Romans 8:28

Romans 8:28 (see also Ezra 8:22; Romans 1:6Ephesians 1:11)
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

John Ward: We know that in all things God works for the good of those who Love him, and are called according to is purpose. (Rom 8:28) Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that ... The testing of you faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2, 3) Now He [Jesus] had to go through Samaria. (John 4:4) We are required to go certain places for a while, because there is someone He wants us to meet, something He wants to do, something He wants to show us, something we have to experience, something He wants to avoid. We are required to remain Faithful. Stay in the Word, and it will direct your path.”

Neil Anderson: “The problem is, we really don’t know what is good for us. God can work through anything. What is good is what God wills.” (Who I am in Christ, p.118)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “Not all things that happen are good, but God can use them for good. Many Calvinists, however, particularly John Piper, claim that whatever happens to us is the best possible thing that can happen because God foreordained it. The problem is that this makes any attempt to remedy suffering, a human attempt to undo and overthrow what God has sovereignly foreordained to be done for their good.”

Another member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “It is quite certain that God has plans, since it is foolish to do ANYTHING without a plan. The error of the Calvinists is one of running into the extremes, where if one denies that God has a total plan for everything, causing whatsoever that comes to pass, the Calvinist immediately accuses you of denying that God has a plan for anything at all! The nuance that God plans some things, while leaving other things to permission, completely escapes them. The implication that the True God is an anal-retentive control freak is completely refuted by the extremely laid-back management style displayed by God during the time of the Judges. The Davidic monarchy, for instance, does not reflect the work of a divine political scientist, as an unmitigated good, but instead reveals the real reluctance of a concerned God to grant the people their wishes for a King. While God rightly viewed the people’s demand for a King as a veiled rejection of Him, His main concern was with the way a king would treat the people, citing the behaviors that Solomon later demonstrated, and which led to the splitting of Israel into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. If God was so intent on self Glory and Control, as the Calvinists would have us believe, the desire of the people for a King would have been met with a lot more heat and indignation, if not outright refusal.

​Question: What does Paul mean by “work together for good”?

Answer: Ezra 8:22: “The hand of our God is upon all them 
for good that seek him.” [KJV] Given the evangelistic heart 
of Paul, as understood from his heart-felt prayers of Romans 
9:1-3 and Romans 10:1, the “good” he envisioned likely was 
more people getting saved.

Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who 
strengthens me.” 

Philippians 2:13: “For it is God who is at work in you, 
both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” 

If you are walking in the will of God according to the purpose He has set for you as a Christian, then know that all apparent obstacles are actually being used by God to accomplish a greater good.” By Gods omniscient foreknowledge, He is able to take the evil intentions of man and turn them around to use them in such a way that not only still accomplishes His plan, but also achieves an even greater good, which is to reach even more people of this fallen world, which He loved and sent His Son to the Cross to die to save. As an example, based upon the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23), God, foreknowing the evil intentions of man for His Son, planned to use what wicked men would do at Calvary in order to accomplish a far greater good, which is salvation for even them too (Acts 2:23, 37-41), as well as justification to life for all men. (Romans 5:18)

Calvinist, D. James Kennedy: “All things work together for good only to God’s elect. The world is filled with people who live miserable, wretched, sinful lives.” (Solving Bible Mysteries, p.26, emphasis mine)

​Question: To whom do all things “work together for good”?

Answer: Calvinists say “only to God’s elect,” but Calvinism teaches that “the elect” includes unbelievers who are predestined for salvation, who as unbelievers, are living the miserable, wretched, sinful lives described by Kennedy. Therefore, this passage must be speaking of believing Christians, that is, those who are in Christ, and who “love God.” (v.28)

John Calvin: “But I hold the grace of God to be so universal, that I make the distinction to consist in this, that all are not called according to God’s purpose.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.148, emphasis mine) 

  • Yes, Christ’s free gift of grace, that abounds to all men, is universal. (Romans 5:15)

  • Nonot all are “called according to His purpose” because you must first answer the call to live in Christ in order to receive the call to live for Christ, that is, God’s set purpose for you as a Christian, empowered by the Holy Spirit with the unique gift that He bestows upon each Christian to fulfill their purpose in Christ.

