Friday, January 14, 2011

Confessions on Romans 8:28


If you have been a Christian for while, you’ve probably heard this verse: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). It is quoted often (one of those “refrigerator verses”), especially in difficult times. One of the keys to understanding this verse is to recognize that this is about those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. It is a comfort to know that God’s purposes for will be fulfilled.

But another important key, I believe, is found in the words “work together,” or rather, the Greek word behind it, synenergeo. It is a compound word: syn means “with” or “together” and energeo means “to be at work.” As you might guess, it is from this that we get our word “synergy.” It is this prefix, syn, that interests me most — we find it in various forms (sym, sys, and syg) a number of times in Romans 8:
  • “The Spirit Himself bears witness with [symmartureo] our spirit that we are children of God ...” (v.16).
  • “… and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs [sygkleronomos] with Christ, …” (v. 17).
  • “… if indeed we suffer with [sympascho] Him, that we may also be glorified together [symdoxazo].” (v. 17).
  • “For we know that the whole creation groans [systenazo, ‘groans together’] and labors with birth pangs together [synodino] until now” (v. 22). The whole creation is waiting, Paul says, for the manifestation of the sons of God, when it is “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (v. 19-21).
  • “Likewise the Spirit also helps [synantilambanomai] in our weaknesses” (v. 26). This word speaks of two parties laying hold together, each one doing his part, like oarsmen, to obtain a goal.
In verse 23, Paul says, “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” And in verse 26, “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” The Holy Spirit groans within us and we also groan within ourselves. So, even though the prefix is not used concerning this, the Holy Spirit groans within us together with us.

What is more, Paul adds, “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (v. 27). The Father knows the mind of the Spirit who is at work within us, and the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God. In other words, the Father and the Spirit are working together on our behalf.

It is at this point then that Paul concludes, “For we know that all work together [synenergeo] for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Many translators add the word “things,” which I have left out here because it can be misleading. It is also not necessary because, in the context and flow of Romans 8, “all” refers to all that Paul has just finished listing. We can just as well say, “All these things” or leave it simply at “All.”

The point is that we have all the things Paul talks about in Romans 8 working together on our behalf. They are mighty indeed, full of the power of God, and through them God can bring forth good even in the worst of situations. So this is my confession of faith in good times and bad:
The Holy Spirit bears witness together with my spirit that I am a child of God, that I am a joint-heir together with Christ, that if I suffer together with Him I will be glorified together with Him. All creation is groaning together, waiting for me to manifest as a mature child of God, because I walk in the glorious liberty of the children of God. The Holy Spirit is groaning together with me, interceding in me, with me and for me with powerful prayers that’s express God’s great desire for me — and these prayers are being answered! All these things are now working together for my good, because I love God and I am called according to His purpose. Nothing can stop His good plan for me from being fulfilled.