It’s a very common misconception that nearly every Christian embraces without question: God works all things together for our good.
Now, it’s easy to understand why we accept this idea when our English translations of the Bible pretty much say exactly this:
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” [Romans 8:28]
Seems simple enough, right?
I mean, right there it says very clearly that God makes everything work out for our good [and by “our” I mean “those who love God”].
But, the problem is that this isn’t really what it says in the actual Greek text.
As famed New Testament Bible Scholar N.T. Wright explains, the verse should be translated a bit differently. Rather than to assume that what this verse intends to teach us is that “everything will work out in our favor eventually” [as we tend to read it], the verse should actually be understood like this:
“It’s a very dense bit of Greek and when we look at it, actually God is the subject of the sentence – that’s the first thing – it’s God who will work all things together but then the “working together” – the verb Paul uses here – means that God is taking those whom God loves as His partners…and the previous two verses explain who those partners are…because when he says “those who love God” he is referring to these who are lamenting, who are groaning in the groaning of all creation [v. 26-27], who are resonating with the pain of the World, and Paul says that the Holy Spirit is indwelling them and the Spirit, too, is groaning with inarticulate yearning.
“That means that something is going on here; that within the World there is the Church [and] there is the Spirit groaning. Those who are holding on to that in lament, Paul says they are the ones who love God, and somehow God uses that lament, that prayer which is often a wordless prayer, a cry of pain; of not understanding, God uses THAT within His purposes for good; for larger good to come to the World. Which, in the passage, is about the renewal of all Creation; the time when the whole Creation will be set free…
“…so it’s a very dense verse, and it is full of hope, but it doesn’t just mean we are passive and sitting back and saying, ‘well, this will all work out somehow’, but we are very much praying often in agony or in lament and we can be assured that God is working WITH US at those times…to bring good in the short and in the much longer term.” [emphasis mine]
In other words, it’s not that God somehow makes everything work out in our favor in the end. It’s actually saying that God collaborates with us – as we intercede in the Spirit with groans that words cannot express – and as we begin to awaken as the sons and daughters of God to step into our identity as the incarnation of Christ in the world today [Romans 8:22] that we work together with God to fulfill mandate of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth [Matt. 6:10], here and now.
A better way to translate this verse might be something closer to this:
“For we know that God, working together with those of us who have been touched by God’s love, is yearning to bring good out of all the suffering and evil we see around us in our world today. This is our calling according to God’s purpose: To collaborate with the Spirit of God within us, to bring His Kingdom to earth, now.” [Roman 8:28, remix]
So, we should stop quoting this verse to say that God will make it all work out in our favor somehow. Instead, we should allow this verse to remind us that we are called to work together with God to bring joy, peace, healing, compassion, justice and love to the world around us.
We should begin to groan along with all Creation for more justice, peace and love. We should begin to groan along with the Spirit of God inside us for mercy, forgiveness and grace.
Once our hearts and spirits are aligned with all of Creation and with God’s Spirit within, we will be resonating with the frequency that becomes the carrier wave of God’s Kingdom to Earth.
This is who we are. This is who God is.
Working together with God we can transform the evils in this world into the good that God has always intended for us to experience.
This won’t happen if we do nothing.
The world will not change until we change.
Because, if we notice what Paul says in this same chapter a few verses earlier, the suffering in this world is not to be compared with the glory that is within each of us, and all creation is groaning for this to be released and revealed:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” [Romans 8:18-19]
See, we usually read these verses as if they are about Heaven to come, but they are not. Paul doesn’t place our future hope in the Second Coming of Christ, or the promise of Heaven after we die. Not at all. He explicitly says that there is a glory waiting to be revealed in us.
It’s not the return of Christ that all Creation is yearning for. It’s the moment when the sons [and daughters] of God are finally revealed and awakened into the fullness of our identity in Christ.
We are the hands and feet of Jesus today. We are His Body.
Whatever we are doing is what Christ is doing.
Let’s stop waiting for Jesus to come and fix it.
Christ – and all Creation – is groaning for us to wake up and start working all things together for good.
Rise up, oh sleeper. Awaken from your slumber.
The Christ in you must be resurrected and escape from the tomb of silence and complacency.
Roll away the stone.
And let’s get busy.
FREE DOWNLOAD: The e-book “Unraveled: More Thoughts On Christian Entanglement” by Keith Giles is available now as a free PDF. If you’d like a FREE download of the entire 85-page book, you can grab one HERE
Keith Giles and his wife, Wendy, work with Peace Catalyst International to help build relationships between Christians and Muslims in El Paso, TX. Keith was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church over a decade ago to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today he is the author of several best-selling books, including “Jesus Undefeated: Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment” which is available now on Amazon.