Most Christians know Romans 8:28. It is one of the greatest promises in the Bible. It provides us with comfort when life is confusing and anxious. It is the shelter we run into for safety when the storms of life surprise us.
In my Bible this promise is in the middle of a paragraph of chapter 8. Let’s consider its context. So what is written before and after this great promise?
Before R828: The Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us according to the will of God. Our weakness is our ignorance. We do not know how to pray according to God’s will. When we are praying according to our desires motivated by our anxieties, the Spirit corrects our prayers and intercedes for us according to God’s will. All things work together for good for those who are called according to God’s purpose because the Spirit intercedes for us according to God’s will. The Spirit’s intercession ensures that all things, good and bad, work together for our good and God’s glory.
After R828: The “all things” that the Spirit’s intercession works together for our good are foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. These are the BIG “all things” that work together for the ultimate good, which is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The Spirit knows and carries out God’s will in foreknowledge and predestination. The Spirit calls us to salvation and gives us justifying faith. The Spirit daily works to conform us into the image of Christ until the day we are glorified in heaven. The Spirit’s daily intercession to conform us into the image of Christ is sanctification. This is the missing link in the golden chain.
The “all things” includes daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly things that happen in our lives. It includes all pain and sorrow and tests and trials. It includes the past, present, and future. It includes the things we know and do not know, the expected and the unexpected. It includes gains and loses. It includes sickness and health. It includes all our prayers. The Spirit’s intercession ensures that all things work together for those who love God and are called to salvation in Christ. Don’t lose sight of the ultimate good – conformed to the image of Christ – in the all things of life.
In his book Future Grace, John Piper wrote about Romans 8:28: “If you live inside this massive promise your life is more solid and stable than Mt. Everest. Nothing can blow you over when you are inside the walls of Romans 8:28. Outside of Romans 8:28 all is confusion, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Outside this all encompassing future grace there are straw houses of drugs and alcohol, numbing TV, and dozens of futile diversions. There are slat walls and tin roofs of fragile investment strategies and fleeting insurance coverage and trivial retirement plans. There are cardboard fortifications of deadbolt locks and alarm systems and anti-ballistic missiles. Outside are a thousand 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 anymore. The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is an incomparable refuge and security and hope and power in your life.”