We cannot understand anything about God unless we understand that He is the uncreated Creator, the Beginner without a beginning; He is outside of time and space; He always was, always is and always will be.
Those who believe, those who have faith, who have exercised that faith and have confessed that Jesus is Lord and Savior, are “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God”. It gives us great comfort to know that God has chosen us! He chose me! And He chose you! He is a sovereign God whose plan will not fail and who keeps His promises to His chosen.
We get tripped up sometimes in trying to understand how that can be. Do we not choose God? Are we not responsible for our choices? How could God righteously punish people unless the responsibility to do good or evil resides in personal choice? Yet, we cannot deny that verses like 1 Peter 1:1-2 and many others introduce the ideas of predestination, God’s election of the redeemed and God’s sovereignty.
We need to be careful not to be too dogmatic in these things.[iii] The Bible creates the “tension” between free will and predestination, and we dare not dismiss one or the other lest we fail to grasp the full truth that has been revealed to us.
At the same time, the same verse that gives a believer comfort raises the “righteous” ire of the person who thinks it is arbitrary of God to choose some for salvation and condemn others to hell. How can a righteous God be so arbitrary? Some people refuse to believe because they think this is unfair.
Again, we need to be careful for the same reasons that we should steer away from rigid dogmatism. On the one hand, a God who made us and the Universe can do what He wants; can He not? Who are we to tell Him what He can and cannot do? God defines what is righteous, not us, because it His universe. We are creatures, not creators.
At the same time, we are created in God’s image. We have some capacity, though presently residing in finite, frail vessels, to understand what God has done. He wants us to understand! We should strive to understand the “mystery” of the tension between the will that God has given us (made in His image) and God’s election (predestination).
Given our position (finite and limited) and relation to the Creator of the Universe (as creatures), we must depend on revelation from Him. We must yield our understanding based on our finite knowledge and ability to God who is all-knowing.
“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” is stated several times in the Bible. (For instance, Prov. 1:7 and Prov. 9:10) We have to see God as He is; and when we do, we will fear (have awe and respect for) Him. When we consider Him rightly and fear Him (respect Him for who He is), we will begin to know and to understand. We will know Him, and He will know us!
Oh God, how great is your knowledge of us. How incredibly great is your love and mercy! That you know us intimately, even the very hairs on our heads, is knowledge too great for me to fully comprehend! Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for knowing me even better than I know myself. Thank you for saving me from myself. Help me to know you better and to increase in my knowledge of you.
[i] 1588/eklektós is an adjective, derived from 1586/eklégomai, “to select, choose,” (also used as a substantive) – properly, selected (chosen from, out of), especially as a deeply personal choice – literally “chosen, out of a personal preference (intention).” Typically, eklektós describes those choosing to follow the Lord. God also chooses. The people of God are also chosen by God, called out of darkness, to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own possession. (2 Pet. 2:9) Note that the NT never uses the term “non-elect”, though there are some passages (such as Rom. 9:13-22 or Matt. 22:14 (“Many are called, but few are chosen”) that might suggest or imply that some people are not chosen by God. 1063/gar begins Mt 20:14 to show that it explains the theme that precedes – i.e. that the Lord calls all people (parable of the wedding feast), in every time period, to Himself; but only those who receive Him as their Lord and King become His chosen (divinely-selected to eternal life, 1588/eklektós). God chooses us, but only those whom God foreknew choose Him. God stands outside of time and space, so he can see and knows who the elect are. “The view of biblical synergism is that God elects people to salvation (to be divinely chosen) on His terms – which invite all people to receive Christ as Savior and Lord.” (Dr. Gleason Archer)
“Reflection: A criterion of genuine human freedom is the potential (liberty) to sin. This neither forces people to sin nor requires anyone to become divinely-chosen. Thus human freedom works in complete harmony with God’s uncompromised sovereignty.” (John 1:7)
“Reflection: The Bible never portrays God ‘making up our minds for us.’ This is because every person is a free moral agent – each created in God’s image (Gen 1:26, 27).” God does not tempt us. (James 1:12-13) He does not coerce us to choose sin, evil, damnation; neither does he coerce us to choose Him, goodness, salvation.
“Divine electing (selecting) works in conjunction with His absolute foreknowledge, which includes His preknowledge of all our free (foreseen) choices.”
“Accordingly, 1 Pet. 1:1, 2 presents God’s foreknowledge as the natural origin of His electing (1586/eklégomai). This is also confirmed by the order (sequence) of terms in Rom. 8:29.Ro 8:29: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son….” See John 10:14 – “I know My own and My own know Me” and 2 Tim. 2:19 – “’The Lord knows those who are His’”
[ii] 4268/prógnōsis (from 4267/proginōskō, “foreknow”) – properly, foreknowledge. Prognōsis occurs twice in the NT, both times conveying “God’s absolute foreknowledge.” Foreknowledge is a necessary extension of omniscience – all knowing. God foreknew Christ’s death on the cross. (Acts 2:23 is the other place where proginōskō is used.) By the word order in both places were proginōskō is used, it is emphatic, placing emphasis on the noun, proginōskō, as it is used in the sentence. God, therefore, emphasizes to us the fact of His foreknowledge. God knew from the beginning how it would all work out, and it was His plan to work it out. He also foreknows our choice to engage with God in His plan, or separate ourselves from it.
[iii] “Our very creatureliness (finiteness) should keep us from intolerant dogmatism – especially with doctrines the Bible addresses implicitly rather than explicitly.”
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