Doesn’t the Bible teach election based on God’s foreknowledge?

Q. Doesn’t 1 Peter 1:2 teach that election is based on foreknowledge? Then why do people preach otherwise? Isn’t it very wrong to do so?

I believe that God’s sovereign choice in election and our morally accountable response to God are two sides of a mystery or paradox, and that we need to hold to both sides at once in order to be faithful to the full counsel of God in the Scriptures.

It’s true that there are statements in the Bible that seem to say that people are saved essentially because God has chosen them in election.  For example, Luke describes in the book of Acts how Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the gospel in Pisidian Antioch, and he describes the response to their proclamation this way:  “All who were appointed for eternal life believed.”

But other statements in the Bible make it appear that salvation depends on our response to God.  When Jesus is speaking of the resurrection in the gospel of John, for example, he says, “Those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.”

Some statements even seem to have no problem proclaiming divine sovereignty and human moral responsibility in the same breath.  Peter says in his message on the day of Pentecost, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

So I don’t think it’s wrong to preach and teach that the principle of human moral responsibility complements the principle of divine sovereignty in a well-rounded understanding of the Bible.

As for the particular passage you asked about, it’s interesting to me that what Peter says we have been chosen for is not salvation, but sanctification.  He writes to those “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.”  In the same way Paul says that “those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”  And I understand the foreknowledge here as relational knowledge (in a sense, God has been in a relationship with us since eternity past), not an advance knowledge of what choice a person will make.  I don’t think that is predetermined.  (See this post for a longer discussion of God’s foreknowledge in connection with a different question.)

So election based on foreknowledge is only part of the story, and it’s not wrong to bring out the other parts of the story.