A Study of Romans 8:29-30
“Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate;” “and whom he did predestinate them he also glorified” etc. (Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30)
This word “foreknowledge” is one of the deepest and most mysterious words throughout the whole of the Scriptures. The miser Tomline, the Arminian bishop, who passed his life in raking money together and in persecuting Calvinists, and who therefore was an idolator through love of money, and is a beloved head of the Arminian enemies of God, mistook this passage, “Whom he did foreknow”, etc. The treasonable Arminians make this passage to show that God is the servant and man the master. “O my soul, come not thou into their secret!” “For their rock is not as our Rock, our enemies themselves being judges.” (Deut. 32:31) They say God foreknew who would be so good as to accept of Christ, and therefore predestinated them; and if that is not high treason, I do not know what is. For it denies Christ to be the “Alpha”, the beginning and first cause, effectively, discriminatingly, sovereignly, and finally, of the elect getting to heaven. Thus Tomline and the Arminians “wrest Jesus’ sceptre from his hand”; stamp in the dust his Godhead as being the sovereign, discriminating, and effectual cause of his people’s salvation; and bring the cobwebs of freewill in man to be the most ornamental elegance and efficiency in the edifice of salvation! Thus, I do not mind who it is, neither do the elect of God, for both they and I are certain of it, that no Arminian, professedly as such, can be saved. There may be much Arminianism cleaving to a quickened man; but all Arminianism will fly away some day, like the morning clouds before the substantial power of the glorious orb of day. So will all Arminianism cleaving to the elect finally be melted away sometime or other before ever they get into the proper daylight of God; for “God is light”. For “now it is high time to awake out of sleep; the night is far spent, the day is at hand.”
Let us then see what this “foreknowledge” of God is; (blessed be His name!) “For whom he foreknew them he also predestinated”, etc. And if there is one point more than another in all Scripture which shows the needs be for the Spirit in experience to open Scripture, this is the point.
This word “knowledge” refers to the everlasting love of God towards his people. “O the depth of the riches of the knowledge of God!” “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” “The Lord knoweth the righteous”; but “thorns and snares are in the way of the froward”. And who are the froward but the advocates of free will and licentiousness? Free will is the swelling lungs of an unregenerate man; “for perverse things are in his vitals”. And what so perverse a thing as free will? “For the race is not to the swift.” “Therefore a froward heart shall depart from me”, says an elect man through God’s grace. Therefore, Tomline’s and the Arminian’s “foreknowledge” shall depart from me. “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart”; for he that speaketh the truth (supernaturally) from his heart, and in whose eyes a vile person (that speaketh Arminian lies) is condemned, even he shall abide in God’s tabernacle, and dwell in his holy hill of supernatural knowledge; “he that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.”
Foreknowledge, then, is explained by this, as well as many and many another passage of Scripture; “If any man love God, the same is known of him.” (I Cor. 8:3)
The eternal union of Christ and the elect is a doctrine everywhere manifest in Scripture to the illuminated eye; “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” “Thy Maker is thine Husband”. (Isa. 54:5) “Thou shalt call me Ishi, (my Husband) and shalt call me no more Baali (my Lord)”. (Hos. 2:16) “Thy land shall be married”. (Isa. 62:4) “I will betroth thee unto me, and thou shalt know the Lord. I will betroth thee unto me forever. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, saith the Lord.” (Hos. 2:16, 19, 20, etc.) “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” (Eph. 5:30)
Men are greatly deceived in religion. They think thus that there is no mystery in religion; whereas, true religion is the very mystery of God. “The mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.” (Rev. 10:7) “It is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom.” (Matt. 13:11; Luke 8:10) For my part, I bless God that it was early in my religion laid on my mind to pray; to pray in reading the Scriptures; to pray in everything; for I became gradually persuaded that there was a secret, a mystery, “a deep couching beneath”; something hidden; something the non-elect were never to know; something hidden from the eyes of all naturally living; something “sealed”; something running under ground, as it were, in religion. And O the deeps! for who hath known the mind of the Lord? “Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun (of righteousness); because, though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea, farther, though a (supernaturally) wise man think to know it, yet shall not he be able to find it,” (Eccl. 8:17) by thinking merely, reading, hearing, or speculation. It is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
Ignorance, then, is a thing greatly complained of for a long time by the manifested elect of God. They see the bare knowledge of the letter of Scripture is of no use by itself! Thus, they set out thence hunting after the Incarnate Word, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” “In my flesh I shall see God”, said Job. O the glories of the incarnation of Christ in the heart! “We are members of his flesh, of his body, and of his bones.” “All my bones (supernaturally) shall say, Who is like unto thee?” “If any man eateth not the flesh of Christ, and drinketh not his blood, he hath no life in him.” Thus, true religion is something “more than notion.”
