Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Good Exegesis and Application from John Piper

“What does it mean (number one) that God foreknew those He referred to in [Romans 8:28)? ‘Because those whom He foreknew,’ what does that mean? Some would say, many would say, it simply means that God foresees who will believe on Him and then He decides what will become of believers. Now there are two assumptions in that interpretation that are wrong, unbiblical, and which make that view impossible to believe. That he simply foresees who is going to believe, on their own, and then decides what the destiny of those believers will be.

Here’s assumption number one that is not true: it assumes that ultimately we, in our own will power, provide the decisive, ultimate cause of our faith. That’s the point of that interpretation. That God only foresees people, not resting in God to provide the ultimate, decisive, faith that they need to believe, but producing, on their own, the decisive ultimate ground and cause of their faith. That is a false assumption. It’s false elsewhere in the NT, because faith is described a gift from of God in Philippians 1:29 and Ephesians 2:8-9 and 2 Tim 2:24 and Matthew 16:17 and Jeremiah 32:40, and other places. Faith is God’s work, it is God’s gift, and not only that, it is shown to be such here in this very context.

Let’s look just briefly so that you can see. You don’t have to go anywhere else but right here in Romans 8:29-30 to see it. Look at verse 30, ‘those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified.’ [ESV] Now think about that with me. Everybody who is called is justified. You know and I know, from the book of Romans, that nobody is justified except through faith. Romans 5:1, ‘therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God.’ Nobody is justified except they believe in Jesus, but this text says [that] everybody who’s called is justified. Not, ‘some of those who are called are justified’, namely those who choose to be, but everybody who is called is justified which means everybody who is called believes. How can that be? How can you say, ‘everybody is called believes? Aren’t some called who say “no” to the call?’ No! Now I’m rehearsing an old sermon from five weeks ago, so I can’t give it all, but here’s the summary statement. When God calls effectually, it’s like Jesus saying to Lazarus, ‘Lazarus, come forth,’ and he comes forth. Dead men live when God calls. When God called you to Himself effectually, in and through the preaching, the preaching of the gospel is not the effectual call of God. It’s the general call that goes out to everybody. In and through the gospel comes this mighty, ‘Piper, Live,’ and you live, and the cry of the newborn baby is faith. Therefore, this text will not allow us to buy the assumption that foreknowledge is simply a foreknowing of a faith which we produce on our own, without the decisive, ultimate, enabling of God. That’s clear, and therefore this interpretation won’t stand; that foreknowing is simply foreseeing self-wrought faith, it isn’t. It’s seeing God-wrought faith.

Here’s a second assumption that will make that interpretation not work. The interpretation that says all that foreknowledge is, is the foreseeing of human produced faith so that it will then decide what will become of them fails to give the meaning to the word ‘know’ in ‘foreknow’ a broad, biblical meaning that would make more sense out of this text. For example, let me read for you a half-a-dozen texts about ‘knowing’, and you supply the meaning. I might chip in a suggestion as I go along, but it will be plain to you what knowing means, and then keep this text in mind as I read these. In Genesis 18:19 God says of Abraham, ‘I have known him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord.’ Every English translation translates ‘y-da’ as choose, which baffles me, they shouldn’t. That is the meaning, but you ought to translate the word ‘know’ [as] ‘know’ so that people like you can read it and learn the meaning of ‘know’ for Romans 8:29. It’s not good when translators interpret, that’s another issue. In Amos 3:2 God says to the people of Israel, ‘You only have I known among all the families of the earth.’ He knew about all the families, but only chose Israel. In Matthew 7:23 Jesus said to the hypocrites at the judgment day, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’ What does that mean? I never knew about you? I never knew you were on the earth? I never knew anything about your life? No. I never knew you, I never made you mine, I never loved you with electing love. Psalm 1:6 says, ‘The Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.’ He knows about the way of the wicked too. But he knows the way of the righteous in the sense of approving and recognizing and loving. In Hosea 13:5 God says to Israel, ‘I knew you in the wilderness, In the land of drought,’ meaning he took note of your plight and cared for you. And Genesis 4:1 says, ‘Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.’ That is, he made her his, and knew her intimately and loved her.

If you don’t know that biblical background of the word ‘know’, so much richer than our heady word ‘know’, it will be hard, I think, to put a proper meaning on verse 29. ‘Whom He foreknew,’ cared for, loved, chose, made His own. Because of all those texts I think John Stott and John Murray are exactly right when both of them say, ‘”Know” . . . is used in a sense practically synonymous with “love” . . . “Whom he foreknow” . . . is therefore virtually equivalent to "whom he foreloved.”’ Foreknowledge, is ‘sovereign, distinguishing love’ (John Stott, quoting Murray, Romans, p. 249). It's virtually the same as set your affection on and choose for your own.

So the meaning of the first act of God that guarantees Romans 8:28 is that God foreknows his own people in the sense that he chooses them and loves them and cares for them. All things work together for good for those who love God and are called because they are foreknown.” - John Piper form “Foreknown, Predestined, Conformed to Christ” preached on 8/4/02, radio broadcast 3/30/07.

This quote is a compilation of transcribing (mine) some of the audio to supplement desiringgod.org’s posted manuscript http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2002/98_Foreknown_Predestined_Conformed_to_Christ/

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