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Foreknew (Romans 8:29)


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For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

—Romans 8:29–30

Whether you will be an Arminian or a Calvinist (and you will be one or the other*) will depend partly on your understanding of the word “forknew” as it is used in this passage, for herein we meet predestination, sanctification, adoption, calling, justification, and glorification, all tied together. Who will be the recipients of these blessings? “Those whom [God] foreknew.” Arminians and Calvinists have very different views of who that describes.

imageArminians believe that God, knowing the future, foreknew (knew in advance) who would respond in repentance and faith to the gospel, and predestined them to salvation. In other words, he saw who would respond in repentance and faith to the gospel, and predestined them to respond in repentance and faith to the gospel. (If that seems redundant and nonsensical to you, it’s only because it is.)

Calvinists believe that knew has a much more personal, intimate meaning. God did not merely know about certain people and what they would do—certainly, he knows about everyone and everything they will do—he knew them in a personal, intimate way.

In order to draw the Arminian conclusion, an idea must be added to the text, that is, “whom he foreknew [would believe], he also predestined.” Not only is that idea not found in this particular text, it collides rather violently with the rest of Scripture, perhaps most obviously, Romans 9:11–13:

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Therefore, foreknew cannot mean that God predestined individuals based on conditions they would meet, and it cannot mean that God knew them in advance, since he knows everyone in advance, and not all are saved. It has to mean more than that. See again the passage above: “Jacob I loved.” This is how orthodox theologians have always understood the foreknowledge of Romans 8:29. To be known, in this sense of the word, by God is to be loved by him.

When the Bible speaks of God knowing particular individuals, it often means that He has special regard for them, that they are the objects of His affection and concern. For example, in Amos 3:2 God, speaking to Israel, says, “You only have I known of the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” The Lord knew about all the families of the earth, but He knew Israel in a special way. They were his chosen people, upon whom He had set his heart. See Deuteronomy 7:7–8; 10:15. Because Israel was His in a special sense, He chastised them (cf. Heb. 15:5–6). God, speaking to Jeremiah, said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”(Jer. 1:5). The meaning here is not that God knew about Jeremiah, but that He had special regard for the prophet before He formed him in his mother’s womb. Jesus also used the word “knew” in the sense of personal, intimate awareness. “On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:22–23).Our Lord cannot be understood as saying, “I knew nothing about you,” for it is quite evident that He knew all too much about them—their evil character and evil works; hence, His meaning must be, “I never knew you intimately or personally, I never regarded you as objects of my favor or love.” Paul uses the word in the same way in 1 Corinthians 8:3, “But if anyone loves God, he is knownby God,” and also 2 Timothy 2:19, the Lord knows those who are his.” The Lord knows about all men, but He only knows those “who love God . . . who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)—those who are His!

The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 159–160.

* Those who disdain such labels are free to use synergist or monergist, respectively. I actually prefer these, but really, tomayto, tomahto, potayto, potahto.




Lord’s Day 3, 2018

Sunday··2018·01·21
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all. —Luke 6:17–19 The Great Physician. Luke vi. 19. I. Ye mourning sinners, here disclose Your deep complaints, your various woes; Approach, ’tis Jesus, he can heal The pains which mourning sinners feeLII. To eyes long clos’d in mental night, Strangers to all the joys of light, His word imparts a blissful ray: Sweet morning of celestial day!III. Ye helpless lame, lift up your eyes, The Lord, the Saviour bids you rise; New life and strength his voice conveys, And plaintive groans are chang’d for praise.IV. Nor shall the leper, hopeless lie Beneath the Great Physician’s eye; Sin’s deepest pow’r his word controuls, That fatal leprosy of souls.V. That hand divine, which can assuage The burning fever’s restless rage; That hand, omnipotent and kind, Can cool the fever of the mind.VI. When freezing palsy chills the veins, And pale, cold death, already reigns, He speaks; the vital pow’rs revive: He speaks, and dying sinners live.VII. Dear Lord, we wait thy healing hand; Diseases fly at thy command: O let thy sov’reign touch impart Life, strength, and health to ev’ry heart!VIII. Then shall the sick, the blind, the lame, Adore their Great Physician’s name; Then dying souls shall bless their God, And spread thy wond’rous praise abroad. —Anne Steele, The Works of Mrs. Anne Steele (Munroe, Francis, and Parker, 1808). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about #LordsDay from:thethirstytheo !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Now Thank We All Our God

