Claiming Romans 8:28

Bible Book: Romans  8 : 28
Subject: Faith
Without question, this is one of the grandest promises in the Bible. Other than John 3:16, no passage of Scripture covers more territory or offers more hope and encouragement than Romans 8:28. If understood and applied properly, this great verse can transform your whole outlook on life.

To appreciate more fully its meaning, let's look at it one part at a time.

I. THE PROMISE IS GIVEN

The inspired writer says that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

This promise is addressed not to those who merely acknowledge God's existence, but to those who love God, they love him because they have responded positively to his call to salvation. In other words, it is a promise to those who have repented of their sins and have, by faith, received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They have, by the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, come to understand that it was love that sent Jesus to the cross to shed his blood and take the punishment for our sins, and they have said "yes" to him. Coming into that saving relationship with Jesus ignites within our hearts a love for him. 1 John 4:19 says, "We love him, because he first loved us."

How can you know if you really have been saved and therefore love God? What is the proof? The proof is not in having your name on some church roll somewhere, or in merely talking a good game. The proof as to whether or not you've really been saved and love God is in whether or not you are living in obedience to him. Jesus said, in John 14:21, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me...."

The person who has truly responded to God's call to salvation and, as a result, loves God don't just say it, he shows it. He isn't flawless by any stretch of the imagination, but he is changed, his life has been cleaned up and lifted to a new, wholesome level. He sincerely strives to obey the Lord in all areas of life, and when he stumbles he gets up, brushes himself off, asks God's forgiveness, and "has at it" again. And as he utilizes such resources as prayer, Bible reading and worship, he becomes increasingly consistent in his daily walk, and experiences an ever-increasing degree of victory over temptation.

So, there are many folks who profess to be Christians who can't claim Romans 8:28, because this promise is only for those whose lives prove that they are "for real."

II. AND WE KNOW

He didn't say, "And we see...." Paul wasn't always able to see how God was working things out for good--though sometimes he was--but there is such a thing as knowledge that is based not on sight but on faith. I know that God is real, although I've never seen him. I know that heaven is real, even though I haven't been there yet. It is not arrogance, it is not presumption, to say, "I know" when you're basing that claim on statements that the almighty, sovereign God of the universe has made in his inerrant Word. I, as a believer, know that Romans 8:28 is true, not because of any insights that I have, and not because of any consensus of man--I know it is true because God said it, it's that simple! Yes, he said it through the apostle Paul, but it was nevertheless God who said it.

In commenting on the certainty of God's promises, the late F. B. Meyer said, "If any promise of God should fail, the heavens would clothe themselves in sackcloth; the sun, the moon and the stars would reel from their courses...and a hollow wind would moan through a ruined creation...."

But there is no danger of that ever happening. Titus 1:2 reminds us that God "cannot lie." He keeps his promises. He always has, and he always will. In Malachi 3:6 he says, "For I am the Lord, I change not...." Hebrews 13:8 speaks of "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever."

III. WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD

The reason some people find this promise hard to believe is that they have tried to impose on this verse their own limited concept of what is "good." We tend to think of "good" as being limited to vibrant health, material prosperity, smooth sailing, or happy relationships, and no doubt such blessings are good, and are a part of God's plan for some folks, although not for everyone.

But whatever other good the Lord may bring about in our lives, the highest good that can come to any of us is to become more like Jesus--and the context makes it clear that that is the good upon which Paul is focusing in Romans 8:28. He goes on to make that clear in Romans 8:29: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren."

So, that is God's primary purpose. If we love him, then he is using the events of our lives to fashion us into the likeness of his beloved Son. Not only is that the greatest personal blessing that can come to us, but the more conformed we become to the image of Christ, the more God will be able to use us to bless others, our family members, our neighbors, our co-workers, our fellow believers.

And the more God will be able to use us to reach the lost. Colossians 1:17 speaks of "Christ in you, the hope of glory." The only hope of some people coming to know the Lord and thus glorifying God in their lives is for them to first see Jesus in you.

Without a doubt, the most wonderful thing that can happen to any person is to become more Christ-like, and verse 29 tells us that we have been "predestined" for that great privilege. The Greek word for "predestinate" means, literally, "to mark off beforehand." That same verse also tells us that God "did foreknow" us. Before we were even born, God knew that we would repent of our sins and yield to him in faith, and he "did predestinate" us to grow into the likeness of Jesus.

Verse 29 speaks of Jesus as the "firstborn among many brethren." The Greek word for "firstborn" (prototokos) is a variant of another Greek word from which we get our English word, "prototype." A prototype is a model that is made before a product goes into mass production. Jesus is our prototype. It is God's plan that every born-again person become like Jesus. Oh, we won't be perfect like him, of course, but God intends that as long as we live we grow spiritually and become more and more like him, and whatever it takes to bring about that result is certainly for our ultimate good.

