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Do “All Things” Really Mean “All Things“ in Romans 8:28?

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Rom. 8:28,29)

Once again we have received in the mail another absurd article, flung together by a limited predestinarian who spares no zeal in attempting to deny the purpose of God in all things, especially as is recorded in the above text. How very pitiable it is to see that of all the comforting texts in the Bible that console the child of God in his many distresses, this one is so vehemently denied by those very people who profess to believe in God's sovereignty, predestination and government. But these certainly are no new things; for just so long as there has been a Bible there has also been those devious individuals that would attempt to twist its meaning; then use it dishonestly and deceitfully to bring in alien views. This, even though their strained views are at complete odds with the obvious meaning of the text. There is no desire on our part to condemn these who deny what we so joyously believe. While we will attempt to avoid casting aspersions on their character, we shall, the Lord willing, spare no effort in exposing their doctrine for what it is; a pestilence.

For the most part, those who deny that this text means "all things" when it says "all things", have done so in an attempt to disaffirm the doctrine of the absolute predestination of all things. If "all things" truly are "working together for good to them that love God", then there is no other conclusion one can reach than that all things are predestinated of God, and are being brought to pass exactly as pleases Him, for the well-being of His little children. This the deniers cannot allow. These enemies of this truth have run to ludicrous extremes in seeking to obviate the plain and clear intent of these wonderful texts. They have, among other things, sought to convince us that the context limits the "all things." And by context they mean those five identified subjects in Verses 29,30 being: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification and glorification. It is proposed by these deniers that only the five mentioned items are the "all things" of Verse 28, and that Verse 28 is there as a proof of the meaning of Verse 29 and Verse 30. How very strange! However, we suggest that those who teach such have gotten the cart before the horse; for exactly the opposite is the truth. Romans 8: 29,30 supplement, and establish the teaching of Verse 28, and not the reverse. In the order of things, the "all things work together for good" is mentioned first, and then, to positively establish the matter, the Apostle sets forth foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification in Verse 29 and 30 to enforce it. This should be clear to any English student who has had even a scant understanding of subject matter and contextual reading. But, we will leave the deniers to their absurdities, and move on to better things.

Before moving on however, there is one other point to be considered. Of all of the violent insinuations leveled against the character and doctrine of those of us who believe "all things" here means just that, the charge of "making God being the Author of sin" seems to be paramount in the reasoning of the deniers. They have sought to make us say what we have never said, and to believe what we have never believed, and to hold to what we have never even dreamed. But again, we will leave this, and if the Lord enables, cover it later in this treatise. For rather, if God be willing, we should like to propose to the readers of this article a basis for the proper understanding of these verses. By proper, we mean that which the Lord has given us a record of, and not what someone tinctured with arminianism would like for the text to say.

If our assessment and reading is correct, from Verse 28 thru Verse 39 of Romans 8, "things" are mentioned seven times. One, "all things" (Verse 28); two, "these things" (Verse 31); three, "all things" (Verse 32); four, "any thing" (Verse 33); five, "all these things" (Verse 37); six, "things present" (Verse 38); and seven, "things to come" (Verse 38). Surely we are prepared to acknowledge that under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul had a clear understanding of what he was proposing. There is not a trace of any nebulous, or ambiguous wording in this entire topic. None of the things "hard to be understood" Peter refers to (II Peter 3:16); and yet that text in Peter accurately describes the very thing we here expose. Would not Paul's language be in harmony with itself; and can we believe that he would contradict himself as he expostulated upon these deep things of God? It seems self-evident that he would not. Read carefully these verses in their order, beginning in Verse 28. Does he set forth first, the great truth that "all things work together for good", in which there are no known, or stated exceptions, or not? And then in Verses 29 and 30 does he not establish the grand basis for these "all things"?; the chief being that everything that takes place from eternity past to eternity future aim at one specific purpose? And what it that purpose? From the very beginning of God's purposes in eternity, to finally bringing His children home to Heaven, "all things" were working together for a particular good; the conforming His children to the image of His Son. Irrespective of what they were, what these events would be, and how they might be viewed by men, they accomplished the conforming of the Heirs to the Son. God superintended, yes, ruled all of the affairs of all creation, that they might all work together for good to them that love God.

Please, observe very carefully (it is to be regretted that it must be stated again, but we shall) that "all things" work together for good. Never once, have we stated, that "all things" including sin were, and are, good in themselves. But, rather, we have humbly affirmed that "all things," no matter what they are, work together. We have no problem in understanding this, despite our limited knowledge, and we cannot see why, despite the doctrines and views of others, that they cannot at least accept the clear language here. Working together for good, and being good, are two entirely different matters, and it was never dreamed of by sound Baptists to say that sin was, or is, good. We do, however, without any hesitation affirm the clear intent of the text that even sin is part of the "all things" that works together for good to them that love God. More concerning this under another heading, if the Lord wills.

