Chapter 3: The Omniscience of God the Father

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by Tom Wilson, Scotland

 

GOD THE FATHER – HIS KNOWLEDGE OF CREATION

GOD THE FATHER – THE SOURCE OF ALL COUNSEL

CONCLUSION


Hannah knew nothing of the wisdom of Zoan, the seat of Egyptian learning to which Pharaohs looked for counsel, Num.13.22; Isa.19.11-13, but Hannah knew the omniscient God she called "the God of knowledges" 1 Sam.2.3, lit. Here the word "knowledge" is a Hebrew plural noun and the plural signifies fullness or supremacy. So the Hebrew plural "knowledges" may emphasise the supremacy of her God in respect of His knowledge compared with the vaunted knowledge of the exceedingly proud people who spoke so arrogantly against her. Their knowledge was infinitesimal compared with that of her God, "the God of knowledges". Such was His knowledge that He could weigh the actions of the proud and break the bows of the mighty. Hannah believed, as did the anonymous psalmist of Ps.147.5, that God’s "understanding is infinite". Her theology ascribed to God the attribute of omniscience; like John she believed that "God … knoweth all things" 1 Jn.3.20. We stand with Hannah when we confess that God knows all things. The noun omniscience, from the Latin adjective "all" and the Latin verb "to know," is often used in respect of God’s knowledge of all things.

The Samaritan woman the Lord Jesus journeyed to meet at the well she normally frequented, knew little of the oracles of God committed to the Jews, Rom.3.2. She may not have known that Hannah had spoken of "the God of knowledges". However, she did recognise that the One she presumed to be a Jew was a Man Who told her "all things that ever … (she) did" Jn.4.29; she knew that He must be the Christ, sent of the God Who was omniscient.

The recognition that God is "the God of knowledges" and that He knows all things that ever we did, is revealed truth to which every saint would solemnly bow. It is truth that is both comforting and challenging. We find great solace in expressions that remind us that our "… heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" Matt.6.32. We need also to remember we are to "be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live" Heb.12.9, for He is the Father "which knoweth the hearts" Acts 15.8, even of apostles. As Paul testified: "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not" 2 Cor.11.31. He knows the way we take, the ideals we espouse, the ambitions we embrace, the deeds we do and the words we say, for He is omniscient. We do not say, as the blaspheming wicked do, "How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?" Ps.73.11.

We acknowledge that the Creator knows the "balancing of the clouds" that Job had to own as "The wondrous works of Him which is perfect in knowledge" Job 37.16. The Creator is able to number and name the stars, Ps.147.4 – a feat beyond human intelligence, even aided by the most powerful telescopes. He knows too "all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field" Ps.50.11. Nor is His knowledge limited to the outward and the obvious. Whereas "man looketh on the outward appearance … Jehovah looketh on the heart" 1 Sam.16.7, J.N.D. The inspired writers of the Old Testament bowed before these manifestations of the Creator’s power and glory. Not until the Lord Jesus revealed the Father, did the care of the omniscient One become evident even in respect of creation. The Lord Jesus spoke of One Who knew the sparrows that men thoughtlessly sold at two for a farthing, or five for two farthings. His infinite knowledge and His infinite care even of the sparrows are such that "… one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father" Matt.10.29.

The Old Testament also contains declarations of God’s omniscience in respect of counsel and its revelation in the prophetic Scriptures. Jehovah revealed Himself to Isaiah’s generation in terms that set out His knowledge of all things and His power to change all things that men considered unchangeable: "I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure:" … I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it" Isa.46.9-11. The New Testament also reveals the Father as the source of counsel and purpose; see Acts 4.27,28; Romans chapters 8 and 9; Ephesians chapters 1 and 3; 2 Tim.1.7-10.

GOD THE FATHER – HIS KNOWLEDGE OF CREATION

The seventeen references to the Father in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount reveal something of the Father’s knowledge of matters related to the physical and moral universe as well as matters affecting the individual saint.