But this I will be bound to say, that “the heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge”. (Prov. 15:14) Heart-felt fear and understanding through the new birth in true religion, in hating evil, in hating pride and arrogancy, and “the evil way and the froward mouth”, are the beginning and progress of infinite results. To depart from evil is understanding, and therefore Solomon says, “The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge”, of which the everlasting foreknowledge of God was the everlasting spring from all eternity! “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate”, etc. Solomon declares (as I have twice quoted) that “the heart of him (mark that, not the head) that hath understanding, (and not merely talketh of it) seeketh knowledge.” The deeps of this subject I believe neither I nor any man can perfectly fathom. This knowledge is neither more nor less than felt union. As it is written, “And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” “And they that were ready went in with him to the marriage; and the door was shut.” Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened thereto. The “wedding garment”, the “marriage supper”, and indissoluble union are the crowning points with those who have divine understanding in the heart. “With all thy getting, get understanding.” Through wisdom is a house builded; and by understanding it is established, and by knowledge (mark that) shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” (Prov. 24:3,4) Knowledge, then, is the antitype of God’s foreknowledge. The Lord knoweth the righteous. That foundation standeth sure, for there is a seal upon it, even the seal of spiritual wedlock; “I am married unto you, saith the Lord.” (Jer. 3:14) “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” “And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come higher, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife; and he carried me away in the spirit.” “For the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” “Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” (Rev. 19:21)
I adduce these passages to show that the God-Man, “having loved his own, he loved them unto the end.” The final consummation of love is marriage. “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” Hence the severe threatenings of God in holy Scripture against fornicators, as desecrating the ordinance of marriage! Hence the solemness and sacredness of marriage! Hence its typical and mystic tie! Hence how all whoremongers and adulterers are thundered at with God’s highest reprehension! “Without are dogs, whoremongers”, etc. Love, verily, is perfected in marriage, and not till then. “Marriage is honourable”, and the breach of it is branded with God’s execration. All false religion is called whoredom throughout the whole of the Bible; as all true religion is figured throughout the whole of Scripture as a marriage, as I have stated at length.
I trust that I have for years been brought into a sense of this unutterable relationship with God, who is my fear and my dread. The religion that fear through regeneration begins union-love will complete. “And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast while the Bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the Bridegroom with them they cannot fast.” Soothed, solaced, and overjoyed, I have for years known my adorable, sin-hating Saviour in this glorious character, as in the new creation the Husband of my soul. “But I would have you know that the Head (spiritually) of every man (In the regeneration) is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.” (I Cor. 11:3) O surprising mystery! O “unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter!” (2 Cor. 12:4) Those who are joined in earthly matrimony are “one flesh”. (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5) Those who are joined in spiritual matrimony, under the authority of God in the regeneration, are “one spirit”. (I Cor. 6:17) The Last Adam is ever called the Bridegroom of the church spiritually, as the first Adam was the husband of Eve. O stupendous mysteries! Here is where the religion of the mere letter of Scripture breaks down and is distanced. Here is where the chief priests (those bitter enemies of the true Christ) of all denominations, with the elders, scribes, pharisees, lawyers, and sadducees of a natural Christianity are lost to the true apprehension of Christ. Here it is that the princes of this world’s wisdom in the letter fail. Here it is that “hidden wisdom” is a barrier against all but the elect. Here it is that God has put bars and bolts to hinder the sea of head-knowledge from rushing into the internal kingdom of heaven in the soul. Here are the springs of vital knowledge; “milk and honey” come “under the tongue” of the soul that has these springs; “My springs are in God.” Here is the well of water springing up unto endless life. Here is the engrafted word. Here is the vital sap springing from the engraftiture. Here is the Tree of Life and the branches, verdant, bending with fruit, and, as it were, “clapping their hands for joy”; for all the trees of this field of foreknowledge shall clap their hands for joy. O blessed relationship! O divine glee ensuing therefrom! “I know my sheep, and am known of mine.” “I never knew you”, is the answer of the divine Judge to all non-elect strangers. But the dignity and glory of this subject cannot be exhausted in a few pages; I shall therefore, God willing, treat of it in another paper; and shall only add, that foreknowledge on God’s part issues in regeneration and vital union, to the elect body of Christ, the church. Hence the “partaking of the divine nature”. And never dying streams of never dying bliss soothe, assuage, lull, and becalm with eternal quietude and rest the church, the bride of Christ; refreshed thus by foreknowledge in predestination and by vital knowledge, in felt love, from that river (or rather ocean) of love, the streams whereof make glad the city of the living God.
By J. K. (John Kay) Abingdon
The Gospel Standard, 1841