What is the Difference between Predestination, Election and Foreknowledge?
A woman recently asked me to explain Predestination, Election and Foreknowledge because she was having difficulty understanding them. Many people are confused as to what predestination, election, and foreknowledge mean, how they relate, and how they differ; maybe you are one of them. This post will provide a Bible explanation of these theological terms.
The terms Predestination, Election and Foreknowledge, and how they interrelate, can get rather deep. And different schools of theology differ in their teachings, so it’s no wonder people are confused. Some may disagree with my theology but comparing scripture with scripture over many years of Bible study, this is how I understand these Biblical terms. Norma found my explanation helpful, perhaps you will too.
Before I can explain predestination, election, and foreknowledge, I must first discuss two other doctrines: “Free Will” and “God’s Will.”
God has given each of us a free will. He created people in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) as free moral agents with the ability to make choices. In addition to giving us the freedom to choose, God has given each of us a mind, body and soul.
God has given each of us a free will. He created people in His image as free moral agents with the ability to make choices.
God expects us to use those gifts in ways that are pleasing to Him. And He has given us parents, teachers, and a conscience to guide us in making good choices.
Good parents guide, direct, and protect their children. No loving parent would try to control every little thing their child does. Parents want their children to be happy and allow them to play freely within boundaries set to protect them from harm.
Children must be given the freedom to learn and explore. No child ever learned to walk without falling. The goal is help children safely grow into mature adults who will make good choices and responsible decisions.
Our Heavenly Father has given Bible believing Christians His Word and His indwelling Holy Spirit to teach and guide us. Rather than controlling us, the Living God has richly given us “all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).
God created us in His image with a free will so we could choose to love Him.
God watches over His children and is greatly interested in the choices we make. But beware, because one day we will each give account for everything we think, do, and say (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12).
What will you do with the free will God has given you?
Many Christians are interested in knowing God’s will for their life, but do not understand what the “Will of God” is or how to find it. Part of the confusion is caused by there being three different ideas that are all referred to as God’s Will.
The first “Will of God” is the idea that God may have a “Perfect Will” for our lives. Christians often want to know this when they have a big decision to make.
This concept could be considered God’s “Preferred Will.” This is God’s ideal desire; what He wants. For instance, God wants “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), but clearly not all do. God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), but most perish because they don’t. Have you ever considered that not even God gets everything He wants?
The second “Will of God” is His “Proscribed Will,” which He has clearly revealed in the Bible. This includes many prohibitions of things not to do, and positive precepts that God has commanded us to do. God desires that we demonstrate our love for Him by obeying His commands.
Before God created the world, He had a plan
Third, “The Will of God” often refers to “the Plan of God.” God’s plan is certain and unchanging. Before God created the world, He had a plan. Nothing that happens ever catches God by surprise. He already knows what will be.
God is purposeful; His plan is not random. Everything happens for a reason. So, God’s plan is sometimes referred to as His “Purpose.”
The Plan of God is what people are often referring to when they talk about predestination or destiny. God is in control. He has already predetermined everything that will happen.
God is in control. He has already predetermined everything that will happen.
Everything you do, whether good or bad, is already part of God’s Plan. This does not relieve you of responsibility for your thoughts and actions though, because God has truly given you a free will with the ability to make choices.
God is all-knowing. Before God ever created the universe, He already knew how you would use your free will. God knew every choice you would make. And He is so great, powerful, and all-knowing that He has already woven all your choices into His plan.
You do not have to worry about living God’s Plan because you cannot miss it. You may choose to do good; you may choose to do evil. But whatever you choose to do, God has already factored you into His Plan.
Whatever you choose to do, God has already factored you into His Plan.
Some believe that human freedom of will and God’s sovereignty are mutually exclusive. They think that God cannot be in control if people have free will, but that view limits God’s greatness and would make Him directly responsible for sin. Our God is so great that He can grant us the freedom to make choices while remaining in control.
Even though God has given us free will, His purposeful plan will be accomplished. God is still in control. The reality of a holy, loving, and all-powerful God being in control should bring comfort and reassurance to those who trust Him.
Even though God has given us free will, His purposeful plan will be accomplished.
