What Does Romans 8:28 Mean?
This is a verse that brings great comfort to Christians, but perhaps sometimes, for the wrong reason. The message of this verse is not simply ‘It’s all good’, but before we take a closer look at the meaning of Romans 8:28, let’s consider who wrote it.
Who wrote Romans 8:28?
Saint Paul wrote this letter to the Christian community of Rome when he was staying in Corinth, in Greece, in the year 57 A.D. Paul hoped to visit Rome for the first time on his way to Spain.
What is the meaning of Romans 8:28?
‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ NIV
Paul speaks from personal experience. Before his conversion, he was a man whose job required him to persecute Christians. He supervised the torture of Christians, until he was called by God, on the road to Damascus. He knows that the Christian community to which he is writing will suffer persecution, as indeed they did under the emperor Nero. Paul himself would die at the hands of Christian persecutors. So, Paul is certainly not saying that if you are a Christian, God will stop anything bad happening to you. ‘God works for the good of those who love him’ is a statement of faith that declares trust in God despite earthly suffering. We have ‘been called according to his purpose’ and of course we don’t understand that purpose. How could we possibly know the mind of God?
Romans 8:28 King James Version
‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.’
‘all things work together for good’ This wording is subtly different from the NIV ‘in all things God works for good’. In the KJV text, the wording affirms that God is all things, not a separate manipulator of ‘things’, but the essence of everything, ‘in every grain of sand’ as Bob Dylan puts it.
Romans 8:28 New American Standard Bible
‘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.’
As always, the NASB version adheres closely to the text of KJV. In this text the word ‘God’ has been inserted into the first line so that readers are in no doubt that it is He who causes ‘all things to work together for good.’
Romans 8:28 The Message
‘That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives
of love for God is worked into something good.’
In order try and clarify the meaning of bible verses the MSG version will often run several verses together in order to provide a synopsis of the meaning, so it’s not always possible to tease out individual verses. Here, Romans 8:28 is linked to the early verses by the phrase ‘That’s why we can be so sure.’ What follows is, for me, so compressed that it is more difficult to understand than the KJV. ‘in our lives of love for God’ for example. I know what is meant here, but isn’t the NASB ‘those who love God’ much more direct? And ‘worked into something good’ sounds so vague compared with the other versions. Having said all that, if this version speaks most directly to you, then it is doing its job. What do you think?
Romans 8:28 in context
Romans is the sixth book of the New Testament. It is Paul’s longest text and is regarded by scholars as his most important in terms of Christian doctrine. At its outset, Paul greets 26 people by name because he is concerned to personally enlist the help of individuals to spread the word of God. Paul describes the sinfulness of people but his focus is on how we can be saved by turning to God. Eleven chapters of doctrine are followed by five chapters of instruction as to how we can apply Christian principals to our daily life.
Reflections on Romans 8:28
None of us should read this verse and feel smug. Feel that we are the chosen, and that God will make sure that we have an easy ride. It doesn’t work like that. This verse is a reminder about the nature of faith. In all things God works for good, but it is according to His purpose, not ours. What are your thoughts on this verse?
Read next: What Does Romans 12:12 Mean? "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." The New Testament contains letters to various churches with the core message of the gospel of Christ. Included in this is the verse Romans 12:12. What is its meaning?