Romans 8:28-30: Foreknowledge and Predestination

Many have reduced the interpretive options of the term ‘foreknew’ in Roman 8:29 to either the classical Arminian concept of “foreseen” or the Calvinistic concept of “foreordained.”

Foreseen = God saw through the corridors of time who would believe and chose those individuals based on their “foreseen faith.” (Classical Arminian)

Foreordain = God set his love on certain unconditionally pre-selected individuals before the world began (“foreloved”) and effectually works to change their hearts so that they want to come to Him for salvation. (Calvinist)

But there is a third and much simpler option that is often overlooked in some modern theological circles :

Formerly Known (known before) = As in Romans 11:2, Paul is simply referring to saints of old in former times who loved God and were known by Him.  Paul said, “The man who loves God is known by God” (1 Cor. 8:3). And men like Elijah and those who refused to bow a knee to false gods did love God and thus were known by him in the past. They were foreknown (previously known) by God, as in they had an intimate personal relationship with God in the past. There is no reason to add all the esoteric theological baggage of God looking through corridors of time or making arbitrary “sovereign” choices about who He will and will not love before the world began.

In his work, The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom, Dr. William Lane Craig references the word study of Drs. Rodger T. Forster and V. Paul Marston, God’s Strategy in Human History (with a recommendation by the notable F.F. Bruce). They argue:

“God ‘foreknew them’ or ‘knew them of old‘ thus it does not mean that God entered in some former time into a relationship with the Israelites of today, it, means that he entered a (two-way) relationship with the Israel that existed in early Old Testament times, and he regards the present Israelites as integral with it.”*

Dr. William R. Newell was one of the greatest Bible teachers of his day. A friend and colleague of D.L. Moody and R.A. Torrey, he taught thousands of people as a Bible teacher in Moody’s Bible college. His book, Romans Verse by Verse, discusses that God “had acquaintanceship” with the Israelites of the past. So, it was not “mere Divine pre-knowledge” of certain individuals, but a real intimate “pre-acquaintanceship.”*

Take an objective look at this perspective and give it fair hearing before you dismiss it out of hand. Many exegetes and scholars in the past held to this view, but it has been buried under the all too popularized Arminian/Calvinistic debate over the last 3 to 4 hundred years in our Western culture.

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

The Greek verb oida (“we know”) is a perfect active indicative form of the verb, which may simply refer to knowledge gained by observance or remembrance of the past. This is paralleled earlier in verse 22 (using the same Greek verb tense of oida) when speaking about their observation of creation “groaning as in the pains of child birth right up to the present time.”

Paul seems to be saying “we have observed” and “therefore we know.” The context and grammar appear to indicate a reference not to an intuitive knowledge of Paul’s readers, but to that which comes from observation of the past, or a remembrance.[1]

Paul means that believers know, from observation of God’s past dealings with those who love Him, that he has a mysterious way of working things out for the greatest good. By observing the stories of the saints of old—those called to accomplish His redemptive purposes—believers can rest in knowledge of this truth. God can take whatever evil may come our way and redeem it for good. Believers can know this because God has been doing it for generations.

Paul does not say that his readers should intuitively know how God works things out for those who love Him in the present. He is saying believers know what is true of God by observing what He has done in the past for those who have loved Him. The New Testament saints have a great cloud of witnesses that have gone before them (Heb. 12:1), giving evidence of God’s trustworthiness toward all who enter into a covenant with Him.

A simple survey of the verses leading up to this point reveals that Paul is reflecting on the problem of the evil and suffering in our world since the beginning:

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:20-22).

N.T. Wright comments on Rom. 8:28–30, saying in part:

“[This passage] is a sharp, close-up, compressed telling of the story of Israel, as the chosen people, whose identity and destiny is then brought into sharp focus on Jesus. Jesus, in a sense, is the one ‘chosen one.’ But, then that identity is shared with all of those who are ‘in Christ.’ And he [Paul] isn’t talking primarily there about salvation. He is talking primarily about the way God is healing the whole creation. There is a danger here. What has happened in so many theological circles over the years is that people have come to the text assuming that it is really saying how we are to get to heaven, and what is the mechanism and how does that work. And if you do that, interestingly, many exegetes will more or less skip over Romans 8:18–27, which is about the renewing of creation.”[2]

In verse 28 the focus shifts to providing comfort for those in suffering by reminding them to observe God’s dealings with others who loved God throughout history. Notice that this truth is not applicable to everyone. The passage is specifically an observation of those who “love God,” or as Wright notes, “those who are in Christ.” The point is not that God causes everything for a good purpose, but that God redeems occurrences of evil for a good purpose in the lives of those who love Him. Therefore, it would be inaccurate to use this passage to support the concept of divine meticulous determinism of all things.[3] Again, God does not cause occurrences of evil for his purposes; instead, he redeems moral evil for a good purpose. Non-Calvinists would agree with Calvinistic Pastor John MacArthur on this point when he wrote:

“But God’s role with regard to evil is never as its author. He simply permits evil agents to work, then overrules evil for His own wise and holy ends. Ultimately He is able to make all things—including all the fruits of all the evil of all time—work together for a greater good.”[4]

The focus of the apostle’s observation is on the saints of old, those from the elect nation of Israel who were called to fulfill God’s plan to redeem His creation from its groans and sufferings. This passage does not mean that the truth being revealed is not applicable to those of other nations. Rather, it means that what is proven to be true of God by observing His dealings with those called out from Israel throughout history must also be true of anyone who comes to follow and love the God of Israel.

Suppose a new pastor is called to a church. The staff members are nervous about his leadership style and how they might be treated, but a letter of reference which reflects on his past relationships might ease their fears. The pastor’s reference might say something like, I have observed this pastor’s dealings with the staff members he knew before, and he has always worked to lovingly support anyone who gets behind the vision and direction of the church. By reflecting on the pastor’s history, the new staff can know what to expect in their future dealings with him. So too, Paul gives a divine reference by reflecting on the trustworthiness of God in His dealings with the saints of old so as to ensure his readers of what they may expect of Him.

Romans 8:29

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Here the apostle reveals his focus on the saints of old, “those God foreknew.” Paul seeks to provide evidence of his claim in verse 28 by reflecting on God’s faithfulness to His chosen nation, those beloved who were known before. Paul provides a reference of sorts to ease the fears of those who are now coming to faith. This point continues to be the apostle’s focus for the next three chapters.

Much debate centers on the meaning of the word proginōskō (“to know beforehand”).[5] Many popular authors fail to recognize all the available options for consideration. For example, John Piper lists only two options for interpreting this verse:

Option #1: God foresaw our self-determined faith. We remain the decisive cause of our salvation. God responds to our decision to believe.

Option #2: God chose us—not on the basis of foreseen faith, but on the basis of nothing in us. He called us, and the call itself creates the faith for which it calls.[6]

Piper overlooks the most basic meaning of this word, which is “to know beforehand” or to have known in the past. The same Greek word is used in 2 Pet. 3:17, which states, “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.” And the same word is used in Acts 26:4–5:

“The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee.”

Clearly, this word can be understood simply as knowing someone or something in the past, as in those known previously (i.e. the saints of old). Non-Calvinistic scholars, Roger Forster and Paul Marston, convincingly argue,

“God ‘foreknew them’ or ‘knew them of old’ thus it does not mean that God entered in some former time into a relationship with the Israelites of today, it means that he entered a (two-way) relationship with the Israel that existed in early Old Testament times, and he regards the present Israelites as integral with it.”[7]

If Paul intended to use the word proginōskō in this sense, then he meant simply that because we have seen how God worked all things to the good for those whom He knew before, we know that He will do the same for those who love and are called by Him now.

