Let's Quit Abusing Romans 8:28

Roger Turner

THERE ARE MANY PASSAGES of Scripture that I believe members of the Lord's church are misusing. One of them is Romans 8:28 which reads, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose."

As we look at the book of Romans, we are presented almost immediately with the theme of the book -- the gospel of Jesus Christ (1:16,17). Paul is showing how God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have given us the law of faith -- the Gospel of Christ -- and how all the plans of God for centuries have worked out for the good of those who accept and obey the gospel.

In a very brief review of Romans, we see the following: chapter one shows the Gospel is for all; chapter two reveals that no one, not even the Jews, can please God without the New Testament law of faith; chapter three gives further teaching that all people sin, and that obedience to the Gospel of Christ by all is an absolute necessity in pleasing God; chapter four uses some Old Testament characters to help show the importance of accepting and obeying the law of faith; chapter five shows that we are justified by obedience to the law of faith as given by God's grace; chapter six teaches the necessity of becoming servants of righteousness by obeying the Gospel of Christ; chapter seven shows that the Christian (in obeying the Gospel, the law of faith) becomes married to Christ and is no longer in subjection to the Old Testament law; chapter eight gives the assurance of salvation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the law of the Spirit of life in Christ; then in chapter nine we see Paul's love for his people and his desire that Israel would accept and obey the Gospel of Christ, along with the Gentiles, who have also been called; chapter ten finds Paul continuing to express his desire for Israel (and all) to do God's righteousness and not their own. He shows further that God's plan for many ages past has now been revealed in the law of faith; chapter eleven finds Paul trying to get the Jews to see that the reception of the Gentiles and the salvation available to all is the result, or end, of God's plan to give man the Gospel which is His power to save. Beginning with verse 33 Paul bursts forth with a declaration of praise to God for His great wisdom in the wonderful scheme of redemption. Then, continuing into chapter twelve, Paul gives in concise form, one of the grandest sermons ever preached as to the kind of life the Christian is to live; chapter thirteen continues with how the Christian is to live, including our responsibility to the civil powers; chapter fourteen finds Paul dealing with yet another phase of Christian living -- how are we to treat a weaker brother; and chapter fifteen continues with admonitions to Christian living, along with his desire to continue to preach to the world; finally, chapter sixteen consists of salutations to Christians who have obeyed this Gospel which he has been discussing.

Now in all this, it is evident that Paul's main topic is the Gospel - the law of faith. He shows how plans were made and put into action by God the Father, and how in the fulfillment of these plans the wisdom and love of God was made known. Many things, in fact "all things" necessary for our salvation work out for good to all who obey His plans. I contend that the "all things" which work out for our good are all the things God has done to enable us to have the wonderful Gospel of grace-the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All the facts of the Gospel, all the commands to be obeyed, and all the promises to be enjoyed are all included in the "all things".

Now, "all things work together for good" to whom? To those who answer the Gospel call (cf 2 Thess 2:14), and obey His Gospel, thus putting themselves in position for all those plans to work for their good, that is, their salvation. All the plans God has made (the "all things") to enable us to be saved certainly work together for our good when we love God enough to obey his word.

This Scripture, then, has reference to the law of faith, God's plans for giving it, and the promises to be enjoyed by those who obey, and not to anything else. To separate this verse from the Gospel of Christ and apply it to every conceivable event, whether good or bad, that can happen to a child of God, is misusing the passage in a most absurd manner. I have heard this passage quoted and applied to every gory, gruesome, catastrophic event that could happen in one's life. Just picture the bloody car wreck, the untimely death of a loved one, etc. and someone will take Romans 8:28 away from its beautiful setting and make false application of it. Paul did not have any such thing in mind when he penned our text. He wasn't discussing catastrophic events that might occur in the life of a Christian. He was discussing all the plans, preparations, fulfillment and obedience to the Gospel of Christ as the context indicates.

The Roman letter was not written about unfortunate, or catastrophic events that might take place in the life of a Christian. Thus, the application of Romans 8:28 to such events is a grave misuse of the passsage. I am aware that in an unfortunate incident one might be able to point out some good to be gained, or some lesson learned that helps in one's spiritual growth. But such would not fall within the scope of our text.

Brethren, let us leave Romans 8:28 in the beautiful setting in which the Holy Spirit placed it. There are other passages that speak of the joy and patience, etc to be gained in suffering. This is not one of them. Let us "speak as the oracles of God."

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