Many people deny the doctrine of predestination because of the word in Romans 8:29-30, “foreknew.”
Here is the passage, “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.”
Those who deny predestination based on this have one thing right, and one thing wrong. The one thing they have correct is that predestination is indeed founded upon God’s foreknowing those whom He will choose. What they have wrong is their definition of what it means to “foreknow.” To “foreknow” can be defined in two ways: the philosophical way and the Biblical way. The philosophical definition of foreknowledge or “foreknowing” is simple. To foreknow means to know something beforehand. Therefore when you bring this philosophical definition to Romans 8:29-30 it means this: God, before the world was made, looked down into the hallway of time and saw those people who would choose Him. Based upon the foreknowledge of these people’s choice of Himself, God chose, or predestined them. This manner of defining foreknowledge and predestination is not Biblical.
The Biblical definition of God’s foreknowledge is different. Rather than meaning God’s prior knowledge of decisions man will make, it means a specific and intentional act of God loving certain people and setting His affection on them alone. Confused? Therefore when you bring the Biblical definition to Romans 8:29-30 it means this: God, based solely on His sovereign grace, chooses (elects) to set His affection on some men, regenerating them and thereby opening their heart to His truth.
Look at Amos 3:2 “You (Israel) only have I known among all the families of the earth…” Does God only know of Israel on the planet? Is he ignorant of all other people? Of course not. God knows all people, there is nothing hidden from Him (Heb. 4:13). So what does it mean when it says God only knew Israel out of all the families of the earth? It means God chose to set His favor and affection only upon Israel out of the all the families of the earth. This is portrayed for us in the word ‘know’ throughout the entire Bible. To know someone is to set a very intimate affection on them. This is why the Bible refers to Adam and Eve’s sexual intimacy as ‘knowing’ in Genesis 4:1.
So what does “foreknowledge” mean? It does not refer to God’s actual knowledge of anything beforehand (though He in fact does have that knowledge). Rather “foreknowledge” refers to God’s setting His affection upon His people before the world was made. God intimately chose and knows His people, just as a husband intimately chose and knows his wife. It is true that this foreknowing is the foundation of predestination, and the Biblical definition of it makes this so much clearer.
Thus, if we were to translate the Biblical meaning of foreknowledge into Romans 8:29 it would read like this, “For those whom God intimately set His affection upon beforehand, He also predestined…” This meaning is in sync with the rest of the Bible.
Labor to rid your mind of philosophical definitions for Biblical words. Let the Bible define words for itself.