"Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." (II Timothy 2:19)
I. The Text
Oh, that men were able to probe more deeply into the subject of the knowledge of God, and speak of the grand excellencies of this truth. The apostle Paul spoke of the knowledge of the Lord concerning His people. Men such as Hymenaeus and Philetus may arise and cause all sorts of havoc, teaching as they did, that the resurrection had already passed, and so the faith of some were overthrown (II Timothy 2:17,18). Nevertheless God always distinguishes between those who were truly saints and those who were not. Even before Hymenaeus, Philetus, and their followers were exposed for the frauds they were, God knew them for what they really were, and He knew also those who would not be overcome with their error. The foundation of God is not built upon doubts, confusion, or falsehood; but it is a sure foundation, resting upon this certain fact: "The Lord knoweth them that are his."
The biblical doctrine concerning the knowledge of God is both grand and immense. The subject requires much study. The teaching branches off into many different facets. God's knowledge always involves His full awareness of persons, things, and events. However, within His awareness are dimensions of truth that most men never see. There is more that can be said about God's knowledge other than to say He knows all facts. Unfortunately most people do not realize this. They do not begin to understand the enormity of this subject.
II. The Primary Dimension: God's Omniscience and Prescience
If anyone will thoroughly examine what the Bible teaches when it speaks of the knowledge of God, he will see that it sometimes refers to God's omniscience (knowledge of all things), and His prescience (knowledge of events before they happen). Even when the scripture focuses upon specific things as opposed to everything that happens, it characterizes God as One who fully understands everything there is to know about the specific thing. This is the part of the doctrine most people accept. Most people confess God knows everything, and that He knows everything there is to know about every specific thing. That the scriptures do speak of God's knowledge in this way can readily be shown by citing just a few of many passages. One is Acts 15:18: "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." Another is John 21:17, which records Simon Peter's confession to the Lord when Christ persisted to ask him if he loved Him: "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." Although the word "know" is not in the text, another verse that contains the same message is Proverbs 5:21: "For the ways of men are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings."
The fact that God knows all things that were, and ever shall be may be simple enough to confess, but it is impossible for finite minds to grasp the depth of this truth. Eternity is infinite. It has no beginning. It shall have no end. God's knowledge spans eternity. Allow for a moment that a man could read a book, and know everything that is contained in the book. Suppose he memorized its contents so that if he were asked, he could quote the book word for word. Suppose his skill was so remarkable that if someone asked him what the 567th word of the sixth chapter was, he could tell the inquirer without any hesitation. It is doubtful such a person exists that can do these things. If there is such a person, he is gifted with a remarkable mind. Yet, even if a man did have such extraordinary mastery of a book, it needs to be realized the book had a beginning and an end. However, God views the whole of eternity. His omniscience grasps the infinite bounds of eternity before, and His prescience grasps the infinite bounds of eternity after. Since there will never be an end to things happening there also is no end to the things God has always known. Such knowledge surpasses the ability of human minds to comprehend.
III. More Than Omniscience and Prescience
As grand as it is to believe that God has absolute knowledge of past, present, and future events, it must be recognized there is a deeper level to His omniscience and prescience than the mere knowledge of all facts. Consider Paul's use of "foreknow" in chapter 11 of Romans. Having shown in the two preceding chapters that salvation was not extended to every natural Jew, and that it was given to many Gentiles, he proves God did still have a people among the Jews, which he proves by pointing out that he himself was one such Jew; then he concluded, "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew" (v. 2). Mark the words, "his people which he foreknew." If knowledge of the future was all Paul had in mind, he would not have continued to write in the manner he did when he said, "Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thin altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life" (v. 3). The apostle referred to the case of Elijah when this prophet had all but told God he was the only one still faithful to Him, and if Jehovah's enemies were allowed to prevail, God would not have a single witness left on earth. But, to prove the point that God had not cast away His people which he foreknew, Paul pointed out how God replied to Elijah: "But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal" (v. 4). Then the apostle linked those in Elijah's day with those in his own day when he said: "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (v.5). The whole point is simply this. Foreknowledge, used in verse 2, is more than mere foresight. This was not a foreknowledge which simply had God knowing Elijah was wrong, and the He still had seven thousand faithful worshippers. It was more than God knowing about the fact of the seven thousand souls. Rather, this was a foreknowledge which actually reserved these seven thousand to the Lord to insure they did not bow to Baal, and further, this was a foreknowledge which in Paul's time had a remnant among the Jews, Paul himself included, chosen not on the basis of their works, but on the basis of God's grace (v.6).
