May 5, 2024


Passage: Romans 8:28-30

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28, ESV

When I was a kid, playing on the playgrounds of Pine Grove Elementary School, all of us guys had dads, and all of our dads had jobs.  The fact that this is no longer the case on many playgrounds in America tells you a lot about what’s wrong with this country.  But I digress, let’s get back to boys at school talking about their dads.

We took pride and developed a pecking order based on what our dads did.  “What does your dad do?” or “Where does your dad work?” were questions that would get the ball rolling.  If your dad was a policeman or fireman, or perhaps a truck driver or construction worker, you were considered a cool kid.  If he was something like a banker or lawyer or doctor, you were a nerd.  My dad was a newspaper editor, which nudged me toward the nerd side, but he had his own radio show on weekends, so that moved me up a notch closer to the cool kids.

As Christians, we have a heavenly Father, and we are marked by His work.  He redeemed us in justification, shapes us in sanctification, and will perfect us in glorification.  God’s work can be defined in these theological terms, and just wait until we get to the next two verses, a veritable summa cum laude of theological language about salvation.

But before we get there, let us pause and linger at Romans 8:28.  It is one of the most often quoted verses in the Bible.  It is theologically rich, to be sure, but more so it is immensely practical.  It is a single verse that packs all the elements of this sensational chapter into one powerful promise.

God Works For You

This subheading doesn’t sound right if you interpret it to mean God is your employee.  Prosperity gospel preachers may think so, but the thought is utterly blasphemous.  God works for Himself, and none other, but He is always working on behalf of His people.

His people are identified in three ways with three words in this memorable verse: “know,” “love,” and “called.”  Faithful Israelites in the Old Covenant, and genuine Christians in the New Covenant, are those who “know” and “love” God, for God Himself has “called” them to “His purpose” (which receives a fuller explanation in the next two verses).

Christians “know” God and God’s work.  We have observed Him and His ways in Scripture, providence, and experience.  Therefore, we do not believe in no god, false gods, or the half-gods of cults and pseudo-christians.  We believe in the one, true, triune, living, eternal God who creates, governs, reveals, commands, judges, punishes, and redeems.  Pursuit of such knowledge is active and ongoing, it consumes our lives, especially through the means of worship and discipleship prescribed in the Bible.  Real Christianity begins in the mind, but the heart soon follows.

Christians are “those who love God.”  “Love” is an active, ongoing verb, also.  The root word is “agape,” the highest form of love.  It prioritizes, putting the Lord first in one’s life (ref. Romans 10:9).  It sacrifices, carrying the cross, to bear witness for Jesus Christ (ref. Mark 8:34).  It obeys, as the Lord specifically said (ref. John 14:15).  And, as Paul wrote elsewhere, love never quits (ref. 1 Corinthians 13:8).  Love is heartfelt action that demonstrates what we believe concerning our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Christians are “called” by God, which is how we are able to know anything about Him in the first place.  His calling brings us into a loving, saving relationship with Him.  The word appears in adjective form here, while the verb appears twice in verse 30 (where the theology runs deep).  Suffice it to say for now, in the rich language of the New Testament, the term literally means “divinely selected and appointed” (Thayer), elected, chosen, by God.

Christians are people who have been chosen by God to know Him and love Him.  So, if you have experienced this calling, this adoption of grace, this transformation of faith, and if you are chasing an ever-increasing knowledge of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and if you truly love the Lord more than your life, then you are a true Christian, and it is for you whom God is at work.

God Works for Good

What is God working on for you?  In a word, “good.”  Here’s is how God’s good work works:

God is working all the time.  “Work together” is a one-word verb in the present tense, active voice, and indicative mood.  This is a fancy way to say God is always working in our lives.  He never stops.  He never slumbers nor sleeps (ref. Psalm 121:4).  God is with you every moment of every day.  He is working with “no condemnation” (ref. 8:1), because He has already justified you, and there will be no separation (ref. 8:39) between Father and child on earth or in Heaven.

God is working with “all things.”  “All” is another word which differs in English and Greek, general in the former, more specific in the latter, like all of a certain thing.  The thing which most closely matches the context are the “sufferings” (ref. 8:18) that tend to give us “weakness” (ref. 8:26).  Lest I smother you with God’s sovereignty, these things that cause pain and suffering in our lives are the products of free and willing choices God allows we humans to make.  People hurt us and abandon us, but God never will.  In the painful chapters of life He is closer than ever, loving, watching, working.

God is working all for our “good.”   In our language, great is greater than good, but in the Greek language of the New Testament, good is greater than great.  Great (mega) speaks only of quantity, while good (agathos) refers to quality.  And while no one is perfectly good but God Himself (ref. Mark 10:18), our perfect God is alway working on His children to make them “good,” as He defines good.  Good to God means godly, conforming to His word.  Good to God means Christlike, beautifully referenced in the next verse.  Good to God means spiritual, and faithful, a person of great value in the kingdom of God.

You can pull out Romans 8:28 at virtually any moment of your life.  But, be careful.  It is not a promise for non-Christians nor false Christians.  It is not a superficial promise of worldly success in this life.  It is a powerful and practical promise to sincere believers that God is at work in every painful twist and downturn of your life, to make something good, as He defines good, with the ultimate goal of your justification, sanctification, and glorification, where nothing but God and good await.

A good illustration of what this verse really means is a sculpture.  Ironically, Michelangelo’s David was in the news recently.  Some right-winged fundamentalists flipped their lids because a group of sixth-graders were shown the statue.  Though it is a nude, it is generally considered to be the most perfect specimen of sculpture art ever created.  It took the artist over three years of hard, steady, work to complete.  And we must remember, before Michelangelo went to work on David, it was nothing but a bland, nondescript, useless piece of marble.

If the marble could talk, it would tell you that the sculpting hurt.  Our lives, our Christian lives, are full of hammers and chisels.  But, God’s hand is at work.  His finished product won’t be revealed until the second coming of Christ.  But be assured, it will be a masterpiece.  Be assured it will be you, for whom God is working, all the time, in all things, all for your good.

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