Read the Bible in 2011* ◊ Week 4: Sunday
This is simply an amazing verse. Draw a big circle around “all”! What a promise! Pray and ask God to give you understanding of His Word, to see and know Him as you read through all He has done for you.
Let’s consider a few obvious questions first: Who? and What? Who is the one acting throughout these verses? Who is this promise for? What are the all things?
Who is the one acting? God. God causes…He foreknew…He predestined…He called…He justified…He glorified. God is the one at work. Not us.
Who is the promise of Romans 8:28 for? Everyone? No, it’s clear this promise is for those who believe in Jesus Christ: to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Notice Paul says to those who love God. This is such an insightful description of Christians. Those who are in Christ Jesus are those who love God.
The other phrase, to those who are called according to His purpose, is also a clear description of Christians and Paul will gives us more details on this in verses 29–30.
What does this promise say? Look again at the beginning of verse 28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good. What are the all things? What has Paul been talking about? Again, this may seem obvious, but by stopping to think about the answer, not only will we be encouraged and assured of God’s help, but our faith and trust in God will be strengthened. R. C. Sproul reminds us to look at the context of this verse:
“Obviously what Paul has in view is the infirmities and the sufferings of the people of God…the sufferings in this world are used by God for our ultimate good and for our ultimate benefit.
“This does not mean that everything that happens to us is good in and of itself. Suffering is a tragic, physical evil. I am not supposed to say to another believer who is suffering, ‘Rejoice, this is a wonderful benefit that you are experiencing here, because it is working together for your good.’ We are not to praise God for the presence of suffering, particularly in the case of others, because that would lead us to the same smug attitude that is so destructively manifest in Job’s friends. Rather if I see another suffering, I must do everything in my power to alleviate that suffering.
“Now that would seem to be working against this wonderful benefit that God has given to him. But Paul is saying that God uses these things, triumphs over them, brings victory out of them and adds them together for our greater glory. In other words, God redeems the evil that befalls us.
“So we should be comforted and consoled by the fact that our suffering is neither futile nor ultimately tragic. It may be very painful and difficult to endure for the moment. But God stands sovereign over our suffering.”1
We need to know this truth and write verse 28 on our hearts. This is who God is. He is for you. This is a verse that is crucial to your walk with God, to knowing Him and trusting Him when you feel forgotten and in darkness. He is causing all things, the things that are breaking your heart and wearing you down, to work together for good.
Remember, this promise is for Christians, for those who are in Christ Jesus, for those who have believed in Him. Paul describes us as those who love God, those who are called according to His purpose. Those who are in Christ Jesus are those who have been called. These are not two different groups of people as R. C. Sproul explains (his emphasis).
“All those whom God calls according to his purpose love him, and all those who love God have been called according to his purpose.
“The foundation for the comfort and certainty of future joy is God’s plan of redemption, which Paul summarizes in verses 29 and 30: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he glorified.”2
Verses 28–30 are a tight unit. Paul gives us a promise in verse 28, and in verses 28–30 he tells us why this promise is true. God is the one who is acting in these verses. God is the one who causes all things to work together for good, and this promise is guaranteed because our salvation rests on God. He is the one who foreknew you, who predestined you, who called you, who justified you, who glorified you. What He began, He will complete. No one can stay His hand.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
Sproul goes on to say,
“Paul is saying here that each of these categories is all inclusive, that is, all whom God foreknows, he predestinates, and all he predestinates, he calls, and all he calls, he justifies, and all he justifies, he glorifies. It is very important to realize that, in the structure of the language here, everyone in each category belongs totally to every other category…
“…why is foreknowledge stated first? To answer that, we have to ask the question, What does foreknowledge mean?
“The verb to know has more than one meaning in Scripture…God certainly knows in advance what everybody does. But ‘foreknew’ [in Romans 8:29] describes some, not all humans. It, therefore cannot refer to pure cognition, it is more than that.”3
Do you understand what he is saying? Those whom God foreknew are those He justified, but God knows what everyone will do so this group in Romans 8:29 cannot be all people. Sproul continues (his emphasis).
“Then there is to be known as to be selected. This is a really simply explanation of predestination. God looks at the mass of fallen humanity and selects some to receive the grace of calling, justification and glorification. But before he can select anyone, God must have an idea in his mind of the identity of those whom he is choosing. God does not predestine unknown quantities; God predestines persons that are known to him. Therefore, it is a logical necessity that foreknowledge of the people comes before predestination. To add that it is a foreknowledge of what people were going to do before he predestines them runs absolutely contrary to the rest of the list…
“For what are such predestined? to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (v. 29).”4
It’s a lot to consider, isn’t it? Think on these things. Read Romans 9–11 (see Romans 9–10: God & His Mercy, and Romans 11–12: God’s Mercy & Our Response). Don’t forget the point of Romans 8:28–30. Francis Schaeffer writes,
“Too often God’s choosing is presented in such a cold theological fashion…But when Paul wrote these words [Romans 8:30], he had only one purpose: to give you assurance.”3
Go back again to Romans 8:28. Ask God to write it on your heart. Ask Him to help you remember it when you are discouraged. Whatever you’re going through, your suffering is not meaningless. When nothing makes sense in your life, remember God holds you in His hands. He is causing all, yes, all things, to work together for good.
For those of us who are in Christ, this all is for you.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications. (Site has been deleted since posting).
“Never Morning Wore To Evening But Some Heart Did Break.” Walter Langley
1,2,3,4R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans (Christian Focus Publications, Ltd; Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, United Kingdom: 2011) 184, 185–186, 189, 189–190.
3Francis Schaeffer, The Finished Work of Christ (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 1998) 227.
*In 2011 I started a year-long series of posts, “Read the Bible in 2011.” On the directory pages if a day didn’t link to a post, it was simply a brief reminder about the reading. I’m filling in some of those gaps with new posts with “Read the Bible in 2011 Redux” as a category.
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