Meditating on the Will of God: 11: God Knows
Acts 2:22,23 Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
Back in the 3rd of this particular series we considered Pharaoh’s hard heart and the fact that God knows how a person will respond but I realise that we have got this far with these studies without really covering what is possibly the most crucial aspect of God’s will – the fact that He knows, and even more specifically, He knows what will be.
When the apostle Peter was preaching for the first time under the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, among the many things he said of great significance as the Spirit gave him revelation and insight, was that Jesus was handed over to be crucified by “God’s set purpose and foreknowledge”. What was happening was by the plan the Godhead had devised from before the foundation of the world (as the New Testament testifies over a half a dozen times!) and therefore what was happening was happing with God’s foreknowledge or, if you like, God knew beforehand exactly how it would all work out. The Godhead knew that if Jesus acted in certain ways, the sin in men around him would rise up and result in them betraying him, arresting him, falsely trying him and then crucifying him. God knew it and so it all happened exactly as He knew it would happen.
Now for those who may have given little though to these things, they may say, “Well God made those sinners act like they did.” No He didn’t; it was the Sin in them and their sovereign choices that responded in the ways they did to the goodness of Jesus. Where there is a heart that is self-centred and godless then it is gong to be open and vulnerable to Satan’s suggestions – and God knows that!
Now the apostle Peter seems to have had this specific revelation because at the start of his first letter he writes, “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:” (1 Pet 1:1,2). The same thing that applied to Jesus, applies to us, and again it was decided upon and seen from before the foundation of the world. That’s why the apostle Paul uses the word ‘predestined’. It simply means preplanned with foreknowledge so in that sense it is preordained, so that pre-planning is based upon what God knows will happen given the circumstances.
Paul declares this three time: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son,” (Rom 8:29), and “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will,” (Eph 1:5) and “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Eph 1:11). If you don’t like the word predestined, use the word ‘preplanned’: “For those God foreknew he also preplanned to be conformed to the likeness of his Son,” (Rom 8:29), and “he preplanned us to be adopted as his sons…..” (Eph 1:5) and “In him we were also chosen, having been preplanned …..” (Eph 1:11).
Now at this point there will be those who will say the meaning of the word means that He MADE us be like this. Yes, I agree in as far as that is just as we noted in respect of Jesus above, i.e. that pre-planning is based upon what God knows will happen given the circumstances. It’s a fine line but I believe if free will is to have any meaning and the words, “God is love” are to have any meaning, it is an important line. In as far as, before the foundation of the world, when God looked into the future He saw all the circumstances, as only He can do, He knew exactly who would respond how, given the circumstances that rolled out in history. You were not MADE to submit to Him whenever it was you came to Christ, but God looked, saw and knew what circumstances would be occurring (including His own speaking and acting) and knew who would come and who would refuse to come, and in that sense, you might say, it was set before the world began that you would come, but the reality is that history had to work out as it did, including millions upon millions of human decisions made with free will, to come to the point where you turned to Christ and God then made you anew by His Spirit.
The alternative, that God so overrode every human decision to bring about the salvation of individuals makes a mockery of so many of God’s instructions throughout Scripture for human beings to make their own decisions. Rob every human being of their ability to make decisions and you end up having to blame God for every person in hell – but it isn’t like that. It is a mystery why one person chooses one way and another, another way. But having made the choice, if we had been able to time travel and go back before the foundation of the world, to the counsel of God, we would have seen these outcomes being seen. God knew.