by Michael Bremmer

Michael Bremmer

Our final appeal is the Scripture themselves. We would ask the reader only to consider one thing: How much exegetical gymnastics must you use to have the Scriptures say other then the plain and clear meaning.

"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might become the first born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified, and whom He justified, these He also glorified" (Rom. 8.29).

The key word in this passage is "foreknew." Foreknew is two Greek words, pro , which means before, and ginosko , meaning to know. Proginosko can mean simply to know before hand, and is used in this sense often in Scripture. However, ginosko also has a deeper meaning. In Hosea, for example, God says of Israel: "I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought" (13.5 KJV). God is not merely saying that He had a knowledge of them. In Jeremiah God says to the Prophet, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" (1.5). Again, God is not merely pointing to the fact that He is omnipresent. God was speaking about the special relationship that He had with Jeremiah before God actually formed Him in his mother's womb!

Another example is Amos 3.2: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth . . . " (KJV). God is speaking of the nation Israel. God is not saying that He is unaware of other people on the earth. The sense is that God had an intimate personal relationship with Israel alone. In the New Testament, Jesus says of those who practice lawlessness, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in your name perform miracles?' And I will declare to them, I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness' " (Mt. 7.23). Obviously Jesus is not saying that He had no knowledge of these people, but that these people did not belong to Him. (See also 1 Cor. 8.3; Gal. 4.9; 2 Tm. 2.19; 1 Jn. 3.1).

Ginosko , when used of God as the subject, sometimes means that God "recognize someone as belonging to Him, choose, almost = elect." ( Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich 2 ed. P. 161d). Ginosko clearly sometimes has a deeper meaning than mere knowledge. Often it is used synonymously with love, to know in an intimate and personal manner, or to choose. Proginosko can also have the meaning to love beforehand, to forelove. The context, therefore must determine which meaning we are to adopt, whether merely to know something in advance, or to love beforehand, to forelove.

In Rom. 8.29 foreknew cannot merely mean God had prior knowledge of people since foreknowledge, as used here by Paul, differentiates between those who have been predestined to become conformed to the image of Christ, called, justified, and glorified. In other words, foreknew differentiates between those who are saved and those who are not. If foreknew only meant that God had prior knowledge of people this would be true of all people, saved or lost. The word foreknew, in the context here, differentiates between the lost and the saved. This differentiation must either be in the meaning of the word itself, or supplied by the interpreter. If the element that differentiates between the lost and saved is present in the word then the interpreter should supply nothing.

Arminians believe that the word merely means to know beforehand. Therefore, they supply the differentiation required by the context of this passage. They say that either God foreknew the plan, or God foreknew the Church, or, more commonly, that God foreknew who would believe and persevere to the end, and He elected these.

Since, however, proginosko can also mean to love beforehand, even to choose beforehand - which differentiates between the saved and the lost -, to import an artificial cause differentiating the saved and lost is totally unjustified. Nevertheless, despite this evidence Arminians insist that it be either the plan of salvation that God foreknew, or the church, or God foreknew those who would believe and persevere and elected these.

We will not repeat what has already been said concerning these Arminian views except to say that Paul does not say "For what He foreknew," but "Whom He foreknew." He does not say, "The plan He foreknew," or "The church He foreknew," much less, "faith and perseverance He foreknew." Those whom God foreknows are those whom He called according to His purpose (Rom. 8.28).

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2.8-10).

Some argue that the phrase "and that not of yourselves, it is a gift from God" refers to salvation, not faith. However, if this phrase refers to salvation then Paul is saying grace saves us, meaning it is a gift, but this gift is not of ourselves, it is a gift from God! This is redundant. Besides, according to Scripture, faith is a gift from God in Phil. 1.29; 2 Pet. 1.1; 1 Cor. 4.7.

"But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (Jn. 10.26-27).

When examining this verse in light of verses 11-16 the only proper interpretation is that the sheep represent God's elect, not simply believers. If sheep meant simply believers then Jesus is saying that the reason they do not believe is that they are not believers. Jesus does not say that these Jews do not believe and therefore are not His sheep. What Jesus said is they do not believe because they are not His sheep; they are not His elect, therefore, they do not believe. Although many try to twist what Jesus so clearly teaches here, the conclusion is inevitable, Calvinism did not originate with John Calvin!

"Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ from all eternity" (2 Tm. 1.9).

Notice that salvation is according to God's purpose, and that the working out of His purpose is not according to our works. Obviously, this means God did not elect anyone because of what He saw they would do in the future, otherwise God would elect not according to His purpose, but according to our works.

"For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory" (2 Tm. 2.10).

The doctrine of unconditional election does not preclude the equally biblical truth of our responsibility. Although the apostle Paul believed and taught that God efficaciously chose some unto salvation, he nevertheless saw the responsibility of preaching the gospel, even to the point of personal suffering and, finally, state execution.

"But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, just as it is written, 'Let him who boast, boast in the Lord' " (1 Cor. 1.30-31).

If faith and repentance are not gifts, and if we are elected unto salvation because of foreseen faith and perseverance, then we are in Christ not by God's doing, but by our doing.

"For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor. 4.7)

The comments in the FLSB on this verse are amazing: "The basis for Christian humility is to realize that the native or spiritual gifts that we possess are from God and thus furnish no basis for superiority, status, or pride." We could not agree more! In fact, we must ask the question, which is faith, a native endowment or gift? Clearly all have not faith (2 Thess. 3.2), therefore, it must be one or the other! And whether it is a native endowment or gift, both are from God. Yet despite what the commentator has said, he goes on to say: "All that we have and all that we become are made possible by God and others". But where does Paul say that it is only made possible? And if it is only made possible then the actually attaining of these gifts must be in the hands of the individual. However, that obviously still leaves room for boasting, and completely nullifies the previous comment concerning Christian humility and contradicts what the apostle Paul often said. "Let him who boast, boast in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1.31).

What the apostle Paul is concern with here is that everything, natural or gracious, which distinguishes one from another, is--not made possible--from God, consequently none can glory in themselves.

"For He was foreknown (GK. proginosko ) before the foundation of the World" (1 Pet. 1.20). In this context, foreknown means far more than to know before hand, since Peter cannot merely be stating the obvious fact that God has a previous knowledge of Christ.

"But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and faith in the truth." (2 Thess. 2.13)

Election is eternal, "from the beginning," it is unto salvation, "for salvation," and the order is specific: "through sanctification by the Spirit," then belief in the truth. It is therefore impossible for election to be based on foreseen faith. Paul tells us that faith is the result of election.

We see, again, that God's choice of some to salvation does not negate human responsibility. Salvation depends upon "belief in the truth." In other words, God not only predetermines the end, He also predetermines the means to cause this end. God has chosen some to be saved, but the means He has chosen to accomplish this plan is belief in the truth through the preaching of the gospel. The objection, therefore, that the doctrine of unconditional election makes the gospel unnecessary by removing any valid reason to preach the gospel, is unjustified.

"All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (Jn. 6.37).

Note three points: (1) There is a difinite number. It will not increase, nor decrease: "All that." (2) God election is invincible: "Shall come to Me." (3) Salvation is offered to all: "And the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day . . . For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him by the Father" (Jn. 6.44, 65).

The context of this passage is the manifestation of unbelief by those who Christ gave every encouragement to believe. The statement of the Lord proves this, "But I said to you, that you have seen Me, yet you do not believe" (vs. 36). The reason for their unbelief is that God did not grant to them to believe.

"So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy" (Rom. 9.16).

When the Scriptures say that "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy" (vs. 15) it can only mean that God is not bound to show mercy to any, and showing mercy to anyone is by His sovereign grace; consequently, election cannot be the result of foreseen works. Note also that Paul uses the word "man" in verse 16, not nation.

"So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then "Why then does He still find fault? For who resist His will?" On the contrary. who are you O man who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," Will it? Or does the potter have right over the clay, to make of the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power know, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He called . . . (Rom. 9.22-24).

In Rom. 9-11 Paul is defending the doctrine of justification by faith, the theme of his letter, from the Jews. The Jews would argue that if Paul's doctrine is true, that one is made right with God by grace through faith, then the covenant with Abraham has failed (vs. 6). The Apostle's answer to this objection is simply that the covenant did not include all of Abraham's lineage for "they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants" (Rom. 9.6-7).

