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29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.


God’s Foreknowledge, Part Three

He foreknew

There is no adequate basis for the word “foreknow” to refer to loving knowledge, as some say. Those who contend that foreknowledge is covenant love have to go outside lexical and normal New Testament usage to establish their point.

Paul contrasted foreknowledge with predestination in this verse. “Foreknowledge” does not have the connotation of choosing; it presupposes cognition and experiences that knowledge. God experiences an already-existing identity.

Some argue that God only foreknows because He predestines. This neutralizes the basic meaning of the term in the New Testament. God alone has genuine foreknowledge because of His omniscience. Omniscience is knowledge of everything and infinite knowledge that is unbounded. Foreknowledge is the knowledge of everything that will happen in exhaustive detail. There is no relation to cause in this. God knows what will happen regardless of the cause.

Whether we can explain this is irrelevant because finite beings cannot ever arrive at what an infinite being knows. We cannot limit foreknowledge to what He determines or causes. God’s foreknowledge cannot be limited to what is knowable or predetermined. Genuine foreknowledge relates to omniscience, not predetermination. The conclusion that foreknowledge means predetermination bases its conclusion on philosophical assumption and human logic rather than usage of the term in Scripture.

Jas 1:13-14, Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

There is no basis for foreknowledge being absorbed into predestination. Foreknowledge is a word and thought distinct from predestination. Both foreknowledge and predetermination brought the cross to pass (Acts 2:23; 4:28). Acts 2:23 clarifies 4:28. The case is different in Romans 8:29, where the relationship between foreknowledge and predestination is specified.

Foreknowledge and foreordination (predestination) are distinct from each other. God’s foreknowledge makes something certain but not necessary. Pharaoh was responsible for hardening his heart even though God foreknew it. Thus, the actions of men are certain but not necessary because of foreknowledge.

This passage says only that God foreknew believers will be conformed into the image of Christ, and no more. To have it say anything further would be reading into the passage. The previous verse makes clear God’s purpose—“all things work together for good” for believers. God foreknew that He would bring believers to glory/glorification. That is the contextual argument. Foreknowledge looks at the beginning of God’s plan and predestination looks at the end of His plan.


Foreknowledge is the beginning of God’s plan and predestination is the end of His plan.


I don’t believe that unless God determines something will happen He cannot “know” that it will. It is one thing to claim that God controls all events by affirming some and allowing others, but it is another to say that God is the cause of every event (although He gives permission by concurring with that event). Clearly God predetermined His plan of salvation in Christ from eternity (Eph 1:3-4). The goal of that plan is to bring believers into the likeness of Christ (this verse).