Some Calvinists contend that the word foreknew is equivalent to fore-loved. That use of the word generally fits this interpretation since the Israelites of the past who loved God certainly would have been loved by God before (i.e. fore-loved). Of course, the Calvinistic interpretation differs because they insist this passage is about God unconditionally setting His “effectual” salvific love upon certain individuals before the foundation of the world. Calvinists go to great lengths to show that God did not merely foresee the behavior and choices of the elect by looking down the corridors of time. Rather, God knew them intimately and set His effectual love on them before the foundation of the world.[8]

This argument might address the classical Arminian approach (Piper’s first option),[9] but it fails to rebut the approach being advocated here. Fore-loved is a viable and even likely meaning of the term proginōskō, yet it does not clarify who might be the intended target of that divine love.

Was Paul intending to introduce for the first time in this epistle a particular group of people out of the mass of humanity who were unconditionally elected to be effectually saved before the world began? Or, was he simply referencing those from the past whom God had known and faithfully cared for throughout the generations?

Romans 8:29b states “he (God) also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” Who was “predestined” and to what ends were they predestined, according to this passage? Remember the point of the apostle leading up to this verse. He began speaking about the futility and suffering that has come into this world due to the fall of humanity into sin (vv. 20–22). In verse 28-29a, Paul provides comfort to lovers of God in his audience by reminding them of God’s trustworthiness for those who have loved Him throughout the generations.

Paul reminds his readers that God will redeem the suffering and evil for a good purpose in their lives just as he has done in the lives of those known before and loved throughout the previous generations. It is these whom God previously knew (Israelites whom loved God in the past) who were predestined to be conformed into the image of Christ so as to make the way for His coming.

God planned to accomplish salvation for those who were previously known and loved (i.e. Abraham, Moses, David, etc) by conforming them into the image of the One who would come to purchase their redemption. This is the ultimate example of God causing “all things to work for the good” of those saints of old who loved God. Paul is saying that God works the redemption of their souls and He will do the same for whoever loves Him. N. T. Wright states,

“Here is the note of hope which has been sounded by implication so often since it was introduced in 5:2: hope for the renewal of all creation, in a great act of liberation for which the exodus from Egypt was simply an early type. As a result, all that Israel hoped for, all that it based its hope on, is true of those who are in Christ.”[10]

Romans 8:29c states “that he (the Son) might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Consider the fact that he is speaking about what Christ might be, which strongly implies that Paul still has the saints of old in focus here. Why would Paul speak of future generations being conformed to the image of Christ so that he “might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” if he were already the firstborn prior to this discourse?

The term prōtotokos (“firstborn”) can simply refer to the one who is first to be born in a family, which carries much significance in the Jewish culture (Luke 2:7). Typically, the birthright given to the firstborn son signified a place of preeminence, by which he would receive the father’s inheritance and blessing. For instance, Psalm 89:20, 27 states, “I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him. . . . And I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” David, who was the last one born in his family, was called by God the firstborn. David was given a place of preeminence.[11]

The term firstborn also speaks of Christ’s preexistence as the eternal Creator.[12] God created the world through Christ and redeemed the world through Christ (John 1:3, 10; Heb. 1:2–4). The former speaks of His eternal nature and the latter of His temporal role as the redeemer of the world.

Yet, even when speaking of our preexistent Lord, the Biblical authors addressed Him as “becoming” or “fulfilling” His role as our Messiah within the temporal world. For example, the Psalmist writes, “And I will appoint Him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27). For the Old Testament saints, the firstborn Savior was the expected One that was yet to come. From their view, the long-awaited Messiah was the future hope, not a past and completed reality.

In contrast to the Old Testament saints, a modern-day preacher would not teach that we are being conformed to Christ’s image so that Jesus might be the firstborn among many brethren, because we know Him to already be the firstborn of many brethren. Our being conformed into Christ’s image today has nothing to do with the future coming of Christ’s birth, whereas the saints of old were part of His very lineage. It is through the life of men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and many other saints of old that Christ is brought into this world “that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Rom. 8:29c).”

Paul is reflecting on God’s redemptive purpose being accomplished through those who loved God in former generations. That redemptive purpose included bringing the Messiah into this world through Israel (Rom. 9:4-5), or those Israelites set apart for that noble purpose (Rom. 9:21). This was God’s predestined plan of redemption, which was brought to pass through those who loved God and were called according to His purpose. Tim Warner describes this purpose,

“Paul was not referring to some prior knowledge in the mind of God before creation. Nor was He speaking about predetermining their fate. He was referring to those whom God knew personally and intimately, men like Abraham and David.

The term ‘foreknew’ does not mean to have knowledge of someone before they were conceived. The verb προεγνω is the word for ‘know’ (in an intimate sense) with the preposition προ (before) prefixed to it. It refers to having an intimate relationship with someone in the past…Literally, we could render Rom. 8:29 as follows: ‘For those God formerly knew intimately, He previously determined them to be conformed to the image of His Son.’

The individual saints of old, with whom God had a personal relationship, were predestined by Him to be conformed to the image of Christ. That is, God predetermined to bring their salvation to completion by the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf.” [13]

Likewise, William R. Newell, a colleague of D.L. Moody and a notable teacher at the Bible Moody College, explained that God “had acquaintanceship” with the Israelites of the past. So, it was not “mere Divine pre-knowledge” of certain individuals, but a real intimate “pre-acquaintanceship.”[14]

Romans 8:30

And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Notice the apostle’s use of the past tense in this verse. If Paul intended to speak about the future salvation of every elect individual, then why would he use these past tense verbs? When writing these words, Paul and his readers had not yet been glorified, so why use the past tense of the word? There is no reason to assume Paul has in mind the future glorification of all believers.

The past tense suggests that Paul is referring to former generations of those who have loved God and were called to fulfill His redemptive purpose. They were known in the past generations and predestined by God to be made in the very image of the One to come, “the firstborn among many brothers and sisters,” which is something already completed in the past through the working of God in former generations. These are the individuals whom God called, justified, and who now, even as Paul was writing these words, already glorified in the presence of God.

If indeed Paul was referencing the saints formerly known and loved by God, he would have communicated the certainty of their being justified, sanctified and finally glorified in a way that some might describe as a “golden chain of redemption.”[15] To presume, however, that Paul’s unbroken chain of past tense verbs is not in reference to people of the past is a linguistic stretch. [16]

Calvinists must explain away the use of the past tense verbs in order to maintain their interpretation of Paul’s intent. For instance, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, a Calvinistic source, provides this explanation, “Glorified is in the past tense because this final step is so certain that in God’s eyes it is as good as done.”[17]

Calvinists must interpret Paul’s use of the past tense (aorist indicative) as meaning “it is as good as done” because it was predestined. But this is a very rare usage in the original language and the immediate context does not clearly support a Calvinistic rendering. We must take into account Paul’s usage of the same term earlier in the chapter as a future hope for believers.

For example, notice Paul’s reference to the future glorification in Rom. 8:17,

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (emphasis added).

Paul does not speak of glorification as a past and completed action in reference to the believers in his day. Rather, he seems to qualify their being glorified upon the condition that they persevere through the suffering that is to come. If it is “as good as done” due to God’s predetermination, then why would Paul make such a qualification and use the future tense of the same verb? Further, Paul speaks of the eager expectation of the glorification that is to come in verses 22–25:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (emphasis added).

Is the reader to believe that Paul shifts from speaking of glorification as a future hope for those who persevere, to speaking of it as a past and already-completed act for those who have not yet been glorified? Or, could it simply be that Paul has the Old Testament saints in view as he makes his case for the trustworthiness of God throughout all generations? The latter seems to be the most basic understanding of the apostle’s words in their context.

