There is something healthy about returning to one’s roots. When it comes to evangelical Christianity, its roots are found in the soil of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation.

What Does “Foreknew” Mean In Romans 8:29?

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  • What Does “Foreknew” Mean In Romans 8:29?

    James Faris


    “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:29 (ESV)

    What does “foreknew” mean in Romans 8:29? Does it mean God looked ahead through time and knew in advance who would believe in Christ and thus predestined them to be conformed to the image of Jesus? Perhaps it reveals some kind of “middle knowledge” of God as he weighed various contingencies and possible decisions of his creatures? These options, which stand opposed to the historic reformed understanding of foreknowledge, seek to preserve unrestricted freedom of man’s will.

    It’s helpful to ask two questions of the text at this point. First, to get the context, what is the object of God’s foreknowledge? Second, what is the meaning of the word?

    The object of God’s foreknowledge in Romans 8:29 is people. God does not say here that he foreknew inclinations, choices, or actions. It is not faith God foreknew; he foreknew people. God did not choose to save based on foreseen human works or decisions; Scripture is clear that we are sovereignly saved by grace through faith (e.g. Romans 9:11-13, Ephesians 2:8-9). Commenting on the parallel passage in Ephesians 1:4, Robert Reymond writes in his A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, “God chose us before the creation of the world that we should be holy, not because he saw that we would be holy.”

    What does the word mean? In Scripture, It can mean “prescience” or merely to know in advance (e.g. Acts 26:5, 2 Peter 3:17). The Westminster Larger Catechism Answer 14 uses the English word in that sense: “God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will.”

    But especially since the object of God’s foreknowledge in Romans 8:29 is people, we must see the connection to the use of the parallel word for knowing in the Old Testament. To know in the Hebrew Scriptures is to know intimately, as Adam did Eve when they conceived their son (Genesis 4:1). The word is frequently used to describe God’s election of his people. Genesis 18:19 says of Abraham, “For I have chosen [known] him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” The Lord knew of every child before he or she was born, so he must have something more intimate in mind when in speaking to Jeremiah when he said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Similar uses abound in the Old Testament (c.f. Psalm 1:6, 144:3; Hosea 13:4-5, Amos 3:2).

    The theme of God’s intimate, loving knowledge of his people carries into the New Testament, “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity’” (2 Timothy 2:19, c.f. 1 Corinthians 8:3). Certainly, the Lord knows every person on earth from a standpoint of bare knowledge, so the text is clearly speaking of something more personal in these cases.

    Love is seen most of all in the Father’s foreknowledge of his own Son, “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20).

    In contrast to this loving knowledge of souls, God will declare to rebels “‘I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22, c.f. Matthew 25:11-12).

    Thus, in his commentary on Romans, John Murray concludes of the word “foreknew”, “It means ‘whom he set regard upon’ or ‘whom he knew from eternity with distinguishing affection and delight’ and is virtually equivalent to ‘whom he foreloved.’”

    God also predestines these people to the end described in the next verse. That predestinating act is logically rooted in his intimate foreknowledge of his people.

    So, the word “foreknew” means that God foreloved his people. It describes love with which he loved his people his people in eternity past out of his mere good pleasure. The good news for the people of God is that since our assurance of salvation is rooted in God’s eternal love we can trust that he is working all things – even difficult circumstances in our lives at present – for our good (Romans 8:28) and that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39). Praise the Lord!

    Source: What Does “Foreknew” Mean In Romans 8:29? | Gentle Reformation

  • #2
    Well, that is something to think about. I don't know if I agree with the interpretation. Are you saying that who he foreknew and foreloved were in heaven with him before being born?
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    • #3
      Some say==God also predestines these people to the end described in the next verse. That predestinating act is logically rooted in his intimate foreknowledge of his people.

      God does things for His reasons and we believers are His elect because God knew before we were born that we would choose to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. If we had no choice then Jesus need not have died on that Roman cross!
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Gismys View Post
        Some say==God also predestines these people to the end described in the next verse. That predestinating act is logically rooted in his intimate foreknowledge of his people.

        God does things for His reasons and we believers are His elect because God knew before we were born that we would choose to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. If we had no choice then Jesus need not have died on that Roman cross!
        If Jesus had not died, then our sins would not have been forgiven because the price demanded to satisfy God's justice and maintain his Holiness would not have been paid. This is true whether God chose us because of some knowledge of our future response, or simply because it pleased God to choose us irrespective of our opinion on the matter. In either case, we are sinners and the wages of sin are death. That debt had to be paid.
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        • #5
          If you think you are predestinated to be a believer with no need to choose Jesus as your Lord and Savior then Jesus would not need to have went to the cross!
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Gismys View Post
            If you think you are predestinated to be a believer with no need to choose Jesus as your Lord and Savior then Jesus would not need to have went to the cross!
            Nope, that is not predestination as believed by Calvinists and Reformed Theology.

