Getting to Know God’s Foreknowledge: A Survey of the New Testament

silhouette of mountain under starry night

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout
the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,
who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,
through the sanctifying work of the Spirit,
to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.
— 1 Peter 1:1–2 NIV —

On Sunday, I preached the first message in sermon series on 1 Peter. Considering the opening salutation, we spent most of our time getting to know Peter, his audience (the elect exiles scattered in Asia Minor), and the triune God—Father, Spirit, and Son. As with many of Paul’s letters, Peter packs a robust theology into his greeting. And one phrase in particular is worth noting: “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

More fully, we have Peter addressing elect exiles who are “chosen” (see 1 Peter 2:4, 9) “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” In the ESV, the distance between the addressees and the source of their election stands in relative distance, with the five regions of Asia listed in between. This matches the way that Greek reads, but it can miss how Peter is qualifying “elect exiles” with verse 2. For this reason, the NIV supplies a repetition of elect, when it says “those who are chosen.” See above.

Still, the translation of the Greek is not as difficult as understanding what “according to foreknowledge” means. Is this a tacit admission that God chooses his elect based upon their future faith (an Arminian view)? Or is it a case where God chooses his elect based upon his free and sovereign grace without any consideration of what his creatures will later do (a Calvinistic view)? Or is it something else?

However one interprets this phrase, we can acknowledge this is one of those places in the New Testament where Christians do disagree on how to understand the biblical doctrine of election and predestination. I have written on this subject (here and here), preached on it (Ephesians 1 and Titus 1), and you can find an excellent treatment on this topic in Robert Peterson’s biblical theology, Election and Free Will: God’s Gracious Choice and Our Response.  

Still, the particular question of foreknowledge deserves a particular answer, and in what follows here, I will survey the use of the word “foreknowledge” (proginoskō) in the New Testament to see what we can learn. As we go, I will show why the best way to understand this word, and its use in 1 Peter 1:1–2, is to affirm God’s sovereign, eternal, and unconditional election of individuals to salvation. In other words, foreknowledge, as I will show below, should be understood as a word that conveys “loved beforehand” or even “loved by God before the world began.” Thus, 1 Peter 1:1–2 should be read as Peter addressing God’s elect, who were predestined in love before the foundation of the world. That’s the conclusion of the matter, now let’s consider the biblical support.  Continue reading

Redemption, Covenant, and Dwelling: Seeing the Three-Fold Pattern of Salvation in the Book of Exodus

jesus saves neon signage

Patterns are everywhere. In aviation, you have flight patterns; in economics, you have patterns in the stock market, in detective work, police look for patterns of suspicious behavior; and in sports, defensive coordinators look for patterns in the offensive schemes of opposing teams. In short, we live in a world full of patterns!

And these patterns are just one hint that behind the created order, there is a Creator who has stamped his design on creation. Similarly, in the Bible we learn that there are patterns in redemption. And nowhere is this more true than in the book of Exodus. In Exodus we are introduced to God’s pattern of redemption—substitution, conquest, covenant, and glorious dwelling. These patterns repeat again and again in Scripture, and they are so important that even Jesus says to Moses and Elijah in Luke 9:31 that he is soon going to lead his own New Exodus. So today, as we begin to look at Exodus, we do so by recognizing the pattern of salvation found therein. Continue reading

Woman, Behold Your Son . . . : A Good Friday Meditation on Jesus’s Third Saying from the Cross (John 19:26–27)

goodfriday0426 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
— John 19:26–27 —

This week our church did a series of devotions on Holy Week. You can find them here. Here’s my message on Jesus’s third saying from the cross.

Found in John 19:26–27, Jesus said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son,” and to John, his beloved disciple, he said, “Behold your mother.”

While this verse shows how Jesus care for his mother, it does more than that. It shows how Jesus is forming a new family from all those who will trust in him. If you trust in Christ, this is your family—a family that is created by shared faith in the crucified Christ and resurrected Lord.

