In this series of Biblical Terms, I’d like to again say that if you are prone to become angry or frustrated with Biblical views, then please do not read further. This article and piece is meant to help those looking for answers to questions they may have regarding certain definitions and explanations of terms found throughout the Bible. I hope you’ll come along for the ride though, and be challenged by what you read so that God may be more glorified in your life.
God is Omniscient
God is omniscient, which means that God knows the past, the present, and the future of all people and all things in existence. God knows everything quantitatively and qualitatively. God’s quality of knowing is what’s called omniscience. This is an Orthodox belief; that God is omniscient. The Bible teaches us this:
- God is perfect in knowledge (Job 37:16)
- God knows everything (1 John 3:20)
- All is laid open to God (Heb. 4:13; Matt. 10:29-30)
- He knows the future (Isa. 46:9-10; 42:8-9)
- He knows beforehand (Matt. 6:8)
- He knows the minute details (Matt. 10:30)
- He knows every action (Psalm 139:1-2)
- God knows when we will live and die (PS. 139:16)
It is said that God knows everything and everyone in one simple act; past, present, and future. So God’s omniscience is explained in this sentence: “God fully knows Himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and eternal act” (Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, pg. 190). So God not only knows what is going to happen or has happened, but all of the possibilities as well. What a God!
The Foreknowledge of God
When the Bible speaks of the foreknowledge of God, it’s in two different fashions: personal knowing and factual knowing. The foreknowledge of God refers to God knowing people intimately before they ever existed or ever came to be. The foreknowledge of God is not a decision or a selection of people (that would be called election), but lovingly knowing individuals in a saving relationship to Himself beforehand. For example:
Romans 8:29 describes God foreknowing those whom he predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. The foreknowing in this passage is toward a “whom”. It’s not toward a fact about a person, but the person himself. It’s an intimate and personal knowing that God has experienced. It’s a sense that God intimately knew these people before they ever existed, thus He predestined them.
This type of knowing is also what the Bible refers to in Genesis when Adam “knew” his wife Eve. They became intimate in a personal and loving manner. Another place of this knowing is found in 1 Peter. There are two places this sort of foreknowing in an intimate way shows up. In 1 Peter 1:2, we see in the context that Peter is showing how the elect are related to each of the Persons of the Trinity. “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ, and for sprinkling with His blood.” I love this! We see that Peter is talking about those who are saved: the elect in verse one. But then we see how these people are related to God the Father: elect…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. God decided, according to His foreknowledge of them, to saved…for obedience to Jesus Christ.
Then there’s verse 20 in chapter one. Talking of Jesus Christ’s relation to His Father, this verse clearly expounds on the fact that God knew Christ intimately before the foundations of the world. He foreknew Jesus.
Another example of this is Romans 11:2. God knew Israel intimately and lovingly before they ever existed. This relationship God has with His people is a pre-experienced love and care by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Knowing About Things
The second way to foreknow is when God plans something and knows beforehand what will come to pass. It’s the factual pre-knowledge of an event or action. Acts 2:23 describes this clearly. God planned ahead of time that Christ would be delivered up and crucified by the people. But not only did God plan it, but He knew exactly what would happen. This verse separates the two: the definite plan and the foreknowledge of that plan. It’s simply a cognitive knowing about something that will come to pass.
There are plenty other places where the Lord proves He knows things ahead of time, but these are just a few to show that the foreknowledge of God is taken in two different ways. One must always consider the context; whether the passage is talking about a “whom” or an “about” when it comes to knowing. God loves to know people before they ever exist (although they exist already in His heart and mind if He loves them).
What Causes God to Love Us and to Know Us Intimately Beforehand?
“He destined us in love to be His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5-6). God’s complete choice in destining us to be known intimately by Him was solely for His own purpose. His will determined it all. And it wasn’t determined by anything in us. So, what’s His will? We can see God’s ultimate will all throughout the Scriptures. I wish I had enough time to write them all down.
- Eph. 1:6 – to the praise of His glorious grace
- Isaiah 48:9-11 – for God’s own sake
- Psalm 23 – for His name’s sake
- 1 Cor. 1:23-24 – we are commanded to do all to God’s glory
- Rom. 15:8-9 – God’s ultimate goal of glorifying Himself
- 1 Peter 2:9 – we are called to praise Him
- Rom. 9:23 – election is to make His glory known to the objects of mercy
God desires above all else that His name be glorified and He be praised. This is His number 1 goal. And by Him loving us before the foundation of the world, we will glorify Him so much more. Are you known by God?