Romans 8:29 – Calvinists claim that “foreknew” here actually means “chose” or “predestined” or predetermined”!
Romans 8:29 – For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
In order to look at this verse properly, we’ll be looking at its context as follows:
Romans 8:28-30 – 28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose. 29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
“For whom he did foreknow”
This is that wording which is perfectly clear – that God predestinated His people via His foreknowledge: yet calvinists claim it as one of their stronger evidences of their false doctrines. But, like all good lawyers should do (remember Calvin was a lawyer), calvinists take what should be their defeat and proudly proclaim it to be their greatest strength. (If they can’t win legally, they’ll try to win the psychological battle!) Here is a piece of excellent advice: whenever a calvinist claims a verse or passage to be irrefutable evidence of the truth of their doctrines, always read it over very carefully, study it thoroughly, for it will almost always turn out to be a weakness that they are trying to market as a strength. Attempting to appear more scholarly than they really are, they will change word meanings, remove or add wording, or quote some of their heroes of the faith to add conviction to their claims. Test all things, because the calvinist preys upon the thinking of those who are, for some reason, unwilling to try to understand for themselves what the passage really says.
They will often claim Spurgeon as one of their heroes, even though many of Spurgeon’s teachings were actually opposed to calvinistic views. In particular, Spurgeon stated that it was unnecessary and ridiculous to preach the gospel to those who were already saved (regenerated); that it was the lost who needed the gospel!
If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate.
(The Warrant of Faith, Sermon No. 531, preached by Spurgeon on 20/09/1863)
Yet calvinists teach that the gospel is effectual only to those who have been given faith after they have been regenerated (born again, saved). Oops! Someone forgot to tell Spurgeon that all good calvinists have to toe the party line!
So now to Romans 8:29 and “For whom he did foreknow”:
The straight-forward interpretation of this is that all those whom God foreknew would choose salvation in Christ will then be predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. The term “foreknow” is proginosko, a Greek word that means to have knowledge beforehand. It is the verb form of the noun prognosis which means “foreknowledge”, as used in 1 Peter 1:2a – Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, which simply means what it says, unless you try to give the word “foreknowledge” a bit of spin that could change its meaning.
Of course, 1 Peter 1:2 does say clearly that God chooses (elects) Christians according to His knowledge of the future – this is indeed the straight-forward meaning of the verse. But if that were so, then man must have the free will that God can then foreknow. So, to the calvinist, “foreknowledge” here has to mean something else or the whole calvinist house of cards comes tumbling down.
Calvinists are fond of giving simple Greek terms a change of meaning in order to come into line with their false doctrines. For example, in John 3:3, they find it necessary to change “see” to “believe in” or “have faith in” in order that they can teach that you have to be born again before you can believe in Christ. (See John 3:3 article.) In like fashion, many calvinists change the word “foreknow” in Romans 8:29 to “chose” or “elected” – see further down.
Calvinists just cannot allow foreknowledge to actually mean the perfect knowledge that God has of the future, because that would assume the free will of man to make decisions that God would then foreknow. Thus, because calvinists have determined that man cannot be permitted to have a free will in salvation, then it is necessary for foreknowledge to mean something else other than just a knowledge of the future.
As Piper says: “God does not foreknow the free decisions of people to believe in him because there aren’t any such free decisions to know.“
(What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism – 1998 revision)
Thus, Piper along with other calvinists has to teach that foreknowledge is predetermined by God before the foundation of the world. That is, the calvinist God decided from the beginning what foreknowledge he would know. This makes the calvinist God’s foreknowledge simply his foreordaining of all things. In fact, Piper goes to the extent of saying that “foreknew” in Romans 8:29 really means “chose”.
As C.E.B. Cranfield says, the foreknowledge of Romans 8:29 is “that special taking knowledge of a person which is God’s electing grace.” Such foreknowledge is virtually the same as election: “Those whom he foreknew (i.e. chose) he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
(What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism – 1998 revision)
The question must be asked though: if God meant to say “chose”, then why did he use “foreknow” in His word? Why this predilection of calvinists to change everything in sight in case people might actually learn the truth? Talk about sola scriptura; the only sola the calvinists appear to have is solar (sun) stroke!