On Good Friday, our good news is found in this fact: Jesus died alone on the cross, receiving in his body the wrath of God, so that we would spend eternity together with him, as children forgiven by his sacrifice. In light of our world’s current pandemic and its associated self-isolation, this news is exceedingly good. What we experience now—isolation from one another—is what Jesus came to take away for all those who trust him. Though we taste the bitterness of disease, death, and distance, Jesus is going to one day remove all of these effects of sin.

On this Good Friday, may our hearts find rest in Christ and his finished work. And may his words to Mary and John teach us how to find a place in God’s family, so that for all of eternity we will be with him and all those who love the appearing of the Son of God.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

 

The Light is Dawning on Those Whom God is Saving: 10 Things about John 3:1–21

hence-the-boom-vbQsU3kVVPI-unsplashFor God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, 
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
— John 3:16 —

John 3:16 is a glorious diamond, but it only one jewel in the crown of John 3.

Many times we quote, hear, and share John 3:16 without its context in John’s Gospel. This is not a bad thing. A single diamond is beautiful, but set in an engagement ring or on a king’s crown, the placement makes the diamond better. The same is true when we put John 3:16 back into the Bible and see what comes around it.

In what follows, I outline ten things about John 3:1–21 to help us better understand this whole section of John’s Gospel.

1. The flow of John 2–4 moves from light to darkness.

It is well recognized that John’s Gospel turns on the themes of light and darkness. Already in John 1:9 we heard John say, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” Later, Jesus will say, “I am the light of the world” (8:12). But what about in between? Is there a theme of light dawning in chapters 2–8? I believe there is, or at least we see a progression of light in John 2–4. Consider this outline: Continue reading

Judgment Then Salvation: Seeing the Good News in Isaiah 13–27

jon-tyson-XmMsdtiGSfo-unsplashIsaiah 13–27 is perhaps the most challenging portion of Isaiah to read and understand. Yet, it plays a significant role in impressing the weight of God’s glory on the reader. Jim Hamilton has rightly argued that God’s glory is found salvation and judgment, and no book confirms that argument better than Isaiah.

Indeed, to feel the weight (N.B. In Hebrew, the word glory, kavod, comes from the word heavy, kavēd) of God’s glorious salvation, we need to come to grips with God’s holy judgment. And no part of Isaiah presses us down into God’s judgment like Isaiah 13–27. That may be one of the reasons why these chapters are difficult, but I would suggest there are others too.

In what follows I want to look at why this section is hard to understand. Then I want to show how these chapters fit together and what we can gain from them. May these reflections help us to read Isaiah and see the glory of God in his salvation and judgment. Continue reading

The Gospel of Peace: Hearing the Message of ‘Shalom’ in the Book of Isaiah

peaceIsaiah has sometimes been called ‘the fifth gospel,’ and for good reason. It is filled with good news about the salvation God will bring in Christ. And the more time we spend in the book, the more we discover themes of salvation, justice, righteousness, and peace.

On this note, we can learn much about the message of Isaiah by tracing various themes through the book (e.g., Zion/Jerusalem, kingdom, servant, etc.). Today I want to trace the theme of shalōm (peace, well-being). By keeping an eye on this theme, we can see how the whole book hangs together and how God, the maker of light and darkness, shalom and calamity (Isa. 45:7), has brought peace to a people who have rejected peace in their pursuit of wickedness.

In fact, as we will see, the way that God makes peace with rebellious sinners in Isaiah follows the contours of the gospel. Or perhaps, stated better, the gospel we come to know from the apostles finds it origins in the promise of peace in Isaiah. Let’s take a look. Continue reading

The Strength That God’s Sovereignty Supplies and the Judgment God’s Sovereignty Justifies

pexels-photo-32625610  The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11  The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
12  Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
— Psalm 33:10–12 —

Throughout the book of Joshua we see the personal presence of God. In battle after battle, Yahweh fights for Israel. Through his appointed leader Joshua, God brings justice on a land whose sin has finally come to judgment (cf. Gen. 15:16), and he brings salvation to Israel, as more than 31 city-states rise to fight God’s people (Joshua 12)..

