News Articles

Romans 8:28, oft-used after Wedgwood, often is misunderstood, MacGorman say

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–One of the best-known promises that Christians reach for in the wake of tragedies such as the Wedgwood Baptist Church shootings can also be one of the most misused and misunderstood, said Jack MacGorman.
Jack MacGorman, distinguished professor emeritus of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told students at a Sept. 21 chapel service that Romans 8:28, which states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” has been one of the most misapplied verses in all of Scripture.
Without doubt, he said, it has often provided encouragement.
“Men and women of faith have often turned for help to this promise,” said MacGorman in the second Southwestern chapel since the Sept. 15 shooting that claimed the lives of two seminary students and one graduate, along with four teens, along with wounding two other seminarians and affecting many seminary faculty, staff, students and alumni who attend Wedgwood or know the victims.
In a New Testament class he taught Sept. 16, MacGorman devoted almost the entire time to prayer, and the promise of Romans 8:28 could be heard among the prayers of the students, he recalled.
In addition, he noted, references to this verse were among the many tributes left at the church.
That passage in Romans, MacGorman continued, “has been a significant part in my own personal pilgrimage of faith. I know that the promise of this great verse is true.”
Still, the verse has been misused and misunderstood, he said.
One of the things Romans 8:28 does not say is that all things work together for the good of all people.
“There is no such Scripture,” MacGorman said, citing Ezekiel, which states “the soul that sins shall die,” and Romans 6:23, which states that “the wages of sin is death.”
The promise was “not for Achan or Jezebel in the Old Testament, or for Ananias and Sapphira in the New,” MacGorman said.
It is directed to “those for whom the promise obtains, to those who love God, who have responded to the call in Jesus Christ,” he said. “It is to those who have decided that God can be a greater architect of our lives than we can.”
In addition, MacGorman said, verse 28 does not say that all things that happen are good.
“The only world we know about found Jesus Christ intolerable, nailed him to a cross and would do it all over again,” MacGorman said.
This world is at the same time one of both beauty and pain, and while committing our lives to Jesus Christ provides no immunity against adversity, it does provide immunity against aloneness and meaninglessness, he said.
There is nothing in verse 28 that says that all things that happen are God’s doing, MacGorman also noted.
“I do not believe that God triggers the disasters that break our hearts,” he said forcefully, adding that well-meaning people who want to console those in pain often say that somehow these kinds of events are the will of God.
MacGorman drew on an incident that took place in the 1960s, when a Southwestern student named Pat Smallwood, along with his wife and child, were killed when they hit a car that had been left in the middle of a busy highway by someone who had been drinking. That incident was prosecuted as manslaughter, MacGorman recalled.
“I can in no way take the transgression of the will of God and hocus-pocus it into the carrying out of the will of God.,” he said. But: “I do believe that he promises to help us overcome the disaster.”
MacGorman said that to understand Romans 8:28 fully, it should be read along with the following verse, which tells Christians that the promised good is to be conformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
“Good is an abstract term,” MacGorman said. “We read our idea into it and expect God to fulfill that definition.”
And while God uses every blessing as a means of doing the good of conforming Christians to the likeness of Christ, MacGorman said, he “isn’t limited to a cloudless sky. He has a wonderful way of meeting us at the level of our crushing sorrows.”

    About the Author

  • Cory J. Hailey