Grace For The Journey
We are looking into the verse in Romans 8:28 seeking to unfold the tremendous truths for life that God has there. We are seeking to understand and apply this verse by thinking through four biblical truths. Yesterday we will looked at the first truth: God has an eternal purpose and He is able to accomplish His purpose. Today we will look at the second principle:
- God’s eternal purpose includes calling to salvation a people for Himself.
In 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul says that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” In our text, Paul describes those for whom God works all things together for good as “those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”
Note that Romans 8:28 does not promise that all things work together for good for all people. It is not a verse for universal optimism. For those who reject or hate God and are not called according to His purpose, the future holds condemnation and eternal punishment, if they do not repent. So, according to the Bible, the promise that God will work all things together for good is only for His elect, whom He purposes to save. Paul describes the elect in two ways:
a. Those for whom all things work together for good love God.
This is the human side of things, although God is behind it. None of us would love God if He had not first loved us (1 John 4:19; Ephesians 2:3-7). But when we heard the gospel, that because He loves the world God gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him has eternal life (John 3:16), we responded in faith so that now we love Him.
He changed our hearts from being being hostile toward Him
To wanting to please Him because we love Him.
To wanting to please Him because we love Him.Also, loving God (in Romans 8:28) is not a condition, but a description. In other words, Paul is not saying that as long as you really love God, He will work everything together for good for you, but if your love for God grows cold, He won’t work everything for good. That wouldn’t be much comfort! Although at times our love for God may need reviving (Revelations 2:4-5), it can still be said of every true Christian that we do love God. It’s the bent of our lives.
Paul only refers to our love for God in three other places (1 Corinthians 2:9; 8:3; Ephesians 6:24). So we have to ask, why did he mention it here? Perhaps he mentions it here in the context of trials because at such times we need to affirm our love for God and His love for us. During trials the devil tempts us to doubt God’s love for us. We need to be reminded not only that God loves us, but also that because He gave His Son for us, we now love Him. He is our chief treasure.
Also, in a time of persecution, love for God (and His love for us) is the one thing that can’t be taken from us. This evil world can deprive us of our possessions. It can torture us and kill our bodies. But it can’t take our chief treasure. As Psalm 73:25-26 puts it, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” So those who have tasted God’s love through the gospel love Him. They are the ones for whom God is working all things together for good.
b. Those for whom all things work together for good are called according to God’s purpose.
This is the same group that loves God, but described from God’s point of view. Paul adds this description so that no one will mistakenly think that his own love for God is the primary thing. Rather, our love for God stems from His sovereign calling us. As someone has said, “Not one link in the chain of actual Redemption is of our forging – or the whole would indeed be fragile.”
In the New Testament epistles, the word “call” or “calling” always refers to God’s effectual call, which accomplishes His purpose. The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Answer 31) states, “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.” When God effectually calls us to salvation, He does not drag us kicking and screaming, against our will. Rather, when we come to Christ, we come freely because He has made us willing by His grace (John 6:37).
How can you know whether God has called you? When you heard the gospel, that Christ died for sinners and that God offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who believe in Christ, did you believe? Did you come to Jesus? Did God change your heart? Before, you didn’t love God, but now you do. Before you didn’t care about the Bible, but now you treasure it as God’s very word. Before, you loved your sin and made excuses for it, but now you hate it and fight against it. If so, then be assured that God is working all things together for good for you. But, what does that mean? Are we supposed to view tragedies in our lives as good? We will talk about that tomorrow.
This is God’s Word For Tod
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”