Indeed, if there is any theme that recurs in Joshua is God’s sovereignty over the affairs of the nations. As Psalm 33:10 puts it, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.” Yet, God’s sovereignty does more than run roughshod over the affairs of men. His personal actions in the world actually bring to fruition the sins of the nations, which in turn demonstrates his righteousness in bringing judgment on evil. Simultaneously, his covenant promises lead his people to bold action. Rather than passively waiting for God to act, God’s actions impel his people to follow suit.

Joshua teaches us, therefore, how God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility work together. In particular, we see God’s sovereignty in his judgment and salvation. And for those of us who are seeking to know God and his ways in the world, it is worth our time to consider both. In what follows, we will consider how these often confused and competing themes (God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility) work in harmony. Continue reading

How God’s Judgment upon Achan’s Sin Teaches Us to Find Grace in Christ: 10 Things about Joshua 7

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashAchan’s sin has often been used and misused to identify sin in the life of Christians today. But what does it mean in its original context? And how should we apply it today? Here are ten things about Achan, his sin, God’s wrath, and God’s grace, all found in Joshua 7.

1. Joshua 7 is not (primarily) about prayerlessness or sinful self-reliance.

What is Joshua 7 about? Many want to single out Joshua’s lack of prayer or the spies foolish self-confidence as the problem in Joshua 7. Others want to commend Joshua for taking the next step into the land without waiting. Wryly, Dale Ralph Davis cites these conflicting interpretations and observes,

One expositor blames Joshua for acting without prayer while another commends him for acting with haste; one says it was bad that action was taken without prayer, yet the other claims it was good to have action without sloth. We are at hermeneutical sea unless we take seriously the writer’s own intention as expressed in verse 1. (Joshua, 59)

Indeed, Joshua 7 demonstrates many evidences of the author’s intention and by paying attention to the literary shape of the passage, we can see that God’s presence and the satisfaction of God’s wrath stand at the center of this story. Continue reading

Learning to Lament: Ten Things About Psalm 13

10 things

In preparation for Sunday’s sermon on the need for lament in biblical worship, here are ten observations from Psalm 13, an individual lament of David.

1. Psalm 13 is an individual psalm that was recorded for public use.

Psalm 13 begins with the superscription (ss), “To the Choirmaster. A Psalm of David.” From this inspired introduction, we learn the source of this Psalm (David) and how it was to be used (in the corporate assembly, as led by the choirmaster). This use of first-person pronouns (I, me, my) in corporate worship is interesting, because it causes the corporate gathering to speak of personal pain. This teaches us something about our own singing today and the use of pronouns, but it also shows us how these Psalms were used. Clearly, they are meant to be used by all the saints, even as they come from the personal life of David.

2. Psalm 13 is prototypical psalm of lament. 

In the Bible we find individual laments (Pss. 6, 13, 22, 35, 28, 42–43, 88, 102, 109, 142; Jer. 20:7–11) and corporate laments (Pss. 44, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 89; cf. Lam. 5; Jer. 14; Isa. 63:7–64:12; Hab. 1). These psalms typically express a sense of divine loss and longing for God’s return. While each lament is different, they follow a typical pattern:

  • Invocation / Address to God 
  • Complaint 
  • Petition(s)
  • Expression of Trust
  • Vow of Praise

Psalm 13 follows this pattern as David cries out to God, unburdens his soul, makes his petitions, and finishes with a vow of praise. Continue reading

Cornerstone: Finding Life in the House of the Lord (Matthew 7:24–8:1)

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Cornerstone: Finding Life in the House of the Lord (Matthew 7:24–8:1)

Hurricanes. Tornados. Floods. Fires. Earthquakes.

In our world, not a week goes by that we are not confronted with extreme and life-threatening weather. Yet, there is a storm coming that exceeds anything that we have ever known. It is the storm of the Lord that will purify everything on the earth, on the way to making all things new.

On Sunday, our last sermon from Matthew 7 considered this storm and the shelter which is found in the words of Jesus Christ. Indeed, considering the way Christ finished his Sermon on the Mount, we hear again his clarion call to prepare for the last day.

You can find this sermon and the whole sermon series online. There are also response questions below. Continue reading