All things work together for what?

Romans 8.26-39

There are some great passages here “nothing can separate us from the Love of God,” “we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.” It’s stirring, hope filled language with a promise of confidence for all time. And then there’s “all things work together for good for those who love the Lord,” a verse that just flies in the face of human experience.

Of course, it may be our experience and interpretation thereof which is the problem. I usually define “good” as “everything is going my way” in other words good=what I want. I hope you all see how this is not perhaps the most mature attitude. Further, going along with the assumption that good=what I want/like is the assumption that all working for good means only good things will happen in our lives. The whole question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” is based on this assumption. So maybe our assumption is wrong.

The most common reading of 8.28 deals with the translators problem of clarity and truthfulness by using some common English ideas while obscuring the Greek word order and completely skipping grammar (because English just doesn’t say it that way). So here’s the text in order with more grammar expansion than you should find in any bible designed to be read:

We know
[subordinating conjunction, maybe “because” or “since”]
to the ones loving God [loving is a participle in the dative/locative case which says that those loving God are the indirect object, the recipient of the action] note the noun position in this sentence, while this is the indirect object, placing it at the front emphasizes it.
all [things] [nominative plural, this is the subject of the sentence, it means each, every, all, the whole, everthing, for sentence flow we add “things” because this is an indefinite adjective]
synergize [the modern descendent of “sun+ergo” (to work together), this is one of the great evils wrought on English by manager-speak, synergy is now an empty word] This verb is 3rd person singular which connects to “all things” by treating the plural as if it were singular, all the things are one thing for this sentence.
into/toward what is good [accusative case, the direct object. Good is also ‘fitting,’ ‘proper to its’ purpose,’ and ‘what is beneficial’]

So, to simplify for actual reading purpose:

we know that to/in those loving God, all things synergize [work together] toward what is good,…

Does this say that only good things will happen? no.

It says that everything will work and be worked together to bring out what is good. God will not keep evil from our door but will work redemption in that evil and bring good from it. Evil will not have the final word.

The most profound sign of this is the way the cross is redeemed at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. Despite all the necessity laden language around it, the cross was a bad thing (is there anything good about being slowly asphyxiated?). God did not remove the cross, or eliminate it, instead it and all of its bloody evil was redeemed [literally “bought back”] when Jesus rose from the dead to show that death’s dominion is not forever.

All things working for good doesn’t mean that only good happens, it means that God redeems evil for good.

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About pstrobus

The product of a youth misspent in libraries. I realized early that language is important and that words have a great deal of power and so I listen for the shape of the ideas as well as the words.
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One Response to All things work together for what?

  1. Pingback: Patrick of Ireland, Anti-Slaver | As the Deer

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