Monday, May 11, 2009

God's Foreknowledge and the Exclusivity of a Husband's Love for His Wife

This post was prompted by the following excerpt from John Piper's sermon on John 3:16 yesterday.

For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined...
Romans 8:29
The word that we translate as foreknow in the Greek is proginosko. It breaks up into two parts: pro and ginosko. Ginosko means to know. And pro means beforehand. So what does it mean that God knows some people beforehand and not others? I think this will begin to make sense to us if we look at how the word ginosko is used elsewhere.
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son.
Matthew 1:24-25
When Matthew tells us that Joseph didn’t know his wife until she had given birth to a son, what is he talking about? He’s talking about sexual relations. Joseph was not sexually intimate with his wife until after she had given birth. This is what the word ginosko means in this context. It refers to sexual intimacy.

Just to be clear, ginosko isn’t always used to refer to sexual intimacy. It’s used throughout the New Testament and often is just used to refer to knowing that something is true, to know information. But this way of using it to refer to sexual intimacy is one way that it can be used. And I think that if we use it this way, we can begin to understand what proginosko means, what it means that God foreknows some people and not others. If ginosko refers to the sexual intimacy that is an expression of love that is exclusively reserved for a particular person, then it seems to make sense that proginosko refers to the way a person would go about exclusively setting his or her love on that one person and no other. Before a man ever expresses his love to his wife through being sexually intimate with her, he must set his love upon this woman, choosing to love her exclusively in a way that he doesn’t love all women. And that is perhaps the main way that a wife knows herself loved by her husband. She knows that she is loved because he loves her in a way that he doesn’t love any other woman in the world. He sets his love upon her and no one else. Is this now why many wedding vows speak of forsaking all others? Which wife is happier? The one who knows that her husband loves all women exactly the same way he loves her or the wife who knows that, though her husband may love other women generally, she alone has his heart? There is a reason God built women that way.

And this, I believe, is what God does in foreknowing some and not others. He has set His love upon some people and not others, though He does love them generally (John 3:16). And it is because He sets His love on individuals that He chooses to elect them. Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined.
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all the peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you that he is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers.
Deuteronomy 7:6-8
Moses says that God’s choice of Israel, His election of Israel, is interconnected with the fact that He has set His love upon Israel. In electing Israel as His people, God showed that He had set His love upon them. In not electing any other of the peoples, God showed that He had NOT set His love upon the other peoples in the same way. In other words, why did God elect Israel and no one else? Because He had set His love upon them and no one else. And why did God set His love upon Israel and no one else? Because He set His love upon Israel and no one else.
Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
Amos 3:1-2
This is what Paul means when he speaks of foreknowledge in Romans 8:29. Before the foundation of the world, God set His love upon a group of individuals and not everyone that He would create. Why did He love them? Because He loved them. That’s as deep as we can go in the purposes of God in according to what He has revealed to us in His word. And it is this group of individuals that God has predestined, or elected, to salvation.

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