The Meaning of Romans 8:28 - Does God Really Work All Things for Good?

To say God works all things for good is a big statement. So does it really mean that?

Contributing Writer
Updated May 04, 2023
The Meaning of Romans 8:28 - Does God Really Work All Things for Good?

The statement God works all things for good is based on a promise in Romans.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Before we study this statement, let me begin by telling you I consider this the most amazing promise in all of Scripture. I will tell you why shortly. For now, let’s look closer at what this all means.

What Does “God Works All Things for Good” Mean?

There are four key elements of this short phrase, and I want to break them down for you.

1. God. The first part of this phrase is the engine behind this promise: it comes from God. A promise is only as good as the person who is making it. Thankfully, God has an exemplary track record of doing what he says he will do. He has never broken a promise yet, and he never will. The confidence in this statement comes only because God is the one making it happen. If you remove God, none of this promise works.

“From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.” (Isaiah 46:11)

2. Works. Sometimes we forget God’s ability to maneuver situations in our life. We know from Revelation that God is the one who opens doors that no one can shut and closes doors that no one can open. Not only does he do that, but he controls times, seasons, wind, and the waves. Everything moves at his command. When you look at your life, God is at work in it. There is an expression when someone is ahead of everybody else: “He is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.’ That is how God works. By the time we catch up or even figure out what he is doing, he is many moves down the road. Knowing God is at work means he is on the job looking out for you.

“He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4)

3. All things. I consider Romans 8:28 the most amazing promise in Scripture because of the word “all.” All means all. What are some things God works through? He works with your successes and your good decisions. He works with your failures and your bad ones too. He works in your high moments. He works in your low moments. God works all things for good when you do them right and does the same when you do them wrong, because all means all.

4. For good. The last words are “for good.” This phrase means that whatever God works in your life is inherently for your benefit and has your best interest at heart.

Three Mistakes We Make Interpreting “God Works All Things for Good”

There are several things we need to keep in mind as we read this passage.

1. God works all things for good does not mean all things will feel good. When people think about God working all things for good, they often think this means everything will feel good. This is just not the case. For example, what Jesus endured on the cross was for good. However, I can assure you it didn’t feel good when he was going through it. We do many other things that may not feel good at the moment, but we know they are for our benefit. I can think of exercise as one of those things. We must be careful not to confuse “for good” with “feels good.” If you do, you will be disappointed in life and miss what God is doing because it may not feel good at the moment.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

2. God works all things for good does not mean bad things won’t happen. Sometimes we can fall victim to bad theology that gives off the impression nothing bad will ever happen in our lives if we are Christians. Satan uses this lie to his advantage. Remember the story of Job. His friends tried to convince him the catastrophe that happened in his life was because of some sin he had committed. The reasoning here is, “if you do right by God, he will do right by you, and nothing bad will happen to you.” We still make this mistake today. Some will try to tell you when bad things happen, there must be some sin in your life. While this could be true, it is not always the case. Just consider Job. Bad things can happen because of sin, but that does not mean the sin that caused it is your own. That’s why this promise is so amazing: God takes everything that happens, good and bad, and works them for your good. Again, look at Job.

3. God works all things for good is a conditional promise. This verse in Romans has two parts. What gets quoted most often is, “God works all things for good.” This part of the promise gets so many amens and shouts of praise. However, there is a major condition attached to this promise. God indeed works all things for good, but only “for those who love him and who have been called for his purpose.”

So many people I hear quote the first part of this verse but leave out the last part. Here is what this verse means. If you love God and are called to do his will, he will work all things in your life for good. For this promise to work, you must meet the condition of knowing God and loving God. If you don’t know him or desire to follow him, then God has no obligation to work all things for good in your life. However, you can claim this promise for your life if you do. Like I said earlier, everything won’t feel good, but everything will be for your good.

One Last Word on God Works All Things for Good

One thing this promise allows you to do is relax. This promise does not mean you must get everything right. The most important part of this promise to focus on is loving God. If you love God, you will desire to do his will and set your heart on doing what pleases him. When you desire God’s will, he will take all things and work them for your good.

This does not mean you will get everything you want in the way you want it. It means he will take everything you do and everything that happens to you and rework it for your good. You may lose your job, face a health challenge, or face another difficult life situation. This promise does not shield you from that. However, you can be confident in knowing that if you set your heart on loving God, he will take even the most difficult of life’s circumstances and maneuver them so they will be for your good. Remember, God is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.

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This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

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