After the discussion of trials which we examined yesterday, Romans 8:28 declares, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” James Montgomery Boice gives “boundaries” or “built-in qualifications” for this verse (904). Initially, he directs the reader to the following verse, which says, “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.” Verse twenty-eight only applies to those whom God foreknew, predestinated, and conformed (Boice 905). Foreknowledge initiates “the whole process of redemption” and refers to those people on whom God has “fixed His regard” (Thomas 226). Additionally, the term reminds readers “that salvation has its origin in the mind or eternal counsels of God, not in man” (Boice 913). The second term, predestination, is often confused with foreknowledge (Vine 129). The word “predestination” has two parts: pre, meaning “before,” and destination, or “purpose.” When put together, these roots imply that God determined the outcome of each individual’s life beforehand (Boice 913). Once God has set His love on a person (foreknowledge), He determines that person’s destiny (predestination).
This destiny is found in the third word, conformed. Conformed comes from the word summorpho, meaning “to change with,” and implies that the Christian will be both physically and spiritually changed to look like Christ (Hubbard 142). The foreknown person is predestined “to find in the glorified Son of God their pattern, their power, and their goal” (Thomas 226). Verse twenty-nine shows that God’s will is not human happiness, but rather human sanctification. Boice emphasizes that “good” in verse twenty-eight does not mean “rich,” “healthy,” “successful,” “admired,” or “happy.” In contrast, good must be defined on God’s terms; “the ultimate good is God’s glory” (Moo 278). Therefore, it is “good” to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. In First Thessalonians 4:3a, Paul reiterates the thought, saying, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.” The good may not be realized during earthly life. Romans 8:17 reminds Christians “that it is by sharing in Christ’s sufferings that we eventually will be able to share in his glory as well” (Moo 278). At the same time, Dr. Douglas Moo notes that material blessings, while not guaranteed, can indeed be part of the “good” in Romans 8:28. While it is important to refrain from a “materialist interpretation,” Christians cannot believe that God is disinterested in the physical world (Moo 278). Christ himself explained in Matthew 10:29 that the Father takes interest in subjects as lowly as the sparrows and Christians are “are of more value than many sparrows.”
Another of Boice’s qualifications is that “God brings good out of the evil” (Boice 906). God does not indicate that hardship is good; He states that sanctification is good. Suffering is simply the means by which God works out his “all-wise purpose” (Vine 128). Similarly, James 1:2-3 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” Lastly, Boice emphasizes the difference between knowing and feeling. Romans 8:28 does not read, “For we feel good in all things.” Rather, it says, “For we know that all things work together for good.” William Hendrikson, a ten-year New Testament teacher at Calvin Seminary, believes that this knowledge is based on two grounds: experience and acquaintance. Paul experienced “how God had dealt with him and with others in the past” and was acquainted with “specific biblical passages” proving the sovereignty of God (279). With this two-fold knowledge, he could be certain that “things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28).
Tomorrow, I will conclude and summarize the findings from this in-depth analysis of Romans 8:28.
- Boice, James Montgomery. Romans. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2000. Print.e
- Hendriksen, William. Romans. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993. Print.
- Hubbard, Roger. Romans…Forever! Amarillo: Westcliff Press, 2008. Print.
- Moo, Douglas. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.
- Thomas, W.H. Griffith. St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970. Print.
- Turner, Roger. “Let’s Quit Abusing Romans 8:28.” Firm Foundation, 1972. PDF.
- Vine, W.E. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957. Print.