08 Foreknowledge

Foreknowledge
(Refutation of Five Point Calvinism)

From the Book, Subjects of Sovereignty by Andrew Telford
Pastor, Berachah Church, 1608 W. Allegheny Ave., Philadelphia, PA.
(posted with permission)

Preface

It is dangerous for God to give high truth to highly educated people. There is a danger that in the furtherance of that truth it becomes mixed with an alloy of human wisdom. It pleased God on that first Christmas morning to give high truth to humble men, even shepherds in the fields.

These truths of Sovereignty are usually dealt with in the classroom of colleges and seminaries only. In these places they are subjects of theology. They are not dealt with in such a way that the average man or woman in the “work-a-day world” can understand them with any measure of intelligence, or even personal blessing for their own soul.

I am not presenting these subjects for students in the theological workshop, but for the average Christian who sits in the church pew to hear the word of God presented with a spiritual application for the heart and soul. I trust that the reading and the study of these subjects as set forth in this volume will somehow help the person who has an open mind to understand more clearly the Bible. I have endeavored to present in the most simple way these blessed truths, so that the common people will hear and understand.

The average Christian has been led to believe that these subjects are beyond his mental comprehension and spiritual understanding. Surely, if they are Bible subjects, the Spirit of God will help the humblest believer to understand something of their spiritual meaning and also to derive something of practical help for daily living from them.

After having spoken on these subjects to my own congregation in BerachahChurch, Philadelphia, Penna., and having referred to them at different times in Bible Conference addresses, I have been asked by a number of Christians to present these four subjects in book form for the benefit of the Christian public.

In the presentation of them, I make no attempt to pose as either a scholar or an author, but am trying as a servant of Christ to present some subjects that have been much misunderstood by so many. I am deeply indebted to Dr. Clifton L. Fowler, who was the founder of the Denver Bible Institute, Denver, Colorado, for help in these studies. I trust as this book goes forward it will bring joy and peace to the hearts of God’s people, and the renewed assurance that “He doeth ALL things well.”

Foreknowledge

As we begin the subject of Foreknowledge, let me remind you that we are dealing with subjects that have to do with the Sovereignty of God. None of these subjects are connected with man’s power of choice. We notice that Adoption is an act of the Sovereign God whereby he sets a goal for the believer. It means to be Son-placed.

Then, we looked at the subject of Predestination, which is also a divine act whereby God makes the goal, “which is Adoption,” certain for the believer. We who believe shall be Son-placed, because God has before the foundation of the world fixed this destination for us. Election is another definite act of God apart from man’s power of choice. It is an act of God, and that alone. Now we turn to the subject of Foreknowledge. The three doctrines with which we have been dealing, Adoption, Predestination and Election are all acts of God, but when we turn to the subject of Foreknowledge it is not a divine act, but a divine attribute. We now turn to the Bible and notice that Foreknowledge is a Bible subject. We read in Romans 8:

29. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

We see that Foreknowledge takes in more than what we read in this verse. Do not limit God’s Foreknowledge to this only, or to Predestination, or to those who would be saved. Since Foreknowledge is a Bible subject and a Bible word, we should understand at least something about the subject as it is set forth in the Bible. It should not be a truth that only one with a scholastic mind and love for theology can read about and comprehend in the college or seminary class room. There must be something about it that is so simple, yet so deep that the humblest believer can get something out of it for his soul. If it is truth, then all believers should be able to understand it in a measure, and then receive something from it that would be a blessing to their souls. Perhaps we preachers are guilty of not carefully studying the subject as it is set forth in the Bible, but rather go for reference to complicated writings or teachings of some theologians who do not have the proper perspective of the subject as set forth in the Word of God. We saw that the subject of Predestination was a Bible subject. and when we turned to the Bible and looked at it as the Bible presents the subject, with its applications and implications, we found a simple gracious truth that was a blessing to our souls. Now again, we need to note something about the subject of Foreknowledge. It is a Bible word. It is a Bible subject. We will now look at the subject with an open mind and an open Bible. We must support our knowledge by the clear Word of God. We want to be Bible Christians. Let us not make difficult that which God has made simple.

I came to the place long ago, that when I heard people say that certain preachers were “deep preachers,” I felt they were so deep, that no one understood what they were talking about, or that they had slipped away from “the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3) Somehow, I feel that we preachers have made some Bible truths that really are simple, very complex, to the average Christian because of our ignorance of the Bible, or because of our lack of ability to present the truth clearly. I have prepared an outline that I trust will enlighten us as we move up a little closer to deal with our subject.

