Jerom Zanchius, in the first chapter of his book, “Absolute Predestination”, has helpfully outlined five leading features of God’s wisdom and foreknowledge. In summary, he wrote:
First, God is, and always was so perfectly wise, that nothing ever did, or does, or can elude His knowledge. He knew, from all eternity, not only what He Himself intended to do, but also what He would incline and permit others to do. “Known unto God are all His works from eternity ” (Acts 15:18).
Second, consequently, God knows nothing now, nor will know anything hereafter, which He did not know and foresee from everlasting, His foreknowledge being co-eternal with Himself, and extending to everything that is or shall be done (Heb. 4:13). All things, which comprises past, present and future, are naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
Third, this foreknowledge of God is not conjectural and uncertain (for then it would not be foreknowledge), but most sure and infallible, so that whatever He foreknows to be future shall necessarily and undoubtedly come to pass. For His knowledge can no more be frustrated, or His wisdom be deceived, than He can cease to be God.
Fourth, the influence which the Divine foreknowledge has on the certain futurition of the things foreknown does not render the intervention of second causes needless, nor destroy the nature of the things themselves. For instance, man, even in his fallen state, is endued with a natural freedom of will, yet he acts, from the first to the last moment of his life, in absolute subserviency (though, perhaps, he does not know it nor design it) to the purposes and decrees of God concerning him, notwithstanding which, he is sensible of no compulsion, but acts as freely and voluntarily as if he was subject to no control and absolutely lord of himself.
Fifth, God’s foreknowledge, taken abstractedly, is not the sole cause of beings and events, but His will and foreknowledge together. Hence we find (Acts 2:23) that His determinate counsel and foreknowledge act in concert, the latter resulting from and being founded on the former.
After reflecting upon these considerations, I jotted down the following thoughts:
1. If a student is to profit from theology, one of the key exercises must be meditation and reflection upon the truth. There is a framework of truth (a system) wherein all things fit together harmoniously and without contradiction. If there is conflict that occurs in one’s understanding of theology, the fault is not with the truth, but with the one attempting to understand it. The theologian, then, must be always conforming his/her views to the harmony of truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures. This conformity only occurs when the time and effort is given to mediation and reflection. To meditate on the truth is to allow the teaching to settle in the mind and heart, for the purpose of understanding the concept. To reflect on the truth is to discover how the teaching connects with all other teachings in the framework of truth, for the purpose of harmonizing the ‘system’. However, as the theologian is ultimately studying the Being, Persons and works of God in order to know Him, so never should theology be considered merely a ‘system’ or ‘framework’ of truth. It is a means to the end of knowing God in Christ.
2. The actual points made by Zanchius on the wisdom and foreknowledge of God strike a blow at one of the fundamental falsehoods of Arminianism. The Arminians believe God’s decree unto election from eternity is based on His foreknowledge of all who will believe on Christ in time. In other words, if the sinner in time will choose Christ, then God from eternity will choose him/her. Election, then, is viewed as a cooperative effort on the part of God and man. God does His part by providing the gift, man must do his part by accepting it. The sovereignty of God and the freedom of His will, is pitted against the autonomy of man the freedom of his will. The Arminian views the will of God and the will of man as standing on the same ground, each contending for supremacy. Whereas God desires, and desperately wants all sinners to choose Him, He cannot (or will not) make them. Much stress is laid upon the autonomy and will of man, because for the Arminian, man is exalted by God to be like a god. This is tantamount to humanism—the exaltation of man in place of or above God. The Arminians are guilty of rendering God powerless (not in fact, but within the scope of their teachings), and bringing Him under the subjection of man. Although my Arminian friends will deny it, their theological framework is founded upon and is a promotion of humanism. And sadly, this is the type of message preached in most pulpits today.
3. Zanchius is teaching the opposite of Arminianism, and indeed, is setting out the correct meaning of Scripture on the subject. God’s foreknowledge of all who will believe on Christ in time, is based on His decree unto election from eternity. In other words, it is because the TriUne Jehovah from eternity has chosen the sinner, that the sinner in time will believe on Christ—1 John 4:19: “We love Him, because He first loved us.”
The Apostle Peter spoke of God’s eternal decree with reference to the wicked hands that crucified and slew the Lord Jesus Christ—Acts 2:23: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” The eternal decree (determinate counsel) and foreknowledge of God are mentioned here. While the two harmoniously act together, it is the eternal decree (God’s blueprint; what He chooses) that determines what He foreknows. God foreknows who will believe on Christ, because He has determined it from eternity. He has chosen them, has sent His Son in the Person of Jesus Christ to redeem them, and will regenerate them at the appointed time throughout the course of history. The foreknowledge of God is based on the foreordination of God. He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can hinder His hand, or even serve as His counselor, asking, “What are you doing?” And this absolute sovereignty of the TriUne Jehovah is not restricted to those whom He will save; it extends over all creation and events—“Known unto God are all His works from eternity ” (Acts 15:18).
Sovereign Ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, ever wise;
All my times are in Thy hand,
All events at Thy command.
His decree Who formed the earth
Fixed my first and second birth;
Parents, native place, and time,
All appointed were by Him.
He that formed me in the womb,
He shall guide me to the tomb:
All my times shall ever be
Ordered by His wise decree.
Times of sickness; times of health;
Times of penury and wealth;
Times of trial and of grief;
Times of triumph and relief;
Times the tempter’s power to prove;
Times to taste the Saviour’s love;
All must come, and last, and end,
As shall please my heavenly Friend.
Plagues and deaths around me fly;
Till He bids, I cannot die;
Not a single shaft can hit,
Till the God of love sees fit.
