The Biblical Meaning of Foreknowledge

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.

6 thoughts on “The Biblical Meaning of Foreknowledge

  1. The doctrine of foreknowledge is one of the most glorious of doctrines in Scripture. We should fall on our faces in thankfulness and gratitude to God for choosing us and loving us, in Christ, before the foundations of the world. Right biblical doctrine is life changing and makes our relationship with God right. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt. 11:15)

    1. If that is so, why create the unsaved?
      What would be the purpose of spreading the gospel to all the world? So He really does not love the world? It is this thinking that created a strong fear in me and made me doubt my salvation. None of us are worthy

      1. To Vic and anyone else who reads the article above, the article is incorrect. Please do not believe this error. Simply put, salvation is available to every single person on the planet…it is your choice. Now, the simplest way to clear up the confusion with the scriptures above is to remember that words have more than one definition.

        This correction and explanation is biblical definition not philosophical. In Romans 8:29 “foreknew” is the Greek word προέγνω (proegnō), which translates as “to know beforehand”. In Amos 3:2 “known” is the Hebrew word יָדַ֔עְתִּי (ya·da’·ti,), which translates to “chosen”. The point is this…in Romans “foreknowledge”… “does not mean chosen” and it ”does not mean intimately set His affection on”, but rather it means he “knew before” what you would choose.

        God does not choose who will be saved, period. Salvation is a free will choice and everyone has the opportunity to be saved by the only true, living, and loving God. Anyone who has a relationship with the God of Israel and understands his character knows the truth of His love. Here are just a few scriptures that clearly show that salvation is available to all:

        ““For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
        ‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭TLV‬‬

        “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some consider slowness. Rather, He is being patient toward you—not wanting ANYONE to perish, but for ALL to come to repentance [salvation].”
        ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭TLV‬‬

        “I call the heavens and the earth to witness about you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore CHOOSE life so that you and your descendants may live, by loving ADONAI your God, listening to His voice, and clinging to Him.
        ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭30:19-20‬ ‭TLV‬‬

        If you not chosen God, by way of a Jesus Christ the Messiah, please do it today…because it is your choice and He is waiting and longing for you.

  2. Can I just say thank you so very much for the clear, precise, biblical, and easy to understand meaning of the word “foreknowledge”??

    I never realized that all of the teachers and preachers that I had heard explain foreknowledge were actually giving me a philosophical definition instead of biblical definition of the word which never fits the context of the passage or even the Bible itself. And they in turn were accusing Calvinist of being philosophical and preaching heresy.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  3. 2Ti 2:29 “The Lord knows those who are his”
    Eph 1:4-5 ” For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predetined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he freely given us in the one he loves.
    Eph 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”

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