Foreknowledge means “to have knowledge of something before it happens.” In Scripture there are are references to God’s foreknowledge of those who will believe in Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 1:2). Those whom God foreknows, he also elects to be saved (1 Pet. 1:2).
Proginosko is the word used in the New Testament which we translate as “to foreknow”. It literally means “to know before.” The word breaks down like this: pro (before) ginosko (to know/recognize).
We are familiar with this word in English. For example: a doctor will give a prognosis. And someone who makes predictions is called “a prognosticator.”
The word in its noun or verb form is used several times in the New Testament to explain the foreknowledge of God or of individuals. Here are some passages where the word is used: Acts 2:23; 26:4-5; Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:1-2, 20; 2 Peter 3:17.
Many Arminians believe that foreknowledge works like this: God has exhaustive knowledge of the future, thus He “prognosticates” it perfectly. The Father has determined to save all those who believe in Jesus. Those who believe are elected. Election in Christ is corporate in Scripture (those who believe), as opposed to individual election unto salvation. The Arminian understanding of foreknowledge is apparent in passages like Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2
(The following words in bold are mine. They represent the Greek word for “foreknowledge.”)
Romans 8:28-29: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (NKJV)
1 Peter 1:1-2: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (NKJV)
Calvinists err in their understanding of foreknowledge, conflating foreknowledge with predestination. They believe that God decrees everything that happens, so that foreknowledge must be a byproduct of His decree. In Calvinistic thought, foreknowledge is a synonym for unconditional election. But Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2 show, instead, that God’s election is a result of His foreknowledge, not the cause of it.
Another Calvinistic interpretation of foreknowledge is “to forelove,” instead of “to foreknow”. However, there is little justification for this interpretation in the context of the passages in the New Testament.
God is working for the good of those who love Him! He sees everything, He always knows what will happen, and He is always working on the behalf of those whom He knows will believe. He is for us!