Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Comfort of Romans 8:28

     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.

This is a truly comforting passage from God’s Holy Scripture. These words, recorded by the Apostle Paul, speak to our hearts in times of trouble, in times of deepest distress, when we imagine that the darkness that fills this world and the days of this evil age is too great to endure.

This particular verse is magnified by the words that follow:
     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. 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. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Romans 8:28-34)

When examined in the greater context of the entire epistle, verse 28 becomes so much greater than the darkness of our times that the light of God’s grace fills us with hope that cannot be extinguished. For that light and that hope are from everlasting, even from eternity.

Following the word order our passage is translated:
     “Moreover, we know that to those loving God all things He works together (synergizes) into good according to the setting forth called being.”

Synergei, which means synergize or work together, is third person and singular. This is why we know what we know about these things, because they do not work together for our good on their own, but rather, God synergizes them into good for us. God is at work in the midst of absolutely everything that is happening and He synergizes all things with His good and gracious will for us so that they must turn out for good to us.

This, St. Paul informs us, is the synergy that God works “according to the setting forth called being.” This is an ancient way of speaking, going back to the very first recorded Scriptures from Moses. (Exodus 29:23; 40:4 & 23; Leviticus 24:8) This “setting forth” is the exact same term used for the shewbread that the Lord set forth to be continually before Him in the Sanctuary. This shewbread is the body of the Lord Jesus, who stands in the presence of God interceding for us. This is the body of Christ that is given in and with the shewbread that is broken and distributed in the Sacrament of the Altar in the divine service each Lord’s Day. This is what makes us the “according to the setting forth called being.” This is what makes us truly to be the body of Christ, gathered in His name. According to the body of Christ in the Sacrament, we are the called being.

Truly this is terribly wonderful! For not one thing of this depends upon what we do. Rather, everything that we do as the body of Christ, the “called being”, depends upon the “according to the setting forth,” the shewbread that is on the altar for the priests of the New Testament to partake. Yes, as St. Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9, we are the “royal priesthood” for whom the shewbread is reserved. Thus we are maintained in the Holy Communion of God to partake of all good things in communion with Him. As such we have been generated through Baptism as “those loving God.”

It is through Baptism that we are “conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” It is through the blessed Sacrament of the Altar that we are maintained in His image as His brethren.

Because these Sacraments are God’s synergism and not ours, because He is the one who joins the natural elements to the power of His command and promise, they accomplish the good that He has purposed for us. And since all things are synergized by God according to this setting forth of the body of Christ for us, all things are worked together into good for us. God works all these things together to call us to repent of our own efforts and our own goodness so that we trust Him to be our God and Savior and rely upon Him for all that we need both of body and soul. As long as we continue in the synergism that God works for us, everything is good.

This is why St. Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 11:29 “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” For it is not possible to receive God’s holy synergism except in accord with His setting forth in the body of Christ gathered as the “called being.” If we do not discern the body of Christ, how can we be gathered as the body of Christ? If we are not gathered as the body of Christ, how can we partake of the good things that are offered only in His body? But, rightly discerning the body of Christ, we continue in the communion of the saints, the called being, those loving God. Then we truly know that God is synergizing all things into good for us. Then we abide in the complete and absolute confidence of His grace, mercy, and peace, even when everything around us appears to be darkness and dread.

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