This Paul proves by showing that from the beginning God excluded one of Abraham's sons and chose the other, "Through Isaac your descendants will be named (vs. 8). Next Paul shows how although both parents where Abraham's descendants, when Rebekah conceived twins, both Abraham's descendants, one was by God's will and purpose excluded from the covenant, "For though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good our bad, in order that God's purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, God said to her, "The older shall serve the younger," just as it is written, " Jacob I have loved, but Esau I hated." This proves that Paul, in proving his doctrine, uses not nations but individuals. It is an error therefore to say that the only purpose Paul has is to show that God elects nationally some to particular blessings.

Paul's use of personal pronouns further proves this. Never does Paul use words that describe people as a group nationally, but he uses words such as, "one man" (vs. 10), "her" (vs. 12), "whom" (vs. 15, 19; note that it does not say, "on what nation He desires"), "man" (vs. 16), "you" (vs. 17, 19, 20), "me" (vs. 20), and in verse 24 Paul uses "us" to describe believers. And we would be pointing the obvious by saying that Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Moses, the Pharaoh, are individuals, some of whom have receives blessings from God, and others hardening. In verse 19, it is not a group or nation who objects to the teaching of the apostle Paul, but an individual. Finally, Rom. 9.24 proves that the apostle Paul is not referring to the election of nations, but individuals: "Even us, whom He called, not from among Jews only, but also from Gentiles." Paul, in Romans 9, is not speaking of elect nations, but of individuals who have been called, both Jew and Gentile.

It is quite true that the texts Paul quotes do not refer to individuals, but to nations. This I do not dispute. Nevertheless, keep in mind that Paul's illustrations suites perfectly well what He wants to prove, namely, that God is free to do as He sees fit with His creation. God may show mercy to one and not another.

Arminians argue that this is not the context these verses Paul quotes are from. This to I agree; however, to insist that these verses quoted by Paul cannot have any meaning other then that of the original context is nonsense. Thornwell, in arguing against the Arminian Macknight, had this to say:
"They settle what they suppose to be the meaning of the passage in the Old Testament, and then determine that it cannot be used in any other sense in the New. Let the principle be tested by a reference to Matt. 2.15, where Joseph is said to have departed into Egypt, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son." This last clause is a quotation from Hosea 11.1, where it has a manifest allusion to the children of Israel as a people or nation: "When Israel was a child I loved him, and called my son of Egypt." Upon the principle of interpretation on which Macknight proceeds the 15th verse of the second Chapter of Matthew cannot refer to the Lord Jesus Christ, because the passage in Hosea will not bear that meaning; but every one sees from the context that it must and does refer to Christ, no matter what may be the meaning in the original passage in the Prophet. And so, if the scope and drift of the Epistle to the Romans show that Paul is discussing the question of personal election to eternal life, no matter what may be the meaning of the original passages in Genesis and Exodus, the Apostle applies them to the subject before him . . . I can easily conceive that Paul might have applied the quotations from the Old Testament to the case of personal election, merely because they contain the principle, and the whole principle, upon which personal election depends. It is obvious, then, that even upon the supposition that the passages from Genesis and Exodus are correctly interpreted, it is not proved that Paul is not speaking in the ninth of Romans of personal election to eternal life. The point which Paul has in hand must be gathered, not from the writings of Moses, but from the scope and design of his own Epistle, and it shows how hardly pressed the Arminians are when they overlook one of the simplest and most obvious rules of interpretation in order to avoid the truths which Paul so clearly teaches." (Vol. 2, p. 131-132).

"But what is the divine response to him? "I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal. In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice" (Rom. 11.4-5).

In the Greek the word "kept" means, "to cause to be left over, to reserve, to leave remaining." Paul is not merely saying that seven thousand men have not bowed the knee to Baal, for that would be utterly useless to his argument, and such an interpretation is in obvious conflict with the overall context (vs 2). What Paul is apparently saying is God kept for Himself seven thousand men therefore they have not worshiped Baal. In this same manner, Paul goes on to say, there is at this present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice.

"What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were harden;" (Rom. 11.7).

"Knowing, brethren, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and full conviction" (1 Thess. 1. 4-5).

Paul preached the gospel throughout Thessalonica, but not everyone believed. Yet to those who did believe, Paul writes explaining why they believed. It was not because of Paul's skill as a preacher of the gospel, nor was it that they just "decided for Jesus," but because of the supernatural work of God.

"For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5.9).

"For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Phil. 1.29).

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