 

Matthew

Physical Universe

Kingdom of God

Personal Needs

1

5.16

 

Glorifying the Father by good works

 

2

5.38-48, two references

The rising of the sun and the falling of the rain

Impartiality towards the just and the unjust; love for all men

Meeting needs by doing good

3

6.1-4, two references

 

Giving alms in secret

 

4

6.5,6, two references

 

Praying in secret

 

5

6.7,8

   

Praying about personal needs

6

6.9-13

 

Praying about the kingdom and the will of God

Praying about daily needs – food and forgiveness

7

6.14,15, two references

   

Forgiving trespasses

8

6.16-18, two

references

 

Fasting in secret

 

9

6.19-35, two references

Feeding the fowls of the air;

the place of man in creation; the beauty of the lily and the growing grass

Giving priority to righteousness and receiving all the things the godless Gentiles seek

Food and drink and raiment

10

Matt.7.1-12

 

Consistency of life and giving good gifts

 

11

7.13-27

 

Doing the will of the Father

 

The Father’s Knowledge and Operation in the Physical Universe

The revelation of the Father’s omniscience stresses His knowledge of the physical universe but the emphasis is also on what He sees and knows that is done "in secret" Matt.6.4,6,18. In respect of the physical creation, He is seen as the One Who makes "His sun" to rise. Its regularity is such that with amazing accuracy sunrise (and sunset) can be predicted years in advance. Nonetheless the Lord Jesus does not speak of a mechanistic physical universe independent of any intelligent input, but of a universe in which the all-knowing Father is associated with the continuing creation. It is still "His sun" that shines in the heavens, for He has not relinquished His proprietary rights to the creature. Elsewhere we learn that all things were created by the creative power, and stand created by the upholding power, of His Son, Col.1.16. The weather systems that men study to predict rain – the small rain and the great rain - or hail or snow are referenced in Job chapters 36-38 (and elsewhere in that important book). In Matt.5.45 it is the Father Who sends the rain. Both His knowledge and His care are evident in His interest not only in those to whom the Lord said He is "your Father" but to all mankind, "the evil and … the good … the just and … the unjust". He does good, giving rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling hearts with food and gladness, Acts 14.17.

As the Lord draws attention to the fowls of the air and the lilies and grass in the field, Matt.6.26,28,30, He contrasts His disciples with the lower creation, v.26, and the Gentiles, v.32. The lower creation has neither the capacity to embrace the purpose "your life" should have, nor to plan, vv.25,26,28; the unsaved Gentile does not share the priorities that should be seen in a disciple’s life style, vv.24,32,33. The Father has not equipped the fowl to play any part in the sequence of events associated with the growing of food; the lily and the grass are not consulted as to how they should be clothed; and for men – saved or unsaved – there are events they cannot change. Why should they fret over events that they cannot influence as admittedly they cannot increase their height, v.27? All these matters are beyond the reach of the creature, but "your heavenly Father knoweth" v.32.

What consolation to those who commune with the Father to know that the physical creation is not a mechanistic entity over which no one has control, nor is it in the control of a distant deity who cares little for creation or the creatures that inhabit it. What consolation that all is in the Father’s hand!

The Father’s Knowledge and Operation in the Kingdom

Who can doubt that the One Who knows what we do in secret, Matt.6.1-6, 16-18, is omniscient? We learn from the Lord that the Father sees the secret things we do, vv.4,6,18; and hears what is said in secret, vv.7,8. Elsewhere we learn again from the Lord Himself that heaven hears the unspoken thought in the very heart of hearts, Lk.12.17. We bow before such omniscience! How careful we should be. Like Hagar we need to learn "Thou God seest me" Gen.16.13. Like the king of Syria we need to learn that the Father hears the words we speak in our very bedchamber, 2 Kgs.6.12. Like David we need to learn that He, Who knows our downsitting and our uprising, understands our every thought afar off, Ps.139.2.

