Jew and Gentile
Restored to Israel
Slaves to Sin
Slaves to God
Slaves Serving God
Life by Faith
Service by Faith
Modified from Irving
L. Jensen's excellent work Jensen's
Survey of the NT
AND WE KNOW: Oidamen (1PRAI) de:
(Ro 8:35, 36, 37, 38, 39; 5:3,4; Ge 50:20; Dt 8:2,3,16; Ps 46:1,2; Jer
24:5, 6, 7; Zech 13:9; 2Co 4:15, 16, 17; 5:1; Phil 1:19, 20, 21, 22, 23;
2Th 1:5, 6, 7; Heb 12:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1112; Jas 1:3,4; 1Pe 1:7,8; Rev
introduces this last section of Romans 8 noting that this is Paul's
Conclusion of the argument: the
Apostle glories in the assurance of God's eternal and unchangeable love
in Jesus Christ.
We have been dealing in the first part of the chapter with the human
will and its consent to walk by the Spirit. Beginning in Verse 28 to the
end of this chapter it will be God from now on!
- Nothing is more necessary for
Christians than to be well persuaded of the happiness and privileges of
their condition, that they may be able to serve God with cheerfulness
and freedom of spirit, and to pass through the troubles and difficulties
of the world. Here, then, is further consolation: Christians are often
in sorrows, sufferings, and trials. This is not in itself joyous, but
grievous; but in another point of view it is a matter of joy. Though
afflictions in themselves are evil, yet in their effects as overruled
and directed by God, they are useful. Yea, all things, of every kind,
that happen to the Christian, are overruled by God for his good! (Haldane,
R. An Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans)
Vine introduces this
section with the following comment...
Having shown that suffering is not
incompatible with a life of hope, the apostle now extends this to make
clear that suffering is part of the working out of God’s all-wise
purposes for us, and that neither affliction nor anything else can
prevent this or thwart God’s ultimate designs for us. Here, too, he
confirms the doctrine of the justification of the believer and
establishes that of his eternal security. (Vine, W. Collected writings
of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
Calvin comments on this
verse noting that "Though the elect and the reprobate
are indiscriminately exposed to similar evils, there is yet a great,
difference; for God trains up the faithful by afflictions, and thereby
promotes their salvation." (Romans
8 - John Calvin's Commentaries on the Bible)
Raymond Ortlund writes that...
The hand of God is at the helm. He’s
steering us through the storms of life toward home, toward a safe haven.
And He takes care to order all the events of our lives right now to
speed us on our way there. This is what we call
overruling hand at work everywhere in a fallen world. The
of God is clearly taught from one end
of the Bible to the other. And our confidence in the
is a faith so bold, so demanding, so unapologetic, that we cannot
believe it without being transformed. Either all things work together
for our good, or nothing makes sense. So let’s be bold about it. Let’s
either be transformed Christians or bitter skeptics, because we cannot
just sort of believe Romans 8:28. We either believe it or we doubt it.
There is no middle ground. (Romans
Ray Pritchard makes an
interesting observation and then draws a pithy conclusion...
Let me read the first phrase in three
KJV: "All things work together for
good to them that love God."
NASB: "God causes all things to work together for good."
NIV: "In all things God works for the good of those who love him."
Did you catch the difference there?
In the King James version God is way down at the end of the phrase.
In the other two versions, God is at the beginning. It is partly a
question of text and partly a question of grammar. There is nothing
wrong with the traditional versions, but the modern translations bring
out a proper emphasis.
Let me put it this way: We will never properly understand this verse
as long as we put God at the end and not at the beginning. But some
people look at life that way. They believe that life is like a roll of
the dice—sometimes it's seven-come-eleven and sometimes it's snake eyes.
And they believe that after a tragedy God shows up to make everything
come out right. But that's not the biblical view at all.
In reality, God is there at the beginning and He is there at the end and
He is at every point in between. (Romans
Romans 8:28 is the NT equivalent of
Joseph's great affirmation of God's
sovereignty, (see RBC booklet
How Much Does God Control?) His overruling
and His everlasting, immutable faithfulness, when he declared to his brothers
(who had attempted to kill
"And as for you, you meant evil
against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this
present result, to preserve many people alive. (Ge 50:20)
When fear and worry test your faith
And anxious thoughts assail,
Remember God is in control
And He will never fail.
perfect tense) (Uses
in Romans) refers to knowledge which
comes from one’s state of being, intuitive knowledge. Oida/eido means absolute,
positive knowledge which one has beyond a doubt. It refers to that which
is the common knowledge of the Christian, a settled intuitive knowledge
which the Holy Spirit makes real. God Himself has placed the knowledge
of this verse in our hearts. Notice that although all believers know
the following truth intuitively, they may not always fully
understand and sense it experientially.
writes that the verb we know "in a sense is one ground more for
believing in the glorious future: God is ever with us, and will not
abandon us at last." (Romans
The words we know are used
about thirty times as the expression of the common knowledge of the
saints of God as such, in the Epistles (in Romans, five times) and
always indicate always Christian knowledge.