Though this interpretation may seem foreign to some western readers because of the philosophical and theological baggage that has been attached to the concept of divine foreknowledge over the centuries, to the first century reader the simple term proginōskō (as previously known) would have been far less complex. In fact, if one can objectively back away from their presuppositions and approach this passage with fresh eyes I believe they will discover the utter simplicity and clarity of this perspective.

Instead of introducing a complex concept of divine prescience of those unconditionally elected to effectual salvation, could it be that Paul may intend simply to communicate that those who previously loved God and were known by God were predestined to be conformed to the image of the One to come through them, “so that He would be the firstborn of many brothers” (Rom. 8:28-29)? Paul seems to be giving a brief history lesson of what God had done in former generations as a reference for God’s trustworthiness for all who come to Him in faith. Wright explains it this way:

“The creation is not god, but it is designed to be flooded with God: The Spirit will liberate the whole creation. Underneath all this, of course, remains Christology: the purpose was that the Messiah ‘might be the firstborn among many siblings’ (8.29). Paul is careful not to say, or imply, that the privileges of Israel are simply ‘transferred to the church,’ even though, for him, the church means Jews-and-gentiles-together-in-Christ. Rather, the destiny of Israel has devolved, entirely appropriately within the Jewish scheme, upon the Messiah. All that the new family inherit, they inherit in Him.”[18]

Those who object to the suggestion that Paul’s use of the term proginōskō is limited to the beloved of Israel should consider the apostle’s use of the same word just three chapter later,

“But concerning Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.’ I ask then: Did God reject His people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject His people, whom he foreknew” (Rom. 10:21-11:2a, emphasis added).

Notice that Paul uses the term proginōskō in reference to God’s intimate relationship with the faithful Israelites of old. Paul continues to make his case,

“Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me?’ And what was God’s answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal’” (Rom. 11:2b-4).

Elijah and those who refused to bow a knee were among the ones who were previously known (foreknown/fore-loved) by God. To foreknow (or even fore-love) refers to God’s intimate relationship with people who loved Him in the past (like Abraham in Rom. 4:22–5:5). Nothing in this or any other text supports the concept of God in eternity past preselecting certain individuals out of the mass of humanity for effectual salvation. It would be difficult to substantiate this meaning of the term foreknow in reference to the Israelites who were in covenant with God. It is best interpreted in reference to those known by God in former times.[19]

Romans 8:31–39

Returning to the analogy above, the pastor had former staff members whom he intimately knew and loved. The new staff would be comforted to know of the pastor’s prior dealings with those formerly known and loved. Likewise, those being grafted into covenant with the God of Israel for the first time (i.e. the Gentiles) would be thrilled to learn of God’s faithfulness to those He formerly knew and loved (i.e. men like Abraham and David, etc.). What can the readers say in response to these teachings of Paul about God’s faithfulness toward the saints of old?

That is the very question the apostle poses in Rom. 8:31a as he transitions to the application of His message, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things?” This interpretation is consistent with the view that present-day saints who love God and are called according to His purposes (vs. 28) have nothing to fear, for “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (vs. 31b). God, who gave up His Son, justifies, intercedes, and places His undying love upon all who love Him and are called according to His purposes (vv. 32–39).

Suddenly, the objector in Paul’s mind asks: Paul, you have made a good case regarding God’s faithfulness to the Israelites in the past, but what about the Israelites today? Have God’s promises for Israel failed? Why are the Israelites today refusing to accept their own Messiah? The apostle attempts to answer these questions in Romans 9 and following. [For commentary on Romans 9 CLICK HERE.]


[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, Second Edition (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), 29.6.

[2] N. T. Wright in a question and answer session at Oklahoma Christian University on April 1, 2014. Samuel Selvin, “Dr. N. T. Wright on predestination,” YouTube video, 05:08, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKwIijhZW-M; [date accessed: 10/10/15]

[3] This is also true of Eph. 1:11, which is often misapplied to support the idea of meticulous determinism.

[4] John MacArthur, “Is God Responsible for Evil?” Grace To You Ministries web page. Quote taken from: http://www.gty.org/ resources /articles/A189/is-god-responsible-for-evil; [date accessed: 5/19/15]

[5] The definition of proginōskō is from The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2011), 30.100.

[6] John Piper, Sermon: “Foreknown by God,” Quote taken from: http://www.desiringgod.org/labs/foreknown-by-god; [date accessed: 10/19/16]

[7] Roger T. Forster and V. Paul Marston, God’s Strategy in Human History (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1973), 179–90.

[8] John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, Volume I (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1959), 316-318.

[9] Frederic Godet’s commentary on Romans 8:29, inquires: “In what respect did God thus foreknow them?” and answers that they were “foreknown as sure to fulfill the conditions of salvation, viz. faith; so: foreknown as His by faith.” The word “foreknew” is thus understood by Godet, a classical Arminian, to mean that God knew beforehand which sinners would believe, and on the basis of this knowledge He predestined them unto salvation. Frederic Godet, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (New York: Messrs Clark, 1880), 325.

[10] N. T. Wright, Pauline Theology, Volume III, ed. David M. Hay & E. Elizabeth Johnson (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 30–67, Quote taken from: http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Romans _Theology_Paul.pdf; [date accessed 9/7/15]

[11] James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker, vol. 38a (Dallas: Word, 1988), 1: 484.

[12] Theologian Bernard Ramm noted that “It has been standard teaching in historic Christology that the Logos, the Son, existed before the incarnation. That the Son so existed before the incarnation has been called the pre-existence of Christ.” Bernard Ramm, An Evangelical Christology: Ecumenic and Historic (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 1993) 47.

[13] Tim Warner, PFRS Commentary on Romans, Pristine Faith Restoration Society. Quote taken from http://www.pfrs.org/commentary/Rom_8_28.pdf; [date accessed: 10/15/15]

[14] William R. Newell, “Romans Verse-by-Verse,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1938, web page; available from https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=CWhyt fIWOg8C&printsec=frontcover&ouput=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PP1; [date accessed: 4/9/16]

[15] Some Calvinistic scholars describe this as the unbreakable “golden chain of redemption” meant to communicate the unchangeable plan of God to irrevocably justify, sanctify and glorify those He elected before the world began.

[16] Greek scholars teach that while the aorist indicative can be used to describe an event that is not yet past as though it were already completed, this usage is “not at all common.” Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1997) 564.

[17] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds. The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Dallas: Victor Books, 1983), 474.

“And all this is viewed as past; because, starting from the past decree of ‘predestination to be conformed to the image of God’s Son’ of which the other steps are but the successive unfoldings—all is beheld as one entire, eternally completed salvation.” Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, “Romans 8,” Quote take from: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/romans /8.htm; [date accessed 10/22/15]

[18] Wright, Pauline Theology, 20.

[19] William Lane Craig explains, “In certain cases, proginōskō and prooraō mean simply that one has known or seen (someone or something) previously. For example, in Acts 26:5 Paul states that the Jews had previously known for a long time the strictness of his life a Pharisee, and in Acts 21:29 Luke mentions that the Jews had previously seen (prooraō) Trophimus in Paul’s company. This sense is probably operative in Romans 11:2 as well, where Paul states of apostate Israel that “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew [proginōskō],” that is, whom He had previously known in an intimate way. Similarly, when Peter warns his readers of the danger posed by heretics’ twisting the Scriptures, He commands them, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand [proginōskō], beware. . .” (2 Peter 3:17). What they know is not the future, but some present danger which might possibly confront them in the future as well.” William Lane Craig, The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 31–32.

