Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
In our home we have what is called a "hope chest". The hope chest contains the most precious and important memories, pictures, children's artwork and other treasures that are most meaningful to Debi and me.
The other day I was looking in the hope chest for some items from our wedding day. I was reminded of so many things when I opened up that precious object. I'm certain if my children had been with me, they would had inquired about what this item means and that item represents. Even though they may not had been able to complete grasp the significance of everything in the hope chest, I'm certain that what they would comprehend would increase their awareness of the love their mother and I have for them, and one another.
Do you realize that the Bible presents to us a hope chest of sorts? In Romans 8:28-31 we find some blessed assurances for Christian salvation. Contained within those verses are some profound truths that have taxed the abilities of even the most ablest minds and yet can comfort all of God's people. Many Bible teachers have referred to Paul's exposition of Romans 8:28-31 as containing "five golden rings" of salvation. This hope chest for the believer will certainly, at times, cause us to not fully comprehend the depth, height and width of these realities. However, we, like the illustration above, can come away from this text with the sense of how much God loves the Christian and how much the Father, Son and Holy Spirit love one another.
We want to begin considering the blessed assurances of salvation as spelled out in Romans 8:28-31. We will focus our attention on five particular words that we find in the text: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification and glorification. Today's post will be devoted to the first of these blessed assurances: namely God's foreknowledge.
God's Pre-eternal Love. Romans 8:28-29
Paul states in Romans 8:28-29a "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew....". As Paul expounds upon what is among the most beloved verses in all of scripture, Romans 8:28, he immediately introduces us to this first golden ring: "foreknew".
What is foreknowledge? The word foreknowledge in the original Greek is the word we derive our English term "prognosis". The word within "prognosis" is the word "gnosis" and is often times used in the sense of someone "loving" another with the deepest, most intimate of love. In the Old Testament, we see this notion used to describe Adam "knowing his wife Eve" in Genesis 4:1. God is described in Amos 3:2 as having "known" only Israel among the families of the earth." The way the Bible uses the term "known" in these verses does not mean God had restricted knowledge, rather the term refers to God's special love for Israel, just as Adam "knew" or "loved" his wife as only a husband could.
God's foreknowledge deals with what God has already known about each of His people as He saw them in His Son from all eternity. God's eternal love for His people is rooted in His own motives, rather than in any foreseen actions of the people. Deuteronomy 7:7-8a states - “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers...".
The New Testament also equates God's foreknowledge and love of believers in some remarkable passages. 1 Corinthians 8:3 states - "but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him." Then 1 John 4:19 tells us - "We love, because He first loved us." The Apostle Peter begins his first letter to his Christian readers, implying that God's choosing of them was based upon God's "foreknowledge" or "pre-love". In short, God's foreknowledge is simply another way of saying God's "fore-loving".
God's Love is at the center of Divine Foreknowledge
We've already mentioned the relationship between love and God's foreknowledge, but such insights merit some important questions. Why does God choose 1 anyone? Love! So why did God choose Israel? Love! Why did He choose the individuals to whom Peter wrote? Love! How about people who get saved to today or who have yet to believe the Gospel? One reason - love! 2 God's eternal love for those whom He sees in Christ is what prompts Him to choose them. Ephesians 1:4 notes - "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love".
Thus, this first blessed assurance or golden-ring of salvation is rooted in the eternal love God had for each of His people. Only God could design a salvation at is all at once rooted in His pre-eternal love and Sovereign purposes of grace and the need for sinners to whom the Gospel comes to believe, repent and be saved. As the Baptist Faith and Message notes:
"Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end."
1. Election, and thus God's foreknowledge, are not based upon God seeing what people will do or not do with the Gospel. If anything, all mankind does apart from grace is reject the gospel. God doesn't send anyone to hell, since people who die in their sins do so of their own accord and free-choice to reject God's well-meant offer of the Gospel. So what about those who believe? Does that mean that God does not know who will believe? Of course not! Rather the basis for God's elective purpose of grace is simply His loving choice of them. In examining the over 100 verses on election in the Bible, not once is God's elective purpose ever based upon foreseeing what man would do or not do.
2. Only in the mind of God can the truths of Sovereign election and human free-moral agency in salvation be fully comprehended. Although we as human beings may never be able to resolve how these truths go together, this does not mean that they are irreconcilable nor contradictory truths. Scripture asserts both. Just as in the Person of Jesus Christ there is both a Divine nature and will and a human nature and will that co-exist together without contradiction, harmonization, confusion nor separation, so it is in the salvation for which He achieved. There are scriptures that thankfully give one reason behind the otherwise inscrutable act of God's election of the saints: love. As Romans 8:31 reminds us: If God be for us, who can be against us.