We know Romans 8:28-30 is true
because we know God and He has said it. His word is trustworthy and that
guarantees His promise. Indeed, His character rests upon it. We know
because we know Him. We know not by looking at the events
of our life but by knowing our God. We know not by
studying the pattern of the cloth, but by knowing the "Designer" of the
fabric. We know it not by listening to the notes of the symphony,
but by knowing the "Composer" of the music. There are so many things we
don't know. We don't know why babies die or why cars wreck or why planes
crash or why families break up or why good people get sick and suddenly
die. But this we know—God is at work and He has not forgotten us.
And so we can declare like Paul...
For I consider that the sufferings of
this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is
to be revealed to us. (see note
God is able to even make the
sufferings work together for our good and glory! (Why
Would A Good God Allow Suffering?)
Robert Haldane comments on "we
know" writing that...
This does not mean that believers
know it merely in a speculative manner, but that it is a knowledge which
enters into their heart and affections, producing in them confidence in
its truth. It is a knowledge of faith which implies certainty and self
application, by which the believer not only knows but applies the
promises of God, and is able to say, This promise is mine, it belongs to
me. For otherwise, what advantage would there be in a general knowledge
of this fact? where would be its consolation, and where its practical
use? “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will
show them His covenant.” (Ps 25:14- -
R. An Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans)
Newell comments that...
Lodge members, having been
“initiated,” go about as those that “know.” The Christian is
traveling to glory along with a blessed company that can say “We
know,” in an infinitely higher and surer sense. And here, what a
8) (Bolding added)
Charles Spurgeon used to say,
“I do not need anyone to tell me how
honey tastes; I know.”
Dr. Torrey always said that Romans 8:28
is a "soft pillow for a tired heart". Or as someone else has
said "God's good promises put
a rainbow of hope in every cloud and a "pillow of grace" in every bed of
Though I do not
know the reason,
I can trust, and so am blest;
God is love, and God is faithful,
So in perfect peace I rest. —Anon.
The comforting truth of Romans 8:28
is based especially on God's
sovereignty. If all things work together
for good (all events, all circumstances, all trials, all happenings,
etc.), then it follows that God must be over all things and must control
all things. This is not fearful fatalism and determinism. This is the
wonderful fact that an all-wise, all-loving, just God is in complete
control of all things!
><> ><> ><>
Development of Braille - I do
not know if Louis Braille was a believer, but his life is an example of
a sovereign God causing all things to work together for good - In
the French Academy of Science there is a rather plain, old shoemaker's
awl on display. The story behind the awl is quite extraordinary. To look
at it, one would never suspect that this simple tool could be
responsible for anything of consequence. In fact, it caused tremendous
pain. This was the awl that one day fell from the shoemaker's table and
put out the eye of the shoemaker's 9-year-old son. The injury was so
severe that the boy lost vision in both eyes and was enrolled in a
special school for children who were blind. The boy learned to read by
handling large, carved-wood blocks. When the shoemaker's son became an
adult, he thought of a new way to read. It involved learning a system of
dots translated into the letters of the alphabet that could be read from
a piece of paper on any flat surface. Louis Braille actually used the
awl which had blinded him as a boy to form the dots into a whole new
reading system for the blind—known today as Braille.
><> ><> ><>
From a devotional in
Our Daily Bread
When quoting Romans 8:28, we often
begin with the words, "All things work together for good." But the verse
really begins like this:
"We know that all things work
together for good to those who love God."
Our knowing comes by faith. By faith
we are confident that God will never disappoint us.
I read a story about a shipwreck. When the sole survivor reached a
small, uninhabited island, he prayed for God to rescue him, but help
didn't come. Eventually he built a hut out of driftwood for protection
from the elements. One day he returned from scavenging for food and
found his hut in flames, the smoke rising into the sky. Angrily he
"God, how could You do this to me?"
The next morning he was awakened by
"How did you know I was here?" he
"We saw your smoke signal," they
Pastor Lud Golz wrote,
"Sometimes God's love almost seems
like hatred because of the difficulties He allows to come our way. The
final result, however, always confirms its true nature."
The next time it seems as if your
last hope has gone up in smoke, remember what "we know" to be true
(Romans 8:28). When God says that all things work together for good to
those who love Him, He means all things! —J E Yoder (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
The trials we are going through
Can be misunderstood
Unless we realize that God
Works all things for our good. —Sper
God may test our faith
so we may trust His faithfulness.
