|artwork by Kimberly Simmons|
NASB: 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.
Amplified: We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.
Phillips: Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.
Wuest: And we know with an absolute knowledge that for those who are loving God, all things are working together resulting in good, for those who are divinely-summoned ones according to His purpose.
Young’s Literal: And we have known that to those loving God all things do work together for good, to those who are called according to purpose.
Pastor Ray Pritchard states: “Read the first phrase of Romans 8:28 in these three different versions: KJV: All things work together for good to them that love God; NASB: God causes all things to work together for good; NIV:In all things God works for the good of those who love him. Did you catch the difference there? In the King James Version, God is way down at the end of the phrase. In the other two versions, God is at the beginning. It is partly a question of text and partly a question of grammar. There is nothing wrong with the traditional versions, but the modern translations bring out a proper emphasis. We will never properly understand this verse as long as we put God at the end and not at the beginning. But some people look at life that way. They believe that life is like a roll of the dice—sometimes it's seven-come-eleven and sometimes it's snake eyes. And they believe that after a tragedy, God shows up to make everything come out right. But that's not the Biblical view at all. In reality, God is there at the beginning and He is there at the end, and He is at every point in between.”
Romans 8:28 is the New Testament equivalent of Genesis 50:20 . . . Joseph's great affirmation of God's sovereignty, His overruling providence and His everlasting, immutable faithfulness, when he declared to his brothers (who had attempted to kill him)..."And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." Joseph’s brothers meant harm toward him when they sold him. But God worked it for good. The concept of God working all things for good is the key to moving forward in forgiveness.
Elisabeth Elliot, whose first husband was murdered by the savage people he was trying to reach for Christ, and whose second husband died of cancer, wrote, “The experiences of my life are not such that I could infer from them that God is good, gracious and merciful necessarily. To have had one husband murdered and another one disintegrate, body, soul and spirit, through cancer, is not what you would call a proof of the love of God. In fact, there are many times when it looks like just the opposite. My belief in the love of God is not by inference or instinct. It is by faith.” This wide-angle God-lens view, led me to a word study of the word, purpose.
Purpose comes from the Greek word prothesis (from pró = before, forth +títhemi = place) which means to set before oneself to be looked at or exposed to view and then to purpose or plan. It is literally placing before or setting before and so means the setting forth of a thing or placing of it in view, a putting forward openly—a presentation, setting forth, plan, design, purpose, resolve, will. Prothesis means to plan in advance and comes to mean that which is planned or purposed in advance. Purpose means an intelligent decision which the will is bent to accomplish.
Pastor Albert Barnes explains: “The word here rendered purpose (prothesis) means, properly, a proposition, or a laying down anything in view of others. Hence it means, when applied to the mind, a plan or purpose of mind. It implies that God had a plan, or purpose, or intention, in regard to all who became Christians. They are not saved by chance or haphazard. God does not convert men without design; and His designs are not new, but are eternal. What He does, He always meant to do. What it is right for Him to do, it was right always to intend to do. What God always meant to do, is His purpose or plan.”
Pastor Randy Alcorn writes, “God causes all things to work together for good”… pointing out that it doesn't say each individual thing is good, but that God works them together for good. Recalling his boyhood days, Randy tells how he often watched his mother bake cakes. One day when she had all the ingredients set out—flour, sugar, baking powder, raw egg, vanilla—he sneaked a taste of each one. Except for the sugar, they all tasted horrible. Then his mother stirred them together and put the batter in the oven. “It didn't make sense to me,” he recalls, “that the combination of individually distasteful things produced such a tasty product.” Randy concludes that God likewise “takes all the undesirable stresses in our lives, mixes them together, puts them under the heat of crisis, and produces a perfect result.”
