Romans 8:28, a Devotional Study

Romans 8:28, a Devotional Study by Jack Kettler

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching on Romans 8:28 regarding God’s promises. As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence for the glorifying of God in how we live. This promise in Scripture has always been a favorite.

Scripture Teaching:

“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.” (Romans 8:28)

When Paul says: “all things work together for good,” it does not exclude trials and tribulations. This promise gives great encouragement during times of trouble. In times of blessings, the promise gives way to praise and adoration. There are many great promises of God’s care for His people. There are three passages listed below.

Supporting Passages:

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11) Protecting

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Giving

“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.” (Ephesians 1:9) Revealing

Beyond the qualification of being one of God’s people, there are no conditions attached to these promises.

For the reader’s edification, Romans 8:28 is broken down word by word:

Digging Deeper from the Strong’s Lexicon:

And

δὲ (de)

Conjunction

Strong’s Greek 1161: A primary particle; but, etc.

we know

Οἴδαμεν (Oidamen)

Verb – Perfect Indicative Active – 1st Person Plural

Strong’s Greek 1492: To know, remember appreciate.

that

ὅτι (hoti)

Conjunction

Strong’s Greek 3754: Neuter of hostis as conjunction; demonstrative, that; causative, because.

God

θεὸς (theos)

Noun – Nominative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 2316: A deity, especially the supreme Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate, by Hebraism, very.

works all things together

συνεργεῖ (synergei)

Verb – Present Indicative Active – 3rd Person Singular

Strong’s Greek 4903: To cooperate with, work together. From sunergos, to be a fellow-worker, i.e. Co-operate.

πάντα (panta)

Adjective – Accusative Neuter Plural

Strong’s Greek 3956: All, the whole, every kind of. Including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole.

for

εἰς (eis)

Preposition

Strong’s Greek 1519: A primary preposition; to or into, of place, time, or purpose; also in adverbial phrases.

[the] good

ἀγαθόν (agathon)

Adjective – Accusative Neuter Singular

Strong’s Greek 18: A primary word; ‘good’.

of those who

τοῖς (tois)

Article – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 3588: The, the definite article. Including the feminine he, and the neuter to in all their inflections, the definite article, the.

love

ἀγαπῶσιν (agapōsin)

Verb – Present Participle Active – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 25: To love, wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, esteem. Perhaps from again, to love.

[Him],

Θεὸν (Theon)

Noun – Accusative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 2316: A deity, especially the supreme Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate, by Hebraism, very.

who

τοῖς (tois)

Article – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 3588: The, the definite article. Including the feminine he, and the neuter to in all their inflections, the definite article, the.

are

οὖσιν (ousin)

Verb – Present Participle Active – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 1510: I am, exist. The first person singular present indicative; a prolonged form of a primary and defective verb; I exist.

called

κλητοῖς (klētois)

Adjective – Dative Masculine Plural

Strong’s Greek 2822: From the same as klesis, invited, i.e. Appointed, or, a saint.

according to

κατὰ (kata)

Preposition

Strong’s Greek 2596: A primary particle; down, in varied relations (genitive, dative or accusative) with which it is joined).

[His] purpose.

πρόθεσιν (prothesin)

Noun – Accusative Feminine Singular

Strong’s Greek 4286: From protithemai, a setting forth, i.e. proposal; specially, the show-bread as exposed before God.

What exactly is a promise? The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia has an excellent entry:

PROMISE

prom’-is (most frequently in the Old Testament dabhar, “speaking,” “speech,” and dabhar, “to speak” also ‘amar, “to say,” once in Psalms 77:8, ‘omer, “speech”; in the New Testament epaggelia, and the verbs epaggellomai, and compounds):

Promise holds an important place in the Scriptures and in the development of the religion that culminated in Christ. The Bible is indeed full of “precious and exceeding great promises” (2Peter 1:4), although the word “promise” is not always used in connection with them. Of the more outstanding promises of the Old Testament may be mentioned:

(1) The proto-evangelium (Genesis 3:15);

(2) The promise to Noah no more to curse the ground, etc. (Genesis 8:21, 22; 9:1-17);