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62 thoughts on “Romans 8:28-30: Foreknowledge and Predestination

  1. Thank you, that was all very helpful. Regarding foreknowledge though there is one verse that puzzles me: Acts 2:23 – “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” This verse seems to use foreknowledge in a totally different sense to what you’re suggesting in Romans 8, that the death of Christ was “foreknown” in the popular sense of God knowing something would happen before it happened. I agree with your interpretation of Romans 8 but wondered what you make of this verse in Acts? Is it simply using the same word (although I think the word here is prognosis rather than proginosko) but in a different sense?

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    1. Does anyone have a response regarding my question? This is what I think, bearing in mind the meaning of ginosko referring to relational knowledge rather than just academically knowing something. Is it the same here in Acts 2? In what sense did God *know* that his son would be killed? Instead of looking into a crystal ball and seeing what would happen (one naive view of foreknowledge), or through determinism and using people like pawns to bring about his purpose (which I guess the Calvinists would say happened), might it be that God simple knew, based on his supreme wisdom and understanding of his creation, that if he placed his son in the crucible of first century Judaism that they would kill him? Molinism, championed by William Lane Craig, would back up this idea too, although I am not sure middle knowledge as such is required to understand things in this way. Instead look at the evidence of Scripture prior to the Jews delivering Jesus up to be killed. It’s the same old story since the time when God said there would be enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Cain killed Abel. Joseph’s brothers threw him in a pit. Saul persecuted David. The religious and political authorities persecuted Jeremiah. And so it goes on. It’s the story of human history and, as Paul says in Galatians 4, those after the flesh persecute those after the spirit and *even so it is now*. In that sense it was inevitable that Jesus would experience the same treatment received by men like Abel and Jeremiah. Because God knows (in an experiential sense) what man is like. He didn’t have to manufacture it, or take over the will of those who put Christ to death.

      In Acts 4 the apostles invoke Psalm 2 and say that what was written there about the rulers rising up against Christ was predestined (same word as used in Romans 8 and Ephesians 1) by God. But Psalm 2 itself contains an appeal to those same rulers to submit to the son and “be wise”. So it’s not as if the prediction in Psalm 2 determined that Herod, Pontius Pilate etc. would put Christ to death in a Calvinistic sense. If they understood Psalm 2 and wisely (as exhorted from the Psalm) to submit to Christ then, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”. They had a choice but chose to go along the route natural to the flesh instead of being prompted by the spirit.

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      1. Richard, I think you are on the right track. The noun – foreknowledge – used by Peter in Acts 2 is certainly about prescience (knowing facts or circumstances beforehand), but as you point it, it does not have to fit determinism, or even simple foreknowledge or middle knowledge, in my view. As you stated, there could be just a foreknowledge as a prior general understanding of what would happen in certain circumstances… and of course we believe that God permitted those exact circumstances to come to fruition when the Son was incarnate, but without having to have had predetermined all the specifics before creation.

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      2. Thanks Brian. To me it makes the miracle of God working out his purpose all the more impressive if we dispense with the notion that he uses people as pawns on a chess board. He could do that; he is God after all. But it’s like the beauty of inspiration. God could have written the whole Bible with his finger on tablets of stone but the miracle of inspiration (as far as I understand it) is that God allowed human authors to pen the Scriptures but through that medium the word of God is still transmitted to us. It makes it all the more miraculous. The same is true concerning the outworking of his purpose. He doesn’t force people to do things against their will (and I even think God hardening Pharaoah’s heart falls into this category, although he still used Pharaoh) but his purpose will still be realized. When look at prophecy in this light it makes it all the more astonishing that things like Daniel 2 and the return of the Jews to the land have come to pass. God’s sovereign will working out while allowing for man’s free will. It’s a wonderful thing that doctrines like Calvinism, in my opinion, spoil and diminish the wisdom of God and question his righteousness. Peter says “God is not willing that any should perish” but most people do perish. So God’s will can be frustrated because he allows us the gift of free will. But ultimately God’s purpose to create a family of sons and daughters to fill this earth with his glory will not be frustrated.

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  2. I also think that Jesus’ indignation with the lack of faith on the part of disciples clearly shows and is one of the strongest arguments that faith is something that is our responsibility towards God’s salvation work. God initiates and I respond. Action-reaction.

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    1. MW
      That’s right……
      He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt 17:20

      Even the Calvinist Gospel Coalition unwraps this verse (and the Luke version) and talks about our personal faith…..always describing it as something we can and should have. Of course never, one time, describing it at something that is given to us.

      They lose sight of how double-minded they are encouraging us to have faith—and even have more faith—- all the while on other pages claiming that the individual has nothing to do with and it is all given by God.

      It is because deep down they know that what we do matters.

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    2. I appreciated this comment.
      What type of mental state is it for a god who meticulously determined the disciples every neurological impulse to then express indignation over the very impulses he determined them to infallibly have. The god of Calvinism is irrational. And this is why Calvinists hide behind equivocations, evasions, and double-speak – designed to mask the sector of irrationality in their deterministic interpretations.

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    3. MW writes, “the lack of faith on the part of disciples clearly shows and is one of the strongest arguments that faith is something that is our responsibility towards God’s salvation work.”

      That’s fine. Do you conclude that faith comes from hearing the gospel as Romans 10 states? Is the faith needed for salvation conveyed to a person only through the preaching of the gospel?

      Once a person receives faith for salvation (if you conclude that such does occur), then do you think the process of sanctification involves a strengthening of this faith through study of the Scriptures and a renewing of the mind so that a person then lives by faith?

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  3. I’m with you Leighton that the Aorist tense in the Indicative mood means that this series of verbs (foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified) can only grammatically be viewed as past events for the ones whom Paul is referring. And the idea that they are now “glorified”, meaning dead, is certainly a normal assumption, and it does still bring meaning to the encouragement of 8:28 that things will also work out for those still alive and called.

    But since Paul elsewhere speaks in the past tense of our present glorified position of being seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6), and since you ably pointed out that a foreknowledge can exist for someone who is still alive, but which started during their life (Acts 26:5), I think Paul is also including all those who are readers who are still alive in Christ both spiritually and physically… but Paul is definitely not trying to teach some kind of eternally immutable group of elect in that passage.

    No one is born a sheep or a goat! No one is eternally immutably ordained to be a sheep or a goat or one of a so-called elect group.

    God was not lying when He said that before an individual is in Christ they are not one of “His people” or “His beloved”. (Rom 9:25). He says very clearly that before they have His Spirit there are not one “of His” (Rom 8:9). He says very clearly that once one is a member of the elect, there is “nothing” that can separate them from His love! (Rom 8:37f)

    Here is my exegesis of this passage in Rom 8:29-30 for any interested. https://www.academia.edu/31030814/Romans_8_29-30_-_exegetical_dialog

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    1. brianwagner writes, in the cited paper, “5. The grammar (semantic meaning) of the verb – προέγνω (he foreknew) as used by Paul is unique, it seems, at least by him, if not in all five NT uses (Ac 26:5; Ro 8:29; Ro 11:2; 1Pe 1:20; 2Pe 3:17) to indicate a relational knowledge more than prescience of information.”

      Supporting your point is Matthew 7:23, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” The meaning here is not that Jesus had no prescient information about these people for He certainly had a knowledge of vital statistics (e.g., name, rank, serial number, number of hairs on each head, etc.) but that He had no personal relationship with them. Matthew serves as a contrast to the elect of 8:29.

