A Brief Look at Election and Foreknowledge

1 Peter 1:1-2  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,  2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

Peter addresses his first epistle to the “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”.  There is a long debate over the relationship with God’s sovereign election and mankind’s free will.  A related discussion is the aspect of “foreknowledge” as helping reconcile the two.  The argument goes like this: God looked into the future and saw who would believe on Jesus as savior.  He then elected those persons to salvation.  This is an valiant attempt to bring election and free will together, but it fails under closer scrutiny.  Here’s why.

First, it makes God’s will subservient to the will of the individual.  Under the “foreknowledge” argument, God is dependent on the choice of the person.  However, by His very character, God is transcendent from His creation and therefore acts independent from the choices of mankind.

Second, other passages of Scripture confirm that God elects (or chooses) those who will be saved.  For example,

Ephesians 1:4  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

John 6:37  All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Mark 13:20  And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.

God is not dependent upon the choices of mankind for His election.

Third, the Greek word translated “foreknowledge” is prognōsis and means “prearrangement”.  For example,

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:

Surely this doesn’t mean that God looked into the future and saw that Christ was going to die.  Rather, it means that God prearranged for Christ to be delivered unto death.

Therefore, the common argument that foreknowledge explains the conflict between election and free will fails.  So how do we reconcile them?  I would argue that we don’t.  The Bible is clear that God is sovereign and chooses His elect.  But the Bible also confirms each person’s free will (John 3:16, “…whosoever believeth..”; Matt. 16:25, “…whosoever will…”; et al.).  This is a difficulty that goes beyond the ability of us to explain.  So we trust God—recognizing His sovereignty and sharing the Gospel with those who need to accept Christ.  We leave the unknowns to the Lord.