Reflection: Romans 8:28 – 30.
The central theme in chapter 8 of Romans focuses on the privileges of justification and reconciliation to God. Paul delineates for us the freedom we have in Christ through the work of the Spirit of God, which leads us to discover His limitless love for us in the midst of suffering. This is the context that frames our reflection.
“In every experience which we have, God works things out for good with us who love Him” seems to be the literal rendering of verse 28. The immediate notion to address here is that Christians are not exempt from the misfortunes that everyone else faces. ‘All things’ plainly means anything and everything that may happen, including Paul’s own description of adversities – any tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword (v.35). The depth of comfort this verse provides, assures us that from the worst that may happen to us to the very best, God is using it all for our good. Paul is not necessarily stating that all things are good for us, nor that only good things are expected from God, and that He will protect us from every unpleasant event. Neither is he inferring that the evil experienced will always be reversed at some future point and turned to become ‘good,’ nor if we had missed out on our preferred choices, it is because God has prepared something better for us. He informs us earlier that the world is falling apart as a result of sin (vv. 18-23), and we cannot expect things to be imminently better. An immediate implication is that He will even work with our misfortunes (Eph 1:11) and use it to change us; and in that way, some good will come out of it. Consequently, being aware that God is transforming us by ordaining the ends and the means, as He is in control of all things, ought to fortify us with courage in facing any deeply unpleasant situation. So, if all is well with us today, it is because God has caused it to happen that way, and we can be thankful for it.
The next two verses (v. 29-30) are prefaced with ‘for,’ as it elucidates the preceding verse in the process of salvation. It is clear that God has an unchangeable purpose in everything that happens to those who are in an acknowledged relationship with Him in order to ‘metamorphose’ us into Christ. This is the ‘good’ that was spoken of by Paul earlier. God is determined to mould us into Christlikeness by changing our inner spirit into the image of His Son, thereby becoming His brothers and sisters to Christ in the heavenly family, with the Lord as the preeminent Firstborn. The benefits of being in Christ must be Christ Himself – His joy, humility, greatness, nobility, to name a few (Heb 2:10-12), and this is God’s eternal destiny for us, and suffering is just one course. As He has predestined us to be like his Son, He further called us effectually to Himself, justified us, and has certainly glorified us. The believer’s exaltation is surprisingly phrased in the past tense, not the future as one might expect, suggestive that what God is doing has a certainty about it as an accomplished fact; He will categorically complete what He began to do in our lives to the point of final glorification.
All the sufferings and afflictions of the present era are not an obstacle to our ultimate salvation, but the means by which salvation will be accomplished, and no one will be able to detract from us this glorification by God. Therefore, rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! (Phil 4:4)