Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

Verse 28 (Romans 8:28)

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God - To understand this verse aright, let us observe:

  1. That the persons in whose behalf all things work for good are they who love God, and, consequently, who live in the spirit of obedience.
  • It is not said that all things shall work for good, but that συνεργει , they work now in the behalf of him who loveth now, αγαπωσι ; for both verbs are in the present tense. All these things work together; while they are working, God's providence is working, his Spirit is working, and they are working Together with him. And whatever troubles, or afflictions, or persecutions may arise, God presses them into their service; and they make a part of the general working, and are caused to contribute to the general good of the person who now loves God, and who is working by faith and love under the influence and operation of the Holy Ghost. They who say sin works for good to them that love God speak blasphemous nonsense. A man who now loves God is not now sinning against God; and the promise belongs only to the present time: and as love is the true incentive to obedience, the man who is entitled to the promise can never, while thus entitled, (loving God), be found in the commission of sin. But though this be a good general sense for these words, yet the all things mentioned here by the apostle seem more particularly to mean those things mentioned in Romans 8:28-30 .
  • To them who are the called according to his purpose - Dr. Taylor translates τοις κλητοις , the invited; and observes that it is a metaphor taken from inviting guests, or making them welcome to a feast. As if he had said: Certainly all things work together for their good; for this reason, because they are called, invited, or made welcome to the blessings of the covenant, (which is ratified in eating of the covenant sacrifice), according to God's original purpose first declared to Abraham, Genesis 17:4 ; : Thou shalt be a father of many nations - and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him, Genesis 18:18 . Thus this clause is to be understood; and thus it is an argument to prove that all things, how afflictive soever, shall work for our good while we continue to love God. Our being called or invited, according to God's purpose, proves that all things work for our good, on the supposition that we love God, and not otherwise. For our loving God, or making a due improvement of our calling, is evidently inserted by the apostle to make good his argument. He does not pretend to prove that all things shall concur to the everlasting happiness of all that are called; but only to those of the called who love God. Our calling, thus qualified is the ground of his argument, which he prosecutes and completes in the two next verses. Our calling he takes for granted, as a thing evident and unquestionable among all Christians. But you will say: How is it evident and unquestionable that we are called? I answer: From our being in the visible Church, and professing the faith of the Gospel. For always, in the apostolic writings, all that are in the visible Church, and profess the faith of the Gospel, are numbered among the called or invited; i.e. among the persons who are invited to feast on the covenant sacrifice, and who thus, in reference to themselves, confirm and ratify the covenant. As for what is termed effectual calling, as distinguished from the general invitations of the Gospel, it is a distinction which divines have invented without any warrant from the sacred writings. Our calling, therefore, is considered by the apostle in the nature of a self-evident proposition, which nobody doubts or denies; or which, indeed, no Christian ought to doubt, or can call in question, Taylor's notes.

    - Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible