The Paradoxical Pattern of Jesus’s Life
Just as God did for his Son, so for his adopted sons he is always at work turning bad situations ultimately (whether in this life or later) into good ones, reversing defeat into victory. This general principle of ironic reversion, according to which God is constantly working in favor of his people, is set forth lucidly in this twenty-eighth verse: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,” those who have trusted in Christ’s saving death (see also Rom. 8:30–34). Roman Christians to whom Paul was writing needed to be reminded of this truth since they were undergoing various forms of suffering and persecution because of their faith. Just as we today might be tempted to feel forsaken by God, so Paul’s original readers were fearful that their lamentable circumstances could be an indication that God had abandoned and forgotten them.
Bringing Good Out of Evil
The life of the Christian is based on and modeled after that of Jesus Christ. Christ persevered in his faith in spite of pressures to compromise and was killed because of it. Nevertheless, his death was reversed into life and was overcome through resurrection. Jesus’s ironic overcoming is pictured in Revelation 5:5–6, 11–12:
Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. . . . And I saw . . . a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain. . . . And I heard the voice of many angels . . . saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
Jesus conquered the forces of evil through both his death and his resurrection. John first hears that Jesus overcame as a lion (Rev. 5:5), but when he sees a vision of his Lord, he perceives exactly in what manner Jesus won his victory: Jesus overcame by being overcome at the cross. The cross itself was an invisible victory over satanic forces and was subsequently expressed visibly in his resurrection body. So the Lamb slew his spiritual opponents by allowing himself to be slain temporarily (see Rev. 1:18; cf. 4:67 and 5:5–6 with 15:21). This is why immediately before his death he told his disciples, “Take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).Christians should reflect in their lives the same paradoxical pattern of their Lord’s life. We also must persevere in faith through temptations to compromise. When we remain steadfast in belief, we also, like our Savior, will suffer tribulation. Yet our victory lies in the continued maintenance of faith in the face of discouraging circumstances. Jesus says, “If any one wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Christ is saying not merely that we should model our lives after his life but that it must be so modeled, and will be, if we are genuine believers. Christians must overcome through faith while suffering, as Jesus did.
God Works for Our Good
It is helpful to focus on Romans 8:28 in its immediate context in Romans 8. Just as God did for his Son, so for his adopted sons he is always at work turning bad situations ultimately (whether in this life or later) into good ones, reversing defeat into victory.