Summary: Romans 8:28 is one of the favorite Scriptures of most, if not all, Christians. R. A. Torrey described it as “a soft pillow for a tired heart.”
THE PERFECT PICTURE OF PROVIDENCE
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NKJV
Romans 8:28 is one of the favorite Scriptures of most, if not all Christians. R. A. Torrey described it as “a soft pillow for a tired heart.” Many times we have leaned upon this God-breathed biblical jewel. In it Paul presents the perfect picture of providence. Webster defines providence as “divine guidance or care; God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.” Being able to obtain this blessed assurance in our lives merits our strongest endeavor. How we can claim it as our own is clearly set forth in the verse itself.
We need to ask two important questions. To whom does the assurance “that all things work together for good” apply? What are the conditions that must be in place in our lives for this to happen? The Word of God provides clear answers to both inquiries.
I. TO WHOM DOES THIS GLORIOUS PROVIDENCE APPLY?
Romans 8:28 is not a universal declaration. We have all heard folks say “All things work together for good” and they put a period there. That may be positive thinking and may project an optimistic outlook but it is simply not true. All things don’t work together for good for everyone. Not only is the unbeliever excluded from this assurance but so are believers who are living outside the will of God for their lives. Paul does not say “And we know that all things work together for good to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He did say “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31).
The Apostle Paul gives us two qualifications that must be met before a Christian can claim this assurance. Is this precious providence granted to every professing Christian? Absolutely not! Worldly Christians err if they think they can live as they please, ignore the commands of our Lord, and still be recipient of this indescribable blessing. Pay close attention to these two qualifying factors.
1. This providential assurance is only “to those who love God”. Now this is a much stronger qualification than many would dare admit! The Apostle James was writing to believers when he expressed great concern about the worldliness that existed in the early church. James 4:1-4 says. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people (ìïé÷áëίäåò “moy-khal-is”), don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (NIV). To set oneself as an enemy of God does not place a person in the most favorable position to be the beneficiary of His blessings.
The Greek text employs a feminine noun which is translated “adulterous people” in the NIV. This would indicate that James is not referring to a single sin of the flesh. It goes far beyond that. It refers to spiritual adultery where the church, the Bride of Christ, chooses worldliness rather than choosing to live godly, holy and self-denying lives in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is still another qualification that must be met to validate this assurance in our lives.
2. That qualification is “to those who are the called according to His purpose”. The child of God has been called from darkness to light for the purpose of eternal redemption. Paul testified before King Agrippa that the Lord had called him to preach to Jew and Gentile “to open their eyes and turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:18 NIV). The purpose of our calling is more than just our salvation; it is for us “to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren”. (Romans 8:29 NKJV).
II. THE GLORIOUS EXTENT OF THIS GREAT PROVIDENCE!
1. Its Certainty: “And we know” is both a statement of faith and experience. Paul had experienced great persecution, privation, imprisonment, etc. but he never wavered in this declaration: “and we know…” He would hold dear this truth to his death. Many of us today can testify how God has turned defeat into victory on numerous occasions even when we had serious doubts that any good could result.