Greek scholar Kenneth S. Wuest states: “Salvation is dominated by God’s purpose (prothesis)… that of glorifying Himself in the bestowal of salvation and in the life of the person who is the recipient of that salvation. Salvation, therefore, can never be earned. If it could, the sinner would be glorified. Salvation must be a free gift with no strings tied to it. And that is grace, the act of God giving salvation as a free gift to one who does not only not deserve it, but who deserves punishment for his sins. This grace is given us in Christ Jesus in the sense that He made the gift of salvation possible through His death on the Cross by which He satisfied the just requirements of the law which sinners broke, thus making it possible for a righteous God to show mercy to a hell-deserving sinner on the basis of justice satisfied. God’s purpose (prothesis) is this grace that was given us before the world began.”
Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon writes: “Upon some points a believer is absolutely sure. He knows, for instance, that God sits in the stern-sheets of the vessel when it rocks most. He believes that an invisible hand is always on the world's tiller, and that wherever providence may drift, Jehovah steers it. That re-assuring knowledge prepares him for everything. He looks over the raging waters and sees the spirit of Jesus treading the billows, and he hears a voice saying, “It is I, be not afraid.” He knows too that God is always wise, and, knowing this, he is confident that there can be no accidents, no mistakes; that nothing can occur which ought not to arise. He can say, “If I should lose all I have, it is better that I should lose than have, if God so wills: the worst calamity is the wisest and the kindest thing that could befall to me if God ordains it. We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” The Christian does not merely hold this as a theory, but he knows it as a matter of fact. Everything has worked for good as yet; the poisonous drugs mixed in fit proportions have worked the cure; the sharp cuts of the lancet have cleansed out the proud flesh and facilitated the healing. Every event as yet has worked out the most divinely blessed results; and so, believing that God rules all, that He governs wisely, that He brings good out of evil, the believer's heart is assured, and he is enabled calmly to meet each trial as it comes.”
In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom relates an incident that taught her to be thankful for things we normally would not be thankful for. She and her sister, Betsy, prisoners of the Nazis, had just been transferred to the worst prison camp they had seen yet, Ravensbruck. Upon entering the barracks, they found them extremely overcrowded and infested with fleas. Their Scripture reading from their smuggled Bible that morning in First Thessalonians had reminded them to rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsy persisted. Corrie finally agreed to somehow thank God for even the fleas. During the months spent at that camp, they were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings in their barrack without guard interference. Several months later they learned that the guards would not enter the barracks because of the fleas.
Pastor John Stott describes the truth of this passage as “a pillow on which to rest our weary heads.” In every detail of our lives, God is at work. God will take even our errors and work them out for our good and His glory. He is sovereign. In everything, He works for the good of those who love Him. Supremely, the Cross demonstrates that just as God took the very worst event in history and turned it into the very best; He can take the worst things in our lives and use them for good.
As I wrote in How I Came To Be, my daily relationship with our living Lord Jesus Christ reinforces my belief in the sovereignty of God, that nothing comes into my life that is not filtered through God's hands of love. I believe there are no “accidents.” I believe that God sees the end from the beginning. He knows me intimately, He knit me together in my mother's womb, one day I will see Him face-to-face and I will know as I am known. It is His plan that’s important, not my desire. I didn't bring myself into this world, and I can’t take myself into heaven. I really don’t know what is best for me or for those I love. I ask God to make me sensitive to the reality that He is in control, and that He is using this--even this--to conform me to the image of His Son. I want that most of all. I train my mind to acknowledge God’s hand in whatever it is I'm living with. I pray, Jesus, You know what You are doing, I will trust, I release it all, because God is sovereign. He is the beginning, He will be the ending, and in between, by His grace, He lets us be part of His perfect plan, for His glory and for our good . . . I am trusting His heart.
Heavenly Father, I trust Your heart, You know what You are doing, I rest in the mystery of Who You are and Who I am in You because of Christ's perfect work on the Cross. I ask You to help me to do these things: to lean on You, to meditate on Your character and attributes, and to trust You with all my heart. Thank You for Your promise that Your perfect peace will guard my heart and mind. In Christ, we are relaxed and at peace in the midst of the mysteries, confusions, and perplexities of this life, because we trust in You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Look Up—meditate on Romans 8:28 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.
Look In—as you meditate on Romans 8:28 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."
Look Out—as you meditate on Romans 8:28 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.
* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