Romans 8:28 is one of the most popular and most quoted verses in the Bible. And rightly so, as it gives great encouragement to the believer no matter where they find themselves in life and no matter what is going on in their life. It reads:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Because this verse is so popular it often is quoted so flippantly that it has lost a bit of its bite. But if one reads deeper into it, one can find both the exhortation and encouragement it was meant to convey. Let’s briefly take a look at it in smaller parts:
We know—Apparently the words that follow are words that are a no brainer and common knowledge. According to Paul, we don’t just wonder about or think these things, we already know they are true.
All things—The two words, “all things,” are quite a statement. Not some things, not most things, not just the easy things, but every single thing, indeed all things.
Work together—Sometimes one thing needs another thing in life combined to work out for good. Individually they may completely stink, but together they work together for good, with the help and blessing of God.
For Good—Good here is how God defines “good” in a given situation. “All things” don’t necessarily work together for “me”, in the way I think they should, but for good. Good is the ultimate goal. One could also perhaps say, “for the glory of God.” “For good” may not always feel good to me, but I must defer to the higher purpose, the higher good, the purposes of God.
To those who love God—Sometimes we forget this part. This verse isn’t for everyone, or even for everyone who names the name of Christ. It is for God lovers. Many believers just “like” God, but their lives suggest they don’t yet love God. Jesus said that to love Him is to obey His commandments. Perhaps all things work together for good to those who obey God? This principle is not always popular in the church today, the idea that we must be obedient to receive certain rewards in life. We just want grace without works from start to finish. But among the most common themes in the Bible is the theme of obedience to God, and often blessings contingent on obedience.
Called according to His purpose—again, it about His purposes, not ours. This verse is for those whose lives are all about Him; those who are called and building His kingdom instead of their own. “Good” tends to take on a new meaning when you are about the Father’s business.
This verse is a beautiful, encouraging promise to the believer, and it will always be true, and can be depended on completely. Ultimately, like so much of the Christian life, it requires complete trust in the One makes the promise, who has quite a track record of consistently fulfilling His promises.