Often when believers are going through tough times they will hear someone say, “You know, all things work together for good for them that love God.” While their encouragement is good, often we tend to use this verse as a way of saying hang in there, things will get better. However, when looking at these words from Romans 8:28 in context, there is so much more that we can learn that will encourage us.
What is the context of Romans 8:28?
Romans 8:1 begins with the word therefore, which indicates that the chapter is a continuation of a subject from Romans 7. Romans 7 contains a discussion on how the law has dominion over a person. However, the law has a purpose – to teach us about sin and our need for a Savior. It does this by making us aware of the war within ourselves between our mind and our body. This war demonstrates itself in our body continually wanting to serve the law of sin while our minds strive to serve the law of God.
As we see our need for a Savior and trust Him to deliver us from the penalty of our sins, we are delivered from the condemnation of the law by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also speaks to us, which inspires us to seek after the things of the Spirit. This new nature also gives us the power to make positive changes in our life. The certainty of the future and the ability to make positive changes in our life gives us hope for the future. It is with this context that we come upon Romans 8:26-27, which tells us that the Holy Spirit also helps us with our infirmities in concert with God the Father and God the Son.
These infirmities are defined as weakness or feebleness in mind and body accompanied by moral shortcomings resulting from our weakness of faith (1). However, the Holy Spirit does a work in us that helps us to see the reality of Romans 8:28, stated as follows: “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.” Therefore, understanding the context of Romans 8:28 explained in how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together gives us hope.
How does Romans 8:28 give us hope?
In Romans 8:26-28, we are told:
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 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.”
On a deeper level, these verses show us that when we are struggling in our infirmities and do not even know what we should pray for, that the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us. In other words, He prays for us. At the same time, “He that searches the hearts knoweth the mind of the Spirit…” This is a reference to God the Son, Jesus Christ, Who knows what is on the mind of the Spirit that lives in us (Psalms 44:21; Jeremiah 17:10; John 14:15-29). At the same time, God the Son, Jesus Christ, “Maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
To sum this up, we learn that when we do not even know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit searches our hearts for those things that are of concern and communicates those things to God the Son. God the Son then brings them before God the Father seeking His will in our situation. All this communication between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit takes place with “groanings,” or prayerful sighs, which cannot be uttered or spoken by humans (2).
This context describes a communication that takes place between the Holy Trinity of God in a language not able to be spoken by humans on our behalf without us even knowing what is going on. It is with this context that we can fully appreciate Romans 8:28, which says, “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.” Knowing that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are already working on our infirmities even when we do not know what to do should give those whom love God peace and comfort that He has all things under control.
Finally, we see in Romans 8:29-30 that God foreknew before the foundations of the earth that whatever situation we are in would happen and that He had a plan.
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
Of particular note is the phrase, “For whom He did foreknow,” which refers to “them that love God” in verse 28. In other words, God foreknew also who would love Him! And, if God foreknew who would love Him, in eternity past, He also foreknew who would trust Christ as their Savior. We know this because we are told in 1 John 5:1-5 that those who love God are believers.
Therefore, God foreknew who would trust Him and love Him so He had a plan to intercede in our infirmities. Yet, we also see from Romans 8:29-30 that He also predestined those whom He foreknew to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus in salvation and eventually perfection so that we may one day stand before Him perfect, as His Son is perfect! Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!
Many times when believers are going through tough times they will hear someone say, “You know, all things work together for good for them that love God.” Romans 8:26-27 tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us with our infirmities in concert with God the Father and God the Son even when we do not know what to pray for. With this in mind, we can have peace in knowing that God has a plan for us that will one day result in us standing before Him in a state of perfection, just as His Son Jesus is perfect.
More to study: Bible Verses from Romans
Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: With Topical Index. “Infirmity” Page 324. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1996. Print. (2) Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: With Topical Index. “Goran, Groaning” Page 282. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1996. Print.