THAT GOD CAUSES ALL THINGS TO
WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THOSE WHO
GOD: hoti tois agaposin (PAPMPD) ton theon panta sunergei (3SPAI) eis
agathon: (Ro 5:5; Ex 20:6; Dt 6:5; Neh 1:5; Ps 69:36; Mk
12:30; 1Co 2:9; Jas 1:12; Jas 2:5; 1Jn 4:10,19; 5:2,3)
God causes...good - I usually
quickly pass by this word "causes," but this word and this phrase
testify triumphantly to the truth that our God is a Mighty God, a God
Who is Able, a God Who is Sovereign over all things and all times and a
God Who is Providentially powerful and all knowing even when our world
seems to be falling apart!
Do you believe this is true of God? What is it that has come into your
life as a believer that seems to be "just too much," "just too painful,"
"too unfair," etc, etc. If we are honest, all of us have been there
(e.g., I have found myself going there from time to time over the past 6
months as my wife of 45 years is suffering from anorexia nervosa,
depression, temporo-mandibular joint disease making her anorexia all the
more difficult and most recently at age 66 is exhibiting signs of
dementia.) It is at times like these that we need to run into the Strong
Tower of His Name and be lifted up from the fray going on around us. May
God grant all of us amazing grace in Christ and through His Spirit to
trust and obey and live with a sincere Romans 8:28 mindset, all for His
(pas) means all with no exceptions - not just some things but all
Spurgeon comments that all
things "is a very comprehensive expression,
is it not? It includes your present trouble, your aching head, your
heavy heart: “all things.” “All things work.” There is nothing idle
in God’s domain. “All things work together.” There is no discord in
the providence of God. The strangest ingredients go to make up the one
matchless medicine for all our maladies. “All things work together for
good” — for lasting and eternal good, — “to them that love God,” that
is their outward character."
McGee comments that all things
include "All things”—good and bad; bright and
dark; sweet and bitter; easy and hard; happy and sad; prosperity and
poverty; health and sickness; calm and storm; comfort and suffering;
life and death. (McGee,
J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)
MacDonald comments in regard to "all things...for good"...
It may not always seem so! Sometimes
when we are suffering heartbreak, tragedy, disappointment, frustration,
and bereavement, we wonder what good can come out of it. But the
following verse gives the answer: whatever God permits to come into our
lives is designed to conform us to the image of His Son. When we see
this, it takes the question mark out of our prayers. Our lives are not
controlled by impersonal forces such as chance, luck, or fate, but by
our wonderful, personal Lord, who is “too loving to be unkind and too
wise to err.” (MacDonald,
W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)
John MacArthur writes that...
All things is utterly
comprehensive, having no qualifications or limits. Neither this verse
nor its context allows for restrictions or conditions. All things is
inclusive in the fullest possible sense. Nothing existing or occurring
in heaven or on earth “shall be able to separate us from the love of
God, which is in Christ Jesus” (8:39). Paul is not saying that God
prevents His children from experiencing things that can harm
them. He is rather attesting that the Lord takes all that He allows to
happen to His beloved children, even the worst things, and turns those
things ultimately into blessings... No matter what our situation, our
suffering, our persecution, our sinful failure, our pain, our lack of
faith-in those things, as well as in all other things, our
heavenly Father will work to produce our ultimate victory and blessing.
The corollary of that truth is that nothing can ultimately work against
J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press)
Constable reminds us that...
This verse does not say that God
causes all things, period. Nowhere in Scripture do we read that
God causes sin or evil. He permits these things, but that is much
different from initiating them. Therefore when tragedy touches a
believer we should not conclude that this is one of the “all things”
that God causes. Rather this verse says that God brings good out of
all things, even tragedies, for the Christian. The causes of tragedy
are Satan, the sinful choices of people, and the consequences of living
in a sinful world (cf.
Constable's Expository Notes on the Bible)
Vine comments that...
The “all things,” while
applying to circumstances in general, has special reference to those of
adversity, as indicated in the context. All things, however
contrary to us, are under His control. The statement carries the
suggestion that God works all things, for those who love Him, with
designs for their good. Troubles, therefore, do not hinder Christian
progress, they serve but to further the designs of God’s grace. (Vine,
W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
Douglas Moo comments that
promises that nothing will touch our
lives that is not under the control and direction of our loving heavenly
Father. Everything we do and say, everything people do to us or say
about us, every experience we will ever have — all are sovereignly used
by God for our good. We will not always understand how the things we
experience work to good, and we certainly will not always enjoy them.
But we do know that nothing comes into our lives that God does not allow
and use for his own beneficent purposes. Paul’s overarching purpose in
Romans 5-8 is to give us assurance for the life to come. But verses like
8:28 show that he also wants to give us assurance for the present life
as well. God has ordained not only the ends but the means. (Barton,
B, et al: The NIV Life Application Commentary Series: Tyndale)
Kent Hughes cautions us to
Romans 8:28 does not mean, as is
commonly thought, that “everything will turn out okay in this life.” It
means, rather, that everything will work out for our ultimate good.
These words have our eternal rather than our temporal good in mind.