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      1. Keep reading… I mentioned the same reference from Matthew. The issue is that those with whom He never started a relational knowledge with are being contrasted with those He did start such a relational knowledge with… it wasn’t a fantasy eternal immutable relationship. It had a beginning.

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      2. brianwagner writes, “it wasn’t a fantasy eternal immutable relationship. It had a beginning.”

        It was an eternal immutable relationship for God as He always knew those who were His. That it has a beginning relates to the person with whom God begins a relationship in the course of time.

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      3. brianwagner writes, “A relationship in one’s mind with a made up character in a story is not a relationship or true love.”

        Only if you are not God. There are no made up characters in God’s mind.

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      4. The Scripture doesn’t teach that God was eternally immutably locked in to one story He had to create… based on His fantasy love for characters that were eternally immutably stuck in His mind… only to be created like puppets that would only react on way… with a plan to punish most of them forever for sins He “authored” before they were created into their story for them to commit.

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    2. brianwagner writes, “…the Aorist tense in the Indicative mood means that this series of verbs (foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified) can only grammatically be viewed as past events for the ones whom Paul is referring.”

      It seems to me that the aorist can be used to express the certainty of something without reference to it being past or future.

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      1. You need to brush up on your Greek some more Roger. 😉 The Aorist in the Indicative mood almost always indicates past tense of an actual event. Some have suggested it is sometimes used rhetorically (inceptive, gnomic, and proleptic) where time does not appear to matter, but those views are often interpretive, imo, for the past tense works just as well in they examples they give.

        In other moods (Subjunctive, Imperative) and in infinitives and participles it is the kind of action that is in view and not the time of the action. But “certainty” of an event expressed in the Aorist is not in view, except perhaps in the mind of the author. In the Indicative, the author uses the Aorist to mean he is certain the event is a past event.

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      2. brianwagner writes, ” In the Indicative, the author uses the Aorist to mean he is certain the event is a past event.”

        OK. You have confused me.

        Above, you write, “…the Aorist tense in the Indicative mood means that this series of verbs (foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified) can only grammatically be viewed as past events for the ones whom Paul is referring.”

        In your facebook paper, you write, “Paul reveals this is founded upon what God accomplished in the past in every believer’s life at the moment of their salvation. He foreknew them, predestined them, called them, justified them, and glorified each of them at the moment of their new birth.” Here glorification is a future event – they are not yet dead (you write above, “the idea that they are now “glorified”, meaning dead, is certainly a normal assumption, “) – so in my mind, Paul can be referring to a certain event.

        So, is “glorification” in 8:28 a past event at the moment of new birth (Is the believer dead?) or a future event yet to be accomplished but certain?

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      3. Thank you for the question… but you are evidently not reading all of my article before replying or you are not reading it closely enough. I find that such faulty review practices get me into trouble.

        Whatever “glorified” means, it was something that happened in the past to the ones being talked about (“those”) in this context, whether they are now dead, or still alive. It certainly includes dead saints… and Leighton has the strength of normal understanding of “glorified” on his side.

        I concede that I should have given more supporting evidence for my position, and will have to go back and add that evidence, but “glorified” in Pauline theology also is a present positional reality for all those living who have been made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6). That happened at their new birth and leads to understanding all those actions in Rom 8:29-30 as happening at the new birth.

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      4. Brian,
        Thanks for that great example of humility.

        Obviously a novice is trying to ‘gotcha’ on one of your many writings. In stead of being angry, or just doubling-down (boy do we see that a lot!!), you humbly concede that there is some merit/ value/ reason for the remark. It shows you are listening, and open to dialog. Bravo.

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  4. Thanks for that Leighton. No doubt you will get some saying…. “Yeah but you guys never told us what foreknew means!!” Expect it!

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  5. Dr. Flowers argues, “Paul seems to be saying “we have observed” and “therefore we know.” The context and grammar appear to indicate a reference not to an intuitive knowledge of Paul’s readers, but to that which comes from observation of the past, or a remembrance” (Louw and Nida, Lexicon of the New Testament – footnote 1)

    We see the use of the phrase, “οιδαμεν δε οτι,’ in the following Scripture.

    – οιδαμεν δε οτι God does not hear sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and does his will, him he hears. (John 9:31)
    – οιδαμεν δε οτι the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. Romans 2:2)
    – οιδαμεν δε οτι what things soever the law sats, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Romans 3:19)
    – οιδαμεν δε οτι all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
    – οιδαμεν δε οτι the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; (1 Timothy 1:8)
    – Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: οιδαμεν δε οτι, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
    – οιδαμεν δε οτι the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)

    In each verse, οιδαμεν δε οτι may take the meaning, “This is a true statement.” The true statements are the following:

    – God does not hear sinners; God hears those who obey Him,
    – Whatever the law says, it says to those under the law,
    – God is working all things for good to them that love Him.
    – The law is good, if a man use it lawfully,
    – When Christ comes, we shall be like him,
    – Christ has come, and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him.

    For Dr. Flowers to argue his case, he needs to investigate all these verses to demonstrate that they support his claim or that 8:28 is somehow unique and should be separated form the other verses and given a uniquely different sense. I don’t think this can be done. He is subordinating his investigation of the Scriptures to his philosophy – i.e., engaging in eisegesis. Presumably, those he cites for support have done the work for him and he need only provide additional citations.

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      1. EK writes, “word studies are practically useless when it comes to exegesis.”

        Then we disagree on this point. I see consistency in the use of words in normal life and the Scriptures to be critical to communication. If words and phrases are not used in a consistent manner but are always changing meaning, then nothing can be understood, and people will not be able to communicate with each other. I see word studies – and the consistent use of words and phrases – being critical to proper exegesis.

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      2. Perhaps the phrase “practically useless” is a bit strong, I’ll rephrase to “of limited use”. A word study can get you in the ballpark of what a word means but that’s it. This is complicated by the fact that the same words can be used for vastly different meanings. I’m not sure how consistent you really see word usage in English. I could say “That killed me” and given the context I could mean something took my life or something was hilarious. And Greek is more complicated than English. Meaning is contained in the intent of the author in the context of the letter they are writing. Not in the definitions of other words used elsewhere in other contexts.

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      3. Eric is correct,
        Any teacher in Hermeneutics will warn you that word-studies are the forte of amateurs.
        And instruct people in the analysis of context, pericope, literary form/genre, grammar, syntax, and research in textual variants.
        There is much more to it than simply collecting verses to co-opt as few proof-texts.

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      4. Word studies, Eric, are essential to understand the meaning of phrases and phrase studies are essential to understanding meaning of sentences… and sentences, paragraphs, and paragraphs, topics. But you are correct that the priority of meaning must be found in the local context first… however I think the meaning of that word in that context will never be confirmed as certain unless it is compared first with how that word is used by the same author first in the rest of his book, then in the rest of his other writings.

        You are right again that meanings in other Scripture contexts, especially of different topics, should not be leaned on too heavily, but they should be leaned on more heavily, in my opinion, then how the word is used outside of Scripture in other contemporary literature. Even Greek words in the NT should be aided in finding their meaning by finding their use in the LXX of the OT before non-biblical literature is consulted. But if a word is used only a few times or less by an author or if parallel contexts (same topic) in other books cannot be found… dogmatism of meaning should go out the window, no matter what a so-called “authoritative” lexicon says that word means in a particular verse, in my view.

        We should make sure our dogma is built upon words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and topics that are clearly confirmed in multiple contexts and on the consistency of meaning of words in those multiple contexts.

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      5. In my experience words studies should never be used as a springboard for Bible study but as a tool to enhance an already existing contextual study. I used to naively jump into a word study by looking up every occurrence of a particular word in a concordance and then stringing passages together as if they were connected simply based on that. The potential for eisegesis is immense when we begin to see patterns that aren’t actually there as we attempt to force connections because the same word is used in two different contexts.

