A lot of people go through life with the philosophy, “keep a good thought.” If you have positive thinking and look for the good in everything, then you can handle anything.
Romans 8:28 is often perceived in about the same way as if it is the spiritual version of” keep a good thought.”
A simple examination of the immediate passage that these verses are a part of should correct a lot of the misconceptions people have about these Biblical statements.
So we come back to Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
A lot of people think this means that since I love God he will fix everything just fine.
Like a football player, a little undersized and short on experience going up against a player who even has muscles in his ear lobes going into the game saying to himself, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Or the person who has been asked to do a job they have no clue about doing, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
Most people apply this thought and the common interpretation when relationships break, jobs are lost, the house goes into foreclosure, and so many more situations. But is that what this passage means? Not really. There are problems with this particular interpretation.
The problems are:
- This is pretty naïve. The good thought – God will work it all together for my benefit. The rest of scripture doesn’t bear this out. That would mean that everything has a good and positive result in the end when it doesn’t. The Bible actually teaches us that we will have problems and many will come from our own decisions, some will come because we stand by our faith in Christ.
- Also, the context doesn’t imply it either. The section of verses Romans 8:28 is a part of is going to give us a different view of what God does. It is for our benefit but not exactly how a lot of people take it to mean.
- What do you do with it when God doesn’t work it together for your benefit, for your good? Because it doesn’t always happen this way.
Listen to Tim Geddert’s testimony about his misinterpretation of this verse:
“That is how I once memorized Romans 8:28 many years ago. It has often been a word of hope for me, assuring me that all things, even “bad” things, “work out” for people who love God. In fact there was a time when I interpreted this verse to mean that there really are no “bad things” that happen to believers. If things seem bad, but really serve to fulfill God’s good purposes, then even these things are ultimately good. I guess at the time it did not seem unjust to me that only those who love God are promised the benefit of “everything working out.” Nor was I troubled by the fact that I often did not see the “bad things” magically transformed into “good things. I once thought Romans 8:28 was about “all things working out”. . . ”
Actually many have found the sweeping assertion, “all things work together for good,” difficult to believe. Faced with sufferings and catastrophic experiences of life, many believers and even Christian leaders have found it difficult to accept this assertion. In relation to the current War America is involved in, a prominent preacher designated Romans 8:28 as “the hardest verse to believe.” While willing to admit that the countless ravages that have occurred to the human race are the logical consequences of mankind’s sin and rebellion against God, many a devout believer, when some shattering experience has befallen him, has cried out in confusion, “Why does God allow this to happen to me?” How can this kind of experience be reconciled with Roman 8:28?
What is the book of Romans about? The core aspects of Romans is about your salvation, the grace of God in your life, and whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, God has provided salvation to both because all people have sinned and need salvation. Paul explains:
- Justification by faith, just like Abraham
- Peace with God through justification
- Death came through Adam and life came through Jesus
- We are dead to sin and alive to Christ
- That we have and live life in the Spirit
Romans 8:18 – 39
Let me ask you, what is in store for the believer? The answers are all related.
- Our glorification in Christ
- Eternity with God
Our eternal glory that we like to read about in Revelation 21. God and his people together and every tear wiped away. Your back won’t hurt any more. Your illnesses will never affect you longer. You won’t have another broken relationship again. Heaven where we love God in person, where his glory is experienced first-hand.
We are here, on this earth where sin has taken hold and brought about separation from God and even affected the existence we have here. Not only did sin introduce spiritual pain and death, it introduced problems to the physical universe; to our bodies, to our planet, and probably to the whole universe and maybe every universe.
Yet in this suffering, God plans to redeem not just the lost, he also intends to redeem the world and Paul notes how our world is “groaning” under the effects of sin, and the suffering we endure here is nothing in comparison to what will be revealed in us.
- 1 Corinthians 15:35-56 tells about our resurrection bodies. Verse 49 states, “just as we have borne the like of the earthly man so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
- And John says in 1 John 3:2, “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him.”
I get that when we get to heaven and receive the glorification God will give us, we shall be like Jesus. Whatever Jesus is like, what he looks like we will too! Peter, James, and John got a glimpse of this on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured.
You get to glow! That’s pretty cool in my book.
While we struggle through life now, we have the Holy Spirit who is the seal of our salvation. But he does more than just seal the deal in each believer’s life he helps us in our weakness. He intercedes on our behalf to God. He does it according to God’s will but he brings our cares before God and pleads with him on our behalf in ways we can’t. He expresses what we cannot. He displays our needs, our words, and emotions with words and feeling we can’t even hint at.
This is all while we wait for glory, for Jesus’ loving return to bring us our reward in our faith.
Because we know that God is getting the whole of what we are pleading with him about because the Spirit who knows our heart and minds and the heart and mind of God is presenting our plights to God, we can then know that God is working for our good.
- What good?
- How is God working?
- What’s this really about?
What is the good that God wants to do in the world? He wants to save the world, to bring them into the likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ.
“God isn’t slow in keeping his promises as some count slowness, but patient toward you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9. God wants to save people and we know that salvation is through faith in Jesus.
Look at 2 Corinthians 3:18-19.
Paul is revealing how much greater the glory is in the new covenant than was in the old covenant. And that those who still live by the old covenant have veiled themselves to the glory God intends in the new covenant for them. And then he says that we are “being transformed into the likeness of Christ.”
This new covenant in Christ’s blood, the covenant of grace, the covenant which saves us is about our becoming like Christ, even now, while we live this life.
So, God is working together in our lives to bring about this transformation.
Long before God created the world, he fully intended that those who are in Christ, those who have accepted him as Lord and Savior will become like his son. He is the heir, but God makes the believer an heir, we become “children of God.” We get the inheritance we already talked about; we are glorified, we get to go to heaven, we get to spend the time with God in person.
Conforming to the image of Christ is the good that God is working together with us, in us, bringing it about.
As long as we hold strong to Christ, we remain in him, we continue to grow into and conform to his likeness we will continue to have our eternal hope.
That’s why Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us” in verse 30. That is why he says that we are “More than conquerors through him (Christ) who loved us” in verse 37. That is why life and death, angels and demons, the present and the future, powers, even height and depth “nor anything in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” in verses 38 and 39.
All of this is true when we are in Christ.
I am finding a promise here in Romans 8:28 that tells me what God is doing together with my soul, making me Christ-like. I am involved. I know that God works in circumstances and even guides us through those difficult and troubling circumstances, but he didn’t promise to make them good, not in the physical-material sense.
- He didn’t say I’ll turn your job loss into a better job yet to come.
- He didn’t say I’ll make your body whole so you won’t have to suffer sickness or injury.
- He didn’t say I’ll heal your broken heart by bringing someone new to love that is better than you’ve known before.
- He didn’t promise anything like that. Though he could do stuff like.
What God has promised is according to what salvation is about. He intends to bring us into Christ’s likeness.
Verse 32 has become a very happy verse for me.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Is your identity in Christ? If so, God is working in you to make you into the likeness of Christ and specifically heirs, subjects of eternal life.
I’m longing for heaven.
At the same time, your trust in God and his word are the tools to help you spiritually, emotionally, and practically through whatever struggle you have. Though Romans 8:28 isn’t the cure-all scripture many take it to be, faith does rely upon God to strengthen and support in good and bad times, when hope is blinded and when life is good. Always trust God, rely on his Spirit, and seek guidance from the Bible, God will see you through it though things may not turn how you wish them too.
God is good and faithful and through your faith in Christ he is your life.