The Father’s infinite knowledge includes the wonders of the physical universe that wise men have studied for centuries, but, as He takes account of each individual saint in the moral universe, that same Father’s knowledge gives due priority to the good he or she does, as is seen from the following consideration of Matt.5.16; 6.1-4; 7.1-12. He expects a good tree to bear good fruit, 7.18. He views our attitude to the evil and the unjust, 5.38-48. His is a deep interest in our prayer life, 6.5-13. He observes the discipline that marks our lives – the fasting that denies self in order that we might know our God better and do His will more consistently, 6.16-18. As our Lord was later to unfold in His parable of the two debtors, Matt.18.15-35, the one great index of our soul is our willingness to forgive; the Father expects a forgiving spirit, 5.21-26; 6.9-15; Eph.4.32. He knows how willingly, or otherwise, we forgive.

Such is the Father’s omniscience that the Lord speaks of reward for faithfulness, Matt.5.12; 6.4,6,18. He also uses the word "otherwise," where there is to be no reward, 6.1 and in vv.2,5,16, He emphasises that there is no future reward for those who desire to appear faithful before men, an attitude that reveals hypocrisy. The Lord warns about the light in the disciple being darkness, 6.23; and of being judged and measured by our own standards, 7.2. The omniscient Father knows, for "… all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" Heb.4.13. He is the Father, "which knoweth the hearts" Acts 15.8. Accordingly, He will reward His servants according to their works. His rewards will be an accurate reflection of their worth, for He is all-knowing. Unlike the courts of the land, the Father’s assessment does take account of motives and factors hidden to the human observer; and of course He is not prone to the respect of persons, so common in every society. His assessment will reveal His omniscience and yet will be in love, for He is our Father.

The heavenly Father is described as "perfect" in that His response to all mankind is sincere and impartial, as we have noted. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, cannot be tempted by sin and cannot lie, Hab.1.13; Jms.1.13; Titus1.2. These essential moral characteristics of the Father are to be the focus for imitation by disciples. The disciple is also to be "perfect" in "uprightness and sincerity of character … (the outcome of) maturity in godliness or attaining the goal of conformity to the character of God. Whilst sinless perfection is impossible, godliness, in its biblical concept, is attainable."* Others may misread our motives or overestimate our spiritual stature, but not the omniscient Father.

* Walvoord, J. F. “Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come.” Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1974: p.51.

The Father’s Knowledge and Needs of His Own

In His wonderful unfolding of the Father’s omniscience in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus shows that the scope of the Father’s care takes account of those who are His creatures, not only of His children. It is His intention that some of their needs be met by the good works of His own people that would thus glorify Him, Matt.5.16. Other needs He meets by sending rain and fruitful seasons, that should fill "our hearts with food and gladness" Matt.5.45; Acts 14.17. However, the great emphasis in the Sermon is on the Father’s knowledge of the needs of His own. We learn that He intends that on our part there be a definite exercise about those things the world takes for granted, so that we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread" Matt.6.11. Although these blessings are normally received daily, the regularity of provision should not diminish our gratitude. "… our daily bread" is to "be received with thanksgiving … [and] sanctified by the Word of God and prayer" 1 Tim.4.4,5. We are to do so in the context of the Father’s evident ability to feed and clothe, Matt.6.26,30, but also of His omniscience, for "… your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things," Matt.6.32. The 21st century western society does not own that the Father sends rain and fruitful seasons. Not surprisingly, therefore, few bow their heads to acknowledge the Giver by giving thanks for food.

Later the Lord will reveal that the Father’s knowledge of the needs of His own is not limited to food and clothing. His eye is not only on the sparrows that are sold two for a farthing, or five for two farthings, Matt.10.29; Lk.12.6; but His watchful eye is on those who "are of more worth than many sparrows" Matt.10.31. No sparrow "shall fall on the ground without your Father" Matt.10.29. It has been said, "God attends the funeral of every sparrow." How much more does He care for those the world counts as sheep for the slaughter, Rom.8.36? He knows they need more than food and clothing. To them He is "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort," well aware of their need and well able to comfort in any trouble, 2 Cor.1.3,4. We should intercede for suffering saints that require the Father’s tender care. We do not tell Him of them because He does not know nor do we hesitate to tell Him, fearing that He needs considerable persuasion to care. We tell Him because He is our Father and loves to hear His children, when their hearts are moved to tell Him of the needs of others. He delights in compassion and loves to find compassion in our hearts.