IV. ANOTHER DIMENSION: God's Knowledge In Association With His Will
The subject is God's knowledge, not predestination. Yet, the two are often inseparably linked to one another. When Solomon wrote, "The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil" (Proverbs 16:4), he taught God's purposes encompassed the whole of His creation. But, surely anyone can understand that for God to have made all things for Himself, He must visualize all things, and see how each part of His work fits in with all other parts in order for Him to receive the glory from the things that are made. If anyone will thoroughly examine what the Bible teaches, he will see that sometimes the doctrine of the knowledge of God is used in association with His purposes.
A common error must be dealt with at the outset. Many people satisfy themselves with the notion God's preordination is subservient to His foreknowledge. That is, they believe God predestinated an event because He foresaw it happening. How often men have uttered such nonsense, as, "God elects those to salvation that He knew would accept Christ." Some have tried to use the text from I Peter 1:2 to teach this view: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." In so doing they greatly err. Although this verse indicates election is according to both foreknowledge and the applied blood of Christ, it does not tie the two together. Rather, in the structure of the sentence, "elect" is joined unto the obedience spoken of thereafter. It is "elect ... unto obedience." In short, the reason why these people were obedient was because they were chosen unto obedience. It does not teach they were chosen because God foresaw obedience in them.
The whole argument that says God determines events because He foresaw them happening is a ludicrous argument. It is like saying God cannot beat the forces that are happening so He decides to join them. Consider that a dictator of a nation may sing a decree that the sun will appear in the east and set in the west the following day, but if it is going to happen anyway, where is any strength in this decree? His will in the matter is completely worthless, and his decree amounts to nothing at all. Likewise, would predestination be such a meaningless term that there would be no reason to make it a part of the language of scripture if God predestinates a thing solely because He foresaw it happening anyway.
Past brethren well stated the case when they wrote: "Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions." (The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, chapter 3, section 2).
In order to understand how God's holy designs and knowledge are linked together, an illustration is in order. Picture a highly skilled mechanic who has developed an advanced engine. In the planning stages, he conceived how the engine would look, what purposes it would serve, and how it would perform. Not only did he have the whole project in mind, but he also planned each part, and what purpose even the smallest of pieces would play in the function of the engine. When he actually started building the engine, it became clear how knowledgeable this man was. Each part fit into place. When he finished his work, nothing was missing, and no pieces, not even a simple washer, were left unused. After his work was finished, he started the engine. It worked precisely as he had planned. As others began to take notice of his work, they realized what a genius this man was. In all of the intricate aspects, he knew his work. Except for the fact that it is on a higher scale, this is the way God is. He envisions the whole of eternity. Before His eyes are all creation. He sees each person, each thing, and each event, and the way each fitly joins together to bring to pass His own will. As the mechanic's knowledge was an important factor in the development of his engine, so is God's knowledge an integral part of the fulfillment of His sovereign will.
The doctrine is taught in the words: "Remember the former things of old: for 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: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it" (Isaiah 46:9-11).
The first part of this text deals with the whole matter of creation. Although the term "knowledge" is not found in these verses, it is plain from the language that God has absolute knowledge of all things, both past and future, for, if not, He would be in no position to declare "the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done." This is a statement attributing to God the knowledge of all things. Yet it goes beyond the bounds of just saying He is aware of all things. Immediately after talking about what God declares, the text begins talking about the fulfillment of His will: "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." Since the things declared include all things, and since they are linked to the accomplishment of His counsel, the only conclusion that can be rendered is, His counsel also includes all things. There is no room to argue the knowledge of God involves all things, but the counsel of God involves a limited number of things. The point of the passage is, God declares the end from the beginning because His counsel also involves all things. This text does not allow for the nonsense of of some men when they utter, "God knows everything that will happen, but that does not mean He wants everything that occurs to happen," for, according to the prophet's words, the things which are declared are in agreement with His counsel and pleasure.
