One of the first promises of scriptures I learned as a new Christian that became a great comfort to me in times of trouble and adversity was Romans 8:28! The precious promise of that passage, not only comforted me as a new Christian, but it has been a source of abiding comfort throughout the years and even to this present day! Paul wrote to the Romans: “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 KJV) The ESV (English Standard Version) puts it this way: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV) Yes! No matter what happens; the good, the bad, or the ugly, God is working it all together for our good!
Now, before we get to what the good is, I think it should be noted that this is not a blanket “everything is going to be alright” statement for everybody! Note that Paul didn’t say that all things work together for good for everybody! No! All things work together for good only for those that love God! This “love” for God is not the emotional feeling that most people associate with love today, but rather it is a calculated faithful response to the grace of God. The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:19: “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19 KJV) In the very next verse, John further qualified what it really means to love God when he said: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1John 4:20 KJV) In the Gospel of John, the writer equates loving God with obeying God. In John 14:15, Jesus said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (ESV) So, we can gather from these passages that the ones who love God in Romans 8:28 are the ones who love their brothers and sisters and obey the commandments of God! Paul further stipulates who they are by identifying them as; “the called according to his purpose.” God’s purpose is God’s will, therefore, all things work together for good to and for them that live in accordance to the purpose and will of God.
Now, with all that being said, we still don’t really know what the “good” in verse 28 is! We know that all things work together for good to and for those that love (obey God and love their brothers and sisters) God and live according to God’s will. But, what is that good? Is the good; all things working together to turn out in favor of or to the advantage of those that love God? Is the good; all things working together for the health, wealth or prosperity of those that love God? Just what is the “good” that all things work together for and to those that love God, who are called according to his purpose in Romans 8:28?
Well, we should note at this point that the Bible was not originally written in chapter/verse form! Therefore, the thought in verse 28 continues in verse 29! And I think the “good” of verse 28 is identified in verse 29! Roman 8:29 says: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (KJV) “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom 8:29 NASB [New American Standard Bible]) From verse 29, we can deduct the good in verse 28 is to be conformed to the image of his Son! The good that all things work together for in verse 28 is that we might be like Jesus! Therefore, all things work together in the believer’s life for the expressed purpose of molding and shaping the believer into the image of Christ!
Now, what’s really amazing is this: Genesis 1:27 says: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (KJV) When man sinned, the image was not destroyed, but it was tarnished! Paul described Jesus in Colossians 1:15 as the one; “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” (KJV) Therefore, since Jesus came to redeem man and Jesus was and is the image of God and all things work together to conform those who love God (accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior) into the image of Jesus. And it was always God’s purpose for those who love God to be conformed to the image of His Son. And man was originally created in the image and likeness of God, then the good in Romans 8:28 is all things working together to shape and mold those who love God into the image of God’s original intent!