I. Its Speculative Interpretation

Somehow, many people believe that because God knows what will take place, therefore, he is totally responsible for all that does take place. You must keep clearly in mind, that the Foreknowledge of God is not an act of God, but an attribute. The speculative interpretation of this subject is that because God knows everything, therefore, he can be charged with the act of determining the deeds of men. The fact of God’s Foreknowledge admits that he is unmistakably certain of the clear knowledge of all that will take place, but his Foreknowledge does not determine what takes place. God’s Foreknowledge does not determine all of God’s actions, neither does His Foreknowledge determine the actions of men. Because God knows certain things, it does not necessarily say that God is not sympathy with it. He knows all wrong doings, as well as, he knows all that transpires in the realm of righteousness and truth.

II. Its Simple Definition

Foreknowledge is a divine attribute of God, whereby God sees all things in the present tense. Now, trust that this simple statement gives clarity to the truth we are dealing with. There is no past, present, or future with God. Neither time nor space mean anything to him. “A day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day.” (2 Peter 3 :8) .

III. Its Sciptural Illustration

Thus far in our study we have been making some definite statements. Now we turn to the Word of God to find a scriptural illustration that deals with the matter of the Foreknowledge of God. Psalm 139 :1-8.

1. “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.”

2. “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.”

3. “Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and – art acquainted with all my ways.”

4. “For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.”

5. “Thou hast beset me behind and be fore, and laid thine hand upon me.”

6. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”

7. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” 8. “If l ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”

Here we have the testimony of David in these first eight verses concerning the Foreknowledge of God. In the first verse David declares that God knows him. In the second verse he declares that God knows every thought that is being formed, even before it is expressed in words. He declares in verse 3 that God knows the whole conduct o f his life and in verse 5 he reminds himself that God knows him totally, completely, at all times, and in all places.

Sometimes we think we know people. We perhaps have arrived at certain conclusions about people as a result of what we have seen, heard, or read of them and we have a certain knowledge of them. Yet, how limited is that knowledge, and how imperfect it is. God knows and understands clearly their motives, and the thing that provokes the act of speech or conduct. In verse 6 David says, “Such knowledge is ton wonderful for me.” When he used the words, ”Such knowledge,” David is dealing with the subject of Foreknowledge, which is a divine attribute. Let us look at another illustration of Foreknowledge in the testimony of Jesus in John 8:58.

58. “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

Here we have the Lord Jesus speaking to the Jews concerning his relationship to God the Father and his knowledge of God the Father. He says in John 8:55.

55. “Yet ye have not known him, but I know him; and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you:

He was accused of being an ordinary man and therefore could not know anything of their father Abraham. Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.” This declares that the knowledge of all things existed before him in the present tense. All of time and eternity was there before the omnipotent God in the person of his son Jesus Christ. This is possible because of that divine attribute of Foreknowledge, whereby God sees all things in the z present tense. Christ was one with the Father.

We have noticed the testimony of David, the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, and now notice the testimony of the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul in Romans 8 :29, 30.

29. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

30. “Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

Notice that closing statement “whom he justified, them he also glorified.” God speaks of all these transactions as though they had already taken place. Man is called, foreknown, justified, predestinated, and glorified. All these are in the t mind of God as in the present tense. God sees our glorification as though it were present and complete. Now, it is not complete in our experience, for we have not yet been glorified. His future for us is present knowledge with God, and he sees the believer’s glorification as though it were in the present before him.

IV. Its Specific Limitation

Let us turn again to Psalm 139. I want you to notice very carefully what David says in verse one. We read “Thou hast searched me, and known me.” Then in verse two he says that God knows his downsittings, and his uprisings. He goes beyond that and declares that God understands his thoughts afar off, that is, even before they are uttered. He says that God compasseth his path and is acquainted with all his ways. Every word that is spoken is known to God. He knows the motive in speaking that word. God knows the interpretations of all that spoken word has in it. In verse five David is referring to the Foreknowledge of God. After giving such consideration and that to the extent of the knowledge of God concerning himself, he declares “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” It is not too wonderful for God but it is too wonderful for David. Notice then, David states that it is a superior knowledge, “It is high.”