Following the profound statement in verses 29 and 30, the Apostle then asks this question in Verse 31; "What shall we then say to these things?" Well, the presumptuous answer the unhumbled Conditionalist would give the Apostle is that "these things don't mean all things; that" they say, "would be absolutism, and we don't believe that"! Simply put, they are not prepared to recognize the text as it is. But Paul didn't ask the question for this kind of an answer; rather it was asked to establish that God is for us regardless of what these things may be. However far reaching these things may be, and no matter how men may view these temporal affairs; if God be for us, all "these things" cannot be against us. In other words, they are working together for good, rather than working together for bad, and this should be plain enough for those who believe their Bibles.

Next, the Apostle clears the issue even further by introducing the lovely subject of the Son of God being delivered up for us all (verse 32); the "all" being all those who love God, and who are the called. He adduces as well how God would, as a result freely give us "all things" based on His Son being delivered up. It seems reasonably certain that the limited predestinarians have no desire to limit the "all things" in Verse 32 to the "five things" in Verse 29 and Verse 30. So then, we would ask, why would they limit the "all things" In Verse 28? It is true enough that "all things" in Verse 32 cannot embrace "all things that have existed, and do exist", for no one is in possession of "all existent things"; but rather, the plain, clear, intended and obvious meaning of "all things" in verse 32 is they are without limitation. There is "no limit" to the things that God will and does freely give His children. (May we bless His name that it is so.) Even so, in Verse 28, there is "no limit" to the things that work together for good to them that love God, despite the desire of the enemies of truth to limit the "things" to the "five things" in Verse 29 and Verse 30.

So, continuing on then, in Verse 33 the Apostle says, "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?" Is there any limit to the "any thing" in Verse 33? Can "any thing", call it what you will, sins of commission, sins of omissions, heinous sins, little sins, big sins, lies, thefts, covetousness, adultery, etc., etc.; whatever the crime, the trespass; can any of these "any things" be laid to the charge of God's elect?

"Who?", asks the Apostle. It is more than unlikely that any will be so presumptuous as to respond: "I will." If we have any understanding at all of this text it is this: Paul challenges men or devils to dare such an impossible task. And why? For God justifies, not man. Thus, if God condemns not, no one can. No one in all the universe has any thing to charge the elect with, for their sins, all of them, are cast behind God's back, to be remembered no more. Thus, it is obvious that Paul ranges the whole spectrum of possibilities, and bids us conclude that there is not "any thing" (in the most unlimited sense) that might be drug up against a redeemed sinner before their Lord. This is precisely what these verses teach if they teach anything at all. If then, "any thing" in Verse 33, and "these things" in Verse 31, plainly are not limited, why, why, we seek to know, would it be even remotely possible that the "all things" in verse 28 would allow for a limitation; especially since Paul was so very clear in composing his language in an obviously unlimited manner?

"Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ?" Again the beloved Apostle interrogates his readers with the question, "Who?" It appears that the word "who" is used here to also mean, "what?" for in describing the various circumstances which could be brought forward as possible deterrents to the love of Christ, he names tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword. There is a clear correlation to what he names here and the "who" that might implement any of them against the elect. "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Rom.8:37) Once again the Apostle uses the "all these things" in the most unlimited sense. Thus, rather than these calamities harming the elect, or driving them from Christ, they only serve to cement them together. And how, this being the case, would anyone dare limit these things here? For those who hold that only "good things" work together for good, we ask that they explain what reasoning would cause anyone to conclude tribulations, distresses, persecutions, famines, nakednesses, perils, and swords are, in themselves, good? No one dare advocate these things are what we call good and expect to be considered sane, and yet they do serve a very good purpose.

Having thus looked at the first five uses of the expressions, "all things," and "all these things" they certainly were not limited by Paul. Nor will they be limited by any today except those who might defy God Himself. Then finally, he (Paul) was persuaded that not even death, or life, or angels, or principalities, or powers, or "things present", or "things to come", etc. could separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Not a whisper of restrictive usage.

We fairly believe that we have given an honest presentation of the obvious meaning of the words "thing" or "things" as the Apostle used them each of the seven times in these verses. We see no basis for limiting any them in any of the seven instances. If the Apostle used them in their most expanded sense in the last six of these occasions, as probably all will agree, why should it be supposed that he was in one instance at odds with his own usage? It is in all probability a truth that he used the word in exactly the same manner in the first instance. We believe honesty demands this conclusion! And so, we would encourage the children of the Heavenly King to rejoice, for "all things" are working together for good to them that love God. This is a delight, and strengthening to God's children. It is a heaven sent proposition which encourages them in righteousness, and enables them to pray, "Thy will be done." Hope blooms forth, rather than despair, and gloom disappears under the influence of this sweet truth. We believe, and that with all our souls, that a proper understanding of these things will never induce one of God's children to excuse themselves in their sins. Nor will they attempt to promote the doctrine that evil is good. Rather, they, seeing the all-superintending purpose of God, will be melted in awe of the majesty of God's overruling, governing, preparing, ordaining and willing such things that are necessary, both good or evil, to bring to pass His purpose. And that is the conforming of all of them to the image of His dear Son. This must involve everything, from the slightest motions of lower life, to the complex intricacies that regulate the mightiest kingdoms.