The second part of this text deals with the specific set of events brought about through a man called a "ravenous bird." This man was none other than Cyrus, the Persian king, who is referred to in Isaiah 44:28 as the Lord's shepherd who would do the Lord's will, "saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid." He is referred to as the Lord's "anointed" in Isaiah 45:1, not because he was a godly man, but because God had made him a part of His design to bring to pass both the recovery of the Jewish nation, and the rebuilding of the temple. Here in these passages are revealed both what God willed to bring to pass and the means through which He would bring them to pass. His foreknowledge and His will blend together, and He revealed through this prophet both His knowledge and purposes. What is remarkable is this prophecy was given more than 100 years before the first temple was destroyed, and the Jews were driven from their land. In other words, Isaiah was not telling a nation that had already lost their land and temple that through the "ravenous bird" all would be restored. Rather, he was telling a nation that had not yet lost their land and temple that such a restoration would occur through a man yet to be born whose name was Cyrus. Later, God raised up another prophet, Jeremiah, who foretold the destruction of the land and temple by the Babylonians, and the length of their captivity (70 years), without foretelling, as Isaiah had done, the means through which the restoration would take place. Still later, God raised up Daniel, who picked up from Jeremiah's prophecy, and foretold the major kingdoms that would exist in the world from the time of the restoration through and beyond the earthly ministry of Christ. All of this involves the absolute knowledge and foreknowledge of God, but it goes beyond God simply knowing about events. It is an absolute knowledge based upon the Lord's design to bring to pass His sovereign will. Cyrus was not just known to exist, but he was known to exist for the purpose of allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. He was know as the "ravenous bird" who would execute the Lord's counsel from a far country. As the mechanic applied his knowledge when he built his engine, God applied His knowledge when He rebuilt Jerusalem. "Yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it."
Another scripture which combines the decrees of God with His knowledge is found in Peter's address to the Jews concerning Christ's death: "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23). It is clear that wicked men brought their full contempt upon the Lord Jesus by having Him crucified, but it is also clear from the text that the events surrounding His death were fixed in the design and knowledge of Almighty God. The Greek word translated "determinate counsel" means to "mark out." This Greek word does not have the prefix "pre" attached to it, but otherwise it is the same word that is translated "predestinate" in other passages. Peter's language here agrees with a host of other scriptures which show it was the will of God that Christ should suffer death. There are the words of the prophet: "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin ... he hath poured out his soul unto death" (Isaiah 53:10,12). There are the words of Christ: "And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined" (Luke 22:22). There are the words of the apostles' prayer: "Who by the mouth of thy servant David has said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child, Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4:25-28). There are some of the verses that teach the Lord's death was according to the fixed counsel of God. Yet in Acts 2:23, the statement is also made that His death was by the "foreknowledge of God." This was God's knowledge of the series of events that dealt with the wicked hands taking and crucifying Christ. However, it would be ridiculous in the light of all the scriptures which teach His death to be according to His determinate counsel to argue that God's will had nothing to do with the matter, but that God simply knew in advance what would happen. Rather, it makes more sense to hold that the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God worked hand in hand together, and the by God's foreknowledge in this case is meant that God had absolute prior knowledge how He would execute His own sovereign will culminating in the death of Jesus. God viewed all the forces that were to work, all the human agents that were to be in place, and the proper setting that was to exist in order to accomplish His will. Each ruler, each wicked heathen, each unbelieving Jew was set in place to fulfill His own holy design in redeeming His people from sin.
These are just a few examples of scripture that show how God's knowledge goes together with His preordination. Time does not permit a full review of other cases, such as the manner in which the lives of many people were saved through the perpetuation of evil upon Joseph by his brothers, or of Judas' betrayal of Christ, or of the unbelief of the Jewish people which led to the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles.
Paul's words at the conclusion of Romans, chapter 11 combine God's sovereignty with His knowledge, and are, therefore, relevant words to summarize this truth: "Oh 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 who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." (vs. 33-36)
V. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND DETERMINISM
Before leaving the subject of God's knowledge joined to His decrees, consider one more point. A belief in the absolute omniscience and prescience of God necessitates a belief in an absolute determinism. What God knows will happen, has to come to pass. If God knew it would rain in a specific area at a certain time, then it follows it must rain at that place and time. If God's knowledge is absolute, then His knowledge must account for the exact number of drops that fall, and the specific time and place must be fixed. If one more drop of rain falls, or if one less drop of rain falls, then God would have been wrong. If the rain falls over a larger area, or at a different time than God expected, He would be as mistaken as weathermen are whose predictions often go astray. Those who acknowledge God's absolute knowledge of all things cannot consistently allow for contingencies.
Consider how foolish it is when men talk about God trying to save everyone. If He knows all things, He surely knows who will and who will not be saved. What sense does it make for God to try to save those that He knows will never be saved? What sense does it make to believe Christ died for all of Adam's race to give them a chance to be saved, when it is admitted He knew the ones who had already perished at the time of His death, and He foresaw the ones who would perish thereafter?
Consider also, how foolish it is when men deny that there is a fixed time to die. If He knows all things, He certainly sees ahead the means, time, and place of each person's demise. Is it not silly to believe a person can live beyond the time God foresees him living, and is it not equally silly to believe a person can die before the time God sees him dying? The point of all of this is, there is no room for chance in a system that acknowledges God's absolute omniscience and prescience. Even if one does not want to accept the doctrine of preordination of all things, he must face the determinism that exists within the framework of a belief in God's foreknowledge of all things.