That's the greatest thing that can possibly happen to any of us, to be conformed to the image of Christ. We need to be like Jesus in our character, in our attitudes, in our work, in our relationships, in our speech, and in our priorities.

Verse 30 says that those whom he predestined "he also called." That is, by his Holy Spirit he tugged at our heartstrings, and we responded in faith.

Further, verse 30 says that "whom he called, them he also justified." The Greek word for "justify" means "to acquit, to pardon, to declare righteous." We are forgiven, the burden of guilt is lifted, and we are set free, we are no longer under condemnation. Romans 5:1-2 says, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; By whom we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

We're also told in verse 30 that "whom he justified, them he also glorified." At that point God is speaking of the future as if it were the past. In Romans 8:16-18 we read:

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

We who have been born again will be glorified when we get to heaven,  that is, we will be set free from all sorrow, suffering and sin, as we bask in the wonder and joy of that eternal home prepared for us by the Lord himself, and, best of all, as we enjoy fellowship with him. And the wonderful reality of our one day being with Jesus in heaven is so certain that God speaks of it as if it had already occurred. Thus, God gives to every believer assurance that nothing can ever derail him in his journey to heaven. We can never be plucked from his hand. He will make sure that we reach our final destination.

God further nails down that certainty in verses 31-32: "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"

IV. ALL THINGS

Paul said that "all things work together for good to them that love God...." What a tremendous, sweeping statement--and, mind you, this was no fair-weather Christian writing those words. He was a battle-scarred veteran of the cross. In one passage he gave us a cataloge of the woes he had endured, rejection by his own, hunger, thirst, loneliness, sickness, prison, robberies, scourging, shipwreck, and yet, he says, "we know that all things, not some things, or even most things, but all things work together for good to them that love God...."

He did not say that all things are good. Certainly Paul knew, and we all know, that many things are not good in themselves--disease, pain, abuse, broken relationships, immoral conduct, persecution, killing, and a multitude of other things that could be named. Paul never said that these things are good. What he did say was that all things, whatever their cause or nature, can be used by God to bring about good in our lives.

"All things" includes those things that result from our own blunders, or the blunders of others, or some combination of the two. "All things" includes those things that God sends, and those that he merely permits. God most certainly does not initiate everything which happens. The Bible makes it clear that he does send some things which are hard-hitting, but other things he only permits. Some he permits with a broken heart rather than override our power to choose. He also permits some other things which, as far as we can tell, are not directly related to any choice of man, and we are baffled as to why God allows them to occur.

But as we struggle with life's complexities and unanswerable questions, we need to remember that all of God's dealings with us are in love, even when we can't begin to understand them, and that one of these days, when we Christians get to glory, the enigmas of life will be cleared up. Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

In the meantime, we are to walk by faith and we are to cling to Romans 8:28. There are times in life when we are so disappointed, so wounded, so confused, so angry, so beaten down, that we have to cling to Romans 8:28 in order to keep our sanity.

God can and does bring good out of even the worst of situations. But that doesn't mean that it is good, then, after all, that they happened--nor does it mean that it's just as well, after all, that they happened. Nor does it mean, as some people are prone to say, that "everything happens for the best." For example, I read recently of a man going into a place of business and brutally murdering two innocent people. It would have been better if that horrible atrocity had not happened! But when Paul wrote that "all things work together for good to them that love God, what he did mean was that, even though some things are not good in themselves, but in fact are horrific, God is in the salvage business, and if we will, in love for Christ, yield the broken pieces to him, he will miraculously bring good even out of life's most terrible tragedies, all of them.

In the book of Genesis we read of how Joseph's brothers cast him into a pit, intending to kill him, but then decided instead to sell him into slavery. They lied to their father, Jacob, about what had happened to Joseph. But as time passed, Joseph, who had been taken to Egypt as a slave, became the Prime Minister and was responsible for saving Egypt and much of the world from dying of famine. Joseph's brothers came to Egypt to buy food from Joseph, but didn't recognize him, even though he recognized them. He accused his brother of being spies, and locked up Simeon, telling his brothers that he would release Simeon if they would bring their youngest brother, Benjamin, with them on their next trip after food.

When they told their aged father, Jacob, about the accusation against them, and about Simeon being locked up, Jacob lamented in Genesis 42:36, "...all these things are against me." When the brothers returned to Egypt, Joseph revealed his identity to them. After they had gotten over the shock, he instructed them to bring their father and all their loved ones and live a comfortable life in Egypt. After Jacob's death, the brothers then feared that Joseph would retaliate for the terrible things they had done to him years earlier, but Joseph put their minds to rest and said in Genesis 50:20, "...ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive."

