Those Who Love Work With God

May 25th, 2018 / 8 Comments

The idea God needs our cooperation is more common in the Bible than most realize. Because many assume God can accomplish tasks and establish relationships alone, they overlook it. But sometimes translators are to blame. Romans 8:28 is a great example of translator decisions that hide the God-creature synergy present in Scripture.

Those who know the Bible well often point to Romans 8:28 to make sense of evil. Scholars translate it in various ways, however, and this variety matters. Let me go “Bible Nerd” for a moment to compare four translations.

King James – Mystery

I encountered Romans 8:28 as a child, reading the King James Version of the Bible. It says, “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.”

I italicized some words in the verse to focus our attention on them. This translation doesn’t tell us how all things will work together for good. It’s a mystery. But those who love God and are called according to his purpose can be assured that somehow, some way it all works out. One wishes for more explanation on such a crucial topic!

New American Standard – God Causes All

The New American Standard Bible translates the verse this way: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

The mystery is overcome in this version. Translators describe God as the cause. In fact, it sounds like God causes all things! This sounds like the All God view, because no mention is made of creaturely contribution. This implies, of course, that God causes everything evil, even if it eventually works for good. Victims find little comfort in this translation!

New International Version – In All Things

The New International Version translates the same verse like this: “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.”

This translation is better. It doesn’t say God causes all things. It says God works in all things, and God works with good in mind. We can easily imagine other causes – good or ill – at play. This translation fits the belief we explored in the last chapter: God works to squeeze good from the bad God didn’t want in the first place. And it emphasizes God’s loving presence in all situations.

The New International Version shares a problem with the first two translations, however. All three say God works all things together for good to those who love God. This gives the impression God only helps those who love in return. It suggests God has favorites, takes sides, or loves only friends. God works for the “good guys” but not for everyone.

Revised Standard Version – In All Things and With Those Who Love

I like how the Revised Standard Version translates Romans 8:28. It agrees with the New International Version that God works for good in everything. But notice the words I italicize in this translation: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

This translation overcomes the problem of thinking God works only for the good of friends or those who love in return. It says God works with those who love. We contribute. We can even be co-creators with the Creator. What we do matters. We can all choose love, and God works with lovers to bring about good.

I’ve come to call this Creator-creature cooperation the “indispensable love synergy.” I explain it further in the book I’m currently writing.

The God of love seeks creatures who love to build relationships of love!

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Neil Short

Have you checked Revised English Bible?
Romans 8:28
and in everything, as we know, he co-operates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose.


I like it, Neil! Thanks!

Yme Woensdregt

Tom, how do you deal with the RSV translation where it says that “God works for good with those who love him”? It’s not just that God works with those who love … the translation is quite clear that God is working with those who love him. That sense is strengthened in the NRSV: “all things work together for good for those who love God.” I am a huge proponent of open and relational theology, but this is a question which needs to be answered, because it’s quite clear that it’s about loving God, not loving in general.


Good question. Perhaps we should ask a followup: Will God work with those who love but who don’t believe in God? I think God will do so. In fact, I suspect no one has the precise right understanding of God, and yet I think God works with us anyhow.


Which one is closest to what ot said in the original language, though? I read that it should be “to those” not “with those”.


Well I wondered of we could know which was the word used in Greek, but I found this article and it turns out there are a few possibilities on how to translate it so any could be true, but “with” definitely makes more sense when you think about God’s character and synergy 🙂


Thanks, Virginia.

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