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.