        On the other hand if two contexts match and similar language is used then a word study becomes more interesting. Let me give you an example. In Romans 1:19 Paul says “what is known of God is made plain to them”, speaking of the fact that the Gentile world is without excuse face with the evidence God has left on record in creation. The same two words are only used in one other place in the New Testament, in Acts 4 when in the aftermath of the healing of the lame man the religious authorities said “a notable miracle has been performed which is evident to us”, with the words notable and evident the same as known and plain in the Romans passage. The context match. The Gentile world is “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20) because it turns a blind eye to the notable miracle and evidence of creation. Likewise the Jewish world is also without excuse (Rom. 2:1-2) because it turns a blind eye to the notable miracle and evidence of the re-creation of life, whether it be the lame man or the greatest of all signs, the raising of Christ from the dead. The parallel thoughts are enhanced by the similarity of language. As Paul says in Corinthians the Jews want a sign and the Gentiles want wisdom. Well the Jews were given the sign of the prophet Jonah and chose to ignore it. The Gentiles were given the wisdom of God in creation and chose to ignore it. So it is that the Jews stumbled at that stone and the Gentile world thinks the things of God are foolish. Jesus said “the stone which the builders reject is become the cornerstone. Whoever falls on that stone will be broken to piece but on whomever it falls it will crush him”, alluding to the judgment on the Jewish world and subsequently the Gentile world when the stone will smite the image on the feet.

        Anyway the point of this is that the connection between Romans and Acts didn’t come about by a word study. That wasn’t the springboard for establishing the connection. Instead the connection between two contexts was enhanced by subsequently looking at the words employed by both authors.

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      6. Actually, Richard, you are indeed showing the importance of word studies… but not just stringing passages because they seem to prove your point but stringing them because they are talking about the same issue and using the same words.

        You wouldn’t have made that connection without looking at every place a word is used to uncover the similar contexts and wording. I loved your comparison between the two texts of Rom 1 and Acts 4… I just might have used the expression – “turned a blind eye”. They were made to see and they chose to look away!

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      7. Brian writes:
        “. . . dogmatism of meaning should go out the window . . .”

        I concur, and would suggest that the further we toss dogmatism out the window the more humble, gentle, teachable, compassionate, reasonable and Christlike we become. There is just so little chance that we understand anything perfectly or in its entirety; thus holding to our beliefs loosely not only grants room for other’s unique perspectives, but for personal growth in understanding as we mature in faith and life.

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      8. Lol… actually TS00 … I’m hoping you do believe there are some things clear enough in Scripture to be dogmatic about… In fact, my view is that the gospel and all sound doctrines are clear enough to be dogmatic about, and it’s an objective clarity that even an unsaved person sees what it says, even though he may not believe it is true.

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      9. I’m no expert, but I agree that word studies, alone, have limited value. They can provide helpful examples of the various uses of a word, but just as today, most words can vary in meaning from age to age and use to use. Let alone the important fact that scripture was not originally composed in English. Thus the words we read have been selected by mere men, an act of interpretation from the outset. Context is always the key, first of all the immediate context of the verse, the surrounding context of the passage, then the entire context of God revealing his redemptive plan through all of his contacts with mankind. The vast number of errors arrived at through the traditions of men have come attempting to make a word or verse stand in isolation. The potential problems would seem obvious, as words, phrases and statements can be so easily misunderstood when taken out of context, or viewed through faulty preconceptions.

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    1. Actually Roger it is good to look at other references where the same wording is used. The discussion of the differences between oida (know) and ginosko (know) have not found total agreement among Greek scholars.

      Both you and Leighton seem to be saying the same thing to me, with Leighton emphasizing the tense of the verb pointing to a past learning process bringing about that knowledge and you emphasizing the present settled facts that are now known.

      I personally think oida is used, not to emphasize how knowledge is gained but that however it was gained it is now a certain knowledge. It appears to me that ginosko is used to emphasize the process of how the knowledge is gained empirically. And when epiginosko is used, it becomes a synonym with oida by also taking on the idea of certainty.

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      1. brianwagner writes, “Both you and Leighton seem to be saying the same thing to me, with Leighton emphasizing the tense of the verb pointing to a past learning process bringing about that knowledge and you emphasizing the present settled facts that are now known.
        I personally think oida is used, not to emphasize how knowledge is gained but that however it was gained it is now a certain knowledge.”

        Dr. Flowers stated, “The Greek verb oida (“we know”) is a perfect active indicative form of the verb, which may simply refer to knowledge gained by observance or remembrance of the past.” The critical term he used is, “…may…” meaning that his position is speculative. Then he ties v28 to v22, writing “This is paralleled earlier in verse 22 (using the same Greek verb tense of oida) when speaking about their observation of creation ‘groaning as in the pains of child birth right up to the present time.'” v22 actually has the phrase, “οιδαμεν γαρ οτι” while v28 has “οιδαμεν δε οτι” so, I guess, we have to ask if Paul has made a distinction between the two verses by using “δε” in v28 and “γαρ” inv22. However, the phrase, “οιδαμεν γαρ οτι” is used three times by Paul–

        οιδαμεν γαρ οτι the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. (Romans 7:14)
        οιδαμεν γαρ οτι the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. (Romans 8:220
        οιδαμεν γαρ οτι if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 5:1)

        I don’t think these verses support Dr. Flowers contention. I don’t see Paul relying on personal observation for the truths he expresses in those verses. He is writing as God’s servant and is expressing God’s truth meaning only to convey that this knowledge is certain.

        The real issue is that Dr. Flowers then wants us to import what I see as a speculative and unsubstantiated meaning of “We know that” in v28 into v29 to shape the meaning of “For whom [God] foreknew.” He writes, “Here the apostle reveals his focus on the saints of old, “those God foreknew.” My claim is that he is compounding his error in v28 by introducing that error into v29. He wants to make v29 a truth derived by observation of the saints of old to support his claim that Paul is arguing, “because we have seen how God worked all things to the good for those whom He knew before, we know that He will do the same for those who love and are called by Him now.” He does this to counter the idea that Paul has in mind God’s elect in v29.

        It is only at this time that Dr. Flowers searches the Scriptures to prove his claim about v29. My point is that he should have followed this same process of searching the Scriptures before drawing his conclusions about v28 that he then imported into v29. By doing so, a far broader perspective would be gained – one that supports the claim that Paul is stating a universal truth in v29 and his focus is on God’s elect “whom He foreknew.”.

        At the least, Dr. Flowers’ analysis is somewhat superficial being designed only to support his preconceived notions which I see as esigetical than exegetical.

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      2. Actually Roger, Leighton’s exegetical reasoning is sound. I think you just are having a hard time seeing what he is saying about the perfect tense of oida pointing to a certainty of knowledge arrived at by past information that led to that certainty. Showing then in verse 29 a rehearsal of past events that were experienced by some people supports how that certainty of knowledge (oida) in verse 28 was arrived at by Paul. He came to a certainty of knowledge (oida) that all things work together for good for those called, because he had past information about those whom God foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified.

        Leighton might not develop the relational aspect of “foreknew” enough for my liking, or develop the positional reality of “glorified” for present believers enough for my liking, but he is right-on exegetically on the implications of the Aorist tense in the Indicative mood pointing to past actions already completed in “those” Paul is referring to in vs. 29.

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      3. brianwagner writes, “Leighton’s exegetical reasoning is sound.”

