It is time once again to dig deeper into last weeks sermon. We had the privilege of hearing from Jerry Ediger this past Sunday. He preached from Romans 8. Jerry started off by reading verses 26-32 of Romans 8. John Stott says this about the last several verses of Romans 8: “In the last…verses of Romans 8 the apostle soars to sublime heights unequalled elsewhere in the New Testament.” Jerry read some of these verses this past Sunday and they are below:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Before we dug into these verses Jerry took us back to the first seven chapters of Romans and he did a quick fly over of those chapters. Chapter 1 Paul is addressing those outside of the church, the irreligious. He says in chapter 1 verses 18-23:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
The people inside the church the Jews and the moral Gentiles and us today are reading this and saying: “You get them Paul, preach it brother!” Then in chapter 2 Paul turns the tables on us and says: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Then in chapter 3 Paul makes it clear that all of us are under sin:
“For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
Then in verse 23 he says: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,..” So, this is bad news. None of us are righteous, no, not one. We have all fallen short of the glory of God, and we are storing up wrath for ourselves on the day of wrath. Life is a serious and solemn thing because death is coming and we are all accountable and guilty before a Holy, holy, holy God. However, there is glorious good news. The greatest news that we could ever hear. We can be “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus..” We don’t do anything to earn salvation, because the only wage that our sins deserve is death, followed by the wrath of God. So, Paul says in Romans 4:
“Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Blessed indeed is the man or woman who has been forgiven and whose sins are covered by the precious blood of Jesus! In chapter 5 Paul gives us more beautiful gospel: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Then in chapter 6 he responds to the question: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” He answers in verse 2: “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Jerry Ediger says another translation says: “A thousand times no!” His favorite translation of this verse says: “What a ghastly thought!” That was my first time hearing that rendering of the verse and I love it. I don’t think I will ever forget that. What a ghastly thought indeed for us to continue willfully in sin, after we have been ransomed, redeemed, restored, and forgiven by the precious blood of Christ!
Chapter 7 Paul tells us there is a real struggle still with sin though: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” He goes on: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
So, back to Romans 8 and the precious promise of verse 28. Jerry said that when you are reading the first couple of chapters of Romans you would never guess that the gospel and such precious promises would follow. Romans 8:28 is a precious promise indeed, which says: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
John Stott says: “Romans 8:28 is surely one of the best-known texts in the Bible. On it believers of every age and place have stayed their minds. It has been likened to a pillow on which to rest our weary heads.” John Piper says:
“When it comes to the architecture of promises, there are not any bigger buildings than Romans 8:28. This structure is absolutely staggering in its size. It is massive. The infinitely wise, infinitely powerful God pledges to make everything beneficial to his people! Not just nice things, but horrible things, like tribulation and distress and peril and slaughter. What brick would you lay on the top of this skyscraper promise to make it taller? “All things” means all things.
If you live inside this massive promise, your life is as solid as the rock of Gibraltar. Nothing can blow you over inside the walls of Romans 8:28. Outside Romans 8:28 all is confusion and anxiety and fear and uncertainty and straw houses of deadening drugs and tin roofs of retirement plans and cardboard fortifications of anti-ballistic missiles and a thousand other substitutes for Romans 8:28.
Once you walk through the door of love into the massive, unshakable structure of Romans 8:28 everything changes. There comes into your life stability and depth and freedom. You simply can’t be blown over any more. The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is an absolutely incomparable refuge and security and hope and power in your life. No promise in all the world surpasses the height and breadth and weight of Romans 8:28.”
So, let us feast on this verse for a little bit. The first thing that Paul says is that we know. There is no uncertainty here, we know that this is true. The second thing we see is that this verse is only true for a select group of people. ‘For those who love God.’ Francis Schaeffer said that Romans 8:28 “is one of the Bible verses that everyone seems to know and everyone seems to misquote. People will often just sort of shrug their shoulders with an attitude of fatalism and say, “Oh well, all things work together for good,” implying that this applies to all people, no matter who they are or what they believe. This is exactly what this verse does not say. What it says is, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” There is a limitation. All things do work together for good, but only for a certain group. The group this principle works for is those who “love God” and who are “called according to his purpose.”
So, we know that this is rock solid Biblical truth, for those who love God. The rock solid Biblical truth for all believers is that ‘all things work together for good.’ The third thing we see about this verse is these two words: ‘all things.’ All things means all things. It is not just some things in the believers life that work together for good, it is all things. Even the smallest seemingly mundane things in our lives are working together for our good. From the beautiful sunshiny day, to the cold and rainy day. From losing your job, to getting a promotion at work. From the week long sickness, to all the other days that you enjoy perfect health, all these things are working together for our good.