GOD THE FATHER – THE SOURCE OF ALL COUNSEL

The 21st century western world remains stubbornly sceptical about the very existence of God. Even where there is no outright denial of a Creator God, there are forthright objections to the very suggestion of Divine involvement in creation, and vehement opposition to His potential involvement in the affairs of nations or individuals. The prevalent view of arrogant, fallen mankind in the western world is that mankind is capable of planning and delivering a sustainable future of peace and prosperity – a task considered to be beyond the capability of a distant God, Whom they imagine to be uninterested in the affairs of earth and unfamiliar with the various societies across the globe and the complex problems they face. But that is not the God revealed in the Bible. As noted above, His self-revelation states emphatically, "My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure … I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it" Isa.46.10,11. Uncomfortable though this revelation might be to many, the Bible teaches in both Testaments that the Father’s counsel is immutable and enforced by a power that is irresistible, so that even potentates like Herod and Pontius Pilate can only "…. do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done" Acts 4.28. The Father works according to "the counsel of His own will" Eph.1.11. He has not only purposed in the past but is working effectively in the present to achieve what He has planned. Unbelieving men cannot negotiate amendments to what the Father has "purposed in Himself"; nor can they withstand the outworking of that purpose being "according to His own good pleasure" Eph.1.9. So profound is their distrust of the Father, that men have failed to realise that the Father’s good pleasure relates to how He will bless those who turn to Him, culminating in their being like His Son.

In his great exposition of God’s dealings with Israel, especially in the light of their rejection of their Messiah, the apostle Paul shows that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, so He will fulfil His promises to Israel, Rom.11.29. He also unfolds a mystery, Rom.11.25, at which men still stumble, that Israel’s fall has become the "riches of the world, and … the riches of the Gentiles" Rom.11.12. The unfolding of such wisdom moved Paul to worship, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out … For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" Rom.11.33-36. Paul was overwhelmed by the unveiling of that mystery and humbled by the means by which that masterplan to bless Jew and Gentile was being given effect in our day and in a coming day. To Paul it had been revealed that even Israel’s continued unbelief could not thwart the Father’s purpose.

The Father’s Knowledge of the Future

Many references to prophesying in both Testaments are accompanied with details of their fulfilment. We recall that Noah, a preacher of righteousness, was warned of God about a flood that came, Heb.11.7. Josiah’s reformation brought him to Bethel, where Jeroboam had built his altar. He may have been aware of the prophecy of an unnamed prophet who identified Josiah with the acts he had performed 350 years after the death of the prophet, 1 Kgs.13.2; 2 Kgs.23.14-18. Almost two centuries passed from Isaiah named Cyrus until his proclamation brought Jews back from captivity with orders to build the temple in Jerusalem, Isa.44.28; 45.13; Ezra 1.1-3. The Lord Himself expounded from Moses and the prophets "the things concerning Himself" Lk. 24.27. The Gospels contain much evidence of the fulfilment of those prophecies. Faith accepts that God speaks unerringly about the future. The incontestable evidence of prophecy having been fulfilled undermines every effort of sceptics to provide plausible explanations. Scripture contains many instances where the prophet is named: Isaiah (A.V., Esaias), Jeremiah, Jonah, Zacharias, John, Daniel, David and our Lord Jesus Himself. The prophets as a class are cited too. Other references include "the law and the prophets," "Moses and the prophets," and "the Scriptures". All of these were instances of the Holy Spirit speaking by the mouth of a man, Acts 1.16; He was testifying beforehand, 1 Pet.1.11, J.N.D. They prove beyond doubt the Holy Spirit’s omniscience. The occurrences in the New Testament relate to a variety of matters in respect of Christ’s first and second comings and the nation of Israel. Matt.24.25 and Mk.13.23 underscore the Lord’s omniscience. To those instances we could add John chapters 13-16; there the Lord revealed matters He would have them know about the future, while He was yet with them, Jn.13.19; 14.25; 16.4 et al. The New Testament revelation also speaks emphatically of God’s foreknowledge where we would not link that foreknowledge with the Lord Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Later we shall consider in more detail God’s foreknowledge.