He then adds that it is a supernatural knowledge. It is not only high, says David, but it is “so high that I cannot attain unto it.” Now what does he mean? He is dealing with the matter of Foreknowledge, and Foreknowledge belongs to the realm of the infinite. David was only finite and he is dealing with a truth that belongs in the realm of the infinite. Foreknowledge is in the realm of the supernatural. It is a divine attribute of God. David lived on the earth. He was only human with human limitations. When, as a Christian, we deal with such a subject as the Foreknowledge of God, we are dealing with a truth which belongs in the realm of the infinite. In the matter of knowledge, as Christians, we are finite, and cannot go beyond that which God has revealed. When David says, “Such knowledge (the Foreknowledge of God) is too wonderful for me, I cannot attain unto it,” David is saying. I can only recognize the Foreknowledge of God, and as I recognize the vastness of the Foreknowledge it reveals to me, my own specific limitations. He declares as he tries to flee from his past and remember it no more; that someone, and that someone is God, knows all about his past, knows all about his future, just as clearly as he knows all about his present. He stopped trying to solve the problem when he realized that he was only finite; and that he was handicapped by tremendous limitations. David could reason, that it is beyond me to comprehend. Since I am only finite, and Foreknowledge is in the realm of the infinite, it is beyond my capacity and my ability, even by the aid of the Holy Spirit of God, to have or to possess such knowledge as that. It is Foreknowledge: it is infinite. David sees that it is infinite and David believes that it is an attribute of God. To know that God knows, rejoices the believer’s heart.

V. Its Singular Benediction

Now, what is the practical value to the believer, of this doctrine of Foreknowledge? Is there something in it for my soul ? We have been saying that God knows all things past, present, and future, and I want to testify that I am glad he does. It rejoices my heart to know that he does, and God wants it to rejoice the hearts of his people. In Job 42:2 we read:

2. “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.”

This verse shows that God is all powerful. Job believed after hearing God speak in these last three chapters concerning his acts of creation, that God is all powerful. God is all observing, has all knowledge, and all wisdom. No doubt David said the same thing as Job. When David made a statement, it rejoiced his heart. He knew that God was all observing. He missed nothing. He sees everything. Are you not glad he does? God is all wise; he understands everything perfectly. That made the heart of Job glad. The prophet Habakkuk was glad when he found that God knew everything. You read the closing chapter of that book, and I am sure it will be a real blessing to you.

What a God we have ! He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows the past, present, and the future. He is a God of love toward his children and wise in his planning for them. God knows all about sin. Is there anything about sin of which God does not have knowledge? Not one single thing. He knows of the vileness. He knows the filth today. He knows the power of it in the human heart and life. He knows the very heart of this vileness and knowing that, he has decided that eternal punishment for sin is just. His eternal wisdom and justice demands that sin be met by eternal punishment. He not only knows all about sin, but knows about Satan, knows his past, present, and his future. With all Satan’s tricks and wiles, he is not fooling God. He will never be able to produce the wile that will defeat the purpose and power of God’s plans. Some folks are lead to believe that God’s hands are tied in this world, and that Satan is so planning his activities of iniquity and vice he is taking God by such surprise, that righteousness may suffer defeat. Thank God we need never worry about that. Thank God for the fact of the truth of the Foreknowledge of God. God even knows all about the devil and his activities in the days that are to come. In the light of this. knowing that the eternal God knows all about sin and Satan, God has devised a salvation that is sufficient to overcome the wiles of Satan at every turn of the road. So great is this salvation that the Apostle Paul was able to say with confidence and assurance, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us and gave himself for us.” God’s Foreknowledge is the basis of his perfect plan of salvation. We have a salvation that is “‘devil-proof,” so that a man can feel perfectly safe when he embraces Christ. God knows the characteristics and the contents of the Gospel of salvation. The Christian can feel perfectly safe. God knows all about salvation, as well as, he knows all about human sin.

At the meeting of the big three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, salvation was devised and planned. That meeting took into consideration every act of the devil, all the wickedness and weakness of the flesh. and all the power and attraction of the world. Men ought to turn from their sin and come to Jesus just as fast as they can. God knows all my past. He knows all my present. He knows all my future. With this knowledge, he has made a perfect provision. He cares for me every step of the way. God’s Foreknowledge brings joy and gladness to the believing heart, for we know that God knows perfectly the road ahead, though often we do not (Romans 11:36).

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