Do All Events Work Together for the Good of God's People?


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. (Rom 8:28 NKJV)

This is a much quoted verse. It is assumed that “things” refers to events. But, if so, does the verse describe reality? Consider the fate of the early Christians. Paul was beheaded; Peter was crucified upside down. Many second-century Christians were tortured and burned at stake. Did these events result in good for those Christians?

In the middle ages, the Anabaptists (the spiritual ancestors of Hutterites and Mennonites) were tortured, drowned, or burned to death. Did those events “work together for good” for those Anabaptists? Even in our day, Christians in many countries are persecuted to death using similar means. Does that work for their good?

I’m going to suggest a different interpretation. “Things” doesn’t refer to events at all. Then to what do they refer?

First I want to say the oldest extant manuscript that contains the verse contains the words “ο θεος” (ho theos), which means “the God” (usually translated simply as “God.” That manuscript is Papyrus 46, and is considered by many to have been copied in the second century, although Young Kyu Kim proposed a date in the reign of Domitian (A.D. 81-96) based on the fact that the handwriting style is exactly the same as other manuscripts dated as being in first century. All other manuscripts of Romans 8:28 are dated later than A.D. 300.

With the words words “ο θεος” included, the verse would read:
And we know that God works all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. How God does that is explained in the very next two verses:

For those whom he foreknew he also pre-appointed to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he pre-appointed he also called, and those whom he called he also made righteous, and those whom he made righteous, he also glorified.

So this is how God works all things together for good—things that He does within those who love Him. There is a sequence in His working:

  1. He pre-appoints to be conformed to the image of Christ.
  2. He calls.
  3. He makes righteous.
  4. He glorifies.


So my first question would be… Do you Don think that all events work together for the good of God’s people?

Second question would be how would those … God’s people, know if whatever happened to them happened because of what God wanted to happen…?



Through experiencing it.


So, I am trying to put this in a consumable way…

Why are not all things from God working toward the betterment of humanity? You seem to think that no, God does allow things to happen that are contrary to the betterment of humanity…

And you seem to think that the way to figure it all out is by some how they will all experience the God thing…

So what happens to the folks who do not get the GOD THING?


Chad, what is written is, “God works all things together for good to those who love Him, and who are called according to His purpose.” I explained that this could not be referring to events since Paul was beheaded; surely THAT didn’t work for his good; Peter was crucified upside down. Surely THAT didn’t work for his good. I pointed out that God’s people were tortured and put to death in the early centuries and in the middle ages. Surely THAT didn’t work for their good. Then I suggested that the very next two verses indicated that “things” referred not to events, but things that God does WITHIN those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Did you read it at all?


God worked it together for their good because they are in heaven right now seeing how it all works together for good. The promise can be fulfilled 30 seconds from now, 20 years from now, 30 million years from now, all the way in eternity. The security of the promise, “God works all things together for good for those that love Him” is the foundation for optimism that carries one though suffering and death. It gives hope beyond the grave and sustains one with a deep joy that carries one through suffering. When my faith is in God I have security and peace of mind and a deep joy and hope that carries me through suffering and death. Just like it did for the martyrs. Just like it did for Christ’s suffering death and resurrection. God brought beauty out of ashes when He raised Christ from the dead. The worst evil in human history was meant by God for good. He works everything together for good for those that love Him. To live is Christ and to die is gain.


I see it as a general statement of truth not needing to be straightjacketed to literal exactness; just like Jesus’… “whoever believes in Me shall never die” — well hello, some did. IOW… these are statements of general truth that in the main were correct for most, however, in the burgeoning ministry of the last days elect some in persecution did indeed lay down their lives — but to these in-kind were afforded particular rewards in the parousia; thus Paul’s… “all things work together for good” etc.


Actually, they all died (unless, as some claim, John the beloved is still alive on the earth). I don’t think Jesus saw physical death as Death. Disconnection (at least insofar as we perceive it) from the source of life is a “living” death. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live and he that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” “Our friend Lazareth sleepeth and I go that I may awaken him from sleep.” For Jesus, “death” seems to refer to a lack of relationship (on the part of the human) with LIFE (ie: with God). From the human POV, the human is disconnected from God.

We are not and cannot be truly separated from God or we could not exist at all, but our subjective experience and possibly our desired condition can seem to indicate no connection with God. That is, I believe, what Jesus most often references when he speaks of death.

As to all things working together for good, that is true, I think. Many things are bad, bad, bad. God didn’t orchestrate nor did He approve them, and those who do them will reap the whirlwind. Nevertheless, God will use them, however horrible they may be, for our good some how. We will be patient; we will be strong; we will be compassionate all the more for having suffered. We will love more deeply and in the end we’ll say, “It was very bad, but the reward is infinitely greater than the sorrows, great though they were.”


I agree with Cindy about death (physical) vs. Death (perceived disconnection from God). According to Strong’s, the outline of NT biblical usage of thanatos (Gr. word for death) includes:

-the death of the body
-the misery of the soul arising from sin
-the miserable state of the wicked dead in hell

Btw, regarding these verses…

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26.

…might they not provide a picture of what happens at the [final] rapture? First, those who are physically dead in Christ (v 25) are resurrected to meet with Christ. Then “whoever lives” – those who are alive at the time of the rapture (v 26) – will be taken, never having had to experience physical death.