VI. ANOTHER DIMENSION: GOD'S KNOWLEDGE AS LOVE
If anyone will thoroughly examine what the Bible teaches when it speaks of the knowledge of God, he will see that it sometimes refers to the love He has for His people. In this sense, this truth is conveyed in its sweetest, most powerful sense, and the doctrine is used in such a manner to show the approbation and caring the Lord has for those that are His.
That the verb "know" is sometimes used in the place of "love" is plain from several scriptures. When the Bible says, "Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain" (Genesis 4:1), surely everyone can see more than his mere acquaintance of her is intended. The meaning is, he loved her, and from this love came the act of lovemaking, which, in turn resulted in the conception and birth of a male child. Someone may ask, why use the verb "know" in the place of "love"; if love is meant, why not simply say "love"? The answer is, love involves knowing a person or thing in a certain way. Adam's knowledge was a knowledge of intimacy. He knew her as he knew nothing else on earth. The word is also used with regard to the intimacy of lovemaking in the case of Joseph and Mary. The scripture says, "he knew her not till she had brought forth her first born son" (Matthew 1:25). Jesus used the word in a negative way when He spoke of mere professors who claimed many wonderful works in His name: "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:23). Surely this cannot be interpreted to mean He lacked knowledge about these men. He fully knew who they were, and that they were full of iniquity. The sense is, He did not know them intimately. Their names were no where to be found in the Lamb's book of life. In short, He did not love them (as God did not love Esau - Romans 9:13 & others - Psalm 5:5-6); and contrary to the popular belief that God loves everyone, the clear teaching of this verse is the Lord never knew (loved) them.
The following are some passages which use the verb "know" and the noun "knowledge" in the sense of God loving His people. It should be noted some of these verses are written in the context of discussing God's purposes. This should be understandable. God's designs often focus upon those whom He loves.
Romans 8:29 states: "For whom he did foreknow ...". The foreknowledge spoken of here is both distinguishing and particular. God's knowledge used solely in the sense of omniscience and prescience is universal, but His knowledge used in this verse is limited to persons only. The scripture does not say what events He did foreknow or what things He did foreknow; it says, "whom he did foreknow." Not only this, but it is a knowledge of certain persons, not all persons. The objects of this foreknowledge are those spoken of as the recipients of the Spirit in the first part of chapter 8 (vs. 1-27), those predestinated, called, justified, and glorified (vs. 29-30), those whom God is for (v. 31), those for whom Christ died and made intercession (vs. 32-34), and those who cannot be separated from the love of God which is in Christ (vs. 35-39). Since the prefix "fore" is added to the word "know," it shows this intimate knowledge concerning His people to be eternal, so the passage agrees with what is found in Jeremiah 31:3. "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee."
Another cite is from Jesus' words: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep" (John 10:14). Still other passages are fro Paul's words, "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew" (Romans 11:2); and "The Lord knoweth them that are his" (II Timothy 2:19). Other verses are from Simon Peter, "Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (I Peter 1:2); and from the mouth of the Lord to Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee" (Jeremiah 1:5).
God's approbation concerning His saints are set forth in the words: "For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous" (Psalm 1:6).
VII. A RESULT OF INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE: God's Watchfulness
An outgrowth of God's intimate knowledge concerning His people is His all encompassing vigilance and care for them. This is omniscience and prescience blended with the full love and compassion of Almighty God. Compare it to a mother's knowledge of and care for her child. Because she loves her child, her mind easily registers important data about him. She knows the exact minute he was born, his weight and length at birth, how tall and how much he presently weighs, how old he was when he took his first step, and what words he first spoke. She has no trouble remembering these details. Being human, she may forget other things, but she does not forget what is important to her concerning her child. Likewise, because she loves him, she keeps a constant eye upon him. She watches him when he eats to make sure he does not choke. When he plays in another room, she checks on him every few minutes to make sure he is safe. When she shops, she makes sure he is by her side at all times. This is the way mothers often are. this is also the way God is toward his children. Psalm 33:18-19 paints this beautiful picture: "Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine."
Many scriptures deal with this wonderful truth.
In a psalm of David, he wrote, "Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered," and elsewhere in the same psalm, he wrote, "But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me" (Psalm 30:5,17). This psalm has a dual application. It is to be applied to David, but it is also to be applied to Christ. Compare verses 6-8 with Hebrews 10:5-7. Therefore, these words not only show the mindfulness God had for David in his trials, but they also show the watchfulness of the heavenly Father for His Son during His days upon the earth.