Not only is the Father’s knowledge of the future complete, it is also His right to determine how it should be communicated. Some have stumbled that the Lord Jesus, Who also is omniscient as Peter testified, was unable to reveal the day and the hour of events related to His manifestation in power and glory. Rightly, Peter’s remark about the Lord’s omniscience was unqualified; in an absolute sense, it was, and is still, true: "… Thou knowest all things" Jn.21.17. Nonetheless it was not given to the Lord to reveal the day and the hour: "Of that day and that hour no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" Mk.13.32. Nor was it given to the disciples to know the day and the hour, as they learned when the Lord appeared among them in Jerusalem; the Lord emphatically declared, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power" Acts 1.7. The Father Himself would choose how, and through whom, He would communicate revelations of those secret things that belong to Him, Deut.29.29.

Mk.13.32 emphasises the detailed knowledge that belongs to the Father, in this case of future events. He knows the day and hour "of that day," and every detail of the future events of which the Lord Jesus had been speaking. The Father revealed much to men like Moses, Deut.18.15; David, Psalm16; Isaiah, Isaiah chapter 53; Peter, Matt.16.16; Paul, 1 Thess.4.15ff. In respect of some events that were then future, the angels have been His messengers to announce these, Dan.7.16ff.; 8.16ff.; 9.21ff.; 10.10ff. et al. Our Lord Jesus Himself was also the channel of communication through Whom were revealed many things concerning the future, Matt.13.3ff.; 16.18-19; 24.4ff.; Jn.13.19; 14.25; 16.4 et al. Who can read these great revelations of the future and doubt that they have come from the throne of God? The Father knows these things relating to the future and has determined when and to whom and how they would be communicated.

When the Lord Jesus appeared to His own "after His passion" Acts 1.3, He answered their questions about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power" Acts 1.7. Our Lord was indicating that the Father knew when and how the kingdom would be restored to Israel. Those great future events that stirred the minds of men steeped in the Old Testament prophecies had deeper meaning then than ever before, because of the Lord’s own discourses. But it was not given to Him, the sent One of God, to speak of that day and hour. The telling phrase "It is not for you to know …" should correct any tendency to speculate about what God has not revealed. Divine revelation is not only necessary for Christian living; it is also sufficient. We must acknowledge the adequacy of Scripture as the very work of the Father, so that in a much fuller sense than Balaam ever understood, we say "I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God" Num.22.18. Let no one dare to "add unto these things" that the Father has revealed in the prophetic books, Rev.22.18; nor absorb the teaching of men that might lead to "the worship of angels, entering into things which he has not seen," Col.2.8,18, J.N.D.; nor desire to know "the deep things of Satan," as some in Thyatira, Rev.2.24, R.V. The Father knoweth not only what things we have need of, but what revelation we have need of; that revelation He has provided in the Scriptures. These matters are in the Father’s power; there we rest, knowing that He knows and is able to bring His counsel to pass.

The Father’s Foreknowledge

A particular aspect of the Father’s omniscience that should be considered is His foreknowledge. The word group is not used in connection with a general knowledge of the future, but particularly of God’s knowledge of those with whom He will have dealings in grace. E. C. James comments: "Few biblical words have more significance than the word ‘foreknowledge’."* In the New Testament we find 16 Greek roots with the Greek prefix pro ("before"), each of which is set in a context related to God’s foreknowledge. These words relate to purpose, prophesying, telling before, knowing before, showing before, appointing before, promising before, preparing before, determining before, writing before, and preaching before.