        Dr. Flowers’ investigation of any consistent use of the Greek throughout the Scriptures is clearly deficient. He then says, “Paul seems to be saying ‘we have observed’ and ‘therefore we know.’” He completely ignores the Scriptures that speak to God’s providence for His elect beginning with Abraham. Paul says, “We know this,” because God has promised this. Our reading of God’s treatment of His elect through time only serves to verify that which God has promised. We know that all things are working together for the good of God’s elect because this is God’s providence – God has promised it. Dr. Flowers ignores this. What is the dominant theme of Paul that he emphasized consistently – “The Scriptures says…” Dr. Flowers narrows his investigation of v28 to just Romans 8 thereby ignoring the rest of the Scriptures. I look at Dr. Flowers’ argument and I see him trying to justify his personal eisegetical position. It is altogether possible that a sound exegesis could point to the same conclusion, but we don’t know because he did not do one. But, then, that’s my opinion.

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  6. Rutchin writes – “We know that all things are working together for the good of God’s elect, because this is God’s providence”
    This is typical of Calvinists putting “elect” in place of “them that love God”, And again putting “because this is God’s providence” in place of “them who are the called according to his purpose”

    It amazes me how Calvinists can read a plain scripture then rewrite it inserting their own words.

    Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

    Of course the Calvinist will then say from their pre-supposed position that “the called” are “the elect” and “his purpose” is the “secret decree” to save only those elect individuals for unrevealed reasons before they were born, which isn’t in the text but imposed into it as Rutchin has done.

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    1. Great point!

      Calvinists are so mentally conditioned in intellectual dishonesties they don’t even try to hide them.

      For years I’ve said: Calvinists consistently win the Genesis 3:1 prize.

      Being the most “subtle beasts” in the field

      The underlying substance of Calvinist language is false-advertising jargon – wrapped in Christian garb.

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    2. DG writes, “This is typical of Calvinists putting “elect” in place of “them that love God”,”

      It is certainly true God’s elect can be described as “them that love God.” You are saying that their are others, not God’s elect, who can also be be described as “them that love God”, Can you tell us who you think these people are??

      Then, “And again putting “because this is God’s providence” in place of “them who are the called according to his purpose…”

      When it says, “them who are the called,” we understand that it is God who calls them. God’s providence is that which God does. If God’s calling a person is not His providence, then what is providence??

      Then, “Of course the Calvinist will then say from their pre-supposed position that “the called” are “the elect” and “his purpose” is the “secret decree” to save only those elect individuals for unrevealed reasons before they were born, which isn’t in the text…”

      We can sort this out if you will tell us who you think “them that love God” are other than the elect. Even Paul says that God’s purpose to save the gentiles was not revealed (kept secret) until he was sent to preach the gospel to them. We read about this in Ephesians 3. Do you see Paul saying something different?

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  7. Nice try Rutchin,

    They are elect because they love God…….that’s the point! You believe they love God because they are elect. That’s the point I was making so don’t try to deflect the issue.

    You are borrowing from my theology to prove a point on providence. Of course I believe in God’s providence to call every single man and women to repentance and faith, but I also believe that call can be accepted or rejected, all by God’s providence. Providence is not determinism.

    However if I understand Calvinism correctly when you say “providence” you mean the elect is one chosen to love God (believe the gospel) irresistibly for no other reason than an unchangeable “secret decree” before they were born.

    You again borrow from my theology to prove that God has a purpose behind salvation and use Ephesians 3 to prove it….which is what I would do. But I know that this a defection tactic to deflect the main issue.

    I’ll bring it back to the main issue which is God’s purpose according to election. God’s elected purpose is in Christ and the gospel and whosoever (pron. [who, so, and ever.] Any one; any person whatever. – Websters 1828) believes may have everlasting life.
    Whereas you believe from my understanding of the many Calvinists that I’ve read and spoke to – that the “elect” before they were born were chosen to irresistibly be a lover of God for no other reason than a “secret decree”. A “secret decree” as Calvin likes to put it demands no purpose or anything revealed including even the gospel.
    As in the words of the man himself – “that men are rejected or chosen by the secret counsel of God, alleges no cause” “He does not indeed give a reason for divine election, so as to assign a cause why this man is chosen and that man rejected; for it was not meet that the things contained in the secret counsel of God should be subjected to the judgment of men; and, besides, this mystery is inexplicable” (John Calvin, Commentary, Romans 9) “The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess.” Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 7)

    If Calvin could have explained the “secret decree” as saving through the gospel then he would have done so and used Ephesians 3 and so on…..but he didn’t “it’s inexplicable” according to Calvinism. The “secret decree” has nothing to do with the gospel.

    So I would suggest to stick to your guns and own up to what you believe “it’s inexplicable”, instead of seesawing back and forth and trying to explain it when the truth of the matter in Calvinism is “inexplicable” and has no known purpose.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. DG writes, “They are elect because they love God…….that’s the point! You believe they love God because they are elect.”

      So where you had said, “This is typical of Calvinists putting “elect” in place of “them that love God,” you now concede that the term, “elect,” is synonymous with “those they love God.” There are none who love God other than the elect of God. Thus, we can read Romans 8:28 as “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to His elect, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Your complaint concerning how people come to be God’s elect does not affect the reading of Romans 8 – it is neutral on this point.

      Then, “I believe in God’s providence to call every single man and women to repentance and faith, but I also believe that call can be accepted or rejected, all by God’s providence.”

      That’s fine. I’ll grant that. Now, we can deal with those who reject God’s call to salvation. It is those who reject God’s call to salvation with whom Calvinism concerns itself. It is from those who reject Christ that God chooses some to save and to pass over the others. That is also God’s providence. So, you are correct when you say, “when you say “providence” you mean the elect is one chosen to love God (believe the gospel) irresistibly for no other reason than an unchangeable “secret decree” before they were born.” What you leave out is that they are chosen from among those who reject God’s call to salvation. God knew this in eternity past, and He does not reveal whom He has chosen to save until He executes His providence toward them by saving them.

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      1. I just want to point out your blatant contradiction, but I’m sure you won’t see it, but I pray that you do.

        It was you that said in your last post that there are no elect that do not love God……..am I correct?

        And you tried to say that I falsely believe this…….but as pointed out it’s just the order of how one becomes elect that is the issue.

        Now I want to point out your massive contradiction. Isn’t their elect in systematic that do not love God

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      2. DG writes, “I just want to point out your blatant contradiction,…”

        There was no contradiction. Perhaps you can pray that you could devise one.

        Then, “It was you that said in your last post that there are no elect that do not love God……..am I correct?”

        Actually, I said, “There are none who love God other than the elect of God.” We can phrase it without the double negative you used above, “Only the elect love God.”

        Then, “And you tried to say that I falsely believe this…….”

        So, you also believe that “Only the elect love God”? That’s good.

        Then, “…but as pointed out it’s just the order of how one becomes elect that is the issue.”

        The Scriptures are clear as to how one becomes the elect of God – “By grace you are saved.” (Ephesians 2)

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    2. DG writes, ” “The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess.” Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 7) ”

      This refers to Calvin’s Institutes – a better title than “Religion.”

      Here, we read, “I again ask how it is that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy unless that it so seemed meet to God? Here the most loquacious tongues must be dumb. The decree, I admit, is, dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree.”

      The dreadful decree is that Adam’s sin and the corruption it entailed should be inherited by his progeny. Thus, by Adam’s sin, all are condemned to death. It has nothing to do with election except that it makes election necessary..

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      1. I don’t know if you can see it Rutchin? Calvin is saying that the only reason God knew about Adams fall is because he decreed it to happen. That’s what makes it so dreadful to even Calvin, because according to Calvinism Adam and everyone else are just fulfilling the unchangeable “dreadful decree”.

