What does “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” mean?

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailReading Time: 2 minutes

What does Peter mean when he writes about the “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”?

This question may address the omniscience of God in knowing who will respond to the gospel, or it may address predestination, God’s choosing of specific ones from creation. Or perhaps the question refers to the threefold work of God in saving people, covered in the remainder of this passage: the foreknowledge of God the Father, the sanctification of the Spirit, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2).

Each of these explanations is relevant to Peter’s statement about the “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” But writing an informed answer to any one of them, much less all three, requires more space than we have here. So let’s examine the key words of the phrase in question: elect, foreknowledge, and God.

The apostle Peter wrote this statement to a group of believers scattered across Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). The words appear in the epistle’s greeting, and it acknowledges the expressed faith of those Peter was writing to (vv. 3-9). Further, it states a truth commonly known and accepted by the apostle and others. In other words, Peter was not expressing a topic in the greeting to cause controversy.

God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:13). Therefore, He is not the author of sin. Neither did God capriciously create man incapable of not sinning. Yet He knew before creating humanity that sin would enter creation.

In the Old Testament, the elect refers not to individuals as such but to Israel as God’s chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6). They were highly favored, gathered from other nations. They received the very oracles of God through the law and the prophets and through means that others did not have (Romans 3:1-31). Peter uses this very Old Testament language of divine election and applies it to the New Testament church. Of these believers it is said, echoing Deuteronomy 7:6 and Exodus 19:5, 6, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9, KJV). Like Israel of old, the church is the elect of God by faith (1:5-9; Genesis 15:6).

Foreknowledge, in human terms, requires time for a reference. It is applied here to the eternal God, who created time but is not bound by it. With humans, we think of knowing what was or is or will be. With God, those references do not apply, since time is specifically a component of His creation, not of Himself.

On foreknowledge and the passage in question from 1 Peter 1, John Wesley offers helpful comments:

Strictly speaking, there is no foreknowledge, no more than after knowledge, with God: but all things are known to him as present from eternity to eternity. This is therefore no other than an instance of the divine condescension to our low capacities. Elect – By the free love and almighty power of God taken out of, separated from, the world. Election, in the scripture sense, is God’s doing anything that our merit or power have no part in. The true predestination, or fore-appointment of God is, 1. He that believeth shall be saved from the guilt and power of sin. 2. He that endureth to the end shall be saved eternally. 3. They who receive the precious gift of faith, thereby become the sons of God; and, being sons, they shall receive the Spirit of holiness to walk as Christ also walked.

— Elder Chip Hinds


Have a question you’d like answered? Submit it here:


    Chip Hinds is the Southwest District Superintendent of the General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day).