There are a lot of verses that we like in the Bible. You know the ones. They are the ones that we put on coffee mugs, t-shirts, posters, Bible Covers, and whatever else we can think of. The passage that we are going to look at today has at least two of them. Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” This is a great verse! But my question is who “us” is in that verse? Then we have Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good.” Once again, this is a great verse and a very comforting verse that is filled with hope. But I question again who does this apply too?
You see, we quote those verses like there is nothing to it. I know I am guilty of it. Somebody that is dear to us is going through a hard time or struggling, and we smile and say, “All things work together for good!” Or they are having problems with someone trying to cause trouble, and we smile and say, “If God is for us, who can be against us!” What is happening is we want those verses without the qualifications. We want the good things of God that are mentioned in this passage, but we ignore that fact that they are not universal. The good things that we long for from God, His love, kindness, protection, and acceptance, are ultimately found only in and only for those who have experienced conversion.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God Works for the Good in the Life of the Converted (28-30)
So let’s look at verse 28 and see who exactly Paul is talking about here. The result that we all want (i.e., having all things work together for good) is only for those who love God. Who loves God? Well, earlier in Romans 1:30, one of Paul’s descriptions of the unsaved person is that they are “haters of God.” And in John 14:15, Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. In Ezekiel 36, we see that the ones who are converted, the ones who have had the sin-forgiving, heart-changing, Spirit-filling experience, are the ones who are then able to obey the commands of God. So who are the ones who love God? It is the converted, the saved, the Christian!
But going even further, Paul says that it is those who are called according to His purpose. This is where we get into territory that we do not like so much. Who are the called? Well, let’s look at the meaning of the word. “Called” here means “invited.” But we will get back to that word in a second. Paul wants to explain this concept to us a little more. Now let me point out that we have two dangers here when approaching this section of Scripture. First, we can misunderstand the terms (i.e., saying, “They don’t mean that). So let’s look at that first. Paul says that God foreknew. Let’s stop there. What do we mean when we are talking about God’s foreknowledge? Obviously, the basic meaning of the word is “to know beforehand.” That is not really a problem for us, or I hope it is not, because we believe that God is omniscient and exists outside of time, which would make knowing the future no big deal.
But when we talk about God’s knowledge are we talking about simply knowing something? If we survey, briefly, some passages of Scripture we see: 1) God knew Israel differently than other nations (Amos 3:2); 2) God knew Israel in a special way in the wilderness (Hosea 13:5); 3) God knows the way of the righteous (Psalm 1:6); and 4) God did not know those who stood before Him saying, “Lord, Lord” (Matthew 7:23). So does that mean that God did know about the other nations or did not know Israel outside of the wilderness or does not know about the unrighteous or did not know who the people were who were standing before Him? No! As we said, He knows everything! But when the Bible speaks of knowing, we have to determine whether it is simply “knowing” or is it something more!
Okay, so this word in the original language can refer to more than simply knowing beforehand and can imply choosing beforehand. This concept should not be foreign to us because Ephesians 1:4 says, “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…” So God knew us before the foundation of the world in a special electing, choosing way. Now this leads to the second of the two dangers I mentioned earlier. Maybe we say that God determines or chooses based on His foreknowledge. In other words, He looks to the future and sees that we are going to get saved, so then He chooses those who He knows are going to get saved. But to do this takes away God’s sovereignty, the fact that He is the one in control. If this is the case, God is dependent on something that He would see happening in the future. That cannot be the case. Unless God determines in some sense that something will happen, He cannot “know” that it will happen.
Now with all that emphasis on God’s sovereignty and foreknowledge or choosing from eternity past, let me say that this in no way minimizes the importance of the human response of faith that Paul has talked about earlier in Romans. But even those responses are gifts of God! Acts 11:18 and Ephesians 2:8 show us that our responses are gifts from God. Also, this may lead some to begin thinking unbiblically about those who are not saved. But God’s Word is clear in John 3:18-21, as well as other places, that those who die condemned do so because of their refusal to trust Christ. So although the human response is minimal, it is there and necessary.
Okay, so those whom He foreknew, He also predestined. This again is another concept that we have to wrestle with. In this context it has a similar meaning to foreknowledge. But in this case, it is not applied to the same area. Those whom He foreknew He also predestined or predetermined that they would be conformed into the image of His son. So for the converted, God has determined beforehand that we would become like Christ. This is very comforting for us because it tells us that God’s hands are never off of us, but He is continually shaping us, making us like Christ. But continuing on in that verse, we see that we are not only becoming like the Son, but we are being called sons.
