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The Bottom Line: Foreknown or Never Known?
The bottom line is a term that refers primarily to the lowest line in a financial statement, showing net income or loss. In its more general usage, it represents the essential point of an argument or the final result of an analysis. The bottom line is a valuable commodity because it sets forth in black and white what might otherwise be seen in enigmatic shades of gray.
The student of Scripture will find many bottom lines embedded within the pages of Holy Writ, especially in the matter of salvation. One bottom line with which all of us are familiar is that there are only two types of people who have ever walked the face of the earth—believers and unbelievers. The same bottom line might also be expressed as the saved and the lost. The Bible furthermore sets forth this dichotomy as those whom God foreknew and those whom He never knew!
What exactly does it mean to be foreknown of God? The Greek word is proginosko, a combination of pro (beforehand) and ginosko (to know). Its NT usage, however, tells us that much more than prior knowledge or awareness of individuals is implied. It rather signifies that God had intimate and personal relationships with certain people because He determined them to be so! It is said that Christ was foreknown (KJV “foreordained”) before the foundation of the world as the Lamb without blemish and without spot (I Peter 1:20). Israel was foreknown by God as the instrument of Messianic fulfillment (Romans 11:2). Moreover, individual believers were foreknown by God, as stated in Romans 8:29-30: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
The comments of Spiros Zodhiates regarding this third usage are helpful. He concludes: “Proginosko essentially entails a gracious self-determination on God’s part from eternity to extend fellowship with Himself to undeserving sinners” (The Complete NT Word Study Dictionary, p. 1216). Those whom God foreknew are those with whom He determined to have a relationship!
Does the Bible provide any clue as to who these people are? Yes, it does! They are believers! While it is true that God has mercy upon whom He will have mercy (Romans 9:18), it is also true that God has concluded all men in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all (Romans 11:32). The fact is God has willed to have mercy upon all who by faith cast themselves upon His mercy. The Bible says that it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (I Corinthians 1:21), which is in harmony with the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:5), the good pleasure that He has purposed in Himself (1:9), the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of is own will (1:11), and the eternal purpose that He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord (3:11).
God’s eternal purpose as an expression of His good pleasure has always been to save them that believe! These are they who are foreknown of God, with whom He has determined to have a personal and eternal relationship! Only in the philosophical speculations of Calvinism will you find God withholding the ability to believe from some while regenerating others prior to justification so they can believe. Both Jesus and John the Baptist taught that belief was requisite to spiritual birth and life (John 3:14-15, 36).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned that the performance of noteworthy religious service was not to be mistaken for knowing God or being known of God (Matthew 7:21-23). According to Jesus, only those who do the will of the Father may be assured that such a relationship exists. His shocking profession at the Judgment to those who had prophesied, cast out devils, and done many wonderful works in His name (apart from absolute surrender) would be, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” He never knew them, and they never knew Him, although they knew much about Him! God knowing us is more critical than our knowing God. Christ’s acceptance of us is a far weightier matter than our acceptance of Him
Brethren, all of us belong to one of these two groups—the foreknown and the never known! To which do you belong? Is it possible to know? Absolutely! If the convicting work of the Spirit has led you to a place of repentance (a surrender of your will to His) and faith (humble dependence upon the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus for salvation), you are among the foreknown, the predestinated, the called, the justified, and the glorified. Apart from grace-wrought repentance and faith, the issue (from a human perspective) will ever remain in doubt.
It is my conviction that no lost person should ever concern him- or herself with whether they are foreknown or predestinated. The only relevant issue is whether he or she has believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The answer to that question will ultimately determine the bottom line!