Spirit of Christ made clear within them; testifying beforehand of the sufferings [belonging] to Christ, and the glories after these. (12) To whom it was revealed that not to themselves, but to us they ministered the same things, which now were announced to you by those having preached the gospel to you in [the] Holy Spirit sent from Heaven; into which things angels long to look into. (13) Because of this, having girded up the loins of your mind, being sober, perfectly hope on the grace being brought to you at [the] revelation of Jesus Christ, (14) as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves to your former lusts in your ignorance, (15) but according to the Holy One who has called you, you also become holy in all conduct; (16) because it has been written, "Be holy," "because I am holy." (17) And if you call on [the] Father, the [One] judging according to the work of each one without respect of faces pass the time of your sojourning in fear, (18) knowing that not with corruptible things, silver or gold, were you redeemed from your worthless way of life handed down from [your] fathers, (19) but with precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot, (20) indeed having been foreknown before [the] foundation of [the] world, but revealed in [the] last times because of you, (21) the ones believing in God through Him, He raising Him from [the] dead, and giving glory to Him so that your faith and hope may be in God. (22) Having purified your souls in the obedience of the truth through the Spirit to unpretended brotherly love, love one another fervently out of a pure heart, (23) being regenerated, not by corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the living Word of God, and remaining forever. (24) Because "all flesh [is] as grass, and all [the] glory of men as [the] flower of grass; the grass was dried, and its flower fell out, (25) but [the] Word of [the] Lord remains forever." And this is the Word announced as gospel to you.