Stated another way, Christs free gift of grace which abounds to all men is an offer, and all are called and invited to share in it. (Matthew 22:14) Those that answer the call to live in Christ are then called to live for Christ. For instance, if you answer the call to live in Christ, and become a Christian, you are then called to disciple others (Matthew 28:19-20), which speaks of the purpose that you have in Christ. Every Christian is uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit, and that gift is intended for the edification of the body of Christ, according to the purpose that God has designed. Being “called according to His purpose,” speaks of the call to live for Christ, the holy calling, that every Christian receives. God desires that everyone be called according to His purpose, insomuch that He has a wonderful plan for everyones life (Matthew 23:37), wishing that none perish but repent (2nd Peter 3:9), and become Christians. (1st Timothy 2:3-4) Thats the God of love who is “rich in mercy.” (Ephesians 2:4) But He has standards, and it is a standard of perfect holiness, and you can only become holy by being washed in the blood of His Son, whom He gave for the salvation of the world. (John 3:16)

​Since to “love God” is a trait of being in Christ, Romans 8:28 may be paraphrased: For Christians who love God and are living according to His unique calling for you as a Christian, God both knows the obstacles that you will face, and will use those same obstacles to achieve an even greater good, for the Kingdom of God.

So what does Calvinism teach about The Calling? Calvinism teaches a General Call and a VIP Call to the elect VIPs [in the Father] which is efficacious because it regenerates:

John Calvin: “For Paul does not say simply called. This commonly is applicable to the reprobate who God promiscuously invites to penitence and faith along with His own sons. What he says is called according to His purpose; and this purpose must be stable in itself and certain in its effect.”  (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.70, emphasis mine) 

Just saying “called,” has special meaning to Calvin, as if it meant a general, ineffectual invitation whereas Romans 8:28 means an efficacious and regenerative call because it is connected with purpose. Arminianism also teaches two calls, though completely different from Calvinism. As already stated, one is an invitation to all to live in Christ, while the other is the invitation for Christians to live for Christ, according to the set purpose of God the Father in which Christians are uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit to fulfill certain roles within the Body of Christ for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.

John Calvin: “There is no doubt, however, that Paul expressly stated here that our salvation is based on the selection of God, in order that he might pass from this to the subject which he immediately added, viz. that the afflictions which conform us to Christ have been determined for us by the same heavenly decree. Paul’s purpose in doing this was to connect our salvation to the bearing of the cross as by a chain of necessity.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.180, emphasis mine) 

In terms of “chain of necessity,” Calvin has perhaps lost sight of the fact that the chain starts with being a Christian, being God’s plan for saved people.

John Calvin: “Who are called according to His purpose. Thus we see that he expressly secures priority for God; for by His calling He causes them to begin to love Him who could do nothing but hate. For, examine the whole human race of man, and what propensity for loving God will be found there? Why, Paul in the same chapter declares all the senses of the flesh to be at enmity to God. If all men are by nature enemies and adversaries of God, it is plain that by His calling alone are those separated out who put hatred aside and turn to love Him. Further, there can be no doubt that it is that efficacious calling that is here denoted, by which God regenerates those whom He has first adopted to Himself as sons(Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.70, emphasis mine) 

Here you have three of the five points of Calvinism:

Total Depravity: “causes them to begin to love Him who could do nothing but hate...all the senses of the flesh to be at enmity to God.”

Irresistible Grace: “His calling He causes them...efficacious which God regenerates.”

In the Father Election: those whom He has first adopted to Himself as sons.”

When a Calvinist reads a verse in the Bible, these are the presuppositions that guide their thinking. When an Arminian comes along and explains a verse non-Calvinistically, such as at Romans 8:28, it is unsettling to the Calvinist because it conflicts with foundational teachings that they’ve confidently accepted as divine truth. To a Calvinist, Calvinism is the Gospel itself. So when you question Calvinism, to them, you have questioned the very Gospel itself, and now to them, you are a heretic. Thats why when you discuss the Bible with a Calvinist, you need to go straight to the foundation of their foundational teachings, which is Calvinistic [in the Father] Election. If you can get the Calvinist to envision their glorified destiny as having its origin in Christ, as per John 14:6, they can then shake loose the bonds of Calvinism.

​When Paul says that for Christians, “God causes all 
things to work together for good,” a little perspective 
is needed. It does not mean that God causes everything, 
such as adultery and divorce and broken families, and 
then uses it for a good purpose. God is using what is 
already there. God did not ordain evil, and did not 
cause your sin. You cause your own sin, but just 
because God is able to work through it, does not make 
Him the cause of it.

1st Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

That doesn’t mean that you should thank God for your sin. In the same way, perspective is needed. God is at work, but that doesn’t mean that He is the root cause of all of your sin. If that’s what was meant, then cheating husbands would logically have to thank God for their adultery, and their wives would have to thank God for it too, and that would not go over well. But God can, and does, work in bad situations. God can work in people’s messes, in order to bring restoration to families. In some cases, God allows a person to descend to a point where they are broken, and then in having nowhere else to turn, they turn to Him, and experience restoration, even to the point where the family is far better off than where they first were. That’s the perspective. Calvinists ought not misappropriate these verses as proof-texts for Determinism. You are to give thanks for what God does, that is, His part in it for deliverance and rescue.