Unpacking and Rejoicing in the Most Powerful and Precious Promise in the Bible (7)
As glorious and wonderful and reassuring as Romans 8:28 is, it’s important to know that it is not universal in its application. Paul specifically says that God orchestrates all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. No unbeliever, no non-Christian can have any assurance that any good will come from any “thing” he/she experiences.
Of course, Paul is not suggesting that God is sovereign only over that portion of the world which pertains to and affects believers. God is no less sovereign over the lives of unbelievers than he is over ours. But that does not mean he is orchestrating their lives for their greater conformity to Christ. That happens only for those who by faith are in Christ.
It’s also important to note that he does not say this promise is for those who believe that God exists. It is for those who love God, who desire his glory and exaltation above all else, who cherish his person and aim to please him in all things. We need to be careful that our “love” for God is not diminished or threatened when the “all things” that happen to us turn out to be painful or disappointing. Our love for God can never be dependent on the outcome of God’s providential work in our lives. Our responsibility to love and praise God is neither reduced nor abolished when his providence yields adversity. Remember the words of Job:
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22).
“Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:9-10).
Paul also wants us to understand that the only reason any of us loves God is because he first loved us and purposely called us to himself. It is not first because we love God that all things work together for our good. Things work together for our good because God, in love, called us to himself according to his sovereign purpose, the fruit of which is that we then love him.
Many people come to Bridgeway every Sunday absolutely convinced that all their problems are bigger than God. I come every week to convince them from Scripture that God is bigger than all their problems. And I can do that without hesitation because of texts like Romans 8:28.