            Predestination means that on my own, I was and am incapable of choosing Jesus (and so are you). My fallen nature means that as a man I will make the wrong choice with 100% accuracy. That is why we 'were once enemies of God' as Paul says of even the believers.
            Predestination means that God, for reasons found entirely within him and with no credit to me, chose me (predestined) before the foundation of the world, that I would receive a new heart (be born again) and this new heart would allow me to be drawn to God and choose Jesus.
            "It is by faith we are saved, and this is not of ourselves less any man should boast." ... what can it mean that our faith is a gift from God and not from ourselves EXCEPT that GOD DID IT! God has chosen us, not we have chosen God.

            If we chose Jesus first, then the faith is NOT from God and we do have every reason to boast of our faith in choosing Jesus. The Bible says this is not so.

            ###

            In any event, your conclusion does not follow from your premise.
            The only way that "Jesus would not need to have went to the cross" is if man could earn his own salvation through living a sinless life (assuming we reject Adam's original sin as applying to all future men).
            Predestination and Free Will do nothing to change this.

            You will need to explain your position in more detail than simply repeating it as a fact if you want me to understand the point you are making, because I don't see how God deciding who he will forgive eliminates the need for a crucified Christ.
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            • #7
              Maybe to try to help you out a little, I believe that one of your propositions atpollard can be best explained by the likes of John 6:44. " No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day. " Maybe Gismys can get a little grip on that verse. Can I give Gismys a KISS? (keep it simple Saint.).

              Mankind is, has been and always will be at war with God in that we are all unworthy of God's grace because of our sinful nature. John 3:16 explains the reasoning and promise of His reconciliation and grace, 1John1:9 gives the promise of forgiveness but is no salvation available unless we swing back to John 6:44. Does that mean that God is a little picky? Not really, for "All are called but few are chosen" Matthew 22:14.
              Easy stuff really.

              But what about the predestination thing? That too easy really. William already posted a really good review of the word "knew" and we can accept it or not but I happen to like it. Okay, the predestination part. Go back to John 6:44 and it let's review what it says in basic "which way did he go George"?
              As atpollard wrote, God draws us, we do not initially choose Him. But, once we are drawn to the Christ, the predestination is in effect because He will raise the guy who accepted Jesus as His personal savior up in the last day. Drawn to Christ, Saved by Grace (the Crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus ) and on the way to heaven. It is His promise.

              I guess the best, best example would be Saul of Tarsus. Who chose Whom? Saul was not predestined to go around killing a bunch of the followers of Christ: Saul made that decision on his own. But, what happened on the road to Tarsus? Follow the dots and things might get a little easier Gismys.
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              • #8
                Originally posted by Bobby Cole View Post
                Maybe to try to help you out a little, I believe that one of your propositions atpollard can be best explained by the likes of John 6:44. " No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day. " Maybe Gismys can get a little grip on that verse. Can I give Gismys a KISS? (keep it simple Saint.).

                Mankind is, has been and always will be at war with God in that we are all unworthy of God's grace because of our sinful nature. John 3:16 explains the reasoning and promise of His reconciliation and grace, 1John1:9 gives the promise of forgiveness but is no salvation available unless we swing back to John 6:44. Does that mean that God is a little picky? Not really, for "All are called but few are chosen" Matthew 22:14.
                Easy stuff really.

                But what about the predestination thing? That too easy really. William already posted a really good review of the word "knew" and we can accept it or not but I happen to like it. Okay, the predestination part. Go back to John 6:44 and it let's review what it says in basic "which way did he go George"?
                As atpollard wrote, God draws us, we do not initially choose Him. But, once we are drawn to the Christ, the predestination is in effect because He will raise the guy who accepted Jesus as His personal savior up in the last day. Drawn to Christ, Saved by Grace (the Crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus ) and on the way to heaven. It is His promise.

                I guess the best, best example would be Saul of Tarsus. Who chose Whom? Saul was not predestined to go around killing a bunch of the followers of Christ: Saul made that decision on his own. But, what happened on the road to Tarsus? Follow the dots and things might get a little easier Gismys.
                Gismys You should actually try to understand what it is you oppose and not make straw man arguments. Take for example the above post by Bobby in its entirety, and compare what he says with the five points (doctrines) of Calvinism.

                Think Calvinism is not Scriptural? In John 6:44 you can see the entire TULIP:

                No man can come to me (Total Depravity)
                unless the Father (Unconditional Election)
                who sent me draws him (Irresistible Grace)
                and I will raise him up (Limited Atonement)
                in the last day (Perseverance of the Saints)

                God bless,
                William
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                • #9

                  The "Tulip" has wilted under the light of Truth! The ideas and opinions of 15th century little men are just that= the ideas and opinions of little men 500+ years ago!
                  Titus 2:11
                  For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

                  ◄ 1 Timothy 2:4 ►
                  God=who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

                  Ezekiel 18:23
                  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

                  John 3:17
                  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

                  (Rom. 5:8) - "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

                  John 4:8
                  8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

                  Isaiah 54:13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.
                  Psalms 127:3-5 - Lo, children [are] an heritage of the LORD: [and] the fruit of the womb [is his] reward.
                  Comment>

                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Gismys View Post
                    The "Tulip" has wilted under the light of Truth! The ideas and opinions of 15th century little men are just that= the ideas and opinions of little men 500+ years ago!
                    You are really going to have to do much better than this.
                    If you wish to reject TULIP, then which part of John 6:44 (as outlined by William and ignored completely by you) is false?



