Romans 8: 28-39 – How 11 verses can change everything . . . .

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. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long.
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:28-39 (ESV)

I imagine that you know of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, that “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”[1] I’d like to disagree with Mr Franklin for a second and say that every single one of us; however young or old we are, will face challenges and difficulties at least at some point in our lives. And you can be sure that there are going to be times in all of our lives when we may feel that all is lost and that God cannot or maybe will not redeem or use what’s happened (or maybe, what’s still happening to us.)

I love the way that this passage starts by reminding us that in all things (that is, whatever we may face in life), God works for the good of those who love Him. This means, that God isn’t just working occasionally in our lives, if we’re in a mountaintop place, but that even in the darkest places in our lives, God not only can but also will work everything to fulfil His purpose and for our long-range good. I feel that it’s also vitally important to emphasise, that nowhere in this passage (or anywhere else in the Bible, for that matter), does it say that God causes any of the bad things that happen to us (for this, we should take as an example, the book of Job). We also still have choices to make, and being the human beings that we are, that inevitably means that we will get things wrong from time to time. Sometimes, though, we are simply living with the consequences of a being part of a fallen world. But we know that whatever the circumstances:

“As we place our hope in God, we can be certain that we are shielded by God’s power, and that he is ensuring that in all our trials and troubles all things work for our good.” [2]

Now, for those of you who know your scriptures well, you will know that verse 29 can be a very challenging one to read and understand, because, let’s face it – calling, election, and predestination can be pretty mind melting topics at the best of times, and I certainly do not have the skill or understanding to do them any kind of justice. But, I must admit to being hugely encouraged that one of the most respected evangelical commentaries that I’ve been reading while preparing for this simply didn’t talk at all about the subject of predestination in this verse– which made me feel a lot better about the fact that I really don’t know much about this stuff either . . . . By the same token, I was heartened to read in other commentaries that God knows what is going to happen, not only because He can see the end from the beginning, but also because He knows our hearts and know who will respond in faith to His call. I don’t understand all of this to mean that God is random in who He chooses to be saved, it is just that he foreknew who would respond to Him, and upon those, He set His mark (predestined), but He also knew that some of us would sadly refuse His call upon our lives.


It seems likely, that when Paul listed trouble, hardship, persecution, nakedness, famine, danger and sword in verse 35, he wasn’t just coming up with a theoretical list of things that could go wrong in the life of a believer; he was quite probably talking about some of the difficulties he had faced in the course of his own ministry. With this in mind, it seems that Paul may well have wanted the people who read this letter to know that they would likely have to face similar suffering for Christ, but at the same time, that they need not fear, as the love of Christ was with them all the way as it is with us. This is a great reminder, that despite life not always being easy, especially when we pick up our cross to follow Christ, He always loves us and will always be with us. It is also a great reminder that whatever difficulties we face in this life will also help to make us more Christ-like.

In the next verse, Paul goes on to quote from Psalm 44, which is an incredibly powerful reminder for us that suffering is not a new thing for the children of God, it is entirely in line with what the saints have always had to endure.

Paul goes on to say that, no matter what we face for following Jesus, we are more than conquerors through Jesus’ love for us – Jesus’ love gives us the strength we need and also produces the victory, which certainly I find to be a great encouragement and help – we can’t do this on our own, when we rely on our own strength, things can only go wrong – we desperately need Jesus at all times . . . . But we have the huge reassurance and encouragement that everyone who believes has overwhelming victory in Christ.

I find it the greatest comfort and encouragement that, nothing we are facing, nothing we are going to ever face has power over us who are now hidden with Christ in God. I think F.F. Bruce says what I want to, much more clearly and eloquently than I ever could:

“Nothing in the course of time, nor in the expanses of space, nothing in the whole universe can sever the children of God from their Father’s love, secured to them in Christ.”

 And that, I believe completely changes how the ones who have put their faith in God should look at and live through times of suffering and struggle in their lives.


[2] Osborne, Grant R. (2004), (p. 220) The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Romans, Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press

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