In All Things
In the article “Fullness of Time” I made reference to Romans 8: 28:
“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.”
In that context the reference to Romans 8: 28 related to the fullness of time as one aspect of the “all things” that God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. In this article I would like to expand on Romans 8: 28 and more fully comment on the verse. When it comes to verses that are often quoted out of context or unrelated to the surrounding text it may be appropriate to contextualize the verse so that a more useful meaning may be envisioned.
First, this verse is often quoted in a shortened version such as, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” The extension of the verse, “who have been called according to his purpose,” is left off as if it is unimportant. When 8: 28 is quoted in that abbreviated way it would appear that loving God is the only consideration of the fulfillment of the meaning of the verse. The response becomes something like, “Well, we all love God so it would seem clear that God is working in all things for our good.” We minimize the part of the verse relating to the call of God for His purposes.
Let’s further put this verse in the context of Romans 8. We must ask two questions related to the later part of Romans 8: 28, “What is the call?” and “What is God’s purpose?”
First, in this context the call is very specific:
“And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8: 30 NIV) The call is specifically to those who have been predestined. Now, one can make an assumption that only those who respond to the call are the ones actually called. On the other hand, one can assume that many are called but there are few who respond to the call and are actually chosen. One could even go further, as I do, that all of humanity is called, therefore making all of humanity predestined, but not all respond to the call and the next stages in the process of justification and glorification are short circuited.
What, then, constitutes a “call?” I believe our system of communication represented by the telephone is an excellent illustration. When someone dials (or keys in) a telephone number they are, in effect, predetermining (or predestining) that the person they are attempting to reach will receive a telephone “call.” When the person whose telephone number has been activated choses to answer the call they are then chosen. Now, we know that in the communication system we are using as an illustration there are some extraneous side issues. We may have caller ID so that we can see who is calling before answering. We may have a messaging system that will record a message if we are not available to answer the call. In the spiritual realm we also are able to discern or recognize that God is calling and this may determine whether or not we choose to answer. We also have a message system that records the message that God has sent to us. Some call this messaging system Scripture and some call it the Bible. There are also personal messaging systems in this communication system that would line up with the concept of couriers (those assigned to carry specific messages and deliver the message to specific individuals); we call these “witnesses.”
Second, in this context the purpose of God is very specific:
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8: 29 NIV) The purpose of God here stated is very specifically that many sons and daughters might be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is to be recognized as the firstborn of many daughters and sons. We who love God and are the called are to become like Jesus. We are to be conformed to the image of Jesus. When those of the world look at us they are to see Jesus, not us. They are to see a whole slew of Jesus-es walking around.
We can then take this promise as fulfilled when we love God; have answered the call; and are in the process of being conformed into the image of Jesus. Then God is taking all of the things in your life and is using them to make you more like Jesus.