Drinking Deeply

Saturday, February 25, 2006 at 7:45 PM

Romans 8:28

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good

I love this passage. It was brought up on Friday, and it sticks with me.

Some thoughts:

1) The text may say that "all things work together for good," but the variant reading (if it's truly part of the text or not) reminds us of one beautiful point, that this isn't a diestic God that we worship. Anything that happens is because of and caused by God. Now the beauty of the passage is that God's loving and just ways have ensured that all things work together for the good of those who love God.

2) This isn't just a promise that says "don't worry, something bad happened, but God will turn it for good," but it's a promise that God is working what seems to be bad to us for good. This isn't a God that is not in control of things, that He constantly needs to adapt His plans to what's going on and turning things around. No, it is a God who has planned the ends from the beginning and every point in between.

3) The speaker pointed to Joseph's words in Genesis 50:20) As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Joseph is speaking to his brothers, referring to when they meant evil against him by throwing him into a cistern and selling him as a slave. What does he say? "You meant evil, but God meant it for good."

The text doesn't say "you meant evil, but God turned it for good." God meant it for good. He, being sovereign, included even what others mean as evil, for good.

Now, to head off an objection, this doesn't mean that we can go and do anything and rationalize it by saying "God is meaning it for good, so I won't be held responsible." Yes, God is actively using everything for His glory, but no, that doesn't mean we won't be held responsible for our actions. We are held responsible because God is holding us responsible. Did Joseph's brothers get punished for their sins? If they died outside of a saving faith in Christ (and we probably need to define what that means, being that they lived prior to Christ), then yes, they will get their due. Joseph's words only referred to his response. "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" declares the Lord. And implicit in Joseph's words was that trust. He didn't need repayment because he knew God would take it. In this hope he forgave his brothers. In this hope he loved those who had cursed him. In a complete trust of a loving and just God, he loved.

4) But the promise in Romans 8:28 is so much stronger than just a "God works all things for good," it's a "for those who love God... all things work for good." Not just God's glory here, but for us as well. It is good for us. Why? Because the Bible tells me so. We can turn to God in the midst of suffering, in the midst of depression, in the midst of everything and say, "God is working all things for my good."

This is not a prosperity gospel. This isn't good according to the world. This is good according to God. And what other definition would we want? Do we not want the perfectly just, righteous, and perfect God in control of everything?

5) Finally, this passage comes implied with a restriction on its promise. This promise is not for everyone. It is in fact only for those that God has called according to His purpose. For the non-elect, there is nothing but wrath and judgment in store. Even if it looks like they are being materially blessed and everything, it is all for absolutely nothing. No, that's a lie, it's all for the elect's good.

This could not be any clearer than in Psalm 73
1Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
The wicked were prospering! How injust of God! How could He do this? Why? He is good to Israel!

But reading on we find:
16But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.

All of a sudden the Psalmist found insight. What is it that he discovered? The end of the wicked:

18Truly you set them in slippery places;

you make them fall to ruin.
19How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
The end of the wicked is destruction. They are destroyed in a moment, swept away by terrors. Now, as a side note, sometimes great suffering is used by God to bring the elect into maturity - by bringing them to such a point of despair that they turn to Him.

This Psalm isn't about that occasion. This is clear from v. 17, which tells of their "end."

No, this psalm is about the destruction of the wicked. Swept away, despised, demolished.

The psalmist ends:

27For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

This is a warning to those who are far off, and a promise for those who are near. Even if we suffer, it is good to be near God, because the consequences of forsaking Him are dire. Let us tell of all His works.

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