Saturday··2018·01·20
Now Thank We All Our God Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted. Isaiah 12:4 Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things hath done, In whom His world rejoices; Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today. O may this bounteous God Thro’ all our life be near us, With ever joyful hearts And blessed peace to cheer us; And keep us in His grace, And guide us when perplexed, And free us from all ills In this world and the next. All praise and thanks to God The Father now be given, The Son, and Him Who reigns With them in highest heaven, The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heav’n adore; For thus it was, is now, And shall be evermore. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Perseverance of the Saints in Scripture

Friday··2018·01·19
The doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints teaches that those who have been chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Spirit will infallibly persevere in the faith to the end. That, positively, is what this doctrine is. Before going any farther, we should clarify what it is not. This is not a doctrine of cheap grace whereby one may profess faith in Christ and go on to produce no fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8; cf. Luke 3:8) while being “once saved, always saved.” The Spirit’s work of regeneration results in a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), sanctified and growing in holiness. That is not to say that Christians don’t sin. We face temptation, and often succumb to it. We are not perfect, but we desire to be, and live accordingly (Philippians 2:12; 3:12–14). We can take no credit for this because, though we strive for holiness, it is really God working in us (Philippians 2:13)—and that is the core of this doctrine. That is why many theologians prefer preservation to perseverance: It is God who preserves our faith; our perseverance is consequential to that. The first proof of this doctrine is the language used to describe the new life to which we are born: eternal life. Not life for now, if you can keep it, but life forever, without end, beginning now. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. —John 3:16 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. —John 5:24 Lest we still doubt, the guarantee is given in no uncertain words. Notice how often glorification is tied directly to election/predestination. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. —John 6:37–40 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. —Romans 8:29–30 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, . . . In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. —Ephesians 1:5, 13–14 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. —Colossians 3:3–4 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. —1 Thessalonians 5:23–24 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. —Hebrews 9:15 If you’ve been following this series, you’ve noticed the repetition of many texts from one post to another, demonstrating how intertwined these five doctrines are in Scripture. They really are inseparable. This post summarizes The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 64–71.

Irresistible Grace in Scripture

Thursday··2018·01·18
If not for the TULIP, I would abandon the term Irresistible Grace as too misleading. In truth, grace is resistible. It is in the very nature of all men to resist God's grace. Most who hear the gospel call (often called the “general” or “outward” call) will reject it. It is the inward call of the Holy Spirit, given to God's elect, that never fails—“For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Therefore, terms like Effectual Call or Efficacious Grace are preferred. As the Westminster Confession explains, All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by his almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace. &mdashThe Westminster Confession of Faith, 10.1. The work of salvation is thoroughly Trinitarian. Just as the Father chooses and the Son redeems, the Spirit does his part in calling, regeneration, and sanctification. As pertains to calling, it is the Spirit who causes us to receive the gospel. At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.” —Luke 10:21Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. —1 Corinthians 2:12–13 But in our natural state, we cannot receive what the Spirit says to us. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. —1 Corinthians 2:14 Before we can receive the gospel, a change must take place. Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” —John 3:3–8 This is the Spirit's work of regeneration. In regeneration, we are given an entirely new nature. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. —Ezekiel 36:26–27 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. —2 Corinthians 5:17 Having been given a new nature, we respond to the gospel in a new way. We come, not “dragged, kicking and screaming,” as some Arminians caricature this doctrine, but willingly, eagerly. It is an effectual call that never fails. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me . . . —John 6:37 This post summarizes The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 52–64.

