Romans Bible Study Lesson 28

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All Things Work Together

Romans 8:28

We now come up to a very popular and well-known and often-quoted verse. We like this verse because it gives us hope as we experience problems, knowing that all things will work out for good. This verse is a continuation of Paul’s thought concerning the work of the Holy Spirit. To summarize chapter 8 again, we stand before God with no fear of any condemnation. This is because the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives who, because of Jesus Christ has set us free from sin and death. Now that we are children of God, we walk according to the Spirit instead of the flesh. Since we are God’s, we now able to please Him in all we do if we do it in the power of the Spirit. The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are indeed children of God. However, we will all suffer because we are Spiritually-activated beings living in a sin-infused world. We groan to shed our sinful nature and be glorified so we can live continually in His light. As the Holy Spirit helps us in living our lives in harmony with God, He also helps us in our prayer life as intercessor between the believer and the Father.

The result, in spite of the groaning, is that all will work together for good.

There are actually two ways of looking at this verse. The most common way is to know that all the things that happen to and around us will all work out for my good. We usually go to this verse when things aren’t going so well with the realization that God will bring good even from bad things bad things. This verse is often interpreted with a short-term expectation of fulfillment.

This verse can also be viewed as having a long-range fulfillment. We may never experience the good part of this verse until we are glorified. The “all things” are limited by the context to our suffering, which will be turned to good by the end of all things.

We Know

There are several Greek words that are translated “know.” The most common word is ginosko and means to know but does not indicate complete knowledge. Another common Greek word is epiginosko and generally means full or complete knowledge. In this verse the word translated as “you (people) know” is oidamen and means to see, to understand or to know not by experience but by divine revelation. In other words we would not know this except through the Holy Spirit. The following verse shows how the different ways of knowing: (oidamen is a form of the greek work eido)

John 8:55 and you have not come to know (ginosko) Him, but I know (eido) Him; and if I say that I do not know (eido) Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know (eido) Him and keep His word.

Here Jesus says to the unbelieving Jews that they do not know the Father. He cannot be understood deeply through study alone. Jesus, however, knows the Father. He knows the Father because the Holy Spirit was the one who revealed Him to Jesus. There is also a contrast in how deeply the knowledge goes. A ginosko knowledge is incomplete and possibly shallow. Eido knowledge often implies a full knowledge not obtainable through study.

So when Paul used the word eido (oidamen) he was saying we know all things work for good because it was the Holy Spirit who revealed it to us. It is not on the basis of experience for a solid assurance through Scripture and the Holy Spirit is a much stronger testimony than an assurance through personal experience. It is objective knowledge not subjective.

All [things]

This is a testimony of God’s control over all things. If He was not in control then all things may not work together for good. God is able to take all things into consideration when determining that something will happen. As far as the believer is concerned, it will all work out for good because God has decreed it to be so. If God was not sovereign then there would be no guarantee that it would turn out the way He said.

Just what are the “all things” referring to? Most people would say it encompasses everything that happens in a believer’s life or that affects a believer’s life. Does the word “all” encompass every single event in a believer’s life? Matthew 3:5 states that the people of all Judea were baptized. In reality, a good many people were baptized but not every single person. We see this same thing in Luke 7:29—30 where “all the people” received John’s baptism but later discover that it did not include the Pharisees and lawyers. 1 Corinthians 2:15 says that the spiritual man is able to discern all things. Obviously the word “all” must be interpreted within the context and would mean the spiritual man can understand spiritual things not all things in the whole world. Even today we might use the word “all” without meaning everyone or everything. If I want to go to a party I might tell my parents “Everyone is going to be there.” I don’t mean everyone in the world but everyone who is important.

Now if we interpret the “all” within the context perhaps we can understand it better. The surrounding passages focus on our current sufferings, the intersessing work of the Holy Spirit and the assurance of our future hope. All of these things come together and work for good. When we experience suffering, we go to the Lord in prayer. The Holy Spirit takes our deep inner groanings to the Father. Ultimately, good will result even if we need to wait until we are glorified and made perfect. This verse does not say that every event in our life will come together and result in good. If you decide to remain in sin because God will take it and work it into good then you are sadly mistaken and are twisting His word to mean something that was never intended.

Work together

The phrase “work together” is a single Greek word that is in the active voice and present tense. God is in active control right now. All things come together and are miraculously made to fulfill God’s sovereign will.

For good

Obviously everything is under the sovereign control of God meaning ultimately all things will be brought under His control and thus it will all be good (as in creation). Also, God will, even in the present, use events that happen in a believer’s life for good. Paul can be used as an example. He was often beaten, imprisoned, went naked, hungry and suffered many times for the sake of Christ. All these sufferings were used to further the Gospel message and bring people to Christ. Much good came about from bad. God turned the bad intensions of men who wanted to kill Paul into good by giving Paul a free trip to Rome and the opportunity to reach the emperor with the gospel message.

Jesus is another example. Evil men nailed Him to the cross but God used the evil for good. If He was not crucified, we would have no plan of redemption.

Acts 2:23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

1 Corinthians 2:8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;

But, does this word “good” refer to immediate (or near-range) good results that can come about from bad experiences? We need to look within the context to see how this verse fits in with its neighbors. Putting verses 28—29 together should help in our understanding of the true meaning.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good…Because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

The verse just before emphasizes the Holy Spirit’s work in a believer’s prayer life. The verse just after emphasizes God’s planned-out work in the life of a believer concerning his salvation. It would appear that the “good” in verse 28 is related to the work of the Holy Spirit and our absolute certainty of a future glorification and salvation from this evil world. We may have to wait for our glorification to see the good that will come out of the bad.

These things will work together for good because we have been foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified. The “all things” and the “good” results are related to what God has done for us as far as our salvation is concerned. It is good because it will ultimately bring Him glory and all these things (foreknowing, predestinating, calling, justifying and glorifying) work together for good.

Ephesians 1:11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

2 Timothy 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,

One mistake people make when reading this verse is to assume that all things will work out for THEIR good. From God’s point of view it will all work out to each believer’s good as He works to mold and shape them to become Christ-like. However, the believer may not see it that way and view the suffering as a negative instead of a positive. We always seem to want to interpret good and bad from our own point of view instead of God’s.

To those who love God

This promise to have all things work for good is given only to those who love God. As we learned in early Romans, no one loves God on their own. We were all spiritually dead and incapable of loving Him. In fact, we were called enemies of God. This phrase is from man’s point of view. The next phrase is from God’s point of view.

1 John 4:7—10 7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Called according to His purpose

This phrase further explains the previous phrase “to those who love God.” Romans 1:7 specifically calls us saints and I think this verse is saying: “for those who love God, to those who are called saints…” How God was going to treat this group of Body believers is spelled out in the next two verses. God foreknew the Body because He pre-planned it. He predestined the Body to obtain all these blessings and He called them saints. Those in the Body were also justified and (in God’s eyes) already glorified.


The believer is continually being molded and shaped to conform to the image of His Son. God uses the suffering that we all experience to help us in our spiritual growth. He has also given us the tools necessary for us to live lives pleasing to Him. All these things will work together to His good purpose and glory.