Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Piper on God's Foreknowledge

There is a lot of debate among preachers and scholars about what God's foreknowledge means and implies. Here is Piper's take on it.

"Chosen According to the Foreknowledge of God"

Take the first phrase of verse 2. We are elect "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." What is the basis of our election? Why did God choose me for his own? Or, to put it very personally, what will be your bottom-line answer to God when he asks, how is it that you came to believe on me and be saved while others did not?

Peter's answer is, "God foreknew me." Elect according to God's foreknowledge. But what does that mean? Does it mean that I really elected myself and then God knew that I would do that, so he chose me on the basis of my self-election. Is that what "God's foreknowledge" is?

I don't think so. Jesus said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). Our choosing God is based on God's choosing us, not vice versa.

God's foreknowledge of his people is not merely his awareness of what they will do. His foreknowledge of his people is his acknowledgement of them as his, or his recognition of them. Let me give your two examples of this kind of knowing.

1. In Psalm 1:6 it says, "The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." This does not mean he is aware of the way of the righteous but ignorant of the way of the wicked. It means he acknowledges the way of the righteous. God's knowing of his people is his approving and acknowledging.

2. In Amos 3:2 God says to Israel, "You only have I known among all the families of the earth." This does not mean that God is only aware of the existence of Israel, but that he only acknowledges Israel as his own. He only recognizes Israel as his people.

This is the background for Peter's words in 1 Peter 2:9 when he says to the churches, "You are a chosen race." He doesn't mean that God looked for a people who already believed on him and then chose them for his own. It means that he sovereignly chose Abraham (Nehemiah 9:7), while he was still serving other gods (Joshua 24:2-3), to be the father of Israel. And that choosing is called "knowing" in Genesis 18:19: "In him all the nations will be blessed, for I have known him."

That's the background of 1 Peter 1:2: "elect according to the foreknowledge of God." Before the foundation of the world God knew who were his: he acknowledged us and bestowed on us the recognition of his own. That's the foundation of election. It is not owing to our birth or our achievements or our religion or our works or our virtue or our faith. It is owing to God's free acknowledgement of whom he will in the counsel of his wisdom.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 1 Peter 1:1-2

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