Limited Atonement in Scripture

Wednesday··2018·01·17
In the Arminian/Calvinist debate, Limited Atonement, the “L” in the TULIP, is almost certainly the most common point of contention. Many Arminians have embraced the other four points while still rejecting this one. These often call themselves “four point Calvinists.” It is not too difficult to understand why many, even having accepted the other four points, have trouble with this one. Who wants to believe in a “limited” atonement? Doesn't that belittle the work of Christ, implying it wasn't quite enough in some way? Good question, I say, and that is the reason many theologians prefer alternate, less confusing terms such as “definite atonement” or “particular redemption.” I agree with them, though I'm sticking with the L for the sake of the TULIP. Although I understand the objections, I never—once I understood the bigger picture—had any trouble believing this, that is, that Christ died specifically for the elect. After all, it's simple math, isn't it? If the Father chose particular people to save, and gave them to the Son, who promised to redeem them, keep them, and see them safely into heaven (John 6:37–40), it stands to reason that those are the people for whom he died. Furthermore, how could I believe that hell is populated by souls for whom Christ died? The only way that could make any sense is if I believed, as Arminians do, that Christ did not actually save any, but only made salvation possible for those who will make the right decision. It is evident that everyone (who is not a universalist) believes in a limited atonement. One party (Arminian) limits its effect; the other (Calvinist) limits its intent. The former says God tried; the latter says he succeeded. Since not all men will be saved as a result of Christ's redeeming work, a limitation must be admitted. Either the atonement was limited in that it was designed to secure salvation for certain sinners, but not for others, or it was limited in that it was not intended to secure salvation for any, but was designed only to make it possible for God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe. In other words, one mist limit the design either in extent (it was not intended for all) or in effectiveness (it did not secure salvation for any). As Boettner so aptly observes, for the Calvinist, the atonement “is like a narrow bridge which goes all the way across the stream; for the Arminian, it is like a great wide bridge that goes only half-way across.” —The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 40–41. The crux of the matter, for the Calvinist, is that Jesus saves—actually, not merely potentially. This is always the language of Scripture. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. —Matthew 1:21 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us . . . —Galatians 3:13 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. —Titus 2:14 (A point not made in this book, but that is very important, is that the epistles were written to believers. Therefore, when Paul writes “to us” and “for us,” he is not addressing all humanity, but the elect only.) Repentance and faith, indispensible to salvation, which Arminians believe we must bring to the table, are gifts we receive through Christ. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. —Acts 5:31 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake —Philippians 1:29 Jesus himself specified a particular people for whom he would die. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. . . . I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father. —John 10:11, 14–18 Jesus, in his “high priestly prayer,” prayed specifically for the elect, to the expressed exclusion of all others. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. —John 17:6–10 Now, the question that must be answered is, what of those passages that speak of Jesus being the savior of the world (John 1:29; 3:17; 4:42; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 2:2; 4:14) or of all men (Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:14–15; 1 Timothy 2:4–6; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9)? One reason for the use of these expressions was to correct the false notion that salvation was for the Jews alone. . . . these expressions are intended to show that Christ died for all men without distinction (i.e., He died for Jews and Gentiles alike), but they are not intended to indicate that Christ died for all men without exception (i.e., He did not die for the purpose of saving each and every lost sinner). —The Five Points of Calvinism, 50. As we have seen, the preponderance of scriptural evidence plainly indicates a particular redemption. Christ died for “his people,” “the sheep,” “those whom you have given me.” The passages listed above must be understood in that context, or we must embrace a universal atonement that saves everyone. Both Scripture and experience render that conclusion indefensible. Jesus died for one purpose: to save his people from their sin. The bulk of this post is drawn from The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 39–52.

A Cat O’ Nine Tails

Tuesday··2018·01·16
Explaining the fallacy of equivocation, R. C. Sproul demonstrates one big reason I love him. Words are capable of more than one meaning in their usage. Such words are highly susceptible to the unconscious or unintentional commission of the fallacy of equivocation. Equivocation occurs when a word changes its meaning (usually subtly) in the course of an argument. We illustrate via the classic “cat with nine tails” argument. Premise A. No cat has eight tails. Premise B. One cat has one more tail than no cat. Conclusion: One cat has nine tails. We see in this “syllogism” that the word cat subtly changes its meaning. In Premise A “no cat” signifies a negation about cats. It is a universal negative. In Premise B “no cat” is suddenly given a positive status as if it represented a group of comparative realities. Premise B assumes already that cats have one tail per cat. If we had two boxes, with one box empty and the second containing a single cat, we would expect to find one more cat in that box than in the empty one. If cats normally have one tail, we would expect one more cat’s tail in one box than in the other. The conclusion of this syllogism rests on the shift from negative to positive in the phrase no cat. The conclusion rests upon equivocation in the first premise. “No cat” is understood to mean a class of cats (positively) that actually possesses eight tails. —R. C. Sproul, Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology (Baker Books, 1994), 4–5.


2018·01·15
Unconditional Election in Scripture
2018·01·14
Lord’s Day 2, 2018
2018·01·13
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Face to Face
2018·01·12
Total Depravity in Scripture
2018·01·11
The Five
2018·01·10
The One Point of Calvinism
2018·01·09
No Small Difference

2018·01·01
New Year’s Day, 2018
2017·12·31
Lord’s Day 53, 2017
2017·12·30
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: For All the Saints
2017·12·29
Popular Lies, Biblical Truth
2017·12·28
Stille Nacht
2017·12·27
Born Is the King
2017·12·26
Tre

2018·01·08
Before Arminius
2018·01·07
Lord’s Day 1, 2018
2018·01·06
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: The Kingdom of God
2018·01·05
Arminian Philosophy
2018·01·04
The Origin of the Five Points
2018·01·03
The Religion of God’s Own Church
2018·01·02
Sin Is Unbelief



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