“According to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:2 ESV).
Focus your attention on God, not on the word “foreknowledge.” God’s eternal attributes and characteristics are revealed in both Scripture and in nature. We could know little about God without Him telling us. We can assume great things about God through an honest examination of nature, which is the evidence of His work. But to know Him, either intellectually or intimately, demands He reveal Himself to us in a way we understand. There are two ways He has done this. As mentioned, He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. He has also given us His image so that we might know Him intimately. For this study in First Peter we will focus on some of God’s essential characteristics and eternal attributes to understand what is meant by His foreknowledge.
God’s unique essence is features of His eternal nature He shares with no created being. The words “essence” and “substance” are reasonably interchangeable when used to describe God. As God reveals Himself, we discover the evidence of His eternal self, upon which His attributes have their foundation. His essential character is similar to His attributes. However, we could say those created in His image have similar attributes, mirrored in the image given, with a likeness to His essence, limited but given so we might intimately know Him.
God is spiritual and has no physical substance, unlike the physical universe He created. Scripture is filled with anthropomorphic descriptions of God, describing Him as having human characteristics, given as a means for people to grasp particular aspects of His being. God is also described as having a characteristic of a bird. He has “wings” (see Psalm 17:8; Ruth 2:12). God is described as a fire, speaking to Moses from a burning bush. “When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am’” (Exodus 3:4 ESV). As an eternal being, God does not have physical characteristics.
Jesus, when speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, describes God as spirit. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24 ESV). Since God is a spirit, those who are created in His image must worship Him in both spiritand in truth. Spirit means the vital principle that animates those created in the image of God. Truth is reality, whether in the physical or eternal realm. People cannot makeup ways to worship God Worship originally came from their natural inclinations, uncorrupted by sin, according to the image of God in them. Worship is the natural outcome of an intimate relationship with God, not simply ritualistic observances. Sin and rebellion corrupts the vessel containing the image but the image of God in people is not corrupted. Jesus added these two words, spiritand truth because of the corruption of sin that has caused the inability of the sinful person to comprehend the spiritual or that which is true.
Paul tells us God’s essence is revealed in the physical universe, which is the evidence of His work.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20 ESV)
This is not a contradiction to the words of John. “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known”(John 1:18 ESV). No one who is corrupted by sin can see God for He will not allow sin in His eternal presence. God can be known, both intellectually and intimately, by an honest examination of His creation and through an intimate relationship with the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
God will do only what God can do. No created being can do that which only God can do. Therefore, the evidence of God is in the work done which only He can do. People can see and examine the obvious evidence of the physical universe, including their own bodies, and their understanding of the laws of the universe. Only God can create and only He can suspend the laws of the universe and perform miracles. God may use people as the instrument though which His miracles are performed, as when God used Moses to do miracles before Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.
As His people entered the Promised Land, Joshua told them how they could know that God was with them. “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you” (Joshua 3:10 ESV). You will know when the ark, carried by twelve men, enters the Jordan River while at flood stage, and the water is stopped so they can cross without injury. God’s miracles are more evidence of God. Peter and the disciples, and many of the people who followed and listened to Jesus, saw His works and the miracles He did. They saw Him with their eyes and witnessed His divinity, declaring Him the “Son of God” (see Matthew 14:33, 16:16; John 1:49, 6:69, 11:27, 20:31). They saw the evidence of creation, the miracles performed, and the Person of Jesus. We can read about the eyewitness accounts of the miracles of God and the Person of Jesus but can also examine the evidence of creation. As such, we can know God is both living and active in the physical universe and in the spiritual realm.