Romans Chapter 8

Covenant of Redemption

Chapter 8, Verses 28-30 Part 3

Rom. 8:28‑30 is commonly known as the "Covenant of Redemption."  It is an unconditional covenant that God made with himself to procure the salvation, new birth, and glorification of those he foreknew. 

The statement at the beginning of this passage has been a subject of much discussion and controversy in religious circles thru the ages.  This statement causing controversy is "All things work together for good to them that love God."  The controversy revolves around the meaning of the word "all."  Is the "all" in this passage a universal "all" or a contextual "all?"  All can be universal, i.e., embracing everything without exception or it can be contextual, i.e., embracing only those things within the context.  If the "all" is universal, then the statement would teach that everything that ever happens whether good or bad ultimately works together for good to them that love God.  If, however, the "all" is contextual then the statement would be referring only to the things within the context, i.e., God's foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.  Using the contextual "all" would teach only that "all" refers to the above five things and these five things are working together for good to them that love God. 

Sometimes, I hear people make the statement after something good has happened to someone that "all things work together for good to them that love God."  I, personally, have never heard anyone say that after something bad had happened to someone! 

Now, if the "all" in "all things" is universal then all sins, evil, the devil, his angels, and every catastrophe as well as everything else that happens in the universe would work together for good to them that love God.  For the all to be universal there could be no exceptions.  Since the above listed things such as sin, evil, the devil, his ministry, and catastrophes don't on the surface appear to be working together for our good, God is assigned the responsibility of controlling those things in such a way that ultimately they work together for good for those who love God.  Usually the passage where Joseph told his brethren, who sold him into Egyptian slavery, is quoted, "ye meant it for evil, but God meant it for good," to attempt to substantiate a universal "all" things. 

When in doubt about the meaning of God's word, our best course of action is to let the scriptures speak as to the meaning.  Rom. 3:7, 8 reads, "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?  And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? Whose damnation is just."  Paul said it was a slander for anyone to report that he or those with him said "Let us do evil that good may come."  Now if my or anyone else's evil deeds result in good to them that love God, then why did Paul say it was a slander?  Thus it would appear that the universal "all" theory does not stand up under the scrutiny of God's word. 

 Now all this is not to say that sometimes God providentially intervenes in our lives and turns "lemons into lemonade."  This has happened, no doubt, many times in the lives of his people, but this doesn't justify saying that God will take every evil and every sin that is ever committed and make each of them work for our good.

My conclusion is that the "all" in Rom. 8:28 is a contextual "all" and that everything about God's foreknowing a people, predestinating them to be conformed to the image of Christ, calling them, justifying them and glorifying them works together for our good.  Paul concludes in v. 31, "What shall we then say to "these" things?  If God be for us, who can be against us?"  The "these things" are the "five things" in v. 29 and 30 which are the "all things" in v. 28. 

Rom. 8:28-30 Part 4

Before proceeding to notice how and why the five things in Rom. 8:29, 30 in the covenant of redemption work together for good to them that love God, let us notice that the five things listed in those verses are all listed in the past tense ‑ foreknew, predestinated, called, justified, glorified.  Now we know that from a timely standpoint we were not all called at the time this was written, nor are we yet conformed to the image of Christ as we will be, nor are we completely glorified in the sense that we will be according to this covenant.  How then can we explain how the past tense verbs can be used?  The answer is found for us in Rom. 4:17, "(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who  quickened the dead, and calleth those things that be not as though they were."  God can call things that be not as though they were because what God purposes to do must be done!  Since the covenant of redemption shows us God's eternal purpose, He is justified in using the past tense though to us some of those things are yet future.  Remember, what God purposes to do is as good as done. 

Next, we want to consider the good that those five things work together.  The end result of those five things are all eternal good for those whom God foreknew.  Now there is much timely good that comes to us during our lifetime, such as providential blessings, growth in spiritual knowledge, fellowship with God and his people, true worship of God, etc.  These and many more are timely blessings and certainly can be classified as good to us and for us.  However, the good in the covenant of redemption transcends timely blessings and speaks to us of eternal good.  First, we will be conformed to the image of Christ and that conformation is for an eternity.  Second, the result of God's calling is that we are born again, and that spiritual birth gives us eternal life in the spirit.  Third, our justification from sins places us in a righteous position with God that can never be altered.  Fourth, our glorification in body, soul, and spirit is eternal.   

Now let us proceed to consider how those five things ‑ foreknew, predestinated, called, justified, glorified ‑ work together for that eternal good to those that love God.  Please note the unity of effect that those five things have.   This is noted thru the use of the pronouns, whom and them.  For when the scripture says "whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate...and whom he did predestinate, them he also called...," we note the absolute unity of action and effect upon the ones being acted upon.  In other words, the same ones that God foreknew are the exact same ones that he predestinated, and the exact same ones that he called, and the exact same ones that he justified, and the exact same ones that he glorified.  There are not more or less that he foreknew than he predestinated or more or less that he predestinated than he called, etc.  Thus he foreknew the same number of people that he also predestinated, called, justified and glorified.  The effect upon us individually is that once he foreknew us, he also predestinates us, calls us, justifies us, and glorifies us.  Thus if I am the beneficiary of one of the actions of God in this covenant then I am a beneficiary of all five of the actions in this covenant.  Thus they all work together for our eternal good.   

But why is it that they all work together?  The answer is because the action is all of God.  None of the things listed in this covenant requires any action on man's part.  The covenant speaks of whom God foreknew and of whom God predestinated, and of whom God called, and of whom God justified, and of whom God glorified.  This is the reason why those five things work together.  It is all in keeping with God's eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  This is why there can be no failure in this covenant.  It is an unconditional covenant, that is, there is no conditions placed on man to perform in order for the provisions of this covenant to be carried out.  All of the provisions will be carried out by God.  No wonder the writer could say in verse 31, "what shall we then say to these things?  If God be for us, who can be against us?"  One might be tempted to say, "Well the devil and all the fallen angels are against us, as well as the messengers of Satan, and a wicked world."  But it doesn't matter who might attempt to oppose us, for God is for us and he has all power in heaven and in earth and none can stay his hand or say unto him, what doest thou.  God is greater than all the combined forces of all creation and God will bring to pass what he purposes to do.  God cannot fail or be discouraged.  We can rejoice in the knowledge that those five things in his covenant of redemption work together for our eternal good, because God is the one who is working the covenant. 

In our next essay we will begin looking at what the scriptures have to say about each of the five things listed in the covenant of redemption beginning with those whom God foreknew.