2017-02-23 - Foreknown
Originally Published 1999-10-23 ~ Romans 8
Rom 8:29-30 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (NAS)
Time references, where God is concerned, can be confusing for us. We live in the flow of time. For us, it is inescapable. When we try to think of God in reference to time, it doesn't always work. He existed before time, for example. In Genesis 1 we see, "In the beginning, God …" he was there at the beginning. He did not start there; He was there to drive it and witness it unfolding according to His mighty purposes. To say that God is limited by time is illogical. He is omnipotent, or all-powerful. To say God has learned something is illogical. He is omniscient, or all-knowing. In the beginning, He created the very fabric of time that we know. Someday in the distant future, He will draw time to a close while we watch eternity unfold before us.
So how do we get a handle on this idea of foreknowledge, especially with salvation in mind? If God knew beforehand who would be called, then why make us live through this life with all its heartbreaks and disappointments? Then there are passages from the Bible that make reference to our will. If we are not free moral agents, how could God refuse Heaven to anyone fairly? Here is one of the better analogies I have heard.
Picture a chess match. One player is a Grand Master of the game. Years of experience and hundreds of matches and hours studying the game. He knows hundreds of attack and defense strategies and can recognize them coming at him. He knows how to counter and when to exchange pieces for position on the board. He thinks a dozen moves ahead. The opponent is a weekend chess player, an amateur. He enjoys the game, but his knowledge is limited by comparison. He may know a few of the more basic, popular defenses. He thinks four to six moves ahead at best. At times his moves are one at a time, picking his way across the board.
The Master will remove one piece at time until his opponent's King is nearly all that remains, and is hemmed in a trap. Checkmate. The amateur freely exercised his will with his limited knowledge and abilities while the Master controlled the game from the first move. Free will and sovereignty were both in play, but the game was never in doubt from the very beginning.
There is a balance between the Armenian school where our free will is in control, and the Calvinist school where God's sovereign will is the whole picture. Both are needed to make scripture knit with scripture. To throw one out limits the effectiveness of the other. They are matched gears in a machine. Without them both, the mechanism is unexplainable. There are still some things we will only understand when we see Jesus face-to-face, but the Lord has given us plenty of information to help us get the gist of the workings of salvation and our faith. There is joy in the learning and the journey.
Lord Jesus - with our limited minds we play out this game, knowing in our hearts that You are ultimately in control. Still, we play our part, learning and growing, running and stumbling. Give us open minds and hearts to the things You have given us to help us understand, so that we don't neglect one part to make our personal theology work. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.