Bishop Anders Nygren writes:
Just as the present aeon is to be
followed by eternity, it has already been preceded by an eternity. Only
when we see our present existence set in God’s activity, which goes from
eternity to eternity, do we get it in right perspective. Then man comes
to see that everything that comes to the Christian in this life—and
consequently the sufferings of the present too—must work together for
good to him. (Hughes,
R. K. Romans: Righteousness from heaven. Preaching the Word. Crossway
Work together (4903)
sun = with, speaks of intimacy + érgon = work
> English word "synergy" = the potential ability of individual
organizations or groups to be more successful or productive as a result
of a merger)
means to be a fellow-worker, and so to co-operate. God is our "Fellow
Worker" Who is Himself the One working in our behalf and causing all
things to work together for good. The
indicates our Father is continually
working all things together for our good!
MacArthur adds that "sunergeo (is the Greek word)
from which is derived the English term synergism, the working
together of various elements to produce an effect greater than, and
often completely different from, the sum of each element acting
separately... Contrary to what the King James rendering seems to
suggest, it is not that things in themselves work together to produce
good. As Paul has made clear earlier in the verse, it is God’s
providential power and will, not a natural synergism of circumstances
and events in our lives, that causes them to work together for good...
No matter what happens in our lives as His children, the providence of
God uses it for our temporal as well as our eternal benefit, sometimes
by saving us from tragedies and sometimes by sending us through them in
order to draw us closer to Him... God often delays the temporal as
well as the ultimate good that He promises... Even when our outward
circumstances are dire-perhaps especially when they are dire and
seemingly hopeless from our perspective-God is purifying and renewing
our redeemed inner beings in preparation for glorification, the ultimate
good... God uses the evil of sin as a means of bringing good to His
children. That would have to be true if Paul’s statement about “all
things” is taken at face value. Even more than suffering and
temptation, sin is not good in itself, because it is the antithesis of
good. Yet, in God’s infinite wisdom and power, it is most remarkable of
all that He turns sin to our good. It is of great importance, of course,
to recognize that God does not use sin for good in the sense of its
being an instrument of His righteousness. That would be the most obvious
of self-contradictions. The Lord uses sin to bring good to His children
by overruling it, canceling its normal evil consequences and
miraculously substituting His benefits... the sinning believer is
not spared God’s chastisement but is assured of it as a remedial tool
for producing holiness (see note
Hebrews 12:10). That is the supreme good for
which God causes our sin to work. (MacArthur,
J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press) (Bolding added)
comments on "work together for good" writing that these things
- They shall co-operate; they shall
mutually contribute to our good. They take off our affections from this
world; they teach us the truth about our frail, transitory, and dying
condition; they lead us to look to God for support, and to heaven for a
final home; and they produce a subdued spirit, a humble temper, a
patient, tender, and kind disposition. This has been the experience of
all saints; and at the end of life they have been able to say it was
good for them to be afflicted, Ps 119:67
Ps 119:71 [Spurgeon's
Jer 31:18, 19,
Illustration - WHEN a person
is ill and a doctor called in, he usually writes out a prescription for
medicine, which is taken to a druggist who prepares it. He takes an
empty bottle and puts into it so much liquid out of one bottle, so much
powder out of another bottle, and so on, and puts a label on it with the
words, 'Shake the bottle.' All those different medicines work together
for the good of the patient. The liquid may be disagreeable to the
taste, but it is for the sick person's good. So all things, even the
bitter disagreeable things which God allows to reach us, are all for our
good. 'All things work together for good to them that love God.'"
Illustration - Several years
ago I suffered a great disappointment. The church where I was saved was
seeking a pastor because their pastor had moved. A key leader in the
church had informed me that I was to be the next pastor of the church.
The church is a great church with a great legacy. I was very excited
about the possibility. When the pastor resigned I expected a call from
the search team. It never came. I had to deal with the disappointment.
In the Christian life there are going to be events and situations that
disappoint us. It may be an expected promotion. The raise we expected
may not develop. The dream job did not materialize. The right school did
not accept us. The list is long and difficult. Why does God allow us to
endure these disappointments. The reason is found in our verse today.
God knows best. He has an absolute knowledge. We have a limited
knowledge. We must learn to trust Him. When we suffer a disappointment
we must yield it to Him. We must be assured in our hearts that He is
working out good things for us. We may see our disappointment as a time
to grow closer in our trust of His direction and protection. Are you
suffering from a great disappointment? I can assure you that this
predicament is not unusual in the Christian's walk. Call on the Lord
today. Ask Him to forgive you for a lack of faith. Trust Him for the
good things that He provides. One day you will look back and see that He
was right in withholding the very thing you wanted most. One day you
will enjoy His great blessing. Lean on Him today for the strength you
need. Thank God for unanswered prayers!!! Think on these things - David
[word study]) means beneficial, profitable or useful.
In other words, God will cause everything in our lives to become
beneficial, spiritually profitable, useful and good, even in a fallen
world filled with sin and corruption. Think of ordinary table salt. It
is composed of two chemicals, sodium and chlorine, which by themselves
can be toxic and yet when properly combined they produce a beneficial
substance. Remember also that the good
is what is good from God’s perspective.