4. How does the TriUne Jehovah, according to His absolute sovereignty, purpose and plan, procure the salvation of His elect? The love of God unto salvation is based on the eternal covenant (agreement) made between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (1 Pet 1:2). The Father initiated this agreement by setting apart certain persons of the human race as special objects of His love (vessels of honor, Rom 9:21). The Son received these persons from the Father, setting His love upon them, and agreeing to serve as their Mediator and Redeemer (vessels of mercy, Rom 9:23). The Spirit received these persons from the Father and the Son, setting His love upon them, and agreeing to serve as their Sanctifier (vessels of gold and silver, 2 Tim 2:20).
There are two initial works of the Holy Spirit when sanctifying His people (in time). First, regeneration (new birth, Jn 3:1-8)—the Spirit of God unites the soul to Christ which creates a new nature (created in righteousness and true holiness, Eph 4:24); Second, conversion, (Phil 2:12,13)—the sinner, having been born again, is enabled to believe on Christ and repent of sins (Acts 2:37-41). The conversion of a sinner is the result of regeneration (Jn 1:12,13). Whereas the sinner (dead in trespasses and sins) cannot and does not cooperate with God in the experience of the new birth, yet the regenerate sinner (having been made alive in Christ) does ‘cooperate’ with God in the experience of conversion (exercising the fruit of the new nature, among which is faith, Jn 15:1-5; Gal 2:22,23).
5. Not only do the Arminians reverse the right order of God’s foreordination and foreknowledge, they also reverse the right order of the sinner’s regeneration and conversion. These perversions are driven by their convictions on humanism. You see, if foreordination precedes foreknowledge, then God is supreme; but if foreknowledge precedes foreordination, then man is supreme. Likewise, if regeneration precedes conversion, then God is supreme; but if conversion precedes regeneration, then man is supreme. These differences should be carefully considered and weighed in the balance of Scripture and the framework of truth. We believe the Scriptures teach clearly the right order of these doctrines: (1) The foreordination of God comes before the foreknowledge of God (in a logical order, not a chronological order—for there are no successive thoughts in the eternal mind of God); (2) Regeneration comes before conversion, for without the Spirit of God working in the sinner to will and to do of His good pleasure, the sinner cannot work out his/her salvation with fear and trembling.
6. Having been the pastor for 20 years of a church in London, I have been contending largely with Atheism. Atheism is the new religion of Western culture. The driving force of Atheism is humanism (the exaltation of man in place of or above God). However, my wife and I are preparing to move our ministry to the Philippines. It will no longer be Atheism against which we largely contend (though this is gaining a stronghold through the influence of Western culture), but Arminianism. Nevertheless, we will be fighting the same monster—humanism! In fact, there are many similarities between the humanism of the Arminians (created by their denial of God’s sovereignty), and the humanism of the Atheists, (created by their denial of God’s existence). Both groups are vain in their imaginations, profess themselves to be wise, changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man and therefore do not glorify Jehovah as the sovereign God. Of course, the Arminians are the less of the two evils. Whereas the Atheists are governed by amorality, the Arminians are governed by a biblical morality. I confess, I’d rather be in the company of ‘legalistic’ Arminians, than in the company of ‘degenerate’ Atheists. But make no mistake, both groups are contending for the same philosophy—the exaltation of man.
7. Arminianism by definition is anti-grace. It is unbiblical and non-Christian. Having said that, there are many regenerate sinners belonging to Arminian churches, who, having been sovereignly saved by grace despite the false teachings, know nothing else but what they’ve been taught in these humanist congregations. These true believers in Christ firmly believe in the sovereign grace of Jehovah. It has been rooted in their hearts at the time of the New Birth. They may be babes in Christ and their growth may be stunted as the result of false teachings, but at the core of their souls, they believe God is sovereign and know that salvation is of the Lord, and not of themselves. This is the mark of every sinner conquered by grace. Thus, while denouncing the falsehoods of Arminianism and contending earnestly for the faith, we must be careful not to offend one of these little ones which truly believe on Christ. They are His sheep and we must endeavour to protect them, while fighting off the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
8. Similar thoughts as above, with a few additional remarks.
Arminians believe God elects the sinner based on His foreknowledge of who will believe on Christ. Henceforth, election unto salvation is ultimately man’s choice, rather than God’s choice. This is called Conditional Election.
This view is driven by the philosophy of humanism (the exaltation of man above God). Arminians are always striving to elevate self as sovereign and lord over his own life, including that of salvation. The same philosophy drives the Roman Catholic as well as the Atheist. The monster of humanism has many heads, but it’s the same grotesque creature.
The Scriptures teach that the foreknowledge of God is based on His foreordination. The sinner chooses Christ, only because God has first chosen the sinner in Christ. This is called Unconditional Election.
This view is driven by the philosophy of sovereign grace (the exaltation of God above man). The Scriptures always elevate God as the Sovereign and Lord of creation, redemption and providence.
Whereas the Arminians desperately contend for the autonomy and sovereignty of man, we (High-calvinists) earnestly contend for the autonomy and sovereignty of God. The Fullerites (moderate-calvinists) think themselves clever by claiming to contend for both. However, they prove themselves unstable in all their ways. No man can serve two masters. When the Fullerites attempt to elevate man with God, their perversions of the gospel are as hideous as that of the Arminians.
Jared Smith served twenty years as pastor of a Strict and Particular Baptist church in Kensington (London, England). He now serves as an Evangelist in the Philippines, preaching the gospel, organizing churches and training gospel preachers.