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      2. DG writes, “Calvin is saying that the only reason God knew about Adams fall is because he decreed it to happen. That’s what makes it so dreadful to even Calvin, because according to Calvinism Adam and everyone else are just fulfilling the unchangeable “dreadful decree”. ”

        Calvin asks the question, “I again ask how it is that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy unless that it so seemed meet to God?” His answer; God’s decree. He then calls this a dreadful decree. I don’t see Calvin drawing our attention to God’s decrees concerning the fall itself but only to the effects of the fall. Can you cut and paste the section that you are focused on?

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  8. Sorry about that, I accidentally pressed the reply before finishing.

    Where was I?

    Isn’t there “elect” in your system walking around hating God at this present time? Or are you saying the “elect” in your system are God lovers before their conversion? So it is you that doesn’t believe elect = God lover, not me.

    And have you changed your mind since writing “It is certainly true God’s elect can be described as “them that love God” but in your next post write ” you now concede that the term, “elect,” is synonymous with “those they love God”

    Which one is it Rutchin? You’ve defended both?😂

    You are trying to put a reason on why God elected some to salvation and not others, but I have pointed out that your system Calvinism does not hold to any reason. It’s “inexplicable” remember. Yet you fall back to trying to explain all the time with massive contradiction.

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    1. DG,
      Thanks. You are correct. Let’s say the Calvinist-elect system is correct. EVERYTHING they say to prove their point that the non-elect are X Y Z is also true of the “elect” before the “Calvinist regeneration”

      —haters of God
      —think the gospel is foolishiness
      —can do no good thing
      —lovers of evil etc etc

      Now, they say that we wont accept the gospel (Calvinism to them) since it is foolishness to those who are perishing….. just like it was foolishness to them when perishing. That “foolishness” gotcha card proves nothing. It is foolishness even to the elect—certainly at some time and to some degree.

      Even if a Calvinist testifies that it took him several years of witness (at home growing up, in college, going to Bible studies, etc) he will have to say that even all those years of “seeking” it was still foolishness to him. (of course not foolish enough to get him stop listening and seeking).

      The difference is that they think that somewhere in those many years of “seeking-not-seeking” the Calvinist receives the Holy Spirit who regenerates him to the point that it is not foolishness. No conversion has taken place…..or repentance or justification, mind you. Only regeneration so that he is “alive” now and it is not foolishness.

      Now that he is alive he can be given faith. Once the faith is given to him….it is his faith and personal.

      He now can repent, or “accept” Christ or “choose” to follow Christ….. indeed he must since the process is out of his hands and totally irresistible. He uses his aliveness, and given-to-him faith to “choose” to follow Christ. Even though he is choosing Christ —-and this is made very clear that it is a personal step by faith (sola fide!! let’s get some Latin in there!) — it is “none of it from him”.

      So it is both personal faith, and immutably given faith. It is both a choice by him and not a choice by him.

      I hope that helps clear up the beauty of the fatalist-Calvinist system.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It sure does! Let’s just hope and pray Rutchin can see the merry go round if his System. But he won’t see it until he gets off the merry go round in my opinion.

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      2. A Christian sentiment for sure!
        But I won’t hold my breath waiting for rhutchin to give up the “dancing boxer” and “greased pig” routines anytime soon. 😀
        These routines remain viable as long as unwary Christians can be fooled by them.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. DG writes, “Isn’t there “elect” in your system walking around hating God at this present time? Or are you saying the “elect” in your system are God lovers before their conversion? So it is you that doesn’t believe elect = God lover, not me.”

      The context we were working with was Romans 8, “…we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,…” You seemed to object to identifying “those who love God” as the “elect.” Then you seemed to agree that they can be called the elect. Now you want to discuss the “elect” in a broader context. In the broader context, people are the elect of God before God saves them and there is a period of time where they do not love God as we read in Ephesians 2. I don’t see a disagreement here and nothing that impacts an analysis of Romans 8:28.

      Then, “Which one is it Rutchin? You’ve defended both?”

      Context, context, context as explained above.

      Then, “You are trying to put a reason on why God elected some to salvation and not others,…”

      No. I was making a point about Romans 8:28 and noting that “those who love God” are synonymous with the elect.”

      Then, “… but I have pointed out that your system Calvinism does not hold to any reason. It’s “inexplicable” remember. Yet you fall back to trying to explain all the time with massive contradiction.”

      An imagined contradiction. What does this have to do with Romans 8:28?

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      1. I was watching your dialog with rhutchin – and I’ve seen him going in circles all too many times.
        Eventually people learn he’s doing his dancing boxer routine and become concerned – as to whether he simply enjoys leading people around in circles. Around that point they give up.

        He is useful for highlighting Calvinist dishonest rhetorical tricks.
        But when he starts going into his playground bully routine – dancing in circles – I prefer to stand back and let him chase his own tail. :-]

        Liked by 1 person

  9. An Imaginary conversation between John MacArthur & Rhutchin while sharing a piece of double speak over a hot cup of contradiction.

    Rhutchin – The elect love God because they are elect.

    MacArthur – No Rhutchin, the elect love God because they were elected to love him.

    Rhutchin – No John, the elect love God because they were elected to love him, because they are elect.

    MacArthur – No Rhutchin, the elect love God because they were elected to love him, because they are elect, having been elected to love him.

    Rhutchin – No John, the elect love God because they were elected to love him, because they are elect, having been elected to love him, due to being elect.

    Macarthur – No Rhutchin, the elect love God because they were elected to love him, because they are elect, having been elected to love him, due to being elect, because the elect were elected to love him.

    Rhutchin – No John, the elect love God because they were elected to love him, because they are elect, having been elected to love him, due to being elect, because the elect were elected to love him, being elect.

    MacArthur – Rhutchin, can you please pass me another piece of double speak, it’s delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. DG writes, “Rhutchin – The elect love God because they are elect.
      MacArthur – No Rhutchin, the elect love God because they were elected to love him.”

      Let’s see if we can straighten this out. The elect love God; the non-elect do not love God. The elect were known to God (i.e. elected/chosen by God) before He created the world (as were the non-elect). The elect come to Christ by God’s grace. Thus, God’s election of a person to salvation (before creation) precedes God’s exercise of grace to save the elect (after creation). So, both statements above are true. The elect love God because they are elect and as elect, God brings them to salvation at which time, they come to love God. Also, the elect love God because they were elected to love God (i.e., elected to salvation and they love God because He saves them).

      If you don’t agree that God knew His elect before He created the world, then you will disagree with this.

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      1. Rhutchin responds “The elect love God because they are elect and as elect, God brings them to salvation at which time, they come to love God.”

        I rest my case 😀

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  10. Wow thanks Leighton. This interpretation would make the use of foreknew from romans 11:2 make more sense. I could never figure out why Paul would refer to His people(jews) whom he foreknew. I always thought it had to be in a future sense from eternity past. Can we say that the ones he foreknew(to know previously) were the ones that had faith in God before Jesus and that is why they accepted because they had faith and weren’t of the Israel that pursued salvation by works?meaning the ones that God knew before were the same that accepted Christ(plus old testament saints) or could there have been some that knew God before Christ but didn’t accept? Could we conclude that all the Jews and gentile Jews that had faith in God and not by works ended up accepting Christ and the rest didn’t because they hardened their hearts by not having faith in God even prior to Christ and ultimately that’s why they were blinded? Wasn’t Paul one of those though? Was Paul known previously by God before Jesus appeared to him? It is possible but I thought he was like the other pharisees.
    No?

    Liked by 1 person

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