This verse captures the essence of what a Christian absolutely must have faith in if he wants to conduct his life without falling into the same state of mind that Solomon did as shown in the book of Ecclesiastes. We, too, are subject to our own unstable convictions, opinions, and decisions.
In addition, we are subject to decisions and circumstances that others make and over which we have no control, yet which cause us to descend into a blue funk. We seem to be powerless over people making these decisions, so life seems unfair that such things should happen.
But we Christians cannot lose our perspective! Romans 8:28 is the right perspective for a Christian, a wonderfully encouraging and comforting promise. However, it does not automatically apply to everyone. Two conditions must be met.
First, we must respond to God's grace, to His gift, to His calling, to His gift of Christ, to His gift of the Holy Spirit, to His gift of revealing to us knowledge and understanding of what is happening. We must respond - that is, love God in return.
Second, we must be one of "the called according to His purpose," one of the elect. This does not apply to those who have merely received an invitation from God, because that summons goes out to many more than actually respond to it. Just as in advertising, the call, the invitation, may go out over radio, television, or through the newspaper to millions of people, but few respond as compared to the mass of invitees. The calling of God is similar: The invitation goes out to many, but few become part of the elect (Matthew 22:14).
If we meet these conditions, God is with us, and we can be encouraged and take comfort in that assurance.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)
Considering that God's chosen were foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, yet seeing that many are called but few chosen (Matthew 20:16; 22:14), we are left wondering who was foreknown and who was predestined.
A safe approach to this is to understand that predestination applies to the church as a whole group. In other words, in the beginning God knew that He would raise up the church to do its work in the world and to nurture His called-out ones.
More recently, we have understood this to be far more specific. The Bible indicates that God foreknew several individuals at least from before their births (Isaac, Jacob, Samson, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, etc.), so His foreknowledge includes specific people. It makes perfect sense that God would want certain individuals to perform in a particular way when He wanted special things done, as that is a pattern God has used in the past.
However, God's foreknowledge and predestination “to adoption as sons, . . . according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5) is not an absolute guarantee of salvation and eternal life. The Bible is unambiguous in its assertions that a person can lose his salvation (see, for instance, Hebrews 2:1-3; 3:12; 4:1; 6:4-8; 10:26-31). If an individual could not lose his salvation, then why does God provide so many passages warning us of the possibility?
God is not a liar and does not warn without cause. These warnings are given because God has cause to give them! While God is sure of His ability to work out the salvation of every person He calls, each person has his part to play, that is, he must believe and cooperate with God throughout the sanctification process, growing in the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is why the apostle Paul urges us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). In other words, though God chooses us, we must also choose Him.
An individual's sins could cause him to lose this awesome opportunity. Yes, God is eager to forgive all our sins and set us back on the path of righteousness, but that act of mercy cannot begin if we do not seek forgiveness and repentance from Him. A sin is unpardonable if one refuses to ask God to pardon it.
A person can also turn away from God so willfully that he becomes a rebel against God, repudiating his former belief and “trampl[ing] the Son of God underfoot” (Hebrews 10:29). Christ's sacrifice does not apply in such a case because it cannot be applied twice to the same person. As the writer of Hebrews says, this is considering the blood of the covenant, Christ's own blood, to be common and an insult to the Spirit of grace.
Further, why would He reveal that there will be a Lake of Fire for the incorrigibly wicked if it would not be needed? Certainly, the Devil and his demons will be cast into it, as well as the Beast and False Prophet (Revelation 20:10), but Hebrews 10:26-27 indicates that this is also the fate of those who “sin willfully after receiv[ing] the knowledge of the truth” (see also Hebrews 6:8). By the way, the Lake of Fire imagery stands behind Jesus' illustrations of Gehenna fire as well as the fate of the man not wearing a wedding garment: “outer darkness” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
This is why God warns us so often and so urgently in the pages of the Bible—because He does not want to lose those He has called to salvation!
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen
With such positive statements about our salvation, why should we be hopeless and fearfully doubt that God will supply all our needs? Does He ever fail to succeed in whatever He undertakes? These verses flatly and dogmatically state that, if we want to cooperate in faith to bring God's purpose for us to its intended conclusion, we must, I repeat, must, believe that His watchfulness over us involves every circumstance of our lives.
Verses 31 and 32 put a cap on this issue: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
In verse 30, note that the term "sanctified" is missing from the list of the general stages of God's purpose. Sanctification is the only part of the salvation process in which our cooperation plays a major, consistent, and daily role. Why does Paul exclude it? This was not an oversight; he deliberately leaves "sanctified" out because he wants, for the remainder of this section of this epistle, to focus entirely on the absolute certainty of God's providence, not on any works we may perform in cooperation with Him during the sanctification process.
Paul is not saying that God will always do what we might want Him to do; he is reminding us that He will always do what is right according to His purpose. God has the necessary powers to do as He sees fit for His purpose and us. He is watching, which is even more reason for us to draw on that power.
Nobody can successfully stand in the way of His completing that purpose in each of us, but based on our knowledge of those powers, are we willing to accept His providence? Do we accept what He provides in any given circumstance, even though what He provides might not be what we would like to have?
All of the things Paul writes here are wonderful, but the key to this particular subject is the answer to the question he asks in verse 31: "If God be for us who can be against us?" God has the power and the will, and He does not make mistakes or empty promises. Paul then lists what God has already done for all concerned. Our responsibility is to choose to put these facts to work in our specific circumstances.
The handwriting on the wall for us is this: Terribly difficult times are coming, and they will affect all of us to varying degrees. The only successful way to complete our minute part in God's purpose is to choose to draw on His power. We must begin at once to cultivate the habit of cooperating by faith, accepting whatever He chooses to provide in our circumstances. If this habit is in place through long practice, we will be ready when the pressure really mounts.
Because He is the Source of our deliverance in every circumstance, it is crucial for us to know God as well as we can. Our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ is the key that gives us access to the deliverance He provides. He has the power, and it is His will to meet our every need. It is incumbent upon us, therefore, to use our time now to build on our present relationship with Him, making it stronger and more intimate.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)
Here is God's purpose plainly stated. Those He calls are to be conformed to the image of His Son, clearly tied to the theme of creation where God says in Genesis 1:26, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." We have a small part in this greatest of God's creative works. We must yield to that purpose. We must surrender to it and allow its power to carry us along to perfection. But it requires faith, conviction of its rightness, and devotion to its requirements. This creative process requires sacrificing our former lives with their sinful desires in submission to the details of God's purpose for us. This is our small part in this vast operation ongoing already for about 6,000 years.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part One): Introduction
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Romans 8:28:
1 Corinthians 9:19-22