6 Ways Peter Identifies the Church: Part 3: Foreknown

The third distinguishing mark of the church is that they have been loved before the foundation of the world.

Before the world existed we were objects of God’s hesed loyal love.

The idea of foreknowledge is not simply that God had a factoid in his head about who we would be and what we would choose. Rather, the word emphasizes God’s act of affection toward his particular people before they were born and could do anything good or bad (Romans 9:11).

These opening verses in 1 Peter have reignited my passion for the sovereign grace of God.

There are basically two ways to understand the Church’s distinction from the world:

1) The Arminian would say that God’s election is his free grace toward all who believe in Jesus; he CHOOSES those who have faith in him. This concept of election emphasizes his choosing the KIND of people who would be in his kingdom, namely, those who have faith and repentance and believe in Jesus. From this perspective, God’s “purpose in election” is his decision to save repentant sinners rather than physical descendants of Abraham.

2) The Calvinist would say that God’s election means he chooses to save certain people prior to their personal decision to respond to him. This concept of election emphasizes his choosing specific people according to his free grace. He does not choose people because of their repentance and faith, but rather, people’s repentance and faith are a result of his choosing them.

We can learn a lot from the Arminian. To name a few:

1) God saves all who call upon him (John 1:12, Rom 10:9)

2) Human choice is infinitely significant, and God holds all persons accountable for their decisions (Deut 28-29)

3) We are to call all people to faith and repentance (Acts 17:30)

4) God is all about love and relationship (1 John 4:8, 16)

In short, I love the way Arminians emphasize the significance of human will and choice. God is a God of Relationality and covenant love between a multiplicity of persons, each exercising a willing engagement with the other.

Sometimes Calvinist circles fail to recognize this and make God seem fatalistic. He is not.

Yet, that said,

1) The Bible clearly teaches that new birth precedes faith (1 John 5:1).

Jesus speaks of Peter’s faith as a gift from the Father by the Spirit (Matt 16:17).

2) The Bible explicitly connects people’s belief in Jesus to God’s choosing (Acts 13:48).

3) The Bible explicitly says 100% who are called are justified and glorified (Rom 8:29-30). This means there is a specific, selective call to a distinct group of people. Precisely the people Peter here calls “elect” and “foreknown.”

4) The Bible uses metaphors that intentionally exclude the operation of human volition to emphasize the freedom of God’s grace to save, like people being given a new heart and people being raised from the dead (Ezek 36; Jeremiah 31; Eph 2)

5) The Bible uses the image of the nation of Israel, who was chosen not because of their faith or volition but because of God’s freedom, as a metaphor for the Church (Deut 7:6-11).

I would gladly affirm the significance of human choice. And all the good Calvinists like Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin would too.

However, I would not affirm the significance of human choice to the exclusion of the realities below:

1) The reason I know Jesus is because God chose me.

2) The difference between me and my friend who hates God is not my choice, but rather God’s choice to not leave me in my hatred of God.

3) I owe Jesus everything.

My problem with Arminianism is that it tends to exclude the above realities and belittle the fullness of God’s grace toward those who believe.

I believe this excludes the biblical idea and weight of God’s foreknowledge.


Sailhamer’s Interpretative Translation of Genesis 1


1:1 Long ago God created the world.  He created the sun, the moon, and the stars, as well as all the creatures which inhabit the earth.  He created all of them out of nothing–not in a single instant of time, but over a vast period of time.

1:2 God’s world, however, was not complete.  He had not yet created human beings and the land where He intended to put them was not yet suitable for them.  It was covered by a deep ocean and the sun could not penetrate the dense fog which covered the waters.  God’s Spirit, however, was already present over the waters covering the land. 3 One day God set out to prepare the land for human beings.  First, while the darkness of night still hung over the vast surface of the waters, God spoke, calling on the sun to rise and break through the darkness. 4 God saw that, now, the land was on its way to becoming a very good place for the man and woman to dwell. 5 God named the sunlight “day,” and the darkness He named “night.” When the sun broke through the darkness that morning, it showed that a special work of God had begun.

6 On the second day of that week, God again spoke.  This time He commanded the fog to lift up from upon the waters to form clouds over the land.  7 In that way God filled the sky over the land with clouds. 8 He also named the area where the clouds floated overhead, the “skies.”

9 On the third day of that week, God spoke again, commanding the waters upon the land to gather  into lakes, rivers and streams so that there would be dry land for human beings and water for the beautiful garden He was preparing for them. 10 When they had obeyed His command, He named the dry areas the “land” and the lakes, rivers and streams where the waters had gathered He named the “seas.”  God saw that the dry land was now good for human beings.  11 On that same day, God spoke a second time, commanding the land to sprout fruit trees.  12 The land obeyed and was immediately covered with trees bearing all sorts of fruit.  This too God saw was good for human beings.  13 That was the end of the third day.

14 As He had done on each of the preceding days, God spoke on the fourth day to issue a decree that the heavenly bodies were to serve a particular purpose for those who were to dwell on the land. They were to remind God’s creatures of His power and grace, and they were to mark the arrival of the great feast days when His people were to worship Him in the land. 15 Such special purposes for the heavenly bodies were in addition to their natural function as sources of light upon the land. 16 So we see that God had a purpose in mind when long ago He created the sun and the moon, as well as the stars.  They were to provide a time frame for those who dwell on the land. 17 God also put them in the sky to provide bright light in the daytime 18 and faint light in the night–this was good for human beings. 19 So ended the fourth day.

20 On the fifth day, God spoke again.  He commanded the fish and water creatures to fill the lakes, rivers and streams in the land and the birds to fill the skies over the land.  21 On that same day God created sea creatures and birds of all sizes to dwell in the land.  22 Moreover, God blessed them so that they might abundantly increase throughout the land and skies. 23 That was the end of the events of the fifth day.

24 Once more God spoke.  This time on the beginning of the sixth day, He commanded the land to bring forth various kinds of animal life; small creatures, domesticated creatures, and wild animals. 25 So it was God who made those creatures for the land.  These, He saw, would be good for man.

26 On that same day, God spoke again.  He said, “Let us make human beings. Let us make them persons like ourselves.  And let them rule over all the other creatures in the land, those in the skies, the seas, and the dry land.” 27 So God created human beings.  He made them persons–male and female. 28 Then He spoke once again.  This time He blessed the human beings with the promise of having children and families in the land He had just prepared for them.  29, Then, for the tenth and last time, God spoke again. “See all the fruit trees I have made in this land,” He said.  “I put them there for your nourishment. 30 Also, the animals may eat the other vegetation which will grow in the land. 31 Finally, God saw that all He had made in the land was very good for the man and the woman.

2:1 The world which God had made was now complete. 2 So, on the seventh day, God ceased working. 3 He blessed and sanctified the seventh day as the time to cease from one’s work and worship God. 4 That is the story of the creation of the world.