Note that Paul does not say that "all
things are good" but "all things work together for good." Someone has
illustrated this by picturing a cake. The raw ingredients that are used
to make the cake hardly taste "good" but when they are mixed together
and baked the result is "good" (usually)! In a like manner, God takes
those things that leave a "bad taste in our mouth" so to speak and mixes
them together in a way that results in "good".
J Vernon McGee adds that...
And I am confident that we as
children of God will be able to look back over our lives someday and
say, “All of this worked out for good.” Job could say, “Though he slay
me, yet will I trust in him … ” (Job 13:15). That is the
kind of faith in God we need, friend. We know that He is going to make
things work out for good because He’s the One who is motivating it. He’s
the One who is energizing it. (McGee,
J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)
Ray Pritchard explains "good"
Is Paul saying, "Whatever happens is
Is he saying that suffering and evil and tragedy are good? No.
Is he saying everything will work out if we just have enough faith?
Is he saying that we will be able to understand why God allowed tragedy
to come? No.
What, then, is he saying? He
is erecting a sign over the unexplainable mysteries of life—a sign which
reads "Quiet. God at work." How? We're not always sure. To what
end? Good, and not evil. That's what Romans 8:28 is saying... Our danger
is that we will judge the end by the beginning. Or, to be more exact,
that we will judge what we cannot see by what we can see. That is, when
tragedy strikes, if we can't see a purpose, we assume there isn't one.
But the very opposite is true. We ought to judge the beginning by the
end. Here is where Romans 8:28 gives us some real help. Paul says, "For
we know that all things work together for good." That phrase work
together is really one word—sunergeo—in Greek. We get our English
word "synergy" from it. And what is synergy? It is what happens
when you put two or more elements together to form something brand-new
that neither could form separately... That's synergy—the
combination of many elements to produce a positive result. That's what
Paul means when he says that God causes all things to "work together."
Many of the things that make no sense when seen in isolation, are in
fact working together to produce something good in my life. There is a
divine synergy even in the darkest moments, a synergy
which produces something positive. And that "good" that is
ultimately produced could not happen any other way... (in Romans 8:29
Paul explains that) God has predestined you and me to a certain end.
That certain end is the "good" of Romans 8:28. That certain
end is that we might be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ...
When Paul says that all things work together for good, he is not saying
that the tragedies and heartaches of life will always produce a better
set of circumstances. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. But God
is not committed to making you healthy, wealthy and wise. He is
committed to making you like his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And
whatever it takes to make you more like Jesus is good. So it is
in the providence of God that we learn more in the darkness than we do
in the light. We gain more from sickness than we do from health. We pray
more when we are scared than when we are confident. (Read
his complete Sermon on Romans
I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chattered all the way.
But I was none the wiser,
For all she had to say.
Then I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne'er a word said she.
But, oh, the lessons I did learn
When Sorrow walked with me.
Paul emphasizes that in all of the up's
and down's in the
believer's life there is an overarching, albeit not always obvious
eternal purpose for good which God is always providentially orchestrating behind the scenes,
whether those things be "Dark things, bright things; happy things, sad
things; sweet things, bitter things; times of prosperity, times of
This wonderful Truth should settle our anxious thoughts, calm our sweaty palms,
ease our abdominal queasiness, and allow us to focus above and beyond the
present "clouds" of the current situation.
Douglas Moo writes about a
serious (and common) misunderstanding of Romans 8:28...
Most of us have probably heard
someone (perhaps ourselves!) applying Romans 8:28 something like this:
“Yes, you may have lost your job, but you can be sure of getting an even
better one; because ‘all things are working for good.’ ” Or, “Don’t be
upset about your fiancé breaking off your engagement, because God must
have an even better life partner for you; Romans 8:28 promises… .” The
difficulty with this application is that it interprets “good” from a
narrow and often materialistic perspective. From God’s perspective,
“good” must be defined in spiritual terms. The ultimate good is God’s
glory, and he is glorified when his children live as Christ did (v. 29)
and attain the glory he has destined them for (v. 30; cf. vv. 31 – 39).
As we have seen in 5:3 – 4, God uses
suffering to build Christian character in us, conform us to Christ, and
prepare us for final glory. What he promises us in 8:28, then, is not
that every difficult experience will lead to something good in this
life. The “good” God may have in mind may involve the next life
entirely. He may take us out of a secure, well-paying job in order to
shake us out of a materialistic lifestyle that does not honor biblical
priorities, and we may never have as good a job again. He may want to
set us free from an engagement to be married because he wants to use us
in a ministry that would be difficult or impossible for a married
person. Remember that it is by sharing in Christ’s sufferings that we
eventually will be able to share in his glory as well (8:17).