(3) most influential, the promise to Abraham to make of him a great nation in whom all families of the earth should be blessed, to give to him and his seed the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:2,7, etc.), often referred to in the Old Testament (Exodus 12:25; Deuteronomy 1:8,11; 6:3; 9:28, etc.);

(4) The promise to David to continue his house on the throne (2 Samuel 7:12, 13, 18; 1Kings 2:24, etc.);

(5) the promise of restoration of Israel, of the Messiah, of the new and everlasting kingdom, of the new covenant and outpouring of the Spirit (Isaiah 2:2-5; 4:2; 55:5; 66:13; Jeremiah 31:31-34; 32:37-42; 33:14; Ezekiel 36:22-31; 37:11; 39:25, etc.).

In the New Testament these promises are founded on, and regarded as having their true fulfillment in, Christ and those who are His (2Corinthians 1:20; Ephesians 3:6). The promise of the Spirit is spoken of by Jesus as “the promise of my Father” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4), and this was regarded as fulfilled at Pentecost. The promise of a Saviour of the seed of David is regarded as fulfilled in Christ (Acts 13:23, 32; 26:6; Romans 1:2; 4:13; 9:4). Paul argues that the promise to Abraham that he should be “heir of the world,” made to him before circumcision, is not confined to Israel, but is open to all who are children of Abraham by faith (Romans 4:13-16; compare Galatians 3:16,19, 29). In like manner the writer to the Hebrews goes back to the original promises, giving them a spiritual and eternal significance (4:1; 6:17; 11:9, etc.). The New Testament promises include manifold blessings and hopes, among them “life,” “eternal life” (1Timothy 4:8; 6:19; 2Timothy 1:1; James 1:12), the “kingdom” (James 2:5), Christ’s “coming” (2Peter 3:9, etc.), “new heavens and a new earth” (2Peter 3:13), etc. For “promise” and “promised” in the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) has frequently other terms, as “word” (Psalms 105:42), “spake,” “spoken” (Deuteronomy 10:9; Joshua 9:21; 22:4; 23:5,15, etc.), “consented” (Luke 22:6), etc. References to the promises occur repeatedly in the Apocrypha (Baruch 2:34; 2 Macc. 2:18; The Wisdom of Solomon 12:21; compare 2Esdras 3:15; 5:29). W. L. Walker (1)

Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Roman’s 8:28 is most edifying:

“Another argument to comfort us under the cross, from the benefits of it;

We know that all things, &c. It is not matter of guess only and conjecture, but of certainty and assurance.

How is this known?

1. By the testimony of God, the Scripture tells us as much, Psalm 128:1, 2 Isa 3:10.

2. By our own experience; we are assured of it by the event and effects of all things, both upon ourselves and others.

All things, even sin itself, because from their falls, God’s children arise more humble and careful. Afflictions are chiefly intended; the worst and crossest providences, those things that are evil in themselves, they work for good to the children of God.

Work together; here is their operation, and their co-operation: First, they work together with God. What the apostle says of himself and others in the ministry, 2 Corinthians 6:1 that may be said of other things, especially of afflictions; they are workers together with God. Some read the words thus, God co-operates all to good. Again, they work together with us; we ourselves must concur, and be active herein; we must labour and endeavor to get good out of every providence. Once more, they work together amongst themselves, or one with another. Take this or that providence singly, or by itself, and you shall not see the good it doth; but take it in its conjunction and connexion with others, and then you may perceive it. One exemplifies it thus: As in matter of physic, if you take such and such simples alone, they may poison rather than cure; but then take them in their composition, as they are made up by the direction of a skillful physician, and so they prove an excellent medicine.

For good, sometimes for temporal good, Genesis 1:20, always for spiritual and eternal good, which is best of all. All occurrences of providence shall serve to bring them nearer to God here and to heaven hereafter.

