All Things For The Called
(Romans 8:28) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. If your Christian experience in any way mirrors mine, you may have been taught that no matter what happens in your life, God makes it work for good (and ROM 8:28 is used to support this). There is indeed a limited sense in which that is true, as evidenced by such examples as when Joseph's brethren sold him into captivity but God blessed him so that he could later say to his humbled brethren: “...ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good...” (GEN 50:20). Other pains like God's chastening are also for our good: “...it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness...” (HEB 12:11). Mind, though, that if we hadn't strayed from the path of righteousness so as to incur God's corrective chastening, we would have maintained and increased in the peaceable fruit of righteousness instead of having that fruit trained into us with the rod of God. Any sensible parent affirms this point to his child when the child has earned chastening. Some even teach that our sin works together for good. Here's a little “heads up” on that point: sin does NOT work for your good. Sin is evil and Scripture condemns the idea of “...Let us do evil, that good may come...” (ROM 3:8). Sin brings death (ROM 6:23; JAM 1:15). Sin separates us from God and nullifies prayers (ISA 59:2). Sin invites God's wrath and judgment (ROM 2:1-6) and His chastening rod (HEB 12:5-11) and affliction (PSA 107:17). These are not “good” things but evils, and “Woe unto them that call evil good...” (ISA 5:20). Our featured text does speak of a great and precious promise to every blood-bought child of God. It is one of the most well-known verses in the entire Bible. Yet it is a commonly misquoted verse and is accordingly commonly misapplied and misunderstood. In fact, it has been deliberately misprinted above to better illustrate a point. Following is the proper rendering of our text with the formerly omitted word capitalized for emphasis: (Romans 8:28) 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. The inclusion of the definite article, “the” directs the things that work together for good to a specific group (“the called”) and this is done according to His purpose. And, who are “the called”? We can speculate or simply let Paul explain whom they are in the next two verses. The train of thought is not isolated to ROM 8:28 since the next two verses begin with conjunctives, thus linking the phrases together logically and conceptually. Observe: (Romans 8:29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, THEM HE ALSO CALLED, and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. “The called” are those who were foreknown and predestinated and whom also are justified and glorified. The text affirms clearly that there is a specific group whom God foreknew and predestinated unto glorification. There is not one more that is glorified than was justified, called, predestinated and foreknown. Further, there is not one less glorified than was justified, called, predestinated and foreknown. All that end up in glory were foreknown and none end up in glory who were not foreknown. It is a certain salvation to glory for “the called.” Christ declared this as His own great mission: (John 6:39) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of ALL WHICH HE HATH GIVEN ME I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. (John 17:2) As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. (John 10:27-28) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. The “all things” that work together for good are for “the called” according to His purpose. Compare this with Paul's words to God's elect (his labors were expressly for the elect's sakes, 2TI 2:10) in this text in which he speaks of God: (2 Timothy 1:9) Who HATH saved us, and CALLED US with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. It is evident that “the called” don't become such according to their purpose or work, but God's purpose and grace (given them by promise before they were even around to be consulted about it)! As noted earlier, many assume that the phrase “all things work together for good” means that God makes everything (your ignorance, weakness, tribulation, chastening, affliction or even sin) to just work out hunky-dory for you if you're one of His children. Once again, why not just let Paul tell us in the context what the “all things” are which work together for the good of “the called”? Remember, in ROM 8:29-30 he details the divine plan and work of salvation for “the called.” Then, he goes on to say: (Romans 8:31) What shall we then say to THESE THINGS? If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:32) He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us ALL THINGS? The “all things” that work together for good for the sake of “the called” are “these things” that Paul had detailed in ROM 8:29-30, to wit, God's foreknowledge, predestination, call, justification and glorification. Since God spared no expense in offering up Christ on the elect's behalf, it is guaranteed that He will give ALL of THESE THINGS to them freely. Can you think of anything that could possibly better work together for the good of “the called” than: 1. to have God foreknow them --- lovingly and in covenant, as a man “knows” only his own bride, uniquely, as a shepherd “knows” only his sheep (JOH 10:3, JOH 10:14, JOH 10:27) and unlike the unsaved to whom He shall say on Judgment Day, “I never knew you” (MAT 7:23). Also, God knew His elect in Christ before the world began. This is intimate foreknowledge, not prescience. He knows “...them that are His” (2TI 2:19) in this sense, and no others. 2. to have God predestinate them (destine them in advance) “...unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself...” (EPH 1:5). By this, they enter into relationship with God as His beloved children. By this, heaven is made their certain destination. 3. to have God call them to life out of their death in trespasses and sins (EPH 2:1) by the quickening voice of Jesus Christ to put His Spirit within them, renewing them inwardly and washing them clean from their sin (JOH 5:21, JOH 5:25; JOH 6:63; TIT 3:5), begetting them again unto a lively hope by the power of Christ's own resurrection (JOH 3:5 c/w 1PE 1:3), setting them free from the uncontested mastery of sin in their lives that they might be able to believe and do the good works which He ordained that they should do (EPH 2:8-10) and so fitting them for eternal glory (1PE 5:10). 4. to have God justify them (declare them free from the guilt and penalty of sin on the basis of Christ's righteousness) by Jesus Christ's blood (ROM 5:9) and resurrection (ROM 4:25) so that no charge can be leveled against them at the bar of eternal judgement: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth” (ROM 8:33). 5. to have God glorify them at the coming of Christ with perfect, sinless bodies (PHIL 3:20-21) for eternity with Himself and even now consider them raised up and seated together in heavenly places in Him (EPH 2:6). The elect are NOW glorified in the person of Jesus Christ for “...he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one...” (HEB 2:11). So, “What shall we then say to these things...?” (ROM 8:31). Considering that what Paul has done in this passage is set forth the sovereign work of God actively performing all that is necessary to bring a sinner to Himself in glory, perhaps we should say, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1CO 1:30-31).