Q&A Forum: God’s Foreknowledge

What is God’s foreknowledge? (1 Peter 1:2)

Peter is writing to Christians who were suffering, especially in the sense of being ridiculed and reproached. It was likely going to get worse. In the face of such belittling of their Christian lifestyles, Peter encourages them to grasp, in contrast, the wonderful status which God had given them. This would help them to face their trials. They had heaven as their homeland, and were strangers in an earthly society. The word “elect” in the original belongs in verse one, and is best viewed as an adjective; thus they were “elect strangers,” scattered in these various places mentioned. “Rejected” as to earth, but “elected” as to heaven.

This elect status is in keeping with three things, involving the three persons of the Godhead: 1) The foreknowledge of God; 2) The sanctification of the Spirit; and 3) Obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. As to the first, their present position was not a mistake, a surprise, or somehow a contradiction. Their presence as strangers on earth, bearing reproach, yet as God’s chosen ones, was all part of the Divine plan.
As to the second, what they were was the result of the Spirit of God operating, and He was the power behind their separation out from society. As to the last, obedience brought salvation (4:17), and marked their lives (they were now children of obedience, 1:14). This obedience was the very thing that brought their suffering, but it was also part of God’s plan. If their obedience failed at times, the blood of Christ still covered them.

“Foreknowledge,” is used twice as a noun in the NT: Acts 2:23 and here, 1 Peter 1:2. We get our word “prognosis” from it. In verb forms, it is used five times in the NT: Acts 26:5, Romans 8:29, 11:2, 1 Peter 1:20, and 2 Peter 3:17. It often simply means “knowing beforehand, prescience.” In classical greek, this was its only meaning. However, in the NT it seems to also have a sense of purpose conveyed, not least in regard to Christ as the Lamb for sacrifice (1Peter 1:20). We might understand it in terms of “taking note of,” with some “interest” in mind. Put simply, these Christians, mostly Gentiles, had heard the gospel, and obeyed the call. They had been wrought upon by the Holy Spirit, essential in every conversion. They found themselves suffering because of their faithfulness; yet Peter assures them that they are citizens of heaven. If any of them wondered if Israel in the OT was better off, or more special, Peter tells them, “you, too, are elect, separated by divine power, cleansed by blood, and heading to an inheritance.” We can see then, that just as God’s plan involved Christ the foreordained (or foreknown) Lamb, so His plan involved people being associated with Him. It is available to all, but only experienced by those who respond to the Spirit’s work and who obey the gospel. Note that Peter is not so much giving doctrinal details, but giving much- needed comfort to saints. All that was happening to them was part of the plan God had in mind.