God's Incredible Plan For Our Lives
GOD’S INCREDIBLE PLAN FOR OUR LIVES
Today I want to share with you my understanding of Rom. 8:28, a passage that is familiar to you all. Now some of you may think, “Dr. Sanford, since this passage is familiar to us, why don’t you speak to us on some passage that is not familiar?” That is a good question, but the answer is that I am speaking on this passage because most people simply do not know what it means in its context and thus they are robbed on one of the most glorious truths in Scripture.
As an example of misunderstanding this passage, you have heard it said thousands of times, “Don’t worry; everything will work out just fine because the Bible says all things work together for good.” That, my friends, is the eternal optimism that is borne not in the crucible of reality but in the wishful thinking of the American dream. But all of us know that it is not completely true. Tragedy is not good and Rom. 8:28 does not say that it is. It is not good when a child dies, a
marriage ends, when cancer hits, when you lose a job or have a financial crisis. These things are not good and we do people and faith a disservice when we attempt to nullify real pain and heartache in this manner.
When I was in real estate as a salesman and as a broker, I learned there were three fundamental principles one must follow when buying a house: location, location, and location. In interpreting scripture, there also are three fundamental principles: context, context and context. Rom. 8:28 is no exception to this rule.
Now let us look at this passage in its context so that we may understand its intent.
The overall context of Rom. 8:28 is one in which Paul addresses living by the power of the Spirit in the midst of suffering and pain. He tells us in vs. 18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Now notice the word “and” in vs. 28. If it were “therefore,” one would be looking for a conclusion to what preceded it. If it were “but,” one would look for a contrast. If it were “for,” one would look for an explanation or supporting evidence. Why does Paul use this word “and?” He does so because he wants us to see the connection between what he has been saying and what he is about to say. He wants us to see that there is a connection between pain and suffering in this life for God’s people and the sovereignty of God.
The next two words in the verse, “we know,” tells us Paul is addressing Christians and that there is no uncertainty about what he is saying. Paul, therefore, is not giving the promise in this verse to all people, but only to those “who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Who are those who love God in this verse? Verse 30 says they are the called according to God’s purpose and the called also are the “justified who will be glorified.”
Rom. 8:28, therefore, never should be used to attempt to console or aid non Christians in any manner. This is Christian truth for God’s people.