And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:28-30)
Predestination rests in foreknowledge. God’s foreknowledge is the ground of the predestination of his elect. But what is this foreknowledge? Is foreknowledge simply knowing beforehand, or is it something more?
Rather than go into a philosophical discussion of the various theories of God’s foreknowledge and what it means, I want to just point out four quick points on foreknowledge and its relationship to predestination from this text.
But before I do that let me tell you what the word foreknowledge must imply, for Arminians and Calvinists alike. Foreknowledge must imply a knowledge of the future. That God does not know the future is a heresy beyond words. So, since we’re all on the same page with this let me tell you about the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and his predestination.
Point #1. According to Romans 8, foreknowledge precedes predestination. In other words, God knows some thing about the future and that knowledge happens before his act of predestination.
Point #2. Foreknowledge in Romans 8 is not knowledge in the abstract…it has an object. It has many objects, in fact. Those objects are people. That’s why it reads like this, “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.”
Although God does know future events and actions of everyone, this is not what is in view in Romans 8. Rather, God foreknows people in this verse. He knows specific people and he predestines them to be conformed to the image of his Son.
Point #3. Everyone is not in view in Romans 8. Again, God foreknows specific people. It is those whom he foreknows that he predestines. As far as I know there is not a wide debate on the meaning of ‘predestine’. It means simply to ‘settle beforehand’. It has been settled beforehand that those whom God foreknew would be conformed to the image of Christ.
Point #4. Therefore, foreknowledge in Romans 8 means to know a specific group of people beforehand. In saying that God ‘knows’ this specific group of people (those who are being conformed to the image of Christ) a narrower meaning of ‘know’ is evident, since God ‘knows’ everyone. So God’s foreknowledge in Romans 8 is limited to a specific group of people that he knows in an intimate sort of way.