The oldest existing Greek manuscript that contains Romans 8:28 is Papyrus 46. This manuscript is dated as having been copied around A.D. 150. It clearly states, not that “All things work together for good,” but that “God works everything together for good.” The New American Standard Bible takes this into account.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NASB)
However, taken in isolation, the statement is clearly false. For there are many tragedies that take place in the lives of some of those who have been called and who love God—events that God doesn’t work together for their good at all. But the “all things” do not refer to all events in the lives of those God calls, but the things which God is working in their lives.
But let’s look at the context:
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;
30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (NASB)
That little word “For” at the beginning of verse 29 connects it and verse 30 to verse 28.
There is a sequence in God’s work in them whom He has called and who love Him.
In those individuals in whom God intends to work, God is said to “foreknow” them. This is just another way of saying that God intends to work in them.
God also pre-appointed them to be conformed to the image of His Son. “Pre-appointed” is a better translation than “predestined” since the latter word suggests to people in our day, that this conformation to the Son’s image is inevitable.
Those whom He pre-appointed, these He also called.
Those whom He called, these He also made righteous. “Justified” is technically correct, but our concept of “justified” is different from the intent here. Being made righteous is a life-long process, which will be completed at Christ’s return.
…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)
Why then is the word for “made righteous” in the Aorist tense? (this is a past tense). Because this whole sequence of events within the called ones is related from beginning to end. This becomes clear in the next one.
Those whom He made righteous, these He also glorified. Clearly, no one is yet glorified. But they will be when the process is completed at Christ’s return.
He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.