by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 4 Study # 4 February 5, 2008 Lincolnton, N.C.
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.
1901 ASV Translation:
28 And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose.
I. The Declaration of Supreme Confidence.
A. It is limited in scope to "those who love God".
1. This is no small limitation: loving God has significant characteristics and implications.
a. It is a characteristic of "love" (the Greek word is transliterated 'agape') that its every object is considered to be "of value" in some regard and in some setting. The problem with the way the word is used is that an object is often said to be "loved" because it is "useful" to the accomplishment of some objective. The Pharisees "loved" the chief seats in the synagogue, not because those seats would receive any benefit from the Pharisees but because the Pharisees would receive benefit from those seats. This tends to stand "love" on its head and make it nothing more than a self-centered manipulation that frankly admits its object is "valuable" as long as it serves the "want".
b. Because "love" is acknowledged to have this identity, it becomes highly significant that 1 John 3:1 inserts the reality that there are various "kinds" of this "you are useful to me" mentality. John there summons us to consider "what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us." A little closer to home in terms of our present context is Romans 5:8. In this text the apostle Paul declares that "God commendeth His love toward us, in that...". This declaration also makes a clear distinction between a general "love" (an 'agape' which can be totally self-centered) and that agape which characterizes God. This makes John's comment in 1 John 4:10 that "herein is agape, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" a declaration of a highly distinct "manner" of 'agape' when it comes to God as opposed to men. John also goes on to say in the very next verse that "If God so (adverb of manner) loved us, we ought also to love one another (in that same manner)."
1) What "manner" is this? It is a "manner" that "makes self-denial even to death for the real benefit of another" its character. This means that the love of God has a self-sacrificial core. It does not remove the issue of having some "objective" in view, but it does remove the "beloved" from the path of the sacrifice that the objective requires.
2) Believers are not loving as God loved until they are willing to be the sacrifice in the place of their "beloved" (John 15:13).
c. This brings us to this conclusion: if God's love for us puts us under obligation to love one another in the same manner, how much more does it put us under obligation to love Him in that same manner?
1) Therefore, it was not Paul's intention to say that "all things work together for good" for those whose "love" is self-serving and manipulative. Instead, it was his point that God will not suffer those who are willing to put Him first to really suffer any loss. Every event that seems to signal "loss" is "worked" by God for benefit for those who have put Him first.
2) This fact raises its head: few "love God" in this "manner". But those who do not are beyond the boundaries of Paul's declaration of supreme confidence. Where "love" is compromised by self-interest, the "love of God" does not exist. In the words of Jesus, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).
2. This is not a limitation unknown to Paul's readers.
a. In 1 Corinthians 13:3 Paul clearly declared that everything done without being motivated by the proper kind of love "profiteth me nothing." This is about as clear as it can be: the absence of love means that the actions do not work together for good.
b. There is no real point to Paul's efforts throughout his letters to get his readers to walk by the Spirit so as to demonstrate His love if, in fact, it makes no significant difference in any case. If a person can end up in the same position of service in the Kingdom of Messiah without having "loved" as he would if he had "loved", what is the point of developing "love"?