Foreknowledge and Predestination

ROMANS 8: 29, 30
“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.

In the beginning God said, “Let us make man in our own image…” (Genesis 1:26).

In the sin of Adam and Eve this image was distorted. Therefore, “Christ came who is the “expressed image” of God (Hebrews 1: 3). The purpose is that we might “be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

The truths revealed in verses 29 and 30 grow out of “purpose”, in verse 28. They pertain to “those who love God, to those who are the called…” All the finite verbs in these verses are aorist tenses, meaning the action happened at a point in time in the past with a result that will last until, and be perfected in, eternity.

All of these attributes must be understood in light of God’s love, for “God is love” (I John 4:8).

In considering this topic it should be noted nothing in the foreknowledge of God denies the necessity of human responsibility and nothing man can do will ever circumvent or in the slightest detract from the omnipotence of God.

The character of Christ is revealed by five blessings referred to in these verses as introduced by “For.”

A. “whom He foreknew,” PROGINOSKO, means to know in advance. To know in advance does not mean to make it happen. At some point God is going to know what happens. In His loving wisdom He happens to know in advance what the individuals’ free choice will be. If, from a vantage point on a mountain, a person can see a road on a distant mountain with a car speeding toward a curve, around which a bridge is out, that does not mean he/she makes that car go over the precipice when it rounds the curve.

God’s foreknowledge of an event does not mean He willed it or caused it to happen. God’s foreknowledge of an event does not mean He arbitrarily causes it to happen. While joyously acknowledging God’s sovereignty man’s equally important free will granted him by God must not be ignored.
God is more concerned with “whom” He foreknew than with what He foreknew.
An understanding of the omniscience (full knowledge of God) would be aided if we had a better understanding of time. John 1:1 opens with the words “In the beginning…” The text literally means “before time began to begin…” Time itself was a part of creation. Christ spoke of a time when the world would and “time” should be no more (Matthew 13:39,40,49; 24:3,31). Before creation there was no time and at the end of the world time will cease to be. From God’s vantage point in eternity His perspective of everything is it is always in the present.

The Psalmists framed this for us in these words: “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psalm 90:2). Meaning “from vanishing point in times past to vanishing point in the future God always has been and always will be.” Our capacity to think of the beginning and end of time reaches a limit and our capacity to conceive of eternity ends.
Astronomers and physicists are giving us a hint of this by showing there is no time on the cusps of black holes in deep outer space. [For a fuller explanation of this visit and under “Price Tags” click on “Time Helps us Understand Eternity.”]

What God foreknew was that Christ “…was foreordained before the foundation of the world…” (I Peter 1:20)to be the means of restoring man in God’s image in eternity. Christ was “elected,” that is, chosen as the means of reconciliation.

God in His grace takes the initiative in saving persons. Otherwise there would be no salvation.

B. “He also predestined,” (foreordained), HORIZO, means to set a boundary. It was a surveyor’s term meaning to set the boundary. The prefix PRO means that God did it in advance. In illustration of this, consider the borders of the state of Georgia. They have been surveyed and identified. It has been predetermined that all who live within those borders will be a Georgian. As applied, this means that in a pre-creation council of the Trinity, they marked off the boundary and predetermined that all who would choose to be “in Christ” would share His destiny. (Eph. 1: 3 – 14).
In some theological circles predestination has taken on a theological meaning God has predetermined every person’s fate in His sovereign will without regard for man’s free will. This concept makes null and void every Scriptural exhortation to evangelize and strikes a death blow to missions. It also makes God responsible for all of man’s acts, including sin.
At no point does Scripture present election or predestination to the exclusion of or in conflict with the concept of man’s free will.

God having predetermined that people through faith in Christ could come to Him, intervenes in their affairs and reveals this truth to them in various ways and by different methods.
The compound Greek word meaning “conformed” means to bring into the same form or likeness. “Image,” EIKON, means exact likeness. The gradual process is that of God changing us inwardly to be in the same exact likeness of His Son. That is part of the good that all things are working together to achieve. Christ is the very “image of God.” Human kind was created “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27), but this image became distorted by sin. It is the purpose of the Father to gradually restore this image in every believer. That is part of the “good” toward which all things are working.

C. “so that they might be the firstborn among many brothers,” PROTOTOKOS, the resurrected Christ was the “firstborn among many brethren.” In the Greek word, our word prototype can be heard. The term does not just refer to chronology but principally to preeminence — Phil. 2: 9 – 10, “a name above every name.”

A rebellion began in the Garden of Eden. Immediately, God set about to call the rebels back to Himself and create an eternally-saved community of people “in Christ” among whom Christ would be preeminent. That is part of “the good” toward which things are working.
D. “these He also called,” KALEO, carries the weight of a summons. Having set the boundary, God has summonsed all persons to use their free will and cease and desist what they are doing and choose to come within the boundary, that is, to receive Christ.

