Let’s look at three versions of that verse: the New International Version, The New American Standard Bible, and the King James version.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28, NIV)
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
(Romans 8:28, NASB)
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28, KJV)
What does Romans 8:28 mean?
Now, we know that God works all things for the good of those who love him, those who have been called according to his purpose.
Let’s briefly analyze the sentences of the text.
1. we know
God speaks with his children and reveals to us through his Word and the Holy Spirit what we need to know. That is why it is so important to have a daily time of communion with God. He longs to bring us peace, encouragement, and new strength, but we need to seek his presence and hear his voice.
Let’s get some context. Verses before 28 say:
Likewise, in our weakness the Spirit comes to help us. We don’t know what to ask for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that cannot be expressed in words. And God, who examines hearts, knows what the intention of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for believers according to the will of God.
We see that in our moments of uncertainty and weakness we can empty our hearts before God and take our struggles before him. Even in the midst of the deepest sadness, we can trust God and his goodness.
The indwelling Holy Spirit intercedes intensely on our behalf when our prayer consists only of tears. It affirms us about who we are in God because of what he has done. He gives us peace and reminds us that God will work according to his will. It is thanks to this knowledge and this certainty that we can live in confidence.
2. God disposes all things
God is sovereign and omniscient. He knows all things from eternity and to eternity, nothing that happens to us surprises him. We must always trust that if he allows something in our lives, be it good or bad, easy or difficult, he will accompany us and help us overcome the situation. We count on his presence! Even when we do not see a clear solution, our faith must be placed only in God and in his goodness in the midst of that circumstance.
3. For the good of those who love him
We see that this promise that everything works for good is addressed to a specific group of people: those who love God! As much as the rest of the world memorizes and quotes this phrase, it is not something magical that happens just by wishing or saying it. The result of every situation that comes our way in life will be good if we love God.
But, hey! This does not mean that we will get the result we want or that God will fulfill our desires to the letter. Nope! What the verse says is that this situation will result in a benefit in our favor. And the greatest good that God desires for us is that we live with him, within his will, according to what he wishes to fulfill in our lives.
We can think of biblical characters such as Daniel, Joseph, Ruth, Paul, and even Jesus. Each of them went through very complicated and difficult situations that, at the time, must have been quite heavy burdens for them. Yet as we read their stories today, we do so from the victorious perspective of good that arose from those circumstances. We can trust that the story of our lives will also be read at some point.
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4. Those who have been called according to their purpose
God chose us, called us, and has a purpose for each of his children. His purpose is always good, for our growth and spiritual well-being. In Psalm 138 we find some verses that reflect the same sentiment as Romans 8:28. We see that God does not leave us alone in difficult times, he sustains us and accompanies us. We count on his presence and his support.
Even if I go through great anguish, you will give me life; against the fury of my enemies you will stretch out your hand: your right hand will save me! The Lord will fulfill his purpose in me. Your great love, Lord, endures forever; do not abandon the work of your hands!
The great love of the Lord sustains us in the midst of difficulties and remains forever. It doesn’t matter if anxieties or enemies come into our lives because we don’t have to face them alone. The Lord is with us and he will never abandon us. Even more, he has a good purpose in the midst of that situation and I can live strong and firm in that confidence.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose in me.
God does not promise a life without problems
It is important to remember that God has never promised us a rosy life full of pleasures and free of problems. Quite the contrary. He warns us in John 16:33:
“I have told you these things so that in me you may find peace. In this world you will face afflictions, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Chapter 8 of the book of Romans begins by stating that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is one of the freedoms we have in Christ: freedom from condemnation. This is so because there is no sin in Jesus and without sin, there can be no condemnation. When God looks at us, he sees Jesus and his redemptive work in us.
That union with Jesus results in a life according to the Spirit, free from the law of sin and death. Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who live in Jesus and are under the control of the Holy Spirit. But the blessings and victories the chapter talk about depend on that oneness with Jesus.