But let’s not stop there, because those whom He predestined, He also called. This speaks to the work of the Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills—that sounds a lot like conversion doesn’t it—He persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel. This is seen in Acts 16:14 when the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to the gospel.
Then those whom He called, He also justified. Church, this is one of those things that should blow our minds and put us on our knees praising God! What does this mean for us? It means two things. First, at the moment of conversion, we are given the active righteousness of Christ. When God looks at us, He does not see our righteousness or more accurately our lack of it. He sees the righteousness of Christ. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Second, it means that the rebellion of our past, present, and future is taken from us. We are forgiven once and for all. We are immediately and completely justified at the moment of conversion. If that doesn’t make you want to shout, I don’t know what will.
But it doesn’t stop there! Those whom He justified, He also glorified. Now when we think about glorification, we think about heaven. If that is the case, then why is Paul talking about glorification in the past tense. Should he not have said that we are justified, being sanctified, and will be glorified? Well he mentioned justified and sanctification in the fact that we are being conformed into the image of the Son. However, he still speaks of glorification in the past tense. The reason is that this future is so certain in Paul’s mind that it is as if it has already been accomplished! Our future, if we are foreknown, predestined, called, and justified, is absolutely certain! Now it has taken us a long time to get here, but it is those that we have been talking about that can truthfully say, “All things work together for good.” Now Paul goes on to express the goodness of God even more.
God Removes All Accusations against the Converted (31-34)
The good news for us, if we fit into the above category, is that no one can come against us or accuse us! We see that God, in not sparing His Son, has shown that He will not withhold His goodness from us. One of the best things that He gives us is found earlier in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Now we see it again. Paul says that if God has justified, who can accuse us? No one can successfully accuse the one whom God has made righteous. This doesn’t mean that we will no longer sin; it means that the bill has been paid. So if we accuse ourselves or other accuse us, God will not accuse us, because Jesus has already paid the penalty for our sin. And if anybody tries to condemn us, we rest in the finished work of our Savior and Advocate, Jesus Christ. He died, but not only that, He was raised, ascended to the right hand of God, and now intercedes on our behalf! So let people oppose us, accuse us, and seek to condemn us, but if we are converted, the Supreme Judge will declare us righteous.
God Secures the Converted in His Love (35-39)
Paul concludes this passage by letting us know that we are those who are converted, not only is God working for the good in our life and removing all accusations against us, but He is also securing us in His love. Paul lists a long list of things that could possibly separated us from God’s love for us: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, death, life, angels, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, height, depth, and anything in creation.
None of which will be able to separate us from the love of God for us. In fact, he tells us that through Christ, we will actually be victorious over all these things. He calls us super-conquerors in Christ! This is very encouraging to know that our security in Christ is absolute. There is absolutely nothing in all of creation that can keep Him from accomplishing His purposes in our lives. That to me is the ultimate good that God works in my life. I know that He is working good in my life because of His great love for me as His child. I know that He will not listen to me or anyone else who brings an accusation against me because there is nothing that can drive a wedge between me and Him because of His great love for me!
We have covered a lot. We have seen that God indeed does work all things for good, but this is not for everybody. It is for the converted. And for those who have been converted, no accusation will stand, because if God has saved us, no one can argue with that! He is the Supreme Judge and His ruling will stand. Also, the converted can rest in the fact that nothing in this entire universe will be able to separate them from God’s love for them.
I hope you have seen that the goodness of God is expressed supremely in conversion. So if you want the goodness of God to be present in your life, salvation is the answer. My prayer is that God is working in your heart and saving you right now if you are not saved. If God is working on your heart, do not resist Him. Let Him do His work.
If you are saved, my prayer is that you will realize these truths in your life. I may not know what you are going through, but I do know this: even if we cannot see it at the moment, God is working all things together for our good and His glory. So trust Him, and know that He is working. Also, realize that there may be many who try to convince you that you are not His. It is biblical to test ourselves to prove that we are in the faith, but we are not to think that we are not His when we are. Satan will try to convince us that because of our past mistakes or even our present mistakes that God could really not have forgiven us. Others may look at us as somebody who can never really change and are just waiting for us to mess up to show us that we are not really saved. But the biggest accuser of you is you! You need to rest in the promise that if God has truly saved you, no one can bring anything against you. Also, realize that nothing can separate you from God’s love for you. He loves you and will love you until the end.