For more information, go to The Foreknowledge of Sovereign God.
Other calvinists try to blind us with scholarly endeavour, attempting to quote certain rules that “prove” their doctrines to be true. However, if their “rules” can be shown to be misused or false, then their doctrines have to be assumed to be likewise false. One such rule quoted is the Granville Sharp rule, which is misused and misquoted to make it appear that foreknowledge is predetermined.
Roger Smalling tries to apply the rule to demonstrate that “determined purpose” and “foreknowledge” are synonyms. That is, he says they have the same meaning.
The meaning of foreknowledge, when used of divine decisions, refers to appointed. It is similar to foreordained in connection with election. It is the person who is foreknown, or appointed to salvation, not some quality in that person.
Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, … Acts 2:23.
Here, determined purpose and foreknowledge are linked by a Greek grammatical form called the Granville-Sharp Rule. This makes the two nouns synonymous. It is used for emphasis, like saying right and good or evil and bad. The word determined here is formed of the same verb from which predestination is derived.
(Does Foreknowledge Explain Election? by Roger Smalling)
MacArthur says that the rule equates the two terms in Acts 2:23, and therefore foreknowledge must be interpreted the same in Romans 8:29.
8:29 foreknew. Not a reference simply to God’s omniscience—that in eternity past he knew who would come to Christ. Rather, it speaks of a predetermined choice to set his love on us and establish an intimate relationship—or his election (cf. Acts 2:23—an inviolable rule of Greek grammar, called the Granville Sharp rule, equates [pre]determination and “foreknowledge”; see notes on 1 Pet. 1:1–2, and cf. with Rom. 1:20—the term must be interpreted the same in both verses).
(from notes on Romans 8:29 in the MacArthur Study Bible)
However, the Granville Sharp rule was formulated originally to demonstrate the godhood of Christ as a member of the trinity of God. The rule may be expressed as
“When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case, if the article ho, or any of its cases (te, to), precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle.”
Note that (a) the rule was to apply to persons (not necessarily things) and (b) the two nouns relate to the same person. (In the case of this rule, that same person was Jesus Christ who was thus proven to be God).
Its application to Acts 2:23 is not specifically included, yet a similar grammatical construction may be seen.
Acts 2:23 – Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
However, if this rule is applied to Acts 2:23, the two nouns “predeterminate counsel” and “foreknowledge” must both relate (or refer) to the same person, and in this case, they both refer to “God”. There is absolutely no warrant at all to use it to equate the two nouns (make them mean the same), that is, to make them synonymous.
Therefore, if the two nouns cannot be demonstrated to be equated or synonymous by the correct use of the Granville Sharp rule, then, in the absence of any other such “proof”, the two nouns must be considered to be different in meaning, not equated nor synonymous! Any reasonable Bible scholar will immediately see that such use of the Granville Sharp rule is false and must also be seen as a desperate measure to “prove” the unprovable! MacArthur and Smalling (and any others who teach the same) are wrong! Such desperate measures that cannot demonstrate the point in question can only prove what they deny: that God uses foreknowledge to determine the future! For more information, please see MacArthur is Wrong.
And if it weren’t enough that MacArthur tries to misuse just one rule to demonstrate his lies, he does it again in misusing Hebrew parallelism rules in trying to prove that “many” cannot mean “many” and “all” cannot mean “all”. Read further in MacArthur is Wrong – Again!
Another question must also be asked: why do such people go to such ridiculous (and blatantly false) lengths to produce “proofs” in order to demonstrate their doctrines if their doctrines were in fact correct? The only answer can be that their doctrines are in fact false and that correct forms of proof would only prove them wrong! This process of confusing the issue may be correctly termed “verbal gymnastics” (which 2 Peter 2:3 describes as “feigned words“).
Piper gets in on the “scholarly” act also with verbal gymnastics by claiming that God foreknows, i.e. elects a people for himself before the foundation of the world. (What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism – 1998 revision)
And yet, the verse itself actually clearly teaches the opposite. This verse can only teach the calvinist viewpoint if (a) the meaning of the Greek term is altered, or (b) rules of grammar are misused or misquoted in order to say what they could never say in actual fact.