Even more forcefully presented is the thought of His loving watchfulness given in Psalm 139. He introduces the psalm with the words, "O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me" (v. 1), and from there he acknowledged the Lord's knowledge of him in both his downsitting and uprising states (v. 2), the Lord's knowledge of his though afar off (v. 2), the Lord's awareness of all his ways (v. 3), the Lord's knowledge of his words (v. 4), the Lord's constant presence with him (vs. 7-12), and the Lord's mindfulness of him even while he was still in his mother's womb (vs. 13-16). David's conclusion speaks for the feelings of all of God's saints when he said, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it;" and again, "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand" (vs. 6, 17-18).
Instances abound in the gospels in which the loving kindness of Christ was manifested in His omniscience.
Christ taught His disciples of God's absolute involvement with the details of their lives when He told them, "the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:30). He also taught them God had complete awareness of their needs when He instructed them not to engage in the vain, repetitious prayers of the heathen, because "your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him" (Matthew 6:8). Jesus knew the fiery trials that were about to come upon Simon Peter, and his need for deliverance; and He spoke to Simon in this manner: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:31-32).
Jesus said the shepherd "calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out" (John 10:3), and, indeed, there are recorded instances in which this was the case. When Andrew brought his brother to Christ, Andrew did not have to introduce the Lord to him because Jesus already knew him, and told him, "Thou are Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas" (John 1:42). Another instance was the case of the publican whom Jesus singled out from among the crowd, and called him by name from the tree where he was perched, saying, "Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down: for today I must abide at thy house" (Luke 19:5).
Oh, the powerful testimony to the loving awareness of the Lord concerning His people when He remarked not only about Nathanael's character, "an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!", but He also told this man whom He had never formally met, "Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee" (John 1:45,48). The Samaritan woman was completely amazed that the Lord knew her as He did, and the testimony she gave to the people of her city was, "Come see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (John 4:29).
As sweet as a mother's knowledge and awareness is displayed in her dealing with her little ones, it is nothing compared to the Lord's knowledge and awareness of His children. His is complete love, knowledge, vigilance, and care. Through this truth, every believer should have the encouragement to follow the instruction of the apostle when he advised the saints to be "casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (I Peter 5:7).
VIII. GOD'S DISCERNMENT BETWEEN ELECT AND REPROBATE PERSONS
When Christ said to His disciples, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70), He drew a distinction between Judas and His other eleven apostles. All twelve were chosen. Yet only eleven were to be kept. Judas, "the son of perdition" was to be lost. The fact he was to be lost was "that the scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12). The passage that was to be fulfilled was Psalm 41:9: "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me." When Jesus washed the disciples' feet, He again distinguished between Judas and the others when He said, "ye are clean, but not all" (John 13:10). The argument has been presented, Jesus knew there would be a betrayer, but He did not know who he would be until near the end of His life, but this is contradicted by the words of John 6:64: "For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him." Accounting for all of these words, only one conclusion is possible. When Jesus chose His twelve apostles, He fully knew the role Judas was to play in His sufferings. To the eleven Christ said, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (John 15:16). These words were not spoken to Judas. He had left the presence of the Lord, and the other disciples before these words were spoken (John 13:30). Christ distinguished between His true disciples and the one that was a fraud.
When Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:14-15), He linked His knowledge concerning His people with His vicarious suffering for them. He knew them as His sheep, and He, their Saviour, shed His blood for them. The sheep stand in contrast to men who were not His, to whom He said, "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep" (John 10:27).
When Jesus said, "this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day" (John 6:39), He left no room for the possibility any to whom the Father gave Him charge would be missed. A distinction is drawn: "all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29).
When Christ shall come in His glory, when the nations are gathered before Him, "he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats" (Matthew 25:32). To the sheep, Christ shall say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34). To the others, Christ shall say, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). A distinction is clear in the mind of Christ between sheep and goats.
Return to the teaching of II Timothy 2:19. The foundation of God stands sure. It has this seal, "The Lord knoweth them that are his." On the other hand, He is able to see men such as Hymenaeus, Philetus, and those whose faith was so counterfeit that it could be overthrown. On the other hand, He knew the ones that were His. Men cannot always make that distinction. God always can. Sometimes men who once were counted brethren depart from the faith and so manifest themselves for what they are. In other cases, it may not be known by men until the last time. Mark this, the Lord always knows the sheep from the goats.
"Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." May all that name His dear name be brought forth out of spiritual Babylon. May they all be delivered from corruption. May they heed these words, "wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons, and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (II Corinthians 6:17-18).
David K. Mattingly