* James, E. C. “Is Foreknowledge Equivalent to Foreordination?” Vital Theological Issues, ed. Zuck, R. B. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1994: p.21.

Seven times in the New Testament we meet "foreknowledge" – the noun twice, Acts 2.23; 1 Pet.1.2; the verb five times, Acts 26.5; Rom.8.29; 11.2; 1 Pet.1.20; 2 Pet.3.17. Neither Acts 26.5 nor 2 Pet.3.17 relate to God. The reference in Acts 26.5 is to those who had known Paul prior to his conversion; 2 Pet.3.17 relates to the saints and their prior knowledge that would save them from "being led away by the error of the wicked". Clearly the other five references relate to the foreknowledge of God. 1Pet.1.2 speaks specifically of "the foreknowledge of God the Father". Acts 2.23; Rom.8.29 and 1 Pet.1.20 all relate to God’s foreknowledge in contexts that speak of God and Jesus of Nazareth, Acts 2.23; His Son, Rom.8.29 and Christ, 1 Pet.1.20. We shall consider these references to be exemplifying the foreknowledge of God the Father.

We know that the omniscient God we serve knew "all His works from the beginning of the world" Acts 15.18. Although the word "foreknowledge" is not employed, clearly God did know all that He would do across the centuries from the foundation of the world. With equal certainty we assert that God knew every creature that would appear even for a little time on, or even under, the earth. It is noteworthy that in each of these five references to Divine foreknowledge people are in view, not merely events; and the people whom God is said to foreknow are all those He would bless:

  • Acts 2.23 - "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God";

  • Rom.8.29 - "… whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son";

  • Rom.11.2 - "God hath not cast away His people whom He foreknew";

  • 1Pet.1.1,2 - "… strangers scattered … elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father";

  • 1Pet.1.20,R.V.* - "… Christ, who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world but was manifested at the end of the times for your sake".

* A.V. reads: “… verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”

Clearly these passages do not describe a knowledge of events involving only Christ Himself; Rom.8.29; 11.2 and 1 Pet.1.1,2 describe a plurality of people. We note too that these passages are not about men in general. The language of these passages is used only of those dear to the heart of God the Father. With the exception of Rom.11.2 which we shall separately consider, that foreknowledge was from "a dateless and timeless past".* The language used suggests the pleasure these bring, or will bring, to the Father’s heart.

* Leckie, A. “Romans.” Fareham: Precious Seed Publications, 2007: p.128.

What then does foreknowledge of persons imply? All would recognise that the omniscient One would know all about them – their circumstances, the events that would shape their lives and His dealings with them. In 1 Cor.8.3, the apostle Paul takes account of those who have knowledge. Not all of them remain humble and show love. In the context, the lack of love would be seen in disdain for those who did not understand the reality of idolatry. Where there was love for a fellow saint, particularly a weak brother, there was love for God. Paul then comments, "… if any man love God, the same is known of Him." That man of knowledge and love was known of God. His being known of God would betoken approbation of the love he was showing. Similarly, God’s foreknowledge of the persons about whom Paul and Peter wrote means that His eye has been upon them for blessing. C. B. Bass goes as far as to comment: "Foreknowledge is synonymous with fore-love."* We also observe that in the references to God’s foreknowledge of His saints, there is no suggestion that all their actions merit Divine approval.

