In this regular feature Dave and Tom respond to questions and listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here is this week’s question: Dear T. A. and Dave, I just met someone the other day who said he was a five-point Calvinist. I don’t know whether I was more shocked by what he said he believed or by how convinced he was about his beliefs. I’ve been a Christian for about five years, and I attend a small church which is very Bible-oriented. Even so, I’ve never heard such teachings before. Could you give me a brief biblical definition of the following terms: Foreknowledge, Predestination, Election, and Chosen? Thanks.
Tom: Well, Dave, you know, one of the things I’ve learned from this book here that you’ve finished and hopefully will be out by the time this program airs (it’s called What Love is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God), was that prior to reading the book, I would sort of avoid doctrines like predestination, foreknowledge, election - I had some ideas about them, but I didn’t wrestle with them. But I found from reading your book that they are wonderful! I mean, why wouldn’t they be wonderful doctrines? They're in the Word of God. But I never really understood them or took a close look at them until I read your book. So, foreknowledge - that should be straightforward enough.
Dave: The Greek word is the one we use for prognosis, progonosko, and it simply means “to know ahead of time.” Now the Bible always links foreknowledge with election and predestination. First Peter 1: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God," or Romans 8, “Whom he foreknew he did predestinate.” Now the Calvinist, of course, does not want to have any basis for predestination or election except that God just decided it, and he wants to link predestination and election with salvation, and in fact, they are not. Predestination, or election, is unto a blessing, unto something that God has marked out ahead of time for those that He knew would respond to the gospel. Otherwise, what’s the point of having foreknowledge linked with predestination? But the Calvinist says no, what it means is those that He determined beforehand.
So now we have a redundancy. Those that he determined beforehand, He elected beforehand, or those that He predestined, He predestined. But foreknowledge, I think from the Scriptures - you're going to have to introduce some other ideas to change it - simply that God knew ahead of time, and I can’t give you the many other examples of that, but we have examples that show this is what that word means.
Tom: Dave, predestination - I know you included it in that definition of foreknowledge, but just give me a simple definition of it.
Dave: It’s something that God marked out beforehand as a blessing for certain people; those that He knew would respond to the gospel. So Romans 8, “Whom he foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son...." So the ones that He knew, He marked out beforehand a blessing, "elect according to the foreknowledge..."
Tom: Well that’s the next one: "Election."
Dave: Well, I believe it’s the same thing, election and predestination. "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God..." that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. Or in Ephesians 1, we are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, again, that we should be holy and without blame before Him as he has predestined us. We are elected to become the sons of God. See, God could save us without making us His children. He could deliver us from His judgment without blessing us to be joint heirs with Christ, so the things that - the blessings that God marked out beforehand, that is what He predestinated us to, or elected us to, or chose us to.
Now the word "chosen" is used in a number of different ways.For example, it doesn't always mean...in fact, as far as I know, it doesn’t mean, ever, "chosen to salvation." You are chosen to a particular work, to a ministry, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you are saved. For example, we just went through John 6 a few weeks ago, and Jesus says, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?”
Tom: Referring to Judas.
Dave: Right. “This spake he of Judas.” So, Judas had been chosen by Christ to be a disciple, and to serve Him, and so forth. And in fact he did not live up to that. He did not fulfill it. In John 15...
Tom: And certainly, according to the Scriptures, he certainly didn’t have eternal life.
Tom: He rejected it.
Dave: Right. In John 15 when we get to it, Jesus says, “You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.” Well, again, He doesn’t say "chosen unto salvation," but He’s chosen them to be His disciples. He’s called them to follow him. He’s empowered them to preach the gospel and so forth, to minister healing, but you can’t take that to mean, "Well, then. if Jesus said, 'You haven’t chosen me, I’ve chosen you,' that we did not have to give our consent. I can say that to any employee. An employer could say to the employee, "You didn’t choose me, I chose you." That doesn’t mean that the employee doesn’t have to agree to work for the employer. The employer is saying. "Look, you couldn’t force yourself on me. I’m the one that has the final say. I initiated this. I offered you the job, but you still had to accept it."
We can’t force ourselves on God. We can’t make God save us; we can’t make God bless us. This all comes from God’s side, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have to receive Him as many: John:1:12, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Well but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t receive Him. We did! Verse 12 says that. But verse 13 is saying, look, man could not cause himself to be born again. Man could not force himself upon God. In fact, man can’t "born-again" himself, give himself a new birth. Only God could do this, but there is still something - we have to accept it: the gospel says eternal life is a gift. A gift must be accepted, and if you try to force a gift on someone, it is not a gift anymore.