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This series offers an overview of the chief teachings of the Christian church.

“We know that all things work together for good . (Romans 8:28) Many Christians have applied these words in many situations and to many hearts, including their own, because this passage is incredibly reassuring.

Paul continues, “. . . to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This promise that buoys our spirits as waves of uncertainty and sorrow buffet our souls is for believers only and is built upon the truth of God’s predestination.

Paul continues in the following verses, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. . . . Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)

Step by step, Paul explains the pathway to a believer’s confidence. It begins with God eternally foreknowing the believers. This is not simply God’s omniscience, but rather knowing all things with gracious purpose, leading to the predestination of those souls so that they will be brought to faith. To accomplish this eternal predestination, in time God calls these souls with the Gospel, through faith brings them to trust the justification Jesus earned for all sinners, and then glorifies them with Himself eternally.

At any given time and in any particular situation, a believer knows that all things work together for good to him because God foreknew him from eternity; and He has done and will continue to do everything that is necessary to bring him to a glorious end.

Paul wrote similarly to the Ephesians, “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . has blessed us with every spiritual blessing . . . in Christ , just as He chose us in Him (read more following Ephesians 1:3-4). Paul emphasized that every spiritual blessing originates from God’s choosing us before the world began, and it all depends upon and flows from Christ. Simply put, our eternal salvation is not a matter of chance, but God has purposed and planned it from eternity, all in connection with Christ.

One may ask, “Am I one of the elect?” However, that is the wrong question. The better question is, “Do I have faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior?” If so, then rejoice and take confidence in the fact that God chose you from eternity and has done everything to bring to you into that faith; therefore, you know that all things work together for your good.

One might reason, “I believe in Jesus, I’m one of the elect, and therefore I can live a life of sin and indulge in selfish pursuits and still inherit eternal life.” This is not faith speaking, for “how shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:2)

Human reason also suggests, “If God chose some for faith, that means He also chose, or at least left, some to be damned eternally.” God’s predestination does not explain why some and not others are saved eternally, and to use this doctrine in that way is a misapplication of Scripture. God clearly says that He “ desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4; see also 2 Peter 3:9)

“Well, then, there must be some difference that God sees in the ones whom He chooses.” No, we are all equally dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). We were not chosen in view of faith or in view of anything we would do. Faith is the result of God’s eternal election, not the cause of it (2 Timothy 1:9).

This truth is pure Gospel, which God reveals to us so “that through the encouragement of Scripture we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) It is the assurance that while God blesses us with spiritual blessings during our lives on earth, He is carrying out what He purposed in eternity to do for us; and that is why we know and are confident that all things work together for good by His grace.

Wayne Eichstadt is pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley, Washington.