Piper apparently must be claiming some sort of divine understanding in order to rewrite what God has already said otherwise quite clearly!
1 Peter 1:20-21 – 20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.
Both Piper and MacArthur should take note of God’s word more carefully. They should never meddle with Scripture!
Revelation 22:18-19 – 18For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.
A calvinist website (monergism.com) claims that it is really Acts 13:48 that somehow proves the predetermination of the foreknowledge of God. It tries to demonstrate that foreknowledge comes before predestination, and that faith is the effect of that same predestination.
Haldane, comparing Scripture with Scripture, clearly shows that the foreknowledge mentioned in Romans 8:29 cannot have reference to the foreseen faith, good works, or the sinner’s response to God’s call. “Faith cannot be the cause of foreknowledge, because foreknowledge is before predestination, and faith is the effect of predestination. ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,’ Acts 13:48.
I agree that foreknowledge does indeed come before predestination, as it is God’s foreknowledge of man’s free will in salvation that then places their names in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world. I am surprised, though, that calvinists would consider foreknowledge as coming before predestination (which is what Romans 8:29 clearly says). If, as they so often claim, foreknowledge and predetermination are equated terms, and if predetermination and predestination are likewise similar terms, then wouldn’t they teach that the two are both presented at the same time? Foreknowledge coming before predestination does appear to be somewhat in support of an election conditional upon God’s foreknowledge!
Note that faith cannot be the gift of God after regeneration, as faith is man’s response to the promises of God. Man exhibits faith in order to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. God therefore must use foreknowledge to determine such faith-based decisions in order to write their names in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 17:8). Faith is a response of man’s free will (and not the gift of God that calvinists falsely teach); thus faith has to come before being born again (being saved).
(Note that Ephesians 2:8 cannot teach that faith is the gift of God; the noun gender in the Greek cannot allow this. The gift of God there is to be saved by grace. Please do proper research into the Greek.)
Any passage calvinists claim to teach their conditional election can be even more easily applied to an election conditional upon God’s foreknowledge. Calvinists claim that Acts 13:48 “proves” their unconditional election. Likewise it could demonstrate election conditional upon foreknowledge. If Acts 13:48 is to do with the election to salvation, then both unconditional and conditional election could be taught here, where the conditional election is the only one supported by the rest of the Bible.
However, Acts 13:48 is not to do with the election, either conditional or unconditional! If only these people would read the whole passage to get a better idea of the context of the passage!
Acts 13:45-48 – 45But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47For so hath the Lord commanded us, [saying], I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 48And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained (appointed) to eternal life believed.
Firstly note that “ordained” actually should have been translated “appointed”. The Latin Vulgate uses “foreordained” and the KJV has softened that a little to “ordained”, yet even so, that is still too strong a word. Most translations actually read quite correctly “appointed”, as in military terms a soldier is appointed to his position in the ranks.
Note too that “everlasting life” (Vs 46) and “eternal life” Vs 48) are the same Greek words! They should have both been translated the same each time in this passage (either as “eternal life” or “everlasting life”)! But what this does tell us is that in Vs 46 the Jews have been declared unworthy of eternal life, and Paul says that he would now turn to the Gentiles. Then in Vs 48, after turning to them, the Gentiles have now been appointed to eternal life. The context here certainly demonstrates that the two events (regarding “eternal life”) are connected, and that the proper interpretation of Acts 13:48 must take Vs 46 into account, along with the rest of the whole passage.
When the Jews saw how many Gentiles had gathered to hear Paul, they were jealous (or strongly indignant, as the word suggests), and did their best, it appears, to disrupt the meeting. They argued with Paul (probably while Paul was speaking or trying to speak); they contradicted Paul’s words and even blasphemed what he said. That is, they probably vilified Jesus of whom Paul was speaking; this sounds like the time the Pharisees declared that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub (a blasphemy in declaring the Holy Spirit evil). The Jews here had committed an unforgivable sin, turning the gospel of Jesus Christ into a curse; a rejection of the Godhood of Christ, a blasphemy against His authority as the Ruler of the Universe.
Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and spoke directly against the disrupting (disruptive) Jews. It appears that either most or possibly all Jews were involved in this indignant opposition and consequent blasphemy, because Paul and Barnabas address the Jews as a group: “It was necessary (it was the right thing to do) to preach God’s word to you (Jews) first” (clearly because they were the covenant-holders, the elect nation of God). “But now you have put it from you (rejected God’s word to you); you have judged yourselves unworthy of everlasting life (you have brought this judgment of unworthiness for eternal life upon yourselves by your own actions). So now we’ll turn to the Gentiles and preach the gospel that was originally yours (the Jews) to them (the Gentiles) instead.”
One can just see Paul and Barnabas indignantly angry at those Jews who, being God’s covenanted people, should have been the ones who accepted Paul’s preaching of the gospel with rejoicing. But, if they don’t want this, if they reject this good news, then Paul and Barnabas can see only one way forward out of this: “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” That is, “Behold, we’ll now apply this gospel of everlasting life (eternal life) to the Gentiles instead!” This is a watershed event in the history of Israel: this is a picture of the Jews losing that which was theirs by covenant, and it being given instead to those whom the Jews saw as beneath their dignity: the hateful Gentiles!
So in Vs 47 Paul quotes from the following passage in Isaiah. Isaiah 49:6 – And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
“my servant” here is Christ who was to raise up the tribes of Jacob, to restore the preserved of Israel. In this scenario this applies to the Jews to whom Paul and Barnabas have been preaching. But now Paul is activating the second part of the quote from Isaiah: that His Servant (Christ) would be given as a light to the Gentiles, allowing them to be a part of the salvation of God to the ends of the earth. Paul is simply saying that the Jews have rejected their “Servant”, so He (Christ) will now be a “Servant” of God for salvation to the Gentiles instead. In essence, the Jews have rejected their option of eternal life (“everlasting life”); but the Gentiles have desired to receive that option of eternal life. And so, the Jews were effectively removed from hearing the gospel here, while the Gentiles have now taken their place! The appointment of the Jews was cancelled so that the Gentiles could take their place in the appointment.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and gave all glory to God that the word of the gospel might be preached to them by the apostles. Apparently, they had thought they might not be eligible for something that they had understood to be exclusively meant for the Jews. (The Jews would have thought themselves a few classes above the Gentiles and would have refused them salvation if they could have.) And as many of them (the Gentiles) who were appointed to the ranks of eternal life believed. The Jews had been removed from their appointed positions in the ranks of God’s people. The Gentiles had been placed in those same appointed ranks in place of the Jews. The Gentiles were being given access to the message of eternal life; it wasn’t just for the Jews. And, apparently, all those Gentiles who had come to hear Paul and Barnabas and had desired to know more, were being told that the gospel applied to them now. And those Gentiles who had desired to know more were appointed to the ranks of those who could hear and be saved, and all those who were appointed to those ranks believed (and clearly were saved).
Follow this link for further information on Acts 13:48.
So those who are foreknown in Romans 8:29 are the ones who are called in Romans 8:30. God foreknows all who will call upon the name of the Lord and be saved (as per Romans 10:13). Those whom God foreknows are predestinated to become more like Christ (Romans 8:29). Calvinists will say that predestination proves the foreordination of man to salvation by God. No, it merely says that the ones God knew would call upon the name of the Lord to be saved are then accepted as such by God such that they are then pre-programmed (from the beginning of time) to be like Jesus. That is, all those who received Jesus as Lord and Saviour throughout all time will be received by God for that salvation and have been written into the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. This list becomes the election of God, those people who will become God’s elect and obtain all His promises for such.
This includes the promise to be made like Him who died for us, that is, to be conformed to the image of Christ.
And because God knows that they will call upon the name of the Lord, He also then calls them as His elect as a result of their acceptance of His gift of salvation (Romans 8:30). It simply means that those who have accepted the free gift of justification by faith (that is, man’s calling on the name of the Lord) will in turn be received (called) by God (as per God’s promise to accept all for salvation who call upon the name of the Lord). Note carefully that just because a man makes a free will choice to accept the gift of salvation offered by God through Jesus Christ does not automatically give that man any right to demand of God that he, the man, be saved! The calling of man upon the name of the Lord to be saved is by faith. That faith is man’s trust in the character of the God who has promised to save all who call upon the name of the Lord. Faith in God’s character says He will honour all His promises; and that faith (in things as yet unseen – see Hebrews 11:1) is rewarded by God (see Hebrews 11:6) who then calls His saved elect according to His promise to do so.
