My blog is a testament of my personal opinions. I always try to do as much research as time will allow in preparing these writings. If the topic is of a spiritual or Christian doctrinal nature, I pray to God He will have His Holy Spirit instruct me as to what to say. If you disagree with what I write, you can always leave a comment at the bottom of this post. We all have a right to our own opinions, although I have learned by personal experience that some opinions are more informed and researched than others.
This month, I would like to write about the omniscience of God. Basically that means the ability of the Godhead to know everything. For hundreds and hundreds of years, philosophers great and small have rationalized whether or not God’s omniscience exists outside of time or within time.
If God knows all things outside of time, what we perceive as the past, present and future are seen as being simultaneous to Him. He set the heavenly bodies in place, then set them in motion for our sakes in order to created cycles of light and dark, days and nights, weeks and years, etc. If God exists within time (our time), His knowledge is limited to the past and present. To understand the way in which God deals with humankind and the way His ultimate plan works out, it is extremely important to decide which form of divine omniscience we believe.
For example, let us examine free will. If God works with our time, then we would say that God has purposely denied Himself the ability to see what our free will decisions will be. Then, after we make them, He reacts to them by changing whatever He needs to change in all the rest of reality to still make His ultimate plan come to pass. Those who believe God works outside of our time tend to believe that God has already at some point determined how all things will end based upon everyone’s free will decisions He has already seen. For I believe we can all agree, in the end, God’s will shall be done. If you don’t agree, I can give you one scripture among many that will prove my point: First John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask for anything according to His will, He hears us.” The word “will” here means “determined purpose”.
Then, carrying this subject further into the territory of salvation, there are those who believe in what I call “hard core” predestination (or Calvinists). They hold to the doctrine that God’s ultimate sovereignty allows Him to override the free will He’s given us at His whim, and use us any way He desires to have His will accomplished. According to them, man’s free will was taken away as a punishment for the Great Fall. So it is God’s purpose to fulfill His desire that none should perish by determining that all be saved. Unfortunately, Calvinists miss the point of the use of the word “willing” in Second Peter 3:8,9, "The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not willing (boulomenos) that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." Boulomenos means “to determine”, so a casual reading of those verses makes it sound as if God determines that all should be saved and none should perish. Yet, to put things in their proper perspective, we must pay attention to the subject of these verses, “...but is forbearing toward you...” Peter is concerned about the perseverance of the saints here. He is not addressing the salvation of all people, although we know it is God’s desire (theleo) for them to be saved. In First Timothy 2:1-4, Paul says that the reason we should pray for kings and all in high positions is that this may bring about a quiet and peaceable life which "is good, and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who wills (desires - thelei) all persons to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
One of a Calvinist’s favorite passages might be found in Romans 9:15,16, “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not therefore, depend upon man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” Then Paul continues to write about God raising Pharaoh up in power only to be made an example of when he is defeated by the power of God. Verse 18 reads, “Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” Don’t get me wrong. The “hard core” predestinationists are correct in assuming God’s full omniscience. But when it comes to salvation, they are simply not applying that omniscience to this passage. First off, Paul is addressing the Jews of the church in this section of Romans who are upset that Paul is teaching that Gentiles have access to the same salvation they have through their same Messiah, Jesus Christ. Paul is telling them, “Look, I can’t help how you feel, God’s mercy through Jesus Christ is available to everyone.”
But furthermore, if we consider the foreknowledge of God, it makes perfect sense that God would certainly have mercy upon those who He has seen will have deserved it through their free will decisions. And certainly, just like Pharaoh, He hardens the hearts of those whom He has been patient with, but they continue to rebel. A careful reading of the plagues of Egypt reveal that nine times Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Bu the tenth time, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. This perfectly aligns with the biblical teaching of God’s patience with us, but His point of no return. Second Thessalonians 2:10-12, “...and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason, God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” Romans 1:28-32, “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” “Depraved mind” means that God has ultimately rejected them. He has seen they are not going to change so He has hardened their hearts.
While there is no biblical doubt that God predestines certain people to carry out bits and pieces of His divine plan, we have to understand their calling was according to God’s knowledge that they would achieve what He sent them to achieve, (whether they be for or against God’s will). Read Jeremiah the prophet 1:5, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee."
I believe the best explanation of how God predestines people to salvation is found in Romans 8:28-30. Unfortunately, many Christians are only familiar with verse 28, but do not realize that the following verses explain why verse 28 is true. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called (appointed) according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined (predetermined in advance) to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Please notice how important it is to realize before God predestined a person, His omniscience let Him see that person’s free will decisions first. The word “foreknew” actually means “to get to know; to become acquainted with”. Also notice this entire passage is written in the past tense. Even the final stage of our salvation – the glorification of our incorruptible bodies is spoken of as already being done according to God’s perspective. Knowing that God has appointed, justified and even glorified us according to His divine omniscience is the reason we can say that all things indeed work for the good who love Him! We have to keep in mind that we’re not God. We really don’t know who He has predestined to eternal life. The essence of why Paul wrote this is summed up in verse 31, “ What then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul was a good cheerleader for bolstering faith.
Unfortunately, there are some believers that may have the thought, “If everything has been predetermined, and God knows everything I’m going to think, say and do before I do it, where is the incentive to live as an obedient, faithful and holy life as I can? Heck, I’m God’s child. I’m going to heaven anyway.” When you think about it, God’s omniscience is no excuse to ignore the Word of God and all it teaches. Whether God knows our free will decisions beforehand or not doesn’t relieve us of our duty to be obedient and faithful. If it did, then we would simply be putting our salvation in jeopardy, which God would also already know! I prefer to look at God’s omniscience as a mysterious, but amazing and awesome divine quality of God that once again proves that He is, in fact, utterly sovereign. Knowing that builds my faith and makes me want to be even more dedicated than ever to the Trinity. What about you?
As always, God bless your life, and love others with the love in which God loves you.