Sunday, August 29, 2010

Working For Good

For as long as I can remember, I've heard Romans 8:28 heralded from church pulpits with no small amount of regularity. Here's the text, if you don't know it already:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28 (KJV)

And again, in another translation (the one I most commonly read):

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

What a powerful verse, right?! And so many applications, from motivation to comfort to conviction (at least according to the various pastors I've heard speak about the verse). Check it out:

  • Is life without meaning? Nope. God has a purpose for you.
  • What do I get out of loving God? Good stuff happens!
  • Why did God make SOME_BAD_THING happen? It wasn't really a bad thing, you just haven't seen the good in it yet.
  • Nono. It's really a bad thing. So why did God make SOME_BAD_THING happen? Um... are you not loving God enough? KA-BOOM!

Pretty cool stuff, huh? It's like a spiritual bat utility belt (Bible Belt? Ewww...).

But did you notice those footnote markers up there in the NIV version? I didn't. At least not until tonight. The footnote markers each denote different ways that the text could have been interpreted and translated from the original sources. Check out how the verse reads if you substitute the alternate translation marked "b":

And we know that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who have been called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Whoa! It's like a whole different verse now. Suddenly the responsibility for bringing about good in the world falls back in our laps. We no longer just get to live a detached existence, loving God in a vacuum and ignoring those around us and then reaping all the resulting good stuff. Now we have to work — with God, who we of course still love — to bring about that good for ourselves and for others.

Quite honestly, I rather like that interpretation much better. It somehow seems more… logical; more consistent with the action-demonstrated kind of faith championed elsewhere throughout Scripture. What do you think?


  1. Yes, the last few weeks I have come to see this verse afresh according to this translation and it so fits with God's overarching plan for humanity to share with him bringing goodness and order where there is chaos. The following page is an excellent exposition of this as the correct translation:

    God bless

    1. Thanks for the link, Mark. I have zero knowledge of Biblical languages, so I found the article you referenced fascinating ... and convincing! It's been a few years since I wrote this blog post, but I've never been able to shake the sense that the NIV-footnoted translation of the verse is one that best jives with the rest of Scripture (as I know it).