THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF THE CHRISTIAN
by Wayne S. Walker
In view of all the trials, difficulties, afflictions, temptations, and other problems that we face in life, how can a Christian be confident that he is in a right relationship with God and has the hope of eternal life? And even if he does everything that he is supposed to, how can he be sure that when he gets to the end of the way, the promised reward will be waiting for him? Paul gives an answer to these questions in Romans 8:18-28. In verse 18, he reminds us that we shall suffer trials and tribulations in this life, but says that the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed afterward. Then in verse 28 he tells us why we can look forward to this promise, writing, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." This passage explains for us the safety and security of the Christian.
First, what is Paul talking about? He says that "all things work together." The big debate on this passage through the years has been whether the term "all things" is absolutely inclusive of everything or to be limited to certain specific things by the context. Those who believe that the term must be limited by the context will often argue that God does not cause bad things to happen in order to work out good for people. Of course, we recognize that this is true. The Bible teaches that God does not tempt any man with evil (James 1:13-18). Thus, they usually conclude that "all things" refers only to the things which God has done to provide for man’s redemption.
However, the passage does not actually say that God causes anything, only that all things work together for good. Bad things happen; that is a fact of life. But God can take even bad things, which He Himself did not cause, and use them for good. For example, in Philippians 1:1-13,Paul wrote that his imprisonment had resulted in even some among the palace guard hearing and obeying the gospel. Other passages (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-12) teach that tribulations and temptations which God allows but does not cause can help us develop patience and hope. Therefore, my conclusion is that "all things" is inclusive of anything and everything that might happen, including our sufferings in this life, and the only limitation is imposed by the verse itself as I shall mention later.
Second, how do all things work together? Paul says, "For good." This simply means, again, that God can take anything, even bad things which He did not necessarily will to happen, and use them to accomplish some good purpose. One perfect illustration of this is Joseph. God did not cause Joseph’s brothers to be jealous of him and sell him into slavery; God did not cause Potphari’s wife to lie about him and Potiphar to put him into prison. Yet in Genesis 45:7 Joseph said, "And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance." I believe that Joseph is saying that God sent him there by using the various events that happened so that the Lord’s plan to save the family of Jacob might be carried out.
Of course, God’s ultimate plan for us is that we might be saved in heaven (Matthew 25:34). In order to fulfil His plan, He provided for our redemption in Christ, but to maintain His plan, He continues to work through the events of our lives to help us gain the goal, not allowing any temptation to overtake us but what He provides a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13), and chastening us as it seems good to Him (Hebrews 12:7-11). Now, as to the inevitable question as to exactly how God does this, the answer is that we just do not always know. Our finite minds simply cannot comprehend all the infinite ways available to God to work out His plan, but by faith we can believe that He has both the ability and the desire to do so.
Third, to whom do all things work together for good? Paul says it is "to those who love God." Here is the limitation of the verse mentioned earlier. The passage does not necessarily teach that all things work out together for good to just anyone and everyone, but to those who truly love the Lord. This, of course, is the first and foremost commandment (Mark 12:28-30). If someone loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength (and this necessarily demands obedience to the Lord’s will, 1 John 5:3), then he can rest assured that God can and will work out all things for His good, even if he may not understand how. If a person really does not love the Lord, then he has no reason nor basis to expect that God will work out all things for his good.
So then, here is the safety and security of the Christian. As long as we love God and obey His will, we can be sure that God will work all things together for our good by not allowing any temptation or trial to happen to us without providing a way of escape, and using the events that occur in our lives [even suffering] to provide opportunities for us to grow in our faith with the ultimate goal of helping us get to heaven. That is what Paul is talking about in the following verses, Romans 8:28-39. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ….For I am persuaded that neither death nor life…nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Our safety and security depend on God’s love, because He wants to do everything within His power and will to make it possible for us to be with Him.
Fourth, where are these blessings of safety and security found? Paul answers this in the last phrase of the verse, "to those who are the called according to His purpose." Those who love the Lord are the called according to His purpose. The New Testament has a lot to say about being called by God. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, God calls us by the gospel, and those who respond to the gospel in faith and obedience are the called of God. But where are these called ones found? In 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul wrotes that those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus are the ones who are called to be saints.
Thus, the called are in Christ. How does one come to be in Christ? "For you are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27). The Bible says that we are baptized into Christ. But why is it so important to be in Christ, and to remain in Christ? "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ….In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:3-7). The "place" where all spiritual blessings are found is "in Christ." Those who are the called in Christ have the safety and security of knowing that as long as they truly love the Lord, He will do everything He can to help them gain eternal life.
Hence, we see that this safety and security are not unconditional. God has done and is doing His part, but we have to do our part too by obeying the Lord’s will and remaining faithful to Him no matter what. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, but we must not allow ourselves to depart from it. However, if we love Him above all else and serve Him in this life according to His word, we can have the confidence of a home in heaven when the Lord returns. (—taken from Focus Magazine; Jan., 2001; Vol. 5, No. 1; pp. 26-27)