This is not to say that material
blessings cannot be included in the “good” of Romans 8:28. As the Old
Testament especially makes clear, God delights to give his people good
things in this life as well as in the next. In an effort to avoid a
materialistic interpretation of 8:28, we must not succumb to the
opposite extreme of denying God’s interest in the material world. (Barton,
B, et al: The NIV Life Application Commentary Series: Tyndale)
William Newell writes that...
Now we find in Romans 8:28 a great
marvel: all things work together for good to these believing lovers of
God. This involves that ...control of God’s
—of the most
infinitesimal things—to bring them about for “good” to God’s
saints. When we reflect on the innumerable “things” about us,—forces
seen and unseen of the mineral, vegetable, and animal worlds; of man at
enmity with God; of Satan, and his principalities and powers, in deadly
array; in the uncertainty and even treachery of those near and dear to
us, and even of professed Christians, and of our own selves,—which we
cannot trust for a moment; upon our unredeemed bodies; upon our general
complete helplessness:—then, to have God say, “All things are working
together for your good,”—reveals to us a Divine
is absolutely limitless! (Romans
8) (Bolding added)
The opening question of the
Heidelberg Catechism (1563) asks
“What is your only comfort in life
Answer: “That I, with body and
soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my
faithful Savior Jesus Christ who… so preserves me that without the will
of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all
things must work together for my salvation.”
This statement emphasizes the
biblical doctrine of God's
providence, His faithful and effective care
and guidance of everything which He has made toward the end which He has
You can know beyond all doubting,
In the trial you're passing through,
That our God's great love and mercy
Is at work for good in you. --Anon.
Daniel Wallace sums up "good"
When we read Rom 8:28 in its context
we can give a positive answer to the questions of pain and suffering in
the world. We may see nothing good come of misery and disaster in this
world, but this world is not all of reality. There is an ‘until’; there
is a place beyond the horizon of what our senses can apprehend, and it
is more real and more lasting than what we experience in this mortal
shell. God is using the present, even the miserable present, to conform
us to the image of his Son. If we define the good as only what we can
see in this life, then we have missed the whole point of this text. For,
as Paul said earlier in the same chapter, “For I consider that our
present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be
revealed to us” (Ro 8:18, NET). Western Christians—especially American
Christians—are prone to pervert texts such as Rom 8:28. If our lives are
comfortable, if we have wealth, good health, that is fine and well. But
it is not the good that Paul had in mind, and it is not the goal of the
Christian life. (Do
All Things Really Work Together for the Good?)
Thomas Watson reminds us of
the "power" of suffering in the hand of the sovereign (in control) God
Afflictions work for good, as they
make way for glory.… Not that they merit glory, but they prepare for
it. As ploughing prepares the earth for a crop, so afflictions prepare
and make us [ready] for glory. The painter lays his gold upon dark
colours, so God first lays the dark colours of affliction, and then He
lays the golden colour of glory. The vessel is first seasoned before
wine is poured into it: the vessels of mercy are first seasoned with
affliction, and then the wine of glory is poured in. Thus we see
afflictions are not prejudicial, but beneficial, to the saints. (All
Things for Good [reprint; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1986)
Who can "claim" the wonderful
truth in this verse? Only
those who love God. Paul is not speaking here of a special class of
believers who love God in contrast to other believers who do not love
God. While it is certainly true that some believers love the Saviour
more than others, and demonstrate this by their faithful obedience to
His Word, yet it is also true that there is a sense in which all
believers love Christ. Love for Christ is demonstrated by obedience to
His Word (see below), and those who refuse to keep His commandments are
liars if they claim to know Christ for John teaches that..
And by this we know that we
have come to know Him, if we keep (present tense)
His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does
not keep (present tense)
His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him but whoever
keeps (present tense)
His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we
know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought (present tense)
himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1John 2:3-6)
As sons and daughters of the Most
High God, our lives should be characterized by obedience...
As obedient children, do not be
conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance (1Pe
We obey because we love our Heavenly
Father. How can we do anything less?
[word study]) means to love unconditionally and sacrificially love and
ultimately describes the love which God Himself is. Agapao is not
sentimental or emotional love but represents an obedience as the act of
one's will. This is the only place in Romans where Paul wrote of the
believer’s love for God; everywhere else he referred to God’s love for
indicates that agapao is a believer's lifestyle or habit of life
(in contrast to Demas - 2Ti 4:10-note).
Believers are not perfect but the general direction of their life is to
show love toward
God. If your life does not demonstrate this tendency, read the verses
above from (1John 2:3, 4, 5, 6). John further explains that...
In this is love, not that we loved
God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for
our sins...We love, because He first loved us....If someone says, "I
love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not
love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1Jn
This verse is true of Christians and
only of Christians. It is not a blanket promise to the whole human race,
because God's purpose is to make His children one day like His beloved
Son. Because of their depraved and sinful natures, the unredeemed hate
God, regardless of any arguments they may have to the contrary.
R C Sproul has an interesting
comment on "those who love Him" writing that...