                    Moving on, let's take a look at your offerings:

                    Titus 2:11
                    For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.


                    All people, means every people group. Read it in context and you will see that the point being made is that salvation is not just for the rich or the poor or men or women or young or old. That hardly disproves John 6:44.


                    1 Timothy 2:4
                    God=who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.


                    Strong's says (anthropos) can mean either a specific man, men in general or mankind depending on the details of it's use. My Greek isn't up to splitting that hair, but it could also mean all people groups (hence the reference to praying for kings, plural).

                    What about 1 Timothy 1:15-17
                    "15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."

                    In v.15 Jesus came "to save sinners" ... and everyone is a sinner, however in v.16 he is an example only for "those who would believe in him". Clearly the sinners of verse 15 does not mean all sinners since it says as much in the very next verse. By the way, that would be the Limited Atonement (L in TULIP) that you utterly reject and another verse you need to cross out in your Bible.


                    Ezekiel 18:23
                    Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?


                    Sorry, this says nothing about whether God intends to save all or just some. It is equally true either way. I know of no Calvinist who argues that God laughs with maniacal glee at the thought of being able to damn a soul. Nor do I know of anyone who argues that God weeps at those he chooses to regenerate. So I am not sure what this verse refutes.


                    John 3:17
                    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.


                    But the world rejected him. Isn't that why we are not citizens of this world?
                    The key point is that those that accept the Son are saved and those who do not accept the Son already stand condemned because they have rejected the only "Way, Truth and Life". God choosing whom he will bless with the faith necessary to turn to Him changes none of that.
                    This disproves nothing.


                    (Rom. 5:8) - "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

                    The "WE" and "US" is only those who are the elect, whose names are in the Lambs book of Life. Those who reject Christ must die for their own sins. The alternative is universalism, which is contrary to Scriptire. This does not disprove any of TULIP or John 6:44.

                    John 4:8
                    8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.


                    While I agree with the verse, so what?
                    Can any man love the way Christ loved before the Holy Spirit began a work in their heart?
                    Is it somehow 'unloving' to believe that God is so loving and so Mighty that he would choose to look down on a people utterly incapable of saving themselves and choose to take extraordinary actions to save same ... because it pleased Him to do so and not due to any merit in those he chose to show mercy on?
                    What is your point with this verse?


                    Isaiah 54:13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.

                    God has a propensity to bless the children of those He has chosen to bless. So what?


                    Psalms 127:3-5 - Lo, children [are] an heritage of the LORD: [and] the fruit of the womb [is his] reward.

                    God causes people to have children or not. Again, so what?
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                    • #11
                      Please do not consider me too critical but I am trying to figure out which direction you are going Gismys. At one point it seems you are against the idea that God fore knew us before the foundation of the earth and knew that we would choose Christ. At another it seems that you might be advocating that God elected us as individuals before the foundation of the earth to know Christ and then a twist to God never knows who might surrender to Christ.
                      When we mix and match scripture without examining the context by which it is written then there is much confusion and causes some angst in the Christ loving community.

                      Before going on too much further I would like you to clarify your stance because it's scattered to say the very least. Perhaps John 1:12 might shed a little light. "For as many as received Him to them gave he the power to become Sons of God.". How would you interpret this scripture and what does it bring to mind?

                      If all else fails.......Jesus Saves. God Bless.........Bobby
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                      • #12
                        Believing is a Choice! Not Believing is a Choice!

                        ◄ John 20:25 ►
                        Thomas===So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

                        We choose!!! Believe or not believe. but we cannot blame God.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Gismys View Post
                          Believing is a Choice! Not Believing is a Choice!

                          ◄ John 20:25 ►
                          Thomas===So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

                          We chose!!! Believe or not believe. but we cannot blame God.
                          Excellent!
                          Now we are communicating. That I understand.

                          Let me ask a question from that very story.
                          Thomas, in his own words, said he could (or would) not believe unless he he put his hand in the nail holes for himself.
                          I agree that the blame for Thomas' lack of belief rests with Thomas and not with God.

                          However, God responds by making a special appearance for Thomas and inviting him to place his hand in the hole.
                          Can the credit for Thomas' faith be given to God for going above and beyond the call of duty to meet Thomas at his point of need and provide him everything he needed to believe?
                          Is it reasonable to wonder if this might be because God's love for Thomas was so great that Jesus was prepared to do whatever it took to win Thomas' love?
                          Could 'foreloved' be a reasonable word used to describe God's affection for an unbelieving Thomas?
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                          • #14
                            All have choice= will we choose to believe or not believe. Thomas had made the choice to not believe but Jesus had mercy and helped Thomas.
                            Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gismys View Post
                              All have choice= will we choose to believe or not believe. Thomas had made the choice to not believe but Jesus had mercy and helped Thomas.
                              Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
                              All of the other Apostles had already seen, none just believed.
                              Jesus did not appear to Judas to stop him from taking his life.

                              Everyone chooses to not believe but Jesus has mercy and helps some.
                              "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." ... who said that?
                              Comment>
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