Next we see the two words: ‘work together.’ Jerry said that the Greek word for work together is where we get the word synergy. The word synergy means: “the working together of various elements to produce an effect greater than, and often completely different from, the sum of each element acting separately.” Jerry gave us the example of salt, and how it is made up of two poisons, sodium and chlorine. However, when you combine those two poisons you get something that is perfectly fine to eat and it flavors our food. So, God takes the poisonous things in our life and he turns them into our good. Tim Keller says: “The promise is not that if you love God, good things will happen in your life. The promise is not that if you love God, the bad things really aren’t bad;…The promise is that God will take the bad things, and he’ll work them for good in the totality.”
The last two words I want to focus our attention on from this verse are these two words: “for good.” So, we know this is rock solid Biblical truth for all believers that all things in our lives, even the smallest seemingly mundane details of our lives are working together for good. So, what does for good mean? Paul tells us the answer in verse 29 of chapter 8: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” So the good of verse 28 means that we are being conformed to the image of his Son. So, God is using all things in our lives to make us more sanctified. So, the question that Mark asks is do we really want what is good? We tend to think of good as something that is fun, enjoyable, and pleasant. Whereas from God’s perspective He may bring sickness or suffering into our lives to make us more sanctified.
Applying Romans 8:28 To Our Lives
So, how do we trust this precious promise more fully in our day to day lives? Let me give an example of someone in Church history who did this well. His name is George Mueller, who was just an amazing man of God. He founded orphanages in England in the 1800’s and was a man of prayer. He was married for 39 years to his wife whose name was Mary. Mueller says this about how happy they were together:
“Were we happy? Verily we were. With every year our happiness increased more and more. I never saw my beloved wife at any time, when I met her unexpectedly anywhere in Bristol, without being delighted so to do. I never met her even in the Orphan Houses, without my heart being delighted so to do. Day by day, as we met in our dressing room, at the Orphan Houses, to wash our hands before dinner and tea, I was delighted to meet her, and she was equally pleased to see me. Thousands of times I told her—“My darling, I never saw you at any time, since you became my wife, without my being delighted to see you.”
His wife became very sick and this is what Mueller said: “When I heard what Mr. Pritchard’s judgment was,…that the malady was rheumatic fever, I naturally expected the worst. . . . My heart was nigh to be broken on account of the depth of my affection.” Mary would die soon after this, and Mueller responds to her death like this: “I fell on my knees and thanked God for her release, and for having taken her to Himself, and asked the Lord to help and support us.” Mueller talks about how he strengthened himself during the hours of his wife’s sickness with the following words: “I am in myself a poor worthless sinner, but I have been saved by the blood of Christ; and I do not live in sin, I walk uprightly before God. Therefore, if it is really good for me, my darling wife will be raised up again; sick as she is. God will restore her again. But if she is not restored again, then it would not be a good thing for me. And so my heart was at rest. I was satisfied with God. And all this springs, as I have often said before, from taking God at his word, believing what he says.”
Mueller preached his wife’s funeral sermon and this is part of what he said: “If he (God) pleases to take my dearest wife, it will be good, like Himself. What I have to do, as His child, is to be satisfied with what my Father does, that I may glorify Him. After this my soul not only aimed, but this, my soul, by God’s grace, attained to. I was satisfied with God.”
So, we can start applying this verse to our lives by simply taking God at his word, and believing what he says. As Jerry said, God has already done the most improbable thing possible by sending His precious Son to die in our place. As Romans 8:32 says: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Surely if God has given us his Son, he can work all things together for good in our lives.
The last thing I will mention here is something that has helped me personally to apply this verse to my life. My brother Mark and I have known Jerry for several years. I think the first time that I met Jerry was during Mark’s senior year of high school, which was 2004. I got to have lunch with Jerry and Mark and some of Mark’s friends multiple times. I think I learned more about Jerry just from Mark telling me about Jerry’s faith. I learned fairly quickly that Jerry is someone who truly lives and believes Romans 8:28 everyday. I remember one afternoon my parents had the power company come out to trim some of their shrubs/small trees that were about 30 feet tall or so that make a nice border between their house and the neighbors house. The power company ended up going crazy and they cut all of the tops of these tree’s to try and keep the squirrels from getting on the power lines. My Mom said that when you cut the tops of these tree’s they will end up dying. So, Mark was telling me this that these tree’s will end up dying and I said that I hated to see those tree’s/bushes die because I love that border. Then Mark said: “You know in a situation like this Jerry Ediger would just believe Romans 8:28, that these tree’s were cut for our good.” I remember that comment just stuck in my heart. I drove home that night just thinking how I want to be more like Jerry and trust the promises of God.
My wife and I were talking last night about how we can better apply Romans 8:28 to our lives. We determined that it starts by simply trusting God with the smallest things, like a rainy day, or tree’s that are dying, or a flat tire, and just trusting in and relying on Romans 8:28. Just clinging to this precious promise each day. The more we cling to this promise, the more precious it will become and by God’s grace, the Lord will be glorified in the process.
Picture from here