Notice that Paul does not say “those
who believe in him” but “those who love him.” Paul focuses on the
fact that, in the last analysis, the dividing line between the Christian
and the unbeliever is not over the issue simply of believing in some God
or other, but over the issue of loving God. The profession of faith can
be very different from the possession of faith. Many there are who
mistakenly identify the two ideas. The word “love” serves to
distinguish those who both profess and possess a saving relationship
with Christ. (Sproul, R. Before the Face of God. Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House; Ligonier Ministries)
C H Spurgeon adds in regard to
"them that love God"...
"there are many things in which the
worldly and the godly do agree; but on this point there is a vital
difference. No ungodly man loves God in the Bible sense of the term. An
unconverted man may love a God, as, for instance, the God of nature, and
the God of the imagination; but the God of revelation no man can love,
unless grace turn him from his natural enmity towards God. And there may
be many differences between godly men; they may belong to different
sects, hold very opposite opinions, but all agree in this, that they
(1) As their Father; they have “the
Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba Father.”
(2) As their King; they are willing to obey Him.
(3) As their Portion, for God is their all.
(4) As their future inheritance.
William Newell comments
Only those can and do really love God
whose hearts have been “sprinkled from an evil conscience” (He 10:22-note)—delivered from fear
of God’s just judgment. The question therefore, comes right back to
this: Have we believed, as guilty lost sinners, on this propitiation by
the blood of God’s Son on the cross? Is that our only hope? If so, 1John 4:16 becomes true: “We know and have believed the love which God
hath in our case,” and 1Jn 4:19 follows: “We love, because he first
loved us.” We cannot work up love for God, but His redeeming love for
us, believed in, becomes the eternal cause and spring of our love to
The expression “those who love God"
is often a descriptive name for believers as demonstrated in the
but just as it is written, "THINGS
WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED
THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE
HIM." 1Corinthians 2:9
and though you have not seen Him, you
love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him,
you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
1 Peter 1:8 (note)
but showing lovingkindness to
thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. Exodus 20:6
Hate evil, you who love the
LORD, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from
the hand of the wicked. Psalms 97:10 (See
The LORD keeps all who love
Him; but all the wicked, He will destroy. Psalms 145:20 (See
in the future there is laid up for me
the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will
award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have
loved His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:8 (note)
Note the association of love for God
and obedience to Him. Jesus reiterates this important association
"If you love Me, you will keep
My commandments." (John 14:15)
"He who has My commandments and keeps
them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be
loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to
him." (John 14:21)
"If anyone loves Me, he will
keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and
make Our abode with him. (John 14:23)
Be careful in using Romans 8:28 to
try to explain the unexplainable. Sometimes in our zeal to give an
apologetic for God, we try to explain why bad things happen to good
people. That's almost always a bad idea. Along that same line, remember
that we are not called to praise God for evil, sin and death. But we can
praise Him for the good He can work in the darkest days of life. Romans 8:28 does not say that everything that happens to us is
good, in the
sense of pleasurable. He does promise
that all things will contribute to our good, in that He is will use our every
experience to make us more like our Lord.
Ray Pritchard tells the story...
...of a father whose son was killed
in a terrible accident. He came to his pastor and in great anger said,
"Where was God when my son died?" The pastor thought for a moment and
said, "The same place he was when his Son died."
That's the final piece of the puzzle. He knows what we are going through
for he, too, has been there. He watched his own Son die.
Therefore we can say with the Apostle Paul . . . "We know." Not because
we see the answer. But "we know" because we know him . . . and he knows
what it is like to lose a Son. He knows and we know him! (Romans
Ron Lee Davis writes in his book Becoming a Whole Person in a Broken
"The good news is not that God will
make our circumstances come out the way we like, but that God can weave
even our disappointments and disasters into His eternal plan. The evil
that happens to us can be transformed into God's good. Ro 8:28 is God's
guarantee that if we love God, our lives can be used to achieve His
purposes and further His kingdom"
In his book "Why Us?" Warren Wiersbe
states that God
sovereignty, not by
intervening constantly and preventing these events, but by ruling and
overruling them so that even tragedies end up accomplishing His ultimate
C H Spurgeon
writes the following devotional on this verse...
Upon some points a believer is
absolutely sure. He knows, for instance, that God sits in the
stern-sheets of the vessel when it rocks most. He believes that an
invisible hand is always on the world's tiller, and that wherever
may drift, Jehovah steers it. That
re-assuring knowledge prepares him for everything. He looks over the
raging waters and sees the spirit of Jesus treading the billows, and he
hears a voice saying, "It is I, be not afraid." He knows too that God is
always wise, and, knowing this, he is confident that there can be no
accidents, no mistakes; that nothing can occur which ought not to arise.
