At our church, our pastor has been preaching through the book of Romans. This past week we went over Romans 8:28 and learned about the fact that God works all things–without exception–for the good of his people. The “all things” trips some people up, but if we’re to be faithful to the Word, then we must not qualify “all” any more than the context itself does. (See my pastor’s follow-up post from the day after the sermon for further elaboration.)
Some people take ideas like that and (rightly) say something like, “Wow! What an awesome God, that he would work all things for our good.” They then hastily conclude that the purpose of God in creation is to have right relationship with people. Pomo tendencies definitely swing in this direction and many at my former place of study would argue this vehemently.
But I cannot help but think that they must be reading their Bibles with sunglasses on or something, because they seem to be missing half the story.
For starters, God’s plan would be a pretty big failure if he just wanted relationship with people and yet still the percentage of Christians in the world is relatively small (if that were his only purpose). But there’s more than that. And it’s there all over the place…
Just this morning, I’m reading through the book of Exodus for my OT class and I couldn’t help but notice this. To say that God is concerned primarily with the salvation of his people as an end in itself, one would have to be an open theist. Otherwise, why would God send all the plagues? You must say either (1) God didn’t know how Pharaoh would respond (Ex. 4:21-23), or (2) he had some other purpose. Since God had predicted quite clearly beforehand that he knew Pharaoh would not listen, we can rightly conclude that God had another purpose.
He states that purpose as well: “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders my be multiplied in the land of Egypt…. and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.” Clearly, if God was only concerned about acquiring freedom for his people, he would not have hardened Pharaoh’s heart. We must conclude, then, that God was telling the truth when he said he did it so that his wonders would be multiplied.
God was primarily concerned with glorifying himself. Secondarily, and derivatively, he was concerned with saving his people. Because the redemption of his people is derived from his passion for displaying his glory, we can rest assured that God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Because his purpose is to save sinners, to his great glory.
Those who would argue that the God of the OT is hard to equate with the God of the NT simply miss the point that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and his purposes will never change. That’s why in the NT, Paul could look back on this event and quote with affirmation God’s purposes in creating Pharaoh: “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
In fact, that’s God’s purpose in raising us all up…