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A Promise for Understanding

Notes & Transcripts


 TEXT:  Romans 8:28

TOPIC:  A Promise for Understanding

Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, Alabama

June 7, 2009

            We return this week to a new series of messages I began last Sunday on “God’s Precious Promises.”  God has given to us in His holy word such sweet and precious promises.  So much of His written word to us contains rich and powerful promises that strengthen our faith and lift our spirits when we read them and know them and more importantly, apply them to our lives.

            This morning I want us to look at a single verse of Scripture I consider to be one of the top five verses in all the bible.  Romans 8:28 is for us this morning, “A Promise of Understanding.”  Let’s read it together.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Do you understand why God has allowed the things to happen in your life that have happened?  Do you ever wonder aloud, “God why are you putting me through this?”  Well, Romans 8:28 is God’s answer to you.  It is a promise for understanding.

R. A. Torrey called Romans 8:28 “a soft pillow for a tired heart.” Many of us have pillowed our hearts in this verse.  Let’s look closely at what it says this morning.  Listen to the promise for understanding one more time as I read it. 

We know… that all things…. work together…. for good….. to those who love God, to those who are the called….. according to….. His purpose.

It may not always seem so! Sometimes when we are suffering heartbreak, tragedy, disappointment, frustration, and bereavement, we wonder what good can come out of it. But Romans 8:28 gives the answer: whatever God permits to come into our lives is designed to conform us to the image of His Son. When we see this, it takes the question mark out of our prayers. Our lives are not controlled by impersonal forces such as chance, luck, or fate, but by our wonderful, personal Lord, who is “too loving to be unkind and too wise to err.” [1]


            Let’s hear the word of God and other promises regarding the all things that happen in our lives.

Ephesians 5:20, (KJV) Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

Philippians 4:4 (KJV)

All of these beautiful promises were given to the Apostle Paul for our benefit.  Paul knew that everything in life that happens to you is either permitted or planned.

            Let’s begin by considering this promise for understanding in our relationship to God, or with God.


And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

A.   It is a Positive Relationship, “we know” 


“Know” is oida (oida), speaking of absolute, positive, beyond a peradventure of a doubt, knowledge. (Wuest Word Studies)  But it is to know intuitively or instinctively more than experientially.  In the N.T., it is used this way some 245 times out of its 318 uses.

But notice the difference in verse 26,

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Romans 8:26 (NKJV).

Romans 8:26 illustrates our insufficiency while Romans 8:28 illustrates the all sufficiency of God.

B.    It is a Personal Relationship, “to those who love God”

This is a promise to all who love God.  Williams Translation:  “to those who keep on loving God.”  By the way, the Greek word translated love is  agapao which means to love God deeply and intimately, personally.


1 Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV)
9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”


James 1:12 (NKJV)
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

            Do you love God like that, intimately and personally?  If so, then the promise of Romans 8:28 is for you. 

T/S Our relationship with God is positive, personal, and it is also a privileged relationship.

C.    It is a Privileged Relationship, “to those who are the called”

Called to a relationship with God:  God finds me,  saves me, changes me, keeps me.


T/S – Romans 8:28 is a promise of understanding concerning our relationship with God; it is positive, personal, and a privileged relationship.  But it is also a promise of understanding regarding our realization of God.


And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

A.   His Providence,  “that all things work together, or God causes all things..”


We need to understand that our God is not an apathetic God, but an active God.  He is a productive God not a pathetic God.  God is by His very Sovereign nature, providentially in control.

It’s time for another word study and it’s a word I love.  It’s the word synergeo.

synergeō sunergéō; (4904), We get our word synergy from it and also energy.  It means a fellow worker when used as a noun. As a verb, it means to work together with someone, cooperate, be a co–worker, fellow laborer (Paul uses this word again in 2 Cor. 6:1, We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.)

It means to help, aid.  (Mark 16:20, And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.).

So in all things God works together for our good or God causes all things to work together for our good.  He is energetically involved in the all things of our lives.

            There are no accidents that occur in the lives of God’s children.  Remember Joseph of the O.T., through all the trial and hardship, all the misjustices of his life, yet he was able to say in Genesis 50 “… you meant it for evil against me; but God meant it unto good …” (Gen. 50:20). [2]

John McArthur says, “In His providence, God orchestrates every event in life—even suffering, temptation, and sin—to accomplish both our temporal and eternal benefit.” [3]

Deuteronomy 8:15-16 (NKJV) Moses speaking to the children of Israel explaining how God worked on their behalf during the forty years of wilderness wondering.

15 who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end—

B.    His Perspectivethat all things work together for good, or God causes all things to work together for good”

Illustration of baking a cake.  Red Velvet cake, (Ingredients include flour, salt, eggs, butter, hersey’s chocolate powder, water, milk, mixed together, pour in a cake pan, heated at 350 degrees for one hour) 

C.    His Purpose“the called according to His purpose”

            “called” means we have accepted the call.  “The called” are those who not only have received an invitation, they have accepted it.[4]

“purpose” 4286. próthesis; to purpose or plan, a setting forth, presentation, an exposition, determination, plan, or will. It involves purpose, resolve, and design. A placing in view or openly displaying something. A thought or purpose (Acts 11:23; 27:13). When used of the purpose of God, it exclusively refers to salvation (2 Tim. 1:9).

J. Vernon McGee uses a wonderful down-to-earth illustration that helps us understand how God’s purpose and His calling work together in our salvation.  It is what he calls his illustration of the ten turtles.

“Suppose you go down to a swamp, and there are ten turtles. You say to the turtles, “I’d like to teach you to fly.” Nine of them say, “We’re not interested. We like it down here; we feel comfortable in this environment.” One turtle says, “Yes, I’d like to fly.” That is the one which is called, and that is the one which is taught to fly. Now that doesn’t have anything in the world to do with the other turtles. They are turtles because they are turtles. My friend, the lost are lost because they want it that way. There is not a person on topside of this world that is being forced to be lost. They are lost because they have chosen to be lost.

Then McGee tells of an ole’ southern boy who years ago wanted to join a church. So the deacons were examining him. They asked, “How did you get saved?” His answer was, “God did His part, and I did my part.” They thought there was something wrong with his doctrine, so they questioned further. “What was God’s part and what was your part?” His explanation was a good one. He said, “God’s part was the saving, and my part was the sinning. I done run from Him as fast as my sinful heart and rebellious legs could take me. He done took out after me till he run me down.” My friend, that is the way I got saved also.

This does not destroy or disturb the fact that “whosoever will may come” and “whosoever believeth.” Henry Ward Beecher quaintly put it, “The elect are the whosoever wills and the non-elect are the whosoever won’ts.” And it is all according to His purpose.[5]

Listen to how Paul describes God’s purpose for us in salvation to his son in the faith and ministry, the young preacher boy, Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:9-10.

Referring to God, he says God….

9 who 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 given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

            So the bottom line is this.  God, causes all things to work together for our good, ultimately to bring us to salvation in Christ and afterwards, to fullness in sanctification like Christ.

            Have you come to God’s salvation in Christ?  And if so, do you now understand why God is allowing the things, all the things, to happen to you, so you can become the fullness of Christ in this life?


[1]William MacDonald and Arthur Farstad, Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995), Ro 8:28.

[2]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, Based on the Thru the Bible Radio Program., electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1981), 4:704.

[3]John Jr MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997), Ro 8:28.

[4]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, Based on the Thru the Bible Radio Program., electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1981), 4:704-705.

[5]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, Based on the Thru the Bible Radio Program., electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1981), 4:705.

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