“For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brothers” (v. 29).
- Romans 8:29-30
Everybody believes in predestination. Secular humanists believe in predestination; they just believe man is the one who is to do the predestinating (and what a wonderful world that would be). Other pagans believe that the world predestinates itself, and that the future will lead only to the death of the universe.
All Christians believe in predestination by God. They believe in it because the Bible clearly teaches it. But not all Christians mean the same thing by it.
The most common error among Christians about predestination arises from a misreading of Romans 8:29. There we are told that God’s predestination is grounded in His foreknowledge. This has been misunderstood to mean that God looked down the corridors of history, foresaw what you and I would do, and stuck that into His plan.
This view does not reckon with the fact that God created time, and therefore all events in time, when He created the world, so that He does not look down through history but looks at history as a complete whole. Apart from such a weighty philosophical objection, however, we can notice that Romans 8:29 does not say that God foreknew certain decisions on our part. It does not say that God foresees our faith, and on that basis predestinates us. It says nothing of the sort.
Rather, Romans 8:29 says that God foreknew certain people. A study of the idea of knowledge in the Bible will show that it usually involves a choice of intimate relations, as when Adam “knew” his wife Eve and she conceived. Romans 8:29 means that God “fore-loved” certain people, and predestinated them. He chose them; they did not choose Him.
Romans 9 makes this abundantly clear, because Paul goes into a discussion of God’s sovereign choice of Jacob over Esau, a choice based on nothing either had done (Romans 9:11). The objection, “Is God unjust?” could not arise unless Paul were teaching real predestination; after all, nobody accuses the “foreseen faith” view of being unjust (9:14). And Paul’s answer in verse 15, which stresses that God decides whom He will save and whom He will not, clinches the matter clearly.
The “foreknowledge” view sees all of history as some great movie that God watched but did not create. He is therefore not sovereign. The flow of history depends upon the will of man, not the plan of God. This week thank God for “foreloving” you.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 1:26–31 2 Thessalonians 2:13–14 2 Timothy 1:9–10
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