God’s calling is according to His purpose not His foreknowledge.

E. “and whom He justified, these He also glorified,”
DIKAIOO means “to deem to be right or shown to be right.” Those justified are declared worthy to stand before the Lord as just in Jesus.

DOXAZO means to “do honor to, to make glorious.” Those who have already been justified can look forward with certainty to the day in eternity when they will experience the sum-total of glory in Heaven. It is as sure as though they had already been there 10,000 years. It is inevitable. This is the ultimate “good” that all things are working together to accomplish. Every believer has already been glorified in Christ (John 17: 22). It has been declared so in the past and all things are working toward that incontrovertible certain eventually.

This passage confirms the doctrine of eternal security. Every person who has been saved by Jesus Christ WILL be glorified, without exception. Once persons become believers everything works together for their good, therefore, nothing could result in their ultimate evil, their damnation. This is “according to His purpose.”

Man is free to choose to do whatever is desired, but God has freely chosen to make all those things work together for good to those “who love God, to those who are called.”

Scripture time after time depicts God as acting “in love.” Consider this scenario.

A mass of human beings are standing at the bus stop called “Planet Earth.” God comes along driving the “Heaven Bound” bus. He stops to let persons on. All who get on are going to heaven. As they start boarding He says to you, I choose for you not to get on. My choice regarding you is that you wait for the next bus.” You look around and there are pleading children and adults who have been refused the right to get on the bus.

You protest that there is only one other bus, the “Hell Bound” bus and you don’t want to get on it.”

God insists He has chosen for you to get on that other bus and closes the door of the “Heaven Bound” bus. Doomed, you have not been chosen by God to go to heaven.

That summary illustration of predestination and election makes it hard to understand such a God as acting “in love.”

God so loved the world He said in effect, “Whosoever will let him get on my bus. Your passage was paid for by Christ.”

God’s grace is the only means whereby one can be saved. Grace is God giving to us everything He demands from us without us deserving it in the first place. Man can do nothing to earn, merit, or deserve God’s favor. Salvation is a “gift” from God. However, as with all gifts it is incumbent upon the one to whom it is offered to be responsible for receiving it. Its reception is a confirmation of God grace.

If God arbitrarily chooses some and rejects others there is a strange and terrible selectivity to His love.

The hand that receives a glass of water for a thirsty person does not satisfy the thirst. It is the water which does. The hand is merely the glad response of the thirsty person for the gift of water. Likewise, our faith in believing does not save us it is the “water of life,” Christ who does. All merit is in Him. Our faith is merely our glad receptive response.

This grace is no cheap thing. Proper response to it involves more than a mere “I believe.” It’s reception results in a responsible life-style which confirms it as a gift received as evidenced in Titus 2:11, 12: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age….”

You were saved unto glory, and all things are working to that end. His purpose is:



ACTS 13: 48
“As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” NKJ

It should be noticed the setting of this verse indicates it relates not to individuals but to two classes — Jews and Gentiles. It further divides the second group into those who believed and those who did not. It was God’s will for both groups to be saved but this did not take away individual free will. With all the guiding circumstances and prevenient grace afforded they freely rejected God’s will. The Jews had also received the same call to eternal life as the Gentiles and rejected it.

The view that this passage teaches predestination was begun by Jerome who revised the old Latin in order to assert the coming to faith and salvation is the product of predestinatory eternal decree. Calvin became the exponent of the concept that those included in this decree are irresistibly brought to faith and all others are doomed by this decree.

The Greek word tasso translated “ordained” was a term used of military ranks. It was used to describe ranks, that is groups, of soldiers. Thus, “As many as marshalled themselves, were placed in the ranks of those who welcomed the offer of eternal life.”

All who have believed in Jesus and received the gift of eternal life ascribe all the credit to God’s grace, not any merit on their behalf.

The opposite is not true. In this same passage (vs. 46) those who rejected the gospel are said to have done so deliberately of their own will. Therein they are said to have “rejected it.”

There is nothing predestinarian about this verse. It simply means God foreknew who would make the wilful decision to trust Christ and affirmed for them eternal life. Again it should be noted foreknowledge does not mean God makes a thing happen.

In His foreknowledge God saw some would exercise their free will and repent and believe, while others would refuse to do so. Those who repent and believe are by God put in the ranks of the ones ordained to eternal life.

God is not depicted as ordaining the act of believing or the act of unbelief. These are acts of man’s free will.

Order of words is important. In this text “believed” comes first. Thus, “And as many as believed had been appointed to eternal life.” Upon believing their appointment to eternal life became a reality.

All who accept the gospel by faith are ordained to eternal life. To assert this text teaches preordination to life is to force both the word and the context to a meaning neither has.