All Things Work Together For Good
To Christians in Rome the apostle Paul by direction of the Holy Spirit wrote this concise and comprehensive summary of God's scheme of redemption, "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." (Rom. 8:28.) This text suggests three questions which logically follow in sequence: (1) What are the "all things" of which Paul speaks? (2) What is the good which those things accomplish? (3) Who are the beneficiaries of the good which is accomplished?
Few Bible passages have been quoted as often, yet with as little understanding as the statement, "All things work together for good to them that love God ..." It is common to hear this passage quoted and applied in such a way as to be inclusive of everything regardless of how insignificant, catastrophic, or even wicked it may be. For example, a man may have the sad experience of watching while his mother-in-law drives his brand new Cadillac over a cliff. Deeply grieved at the loss of his fine car, someone is almost sure to lay a consoling hand on his shoulder and say, "Just remember John, 'All things work together for good to them that love God.' " A closer examination of this passage will show that Paul's reference to all things is not an unlimited inclusion of things such as those classified above, rather it is a specific reference to specific things.
It is often argued that since the passage plainly says "all things" it must therefore be inclusive of everything and cannot be limited in any way. Just one passage showing that the phrase "all things" can be used in a limited sense is sufficient to prove the possibility of the same use in Romans 8:28. Paul also said, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient ..."
(I Cor. 6:12.) If Paul here meant all things in an unlimited inclusive sense, is it then to be understood that he was saying that even those things which the Bible teaches are unlawful such as murder or drunkenness were to him lawful? Obviously not. Rather he meant that all things in harmony with the gospel are lawful to use but of those things some axe not expedient. For example, the law provides for communion on the first day of the week, but the time of day is not specified leaving that thing subject to choice of an expedient time. While any time on the first day of the week would be lawful, every time would not be expedient; for instance, two o'clock in the morning. Consequently, "all things are lawful (those things in harmony with the gospel), but all things are not expedient." If the phrase "all things" can be used in this limited sense in I Cor. 6, it is possible that it is used in the same sense in Rom. 8.
Some things definitely are excluded from the "all things" of the text here being considered which demands that that phrase be understood as limited in scope. If "all things" is inclusive of everything that exists, then it certainly includes God's physical blessings. But physical blessings work good to the evil and the good, the just and the unjust, those who love God and those who do not. (Matt. 5:45.) Yet, the "all things" Paul wrote of work good only to those who love God and cannot, therefore, include physical blessings.
If Romans 8:28 is not inclusive but limited what are the things which it specifies? In I Cor. 2:9-13 is found a good parallel to the text now under study. "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." Notice what Paul has said.
1. Men did not foreknow God's plan. (verse 9)
2. The things of that plan were prepared for them that love him. (verse 9)
3. Knowledge of those things was revealed to the apostles. (verses 10-12)
4. The apostles spoke those things by inspiration of (See GOOD, page 13)
CHART GOES HERE Page 13, ;not in scans,,,,ooops