God created us in His image with a free will so we could choose to love Him. For love and obedience to be genuine, they must be freely given, not forced.
We are free to love God or reject Him; to obey or disobey; to do good or evil. The choice is ours. What will you do with the free will God has given you?
God exists outside of time. Before He ever created the heavens and earth, the sea and all that in them is, God already knew everything that would ever happen. He planned it all out, taking our free will into account. “Foreknowledge” refers to God knowing in advance that we would exist, how we would live, and what choices we would make.
God is omniscient (all-knowing). God knew you before He created the world. He foreknew every thought you would have, every choice you would make, and how you would respond in every situation. God knew everyone else before creation as well.
“Foreknowledge” refers to God knowing in advance that we would exist, how we would live, and what choices we would make.
God knew Adam would sin, Cain would kill Abel, and that billions of people would reject Him. He also knew who would become one of “the Elect” by hearing His Word and choosing to faithfully obey.
Before creation, God knew everything that would happen. This foreknowledge allows God to make prophetic predictions because He knows what will happen in the future.
While God has given each of us a free will and knew in advance how we would use it, God is not just a passive observer who knows everything. He is omnipotent (all-powerful) and in control. God is actively working in the world and in our lives. Nothing happens unless God permits it or brings it to pass.
Predestination is the certainty that everything will happen according to God’s purposeful plan.
Even things that seem bad to us are ultimately for our good and/or God’s glory (Romans 8:28). The curse was given as a consequence of Adam’s rebellious sin. God restrains the ability of finite, sinful creatures to corrupt His creation or alter His plan, even if it requires a global flood.
God is in ultimate control of the circumstances in life. He chose your parents, your DNA, where you were born and grew up. Everything we have, including our talents, abilities, and any spiritual gifts, has been given to us by God (John 3:27; 1 Corinthians 4:7; Hebrews 2:4).
God knew all the possible outcomes of all possible plans. I believe God chose and implemented the plan He knew (by foreknowledge) would yield the most spiritual fruit and bring Him the most glory.
God does not change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8); nor does His plan. When God began implementing His plan, everything that would ever happen was fixed. His plan is certain and unchanging. Predestination is the certainty that everything will happen according to God’s purposeful plan.
God chose His plan based on His foreknowledge of what would happen. This plan includes the actions of people and angels behaving in accordance with their free will. This predestined plan also includes all the ways God knew He would interact with His creation to bring His plan to pass.
Predestination ensures that God’s prophetic predictions come to pass in accordance with His purpose and plan.
“Elect” means “chosen.” “Election” refers to a choice or selection.
In the New Testament, “the Elect” often refers to believing Christians who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. But in Isaiah 42:1, “elect” (or “chosen” depending on the translation) refers to Jesus Christ. Romans refers to God choosing Jacob rather than Esau. Isaiah 45 records God calling Cyrus by name for the sake of Israel, God’s elect nation.
God chose Abram to be the father of many nations, including Israel through whom Messiah (Jesus Christ) would come. God chose Noah to build an ark to preserve life through the flood. God chose Moses to give the law, David to be king of Israel, and Paul to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.
And Jesus chose twelve apostles from among His disciples (Luke 6:13), including Judas Iscariot, whom He knew would betray Him (John 6:70-71).
In 1 Peter 1:2, Peter greets those who were “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father . . . .” So, “foreknowledge” is involved in election as well.
Election (choosing / selection) is intimately related to the purpose and plan of God which He enacted, the resulting predestination of all that would occur, and God’s foreknowledge of all those who would use their free will to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
While God’s Spirit fills the universe and Jesus Christ entered the world He created to live and die as a man, God is not part of the universe. God is eternal, not subject to the limitations of the space and time He created. He lives outside of time. What we perceive as past and future are present to Him.
God created us in His image as free moral beings with a mind and will of our own. We all have free will, but God holds us accountable for what we do with our freedom, and God is still in control.
Before God created, He had a purposeful plan and knew in advance (by foreknowledge) everything that would happen. God could have chosen a different plan, but by choosing this one (election), He predestined everything that would happen, and knew who would come to salvation through faith in His Son.
Dare to use your free will to glorify God in the choices you make!
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
And may the God of all grace bless you with peace as you do
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