The overall theme of the book of Romans can be seen in two truths which are recorded in back-to- back verses in chapter one. There it is written that the gospel of the Christ is God’s power to salvation, and it is in it (the gospel) that God’s righteousness (His arrangement for making man righteous) is revealed (Romans 1:16,17).
The message of Romans 8 stands in about the midway point of this epistle. It contains instructions and reminders that ought to make the heart of every Christian soar with joy. It is a comforting message about what and Whom we have on our side. After all, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Such a question in no way implies that God’s children never will have opposers or even adversaries. What it does indicate, though, is that having God on our side is a desirable thing. If we walk with the Lord, then these thoughts give us assurance and courage: “The Lord is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).
Back in Romans 8, our text reads, “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). How does this message fit into a Christian’s perspective and outlook on life? Whatever it means, we must not try to lift Romans 8:28 out of its context or try to make it say something that it does not say. This chapter is a message about blessings that come to us because of our sonship, that is, because the God of heaven is our Father.
Look again at the opening words of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.” Please note that the Bible does not say that all things are good. Some things and some people are evil. Nor does the Bible say that all things work together for good for everyone. No, the statement of Romans 8:28 is a word of encouragement for those “who love the Lord.” In the context, these people are identified as those who “are in Christ Jesus” (8:1), “live according to the Spirit” (8:5), and “are the children of God” (8:16).
Well, if the Bible says that all things work together for good for the people of God, does that mean that every happening in life ought to make us smile? A few chapters later in Romans we read that we are to weep with those who weep (12:15), so, no, not everything that goes on in life makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. There are occasions when well-meaning saints speak words with the intention of providing comfort, but in fact, they are not helpful at all. If a Christian’s grandchild is attacked and physically abused, resulting in permanent physical and psychological damage to the child, someone might quote Romans 8:28 to that Christian with the idea of lifting his/her spirits. Is that really what Romans 8:28 means, that sin makes things work out well? We think not. Or, if a typhoon/hurricane destroys all the crops of a village, flattens the local church’s meeting place, and several people lose their lives, are we really ready to quote Romans 8:28 as a way of perking people up? Again, we think not.
Remember that what is recorded in Romans 8:28 cannot negate or minimize what is written elsewhere in the context (or anywhere else in the Scriptures). Several other statements in Romans 8 help us to keep the message of Romans 8:28 in proper perspective. The words of Romans 8:18 remind us that we can face suffering, in Romans 8:26 we read of our infirmities, and Romans 8:35 causes us to recall the tribulation, distress, and other unpleasant things that we might encounter in life as part of the human experience.
Not everything in life is pleasant. Not everything is fun. Not everything makes us feel good inside. But, amidst the trials, storms, and disappointments of life, our Father’s love is a constant. In fact, through Him, we are able to be conquerors over whatever we might face (8:37). That does not mean that on the financial, health, and material sides of things all will be well with us. It does, however, remind us that we can overcome the world by faith (1 John 5:4).
We are excited to read in Romans 8 that we are joint-heirs with the Christ (8:17), that glory shall be revealed in us (8:18), that we are saved by hope (8:24,25), that the Spirit helps in our weaknesses (8:26), and that we are justified before God (8:30). It is in the midst of statements about such God-given blessings and promises that we are told that all things work together for good to those who love God (8:28). That truth does not remove or reduce our infirmities or suffering. But, it does indicate that when it comes to God’s calling and purpose (8:28), our spiritual well-being in this life, and our eternal happiness, well, those things will work out well for those who love the Lord and endure whatever life “throws at them.”
Again, when we think about Romans 8:28 and all things working together for good, let us think about what is God’s, spiritual, and eternal – all within the context of His plan for our never-ending salvation.
— Roger D. Campbell