According to his purpose: these words are added to show the ground and reason of God’s calling us; which is nothing else but his own purpose and good pleasure; it is not according to our worthiness, but his purpose: see 2 Timothy 1:9.” (2)

John Calvin on Romans 8:28 continues to illuminate us:

“28. And we know, etc. He now draws this conclusion from what had been said, that so far are the troubles of this life from hindering our salvation, that, on the contrary, they are helps to it. It is no objection that he sets down an illative particle, for it is no new thing with him to make somewhat an indiscriminate use of adverbs, and yet this conclusion includes what anticipates an objection. For the judgment of the flesh in this case exclaims, that it by no means appears that God hears our prayers, since our afflictions continue the same. Hence, the Apostle anticipates this and says, that though God does not immediately succour his people, he yet does not forsake them, for by a wonderful contrivance he turns those things, which seem to be evils in such a way as to promote their salvation. If anyone prefers to read this verse by itself, as though Paul proceeded to a new argument in order to show that adversities, which assist our salvation, ought not to be borne as hard and grievous things, I do not object. At the same time, the design of Paul is not doubtful: “Though the elect and the reprobate are indiscriminately exposed to similar evils, there is yet a great, difference; for God trains up the faithful by afflictions, and thereby promotes their salvation.”

But we must remember that Paul speaks here only of adversities, as though he had said, “All things which happen to the saints are so overruled by God, that what the world regards as evil, the issue shows to be good.” For though what Augustine says is true, that even the sins of the saints are, through the guiding providence of God, so far from doing harm to them, that, on the contrary, they serve to advance their salvation; yet this belongs not to this passage, the subject of which is the cross.

It must also be observed, that he includes the whole of true religion in the love of God, as on it depends the whole practice of righteousness.

Even to them who according to his purpose, etc. This clause seems to have been added as a modification, lest anyone should think that the faithful, because they love God, obtain by their own merit the advantage of deriving such fruit from their adversities. We indeed know that when salvation is the subject, men are disposed to begin with themselves, and to imagine certain preparations by which they would anticipate the favor of God. Hence, Paul teaches us, that those whom he had spoken of as loving God, had been previously chosen by him. For it is certain that the order is thus pointed out, that we may know that it proceeds from the gratuitous adoption of God, as from the first cause, that all things happen to the saints for their salvation. Nay, Paul shows that the faithful do not love God before they are called by him, as in another place he reminds us that the Galatians were known of God before they knew him. (Galatians 4:9.) It is indeed true what Paul intimates, that afflictions avail not to advance the salvation of any but of those who love God; but that saying of John is equally true, that then only he is begun to be loved by us, when he anticipates us by his gratuitous love.

But the calling of which Paul speaks here, has a wide meaning, for it is not to be confined to the manifestation of election, of which mention is presently made, but is to be set simply in opposition to the course pursued by men; as though Paul had said, – “The faithful attain not religion by their own efforts, but are, on the contrary led by the hand of God, inasmuch as he has chosen them to be a peculiar people to himself.” The word purpose distinctly excludes whatever is imagined to be adduced mutually by men; as though Paul had denied, that the causes of our election are to be sought anywhere else, except in the secret good pleasure of God; which subject is more fully handled in the first chapter to the Ephesians, and in the first of the Second Epistle to Timothy; where also the contrast between this purpose and human righteousness is more distinctly set forth. Paul, however, no doubt made here this express declaration, – that our salvation is based on the election of God, in order that he might make a transition to that which he immediately subjoined, namely, that by the same celestial decree, the afflictions, which conform us to Christ, have been appointed; and he did this for the purpose of connecting, as by a kind of necessary chain, our salvation with the bearing of the cross.” (3)

In closing:

Another relevant area when studying God’s promises is known as conditional and unconditional promises. Studying these distinctions of promises is beyond the scope of this present study.

In short, God’s promises fall into two categories, unconditional and conditional:

· An unconditional promise is one that God guarantees without any conditions attached (Genesis 15:18-21)

· A conditional covenant is an agreement between two or more parties that requires certain terms to be met (Isaiah 5:1-7)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Notes:

1. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘PROMISE,’” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 2459.

2. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 506-507.

3. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Romans, Volume XIX, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), pp. 314-316.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

The Saint’s Pocket Book of Promises by Joseph Alleine http://www.onthewing.org/…/Alleine%20-%20The%20Saints%20Poc…

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