V. WORK TOGETHER

My mother used to make what she called an "amalgamation" cake. It was delicious. We always looked forward to that delicacy when we went home for the holidays. I'm telling you, one bite of that amalgamation cake would, as my dad might have said, "Make a rabbit hug a hound!" Now, a few of the ingredients would have been all right if eaten by themselves, the coconut and walnuts, for instance. But most of the ingredients would have been very unappetizing if eaten alone. Who would want to sit down to a plate of baking soda? Or a plate of flour? Or a plate of salt? But my mother knew how to mix those and the other ingredients together in such a way and in such proportions as to produce a cake that was absolutely scrumptious!

In like manner, many of life's events, in order for us to make any sense of them, have to be viewed not in isolation, but rather as a part of a larger whole. We have to remember that God is seeing to it that those events work together for good.

A fellow preacher, Hardy Denham, told about a trapper in Alaska who fell into a crevice and broke his leg. In spite of the pain, he began crawling to find help. However, the shock of his injury and the bitter cold were too much for him, and he collapsed. By the time two other trappers found him, he was barely clinging to life. While one of the men left to go get a sled so they could transport the insured man to safety, the other man stayed with the injured trapper. The one who stayed behind had no food or blankets or any other resources with which to help the injured man. While waiting on his partner to return with the sled, he was alarmed to see that the injured trapper was about to lose consciousness, and he knew that if that happened it would mean certain death. In desperation, he did the only thing he could think of to do, he began slapping the injured man in the face to keep him awake until help arrived.

Now, viewed in isolation, that action would appear to be cruel, slapping an injured man in the face. But when you see that action in relation to the whole picture, it is different. Undoubtedly it was painful to the injured man, but it kept him conscious and alive until help could arrive.

The Greek word for "work together" is sunergei, from which we get our English word, "synergy," which, according to the dictionary, means "a combined or correlated action." I like James Merritt's explanation. He says, "Synergy is what happens when the individual parts of something come together into a whole, thereby having a greater and a better effect than each individual part could have on its own."

Think about that high-powered medicine that your doctor prescribed for you recently. That drug is likely compounded of elements which, if taken one at a time, would cause you severe illness or even kill you. But because it was mixed together by knowledgeable scientists at the manufacturing plant, or by a skilled pharmacist at the store where you bought it, that medicine brought relief and healing to your body. In like manner, the events in a person's life cannot be ultimately evaluated by themselves, individually, each event must be related to the great plan which God is working out in that person's life.

Some situations, though, don't seem to make any sense, even when viewed as a part of the whole, but you can count on it, if we yield ourselves and our brokenness to Christ in love, he will somehow bring good from those situations in spite of their apparent meaninglessness. We may not be able to see it at the time, but one of these days, here or hereafter, we'll be able to say with the poet:

God was better to me than all my hopes, and better than all my fears;

For he made a bridge of my broken sighs, and a rainbow out of my tears.

There was a terrible shipwreck. Only one man survived, and he managed to swim to a small, uninhabited island. Day after day he prayed for God to send help, but as he looked out over the horizon he saw nothing but tossing waves and foam. In the meantime, he gathered scraps of wood that had drifted in from the ship's wreckage and began building a shelter from the elements. After days of wearisome labor, finally his little hut was finished, and he was so grateful for the limited protection it offered.

He had managed also to salvage a little bit of food from the wreckage, but it was about gone. Late one day, toward evening, after cooking his meager meal on an open fire, he decided to go for a walk along the beach. He got back to find that his little hut had caught fire, and had burned to the ground. He was overwhelmed with frustration and grief, and wept in despair. Finally, after tossing and turning, he managed to go to sleep.

To his astonishment, the next morning he was awakened by the sound of a ship headed toward his island. He was beside himself with gratitude and joy. When he was safely aboard he thanked the Captain and crew profusely for rescuing him, but he said, "I'm puzzled, though, how did you happen to come to such a remote island?" The Captain said, "Why, we saw your signal fire!"

In like manner, God can use the painful, frustrating, heartbreaking situations in your life and mine to bring about good. So, don't "throw in the towel." Don't give up. Don't quit. Hang in there, trust God and cling to Romans 8:28.

But, as emphasized at the outset, in order for that promise to be applicable to your life, be sure that you've repented of yours sins and, by faith, received Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, and be sure that--as a believer--you're giving him first priority in your life and living in loving obedience. Jesus said, in Matthew 6:33, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."