Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
The order of the words in which Paul says what he says in Romans 8:28 seems significant. It begins with “We know that for those who love God.” Romans 8:28 does not start with what God does, but who He does it for. All things do not work out for good for everybody. There is no divine Karma that works on behalf of all people.
A great many people claim to find encouragement from this verse. Does it give you encouragement? Should it? It is not encouraging for everyone. It is meant only for those who love God.
Do you love God? How do you know? Because you feel a certain way when you think of God? Because you think orthodox thoughts about God? That’s good. Some people think awful things when they think of God. It’s good to feel love for God. But Jesus never said “To love me is to feel warm about me”. Here is what He did say:
John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:21 – Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.
John 14:23-24 – Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.
John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Love for God is marked by obedience. I think it was Jonathan Edwards who said that when we sin it is because at that moment we love the sin more than we love God, even if our love for God is genuine and our sin is marked by repentance. At that moment we loved the sin more than we loved Him.
But Jesus gets very specific when He tells us that love for God is marked by obedience. He reduces it down to one commandment:
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you
“If you love me keep my commandments. Here is my commandment” It cannot get any more plain than that. We are not left on our own to find out what it means to really love God. To love God is to obey and the commandment we are to obey is to love other believers.
So – all things work together for the good of those who love God. Those who love God are those who keep God’s commandments. This is the commandment – love one another. Now – do you love God? Do we love God? Should you be finding encouragement in this verse?
But we are not yet done. To love God is to keep His commandments. His commandments amount to “love other believers”. Now we are back to the same question. What does it mean to love other believers? God has been gracious enough to let us know tha answer to that one as well.
I Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Do you love the believers you worship with? Do we love other believers who are true believers yet see some things differently? Do we love other believers who have been rude, hard to get along with, and may not be exhibiting great love to us all the time? Do you have the marks of those Romans 8:28 is meant to encourage? They, and they alone are the ones who should take encouragement from this very encouraging text.
And, lest we conclude that this is talking about the more sanctified among us. Those who love God and therefore keep His commandments and love each other, are simply believers in Jesus Christ. All this verse is saying is that real believers have all things work out for their good. All believers love God. All believers love their fellow believers. All believers have the marks of real faith in Jesus Christ.