He can say, "If I should lose all I have, it is better that I should
lose than have, if God so wills: the worst calamity is the wisest and
the kindest thing that could befall to me if God ordains it." "We know
that all things work together for good to them that love God." The
Christian does not merely hold this as a theory, but he knows it as a
matter of fact. Everything has worked for good as yet; the poisonous
drugs mixed in fit proportions have worked the cure; the sharp cuts of
the lancet have cleansed out the proud flesh and facilitated the
healing. Every event as yet has worked out the most divinely blessed
results; and so, believing that God rules all, that he governs wisely,
that he brings good out of evil, the believer's heart is assured, and he
is enabled calmly to meet each trial as it comes. The believer can in
the spirit of true resignation pray, "Send me what thou wilt, my God, so
long as it comes from thee; never came there an ill portion from thy
table to any of thy children."
"Say not my soul, 'From whence can
God relieve my care?'
Remember that Omnipotence has servants everywhere.
His method is sublime, his heart profoundly kind,
God never is before his time, and never is behind."
TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE:
tois kata prothesin kletois ousin (PAPMPD): (Ro 8:30; 1:6,7;
9:11,23,24; Jer 51:29; Acts 13:48; Gal 1:15; Ep 1:9,10; 3:11; 1Th 5:9;
2Th 2:13,14; 2Ti 2:19; 1Pe 5:10)
Those who love God - describes
the readers from the human side.
Those who are called -
describes them from the Divine side
Paul emphasizes the Divine
aspect of the calling in Romans 9 writing that...
for though the twins (Jacob and Esau)
were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that
God's purpose according to His choice (ekloge = selection,
election = God’s free choice without being affected by any outside
circumstances or the "worth" of the individuals concerned and which must
never be considered an injustice by God) might stand, not because of
works, but because of Him Who calls (see note
Paul again associates God's
call with His purpose in his last epistle...
(God) Who has saved us, and called
us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to
His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from
all eternity (see note
2 Timothy 1:9)
word study of
means invited (but see
Newell's comment below) or
welcomed and was originally used to designate those invited to a
Kletos - 10x in 10v - Matt
22:14; Ro 1:1, 6, 7; 8:28; 1 Cor 1:1, 2, 24; Jude 1:1; Rev 17:14
In the NT kletos is generally used of one who has
accepted a calling or an invitation to become a guest or member of a
select group. We have been invited by God in the proclamation of the
Gospel to obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom through Christ. No one
seeketh after God. We did not first go to Christ. Instead, He called. He
Be aware that
Matthew use the term "called" (kletos) slightly differently than
it is used in the epistles. In a parable Jesus said many were "called"
to the "wedding feast" but few were "chosen" (Mt
22:1-13,14). Here the term "call" is not
synonymous with an "effectual call" to salvation, but refers to the
gospel’s external call to all men to believe in Him. In the history of
the church nothing is more obvious than the fact that many, perhaps
most, people who receive this call do not accept it. But in the
epistles, the called refers to the sovereign, regenerating
work of God in a believer’s heart that brings one to new life in Christ.
Vine comments that...
The two descriptions, “them that
are called” and “them that love God,” are to one another as
cause and effect. Those who love God are
necessarily those who are called. The call (always in the
Epistles an effectual call) produces the response of love to Him
who calls. (Vine,
W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson) (Bolding added)
Expositor's adds that in
regard to the promise of Romans 8:28...
The beneficiaries are those who on the human side love God and on
the divine side are called according to God's purpose...(Paul
does not introduce the saint's love for God) as
the ground for the benefit he has been describing, for it is not
meritorious but simply a response to the divine love and grace. (Gaebelein,
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament.
Zondervan Publishing) (Bolding added)
R C Sproul comments that...
Paul speaks not of an external call
to the gospel, but of the inward call of the Holy Spirit. In theology we
term this “effectual calling.” No one will love God unless God first
changes the disposition of the heart through the work of the Holy
Spirit. The capacity to love God is not natural to fallen humanity but
must be supernaturally granted by the Father, who takes the initiative
in restoring us to himself. The regenerative work of God must precede
the act of repentance and faith. Only by the divine initiative is anyone
saved. (Sproul, R. Before the Face of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Book
House; Ligonier Ministries)
Life Application Bible Commentary
Those who are called are those the
Holy Spirit convinces and enables to receive Christ. Such people have a
new perspective on life. They trust in God, not life’s treasures; they
look to their security in heaven, not on earth; they learn to accept,
not resent, pain and persecution, because God is with them (Barton,
B. B., et al. Life Application Bible Commentary. Romans: Tyndale House
Romans 1:1 (see note)\ Paul informed the Romans that
he had been "called (kletos) as an apostle" (repeated to the
1Cor 1:1) and he identifies the Roman
saints once again as "the called" (kletos) in the
Romans 1:7 (note).
Observe that "kletos" is most often used in the introduction
portion of Paul's letters. This appears to be a truth Paul wanted to
reaffirm, so that the saints understood their position and privilege
(which implies a certain, corresponding practice).
are those who have been summoned by God...called...