There are many other pertinent verses of the Bible we should like to examine. Texts we believe that will fully support what we have plainly set forth here. There are far too many however, to cover them all, as we would nearly have to use the whole of the Bible; so we shall limit ourselves to only a few. Those who are fair-minded, and possess an honest heart should recognize the amount to be sufficient. The first text then, is Ephesians 1:11,

"In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who workethall things after the counsel of his own will."

We introduce this text, primarily to show how the terminology in it is very similar to that of Romans 8:28, for the Apostle introduces "all things" as they "worketh," in both texts; words which are the same. The God of all grace works "all things" after the counsel of His will, says Paul in Verse 11. When we are blessed to draw away the curtain of ignorance and prejudice from this precious truth it simply radiates with the omnipotence of our God. We find absolutely nothing in the context that would even suggest a limitation on the "all things" that He works after the counsel of His own will.

The minds of limited predestinarians are indeed fertile fields for the crop of restricted meanings, but they will never harvest their briars from this scripture. The grand intent of the Apostle here was to establish the supremacy of God in every area of existence, and it seems to us that he was mightily enabled of the Lord to do just that.

Next we desire to view this connection in II Corinthians 4: 15-18,

"For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Paul again uses language similar to Romans 8:28 and Ephesians 1:11, for he begins by saying "For all things are for your sakes." Does he allow any limitations here, or suggest any? None that we know of! Then he begins to describe the workings of the outward and inward man, with the various conflicts attending. The first conflict being the basis for our not fainting; for the outward man perishes, while the inward man is renewed day by day. His obvious teaching here is that the old man, (the outward man,) is dying; and there is nothing we can do to prevent it. However, the inward man is growing in grace; and that every day. What a blessed illustration this is; a great conflict, a warfare; one against the other, and yet it works together for good to those that love God. For, as he describes then in Verse 17, this is a light affliction, and it is but for a moment, and it too works for us afar more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. We will not take the time to contrast all of the things the Apostle alludes to here, but just suggest that when he says "it worketh for us" and "it is a light affliction" that he certainly is not referring to afflictions as being in themselves good, but that they are "working for good" for us towards something far better. He describes it as the eternal weight of glory. Let the reader observe it for himself, and see if there is not perfect harmony here with what we have introduced in Romans 8:28. To us it seems the harmony does exist.

A third text utilizing these same expressions is found in Philippians 3:21,

"Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."

Here again the Apostle refers to God "working all things", and in this case the "working" is in order to subdue "all things" unto Himself. Is there even a hint of restriction here? But rather, does it not teach again the one and the same subject, that God rules all?

Many have taken up the old cry, "You are making God the Author of sin with this 'all things' business." Our enemies have for centuries joined in this Devil's battle cry, and those who seek to make us offenders for a word have raised the objection in Romans 8:28 as well. "Sin does not work together for good, for sin is so heinous and awful." they warn. Far be it from us to make light of sin. We have had our fill of it too, and desire no more. Neither shall we at this time succumb to the temptation to attempt a harrangue on the issue. We shall attempt to establish what we believe is the truth regarding sin working together for good to them that love God; for we certainly believe it to be so. We shall thus pass this antagonization by with only one text to support the true Old Baptist view, and leave it for the cavilers to complain if it seems not to be sufficient.

"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." II Thessalonians 2:13.

In this text it is so obviously clear that the Apostle Paul is referring to our election, or being chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world, (from the beginning, as he says here) that there is no real grounds for dissension. That choice was to salvation, and it was through sanctification of the Spirit, and (imparted) belief of the truth. We were chosen in Christ, (Eph. 1:4) and unto salvation; all of which was the grand design of God to conform His elect to the image of His Son. Now, there can be no denying, however difficult it may be; and however inscrutable to the minds of some it is, that if there was never any sin, there would never be any salvation from it. Remember, the angel told Joseph that "He shall save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21. Thus, we fairly conclude that election was predicated upon the decrees of God, and those decrees included the fall of mankind in the garden. Had there been no transgression in the garden, there would have been no salvation, for there would have been no sinners. Make no mistake, we do not glory in this, nor in anywise attempt to excuse the sins of the saints, but simply state they stand or fall together. If this is not the truth, there is no truth.

We would finally look briefly at the trials of the saints. They are so innumerable in the Scriptures that it would be difficult to select the most appropriate. The Apostle Peter in his first general epistle, Chapter 1, Verses 5-7, writes:

"Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."

This makes it so clear the "needs be" for heaviness and manifold temptations. Surely these things are included in the "all things." Let the reader examine these things for themselves, and determine if these things are working together for their good. We fully believe those led by the Spirit will consent to the affirmative.

Again, we would suggest to our readers to look at the text, Romans 5:3-5,

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."

There can be no question that the Apostle Paul found glory in tribulations. Why? Because tribulation worketh patience. Again the terminology is very similar to that in Romans 8:28. Tribulation worketh patience; patience worketh experience; experience worketh hope. Thus we see that even though tribulations in themselves are not good, they work together for good to those that love God.

With this we will conclude, in the hope that those who read this will pardon any error, and look to the God of all grace for further light on this sublime subject.

The Remnant
Volume 4, No. 4
July - August, 1990