Moreover, according to Romans 8:29-30, not only are those who are foreknown by God predestinated to conform to the image of Christ, they are also called. That calling (of acceptance) by God is firstly a call to be justified, and then finally glorified (once we are rid of our earthly bodies). One process has been apparently omitted – sanctification – because this list appears to be an overview of the process, rather than a detailed list of every single part of the process from sinner to eternal life in heaven (that is, glorification). Sanctification is the ongoing process by which we are cleansed and prepared, made holy, set apart for the purposes of God.
All those who are to be conformed to the image of Christ are called, justified and then glorified by God. It is clear that it is in this order. And it begins with the foreknowledge of God (Romans 8:29).
In order to make a predetermined foreknowledge more palatable to the average Christian, calvinists will try to redefine “foreknowledge” as a predetermined relationship of God with his special people, the elect. MacArthur declares: “When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person” (Grace to You, “Considering Election (Not Politics)” – Article 132).
Does that mean that when a doctor gives you a prognosis (the Greek word for “foreknowledge”) on your health, he is really establishing a love relationship with you? It’s a wonder we don’t have more doctors struck off the register!
MacArthur, with apparently the same level of expertise (or lack thereof!) that he shows on the Granville Sharp rule, teaches the following:
Occasionally someone will suggest that God’s election is based on His foreknowledge of certain events. ….
But that is not the biblical meaning of “foreknowledge.” When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person. The word know, in both the Old and New Testament, refers to much more than mere cognitive knowledge of a person.
(What does the Bible teach about election? MacArthur)
MacArthur claims that the word “know” (yada) in the Old Testament means the similar establishing of an intimate predetermined relationship. For example – let me give you some illustrations so you’ll not be confused. Jeremiah 1:5. God says of Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I – ” what? “ – I knew you.” That’s the kind of knowing. What do you mean? I predetermined a relationship with you. That’s what it means. I predetermined a relationship with you. Amos 3:2. “Israel only have I known.” What does he mean? Israel is the only people I know anything about? They’re the only ones I’m observing? No. They’re the only ones with whom I have an intimate predetermined relationship. (“Chosen by God” Part 2 – John MacArthur Pages 5 & 6) (https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/60-3/chosen-by-god-part-2)
Please note that “knew” here is the Hebrew word “yada” which is used 947 times in the Old Testament, translated as “know” or “knew” 645 times in the KJV (and “known” another 105 times). MacArthur tries to say this is a special relationship of intimacy between God and His people. However, the same word is used in the following:
Genesis 19:5 – And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know (yada) them.
The exact same word “yada” is used, but cannot be translated as being anything to do with an intimate relationship at all! These men want homosexual intercourse with the angels inside Lot’s house.
Likewise note the following passages:
Judges 19:22 –Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know (yada) him. (that is, sexually)
Judges 19:25 – But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew (yada) her (that is, sexually), and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.
By the next morning this woman is found dead on the doorstep of the house. Talk about a loving relationship! I guess that MacArthur would then say that when God uses that term, it must be interpreted differently. Why? In other places (such as his Study Bible notes on Romans 8:29) he says that the same term (“foreknowledge” noun; “foreknow” verb) must be interpreted the same in each case. MacArthur seemingly chooses when a word must be different and when it must be the same, all based upon the requirements of his calvinistic doctrines. Likewise, “many” means “many” except when it doesn’t mean “many” via his misuse of Hebrew parallelism (see MacArthur is Wrong – Again!)
Also see The Foreknowledge of Sovereign God for further information on such.
Thus, the only logical and correct way to translate “foreknew/foreknow” in Romans 8:29 is to take it at its most straight-forward and simplest meaning, that God through His perfect knowledge of the future accepts those who call upon the name of the Lord to be saved and predestinates them to be conformed to the image of Christ. Any interpretation that can only be made using questionable assumptions and devious definitions must be rejected as spurious, having insufficient foundation upon which to build a truth of Scripture; such interpretations are uneducated opinions at best and lies at worst.
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