That suggested interpretation of the words of Christ would be in harmony with what Paul later assures us,

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.


So on this basis, if you go out and shoot a Christian causing his death, God has worked through you to shoot him in order to bring about the good of his being in heaven forever.


Well… it might be better to be “straightjacketed to literal exactness” than allegorize or symbolize it away so as to lose the intended meaning of the passage entirely.

The words of Jesus are literally “Whoever believes in me shall not die into the age.”
“Die” is in the aorist tense and could be continuous—“shall not be dying into the age.”

That is, whoever believes in Jesus shall not remain dead right into the next age, but on the last day of this age when Jesus returns, He will raise him to life again.

(John 6:40) “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”


So on this basis, if you go out and shoot a Christian causing his death, God has worked through you to shoot him in order to bring about the good of his being in heaven forever

I hold to the Catholic view that God is indeed control. But I also hold to the paradox that man has free will. I don’t use the term free will though but human responsibility. More specific, I hold to the view of Jonathan Edwards in that God PERMITS evil but doesn’t directly cause evil. For if God directly caused evil this would make Him the author of evil. Says Edwards:

If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing…it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin.

Edwards says God is:

the permitter of sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if permitted…will most certainly and infallibly follow.

God has established a world in which evil comes to pass by His permission not His positive agency. Edwards uses an analogy of how the sun brings about light and warmth by it’s essential nature, but brings about cold and dark by dropping below the horizon. Evil is not the fruit of any positive agency or influence of God but arises from the withholding of His action and energy. Why does God allow evil? There are different views and many different reasons God could permit evil. But I go along with R.C. Sproul here:

I have to say that I have no idea why God allows evil to besmirch His universe. However, I know that when God ordains anything, His purpose is altogether good…In terms of His eternal purpose, God has esteemed it good that evil should be allowed to happen in this world. - Does God Control Everything, page 50

This is only reasonable. For God is infinite in wisdom and knowledge and sees all of reality while I am finite and limited. His justifiable reasons are infinite. When it comes to logical explanations they are infinite. Especially when we are dealing with infinite wisdom and knowledge. Moreover, relationships are based on trust. Many times I’ve tried to analyze and figure God out with logic that I drove myself nuts. Being infinite in wisdom and knowledge, God’s ways are infinitely above mine. I don’t know His sovereign will until it comes to pass. His sovereign will is His business. My job is to trust Him and humbly do mercy and justice… And because of the suffering death and resurrection of Christ I have good reason to trust Him. For He brings beauty out of ashes and works everything together for my good because I love Him. My faith is in Him. I therefore have hope. The past is gone and my future is secure. I’m free to live in the present moment.

God’s mysterious heart is infinitely complex and cannot be grasped by our finite and limited mind. He is paradox. Take for instance the evil murder of His Son. In one sense God wasn’t pleased when innocent Christ was murdered. God doesn’t delight in torture and evil in and of itself. What He was pleased in was what Christ accomplished on the cross is showing love and grace to sinners. Again, God’s sovereign will is His business. We don’t know it until it comes to pass. We are to go by His revealed will. The secret things belong to the Lord. This is why often in the Bible God will use evil to judge His people and then turn around and judge those who committed the evil against His people. God’s holy intentions and justifiable reasons in permitting the evil were good. Man’s intentions in committing the sinful acts were evil and they are held accountable.


I have argued elsewhere that God has already disallowed all evil:

And further, regarding how to establish that disallowance, I said here,


“Compatiblism” or any other name people use for a combination of free will and determinism is contradictory. Either people choose their actions or God does. Free will and determinism are mutually exclusive.


It’s a very old argument, and not settled in everyone’s mind.


Hmm! I wonder if the non-denominational site - Got Questions…has a definition and biblical commentary???


What exactly is the difference? If God “permits” evil when He could prevent it, in what way is this “better” than directly causing it?


After reading that i’m left wondering why anyone would think there is any difference between Determinism & Compatibilism. They both appear to lead to Double Predestination if one is a 5 point Calvinist. IOW humans are like robots & Love Omnipotent arbitrarily chooses some for heaven & chooses others to be tortured forever & there is nothing any of them could do about it, since God orchestrates their lives just as a person with a remote control controls a TV.


That is huge, and the 100,000 dollar question (an old American TV Show)

My position is that we look at evil in a different paradigm, God has done in his infinite wisdom what he needs to do to shape humanity to his liking. :slightly_smiling_face:


:question: I… “allegorize or symbolize” nothing away. I was pointing out that some indeed DID literally die! My point being… Jesus’ statement might be viewed as a general truth. I might say the sky is pink… well given certain circumstances that can indeed be the case; it’s just not an all-encompassing carte blanch literal fact.

IF your continuous sense were correct which translations can you quote giving that rendering of that verse?

As per <ἀποθάνῃ> apothanē of Jn11:26 here are all the other NT references of where the same aorist active subjunctive 3rd person singular is used… Mt 22:24; Mk 12:19; Jn 6:50; 11:25, 37; 12:24; Rom 7:2, 3; 1Cor 15:36 — NOT ONE expresses your continuous tense. If you’re looking for the continuous tense, i.e., the participle try the likes of 2Cor 6:9; Heb 11:21.