* Bass, C B. “Election,” Pictorial Bible Dictionary ed. Tenney, M C. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967: p. 242

In Rom.11.2, Paul describes Israel as "His people which He foreknew". That Paul is describing Israel is evident from v.1 of that chapter where he again uses the designation "His people" before adding: "I also am an Israelite". Although we find the expression "before the foundation of the world" at Eph.1.4; 1 Pet.1.20, no similar expression is found at Rom.11.2. We meet a different expression - "from the foundation of the world" - as Matt. 13.35; 25.34; Rev.13.8; 17.8. The two expressions recorded by Matthew relate to the kingdom in which Israel will be acknowledged to be the head of the nations, Deut.28.13. Rev.13.8, J.N.D., R.V. margin and Rev.17.8 speak of the book of life written from the foundation of the world.* The scenes of those passages in Revelation take place after the Rapture of the Church and so the parties involved in them are not members of the body of Christ. We are able to conclude from 1 Pet.1.1,2; Eph.1.4 that we have Scriptural warrant to speak of the saints of the Church age as "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" "before the foundation of the world". We also have Scriptural authority to speak of the mystery of the kingdom as having been kept secret "from the foundation of the world," but the Word of God does not reveal whether it would be appropriate to speak of Israel and the nations who will share that earthly kingdom as having been foreknown "from the foundation of the world".

* Rev 13:8 A.V. reads: “… all who dwell on the earth … whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

The Father’s Purpose

The New Testament uses the noun "purpose" five times in respect of God: Rom.8.28; 9.11; Eph.1.11; 3.11; 2 Tim.1.9; and the cognate verb at Rom 3.25; Eph.1.9. Although only Eph.3.11 uses the phrase "eternal purpose," Paul assures us that no created being was His counsellor: "He purposed in Himself" Eph.1.9. It was a matter in which "man had no voice nor choice".* Unlike man whose strategic direction constantly requires adjustment to take account of unforeseen events, the omniscient God’s eternal purpose is as unchangeable as Himself. Great forces oppose His eternal purpose, both demonic and human, but He continues to work "all things after the counsel of His own will" Eph.1.11. He has also chosen to reveal in the New Testament aspects of His purpose in the mysteries revealed through our Lord Jesus and His apostles Paul and John. The noun "mystery" is used 27 times in the New Testament of the Divine masterplan that had been hidden, not in the Scriptures but in God Himself, Eph.3.9. Those mysteries have been revealed at the time of God’s choosing; they will never need any revision, for they do not represent aspirations that can never be realised. Omniscience assures us that the Father’s purpose needs no revision; His omnipotence that it will never fail.

* Kelly, W. “Lectures on the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians.” London: G. Morrish, undated: p.16

The Father and Predestination

Among the sixteen words prominent in the New Testament vocabulary that relate to the Father’s foreknowledge is the verb "to predestinate". It simply means "to mark out beforehand" (W. E. Vine). It may carry the sense of marking out a boundary beforehand (Kittel, Friedrich and Bromiley).* All six occurrences of the verb relate to God Himself: Acts 4.28; Rom.8.29,30; 1 Cor.2.7; Eph.1.5,11. The use of the verb in the New Testament also provides proof that predestination is not to be seen as a synonym of "foreknowledge". Indeed Rom.8.29 contains both verbs "to foreknow" and "to predestinate". The text reads "… He did foreknow, He also did predestinate," thus clearly differentiating foreknowledge and predestination. Predestination is not focussed on people so much as on what the Father has determined before will be theirs. In respect of the Lord Jesus, Acts 4.28 reveals that the Father determined beforehand the kind of death He was to die. In Romans chapter 8 the saints’ predestination is unto sonship; in 1 Cor.2.7 the wisdom of God ordained that we should be associated with the Lord of glory "unto our glory", a glory that has yet to be publicly revealed. In Eph.1.5 again the saints of this period – a period that has continued from the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Lord’s exaltation and will continue until the Rapture, 1 Thess.4.14-17 – are predestined to sonship, whereas in Eph.1.11, those same sons who have obtained an inheritance, are predestinated "to the praise of His glory".

* Kittel, G, Friederich G and Bromiley, G. W. “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.” Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1985.

Clearly Divine predestination also belongs to that "dateless and timeless past"* to which the apostles Peter and Paul refer when employing the expression "before the foundation of the world" Eph.1.4; 1 Pet.1.20. When we refer to the omniscience of the Father we take account of "the counsel of His own will," "the wisdom of God" expressed in the settled purpose that is being worked out to His own eternal glory, Eph.1.11; 1Cor.2.7. Both foreknowledge and predestination are facets of that attribute of God we call omniscience. Foreknowledge has taken account of the persons, predestination of the place those persons will have. The Father’s purpose ever was that we should occupy the place of sons.

* Leckie, ibid.

Low we bow before Thy face,

Sons of God, O wondrous place!

Great the riches of Thy grace;

Father, we adore Thee.

            (S. Trevor Francis)

We would have been signally honoured to be as one of His hired servants, but that would not have been "according to the good pleasure of His will (nor) after the counsel of His own will" Eph.1.5,11. Among the "words … which the Spirit teacheth" 1 Cor.2.13 R.V., we note the expression "the good pleasure of His will". It pleased the Father that we should be sons "before Him in love". We marvel the more when we recall that these words relate to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom belongs omniscience. He knew our sins and the rebellious state in which we gloried, and yet "saved us … not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" 2 Tim.1.9. In saving us, He has given the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, "Abba, Father."" Rom.8.15. It pleased the Father to send the Spirit to indwell each of those who are His sons.

The Greek word translated "good pleasure" in Eph.1.5,9 is used of the Father declaring of the Lord Jesus: "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased,"* and once in Matt.12.18 where, citing Isa.42.1-4, Jehovah commends His Servant as "My Beloved, in Whom My soul is well pleased". Matthew states clearly that in the service of the Lord Jesus there was "fulfilled [that] which was spoken by Esaias the prophet" Matt.12.17. This lovely word "good pleasure" and its cognate verb occur 17 times in the New Testament. It is one of the most beautiful words in the New Testament. Kittel, Friederich and Bromiley note that the Greek word rendered "good pleasure" is not a classical word.** It first appears in the Greek Bible.*** Its meaning would be understood a little from its usage in the Septuagint, but much more from the New Testament. Writing of this word "good pleasure," William Kelly commented that it is "language suitable to sovereign special love … in order to manifest His own favour."†† We acknowledge that this is love’s language describing love’s actions. In the Lord’s words in Matt.11.26; Lk.10.21 the Father’s good pleasure is associated with the displacing of "the wise and prudent" by babes, children "without the power of speech".††† To those men the Jewish establishment recognised as "wise and prudent," the Father had nothing to say, but to those despised by the religious world of their day, the Father would reveal Christ. Eph.1.9,10 teach that to those similarly despised by the religious world the Father now reveals "the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ." Because the Father is omniscient, He knew in Whom He would gather all things – Christ Himself. In His good pleasure He chose to reveal the mystery of His will to those on whom He has bestowed sonship.

* The noun occurs nine times in the New Testament, seven of the occurrences are related to God’s good pleasure; the verb 21 times, 14 of which relate to God.

** Kittel, Friederich and Bromiley, ibid.

*** Kelly, W. “Lectures on the Epistle of Paul, the Apostle to the Ephesians.” London: G. Morrish, undated: p.15.

The nounal form occurs 8 times in the Septuagint.

†† Kelly, W. ibid: p.15.

††† The Greek word nepios was used by the Jews to describe proselytes.

We weigh carefully these words and realise why Paul could ask that rhetorical question, "… who has been His counsellor?" Rom.11.34. We associate counsel with the Father and mark how it underscores His omniscience. We acknowledge "… the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" 1 Cor.2.7,8.

CONCLUSION

As we raise our heart to the Father, we might employ the words Peter used in his reply to Christ in Jn.21.17, "… Thou knowest all things"! Revealing the Father is the peculiar work of His Son. During His public ministry He has revealed to us the omniscient Father, so that we do not need to pray Philip’s prayer, "… shew us the Father" Jn.14.8. On His ascension on high, through the apostles Christ has revealed to us great mysteries hidden in God before the foundation of the world. These unfoldings have expanded greatly our understanding of the greatness of the omniscient Father.