In the year AD 64, the Roman Empire was ruled by the infamous emperor Nero. During his reign, one of the most well-known examples of Christian persecution occurred in Rome, which would have a profound impact on the Christian community.
According to the Roman historian Tacitus, a devastating fire swept through the city, and Nero blamed the Christians for the disaster. In response, he launched a campaign of brutal persecution against them.
The Christians were rounded up and subjected to various forms of torture and execution, including being burned alive as human torches and torn apart by wild animals in the arena.
The Christian community in Rome was thrown into an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. Other forms of persecution, such as confiscation of property and imprisonment, were also common, as the Roman government sought to suppress the spread of Christianity.
As if this weren’t enough, the Christian community in Rome also faced opposition from the Jewish community. It’s unclear why the Jews opposed the growing Christian movement, but it’s likely rooted in theological differences and a concern that the Christian faith would undermine the authority of the Jewish leaders. Troubled times.
Despite the persecution and opposition, the early Christians in Rome were able to find strength and hope in their faith.
Despite the persecution and opposition, the early Christians in Rome were able to find strength and hope in their faith. They put their trust in Christ and held fast to their beliefs, even in the face of such tremendous challenges. The persecution ultimately served to strengthen their faith and deepen their commitment to Christ.
Paul’s letter to the Romans shows that the Christian community in Rome was able to thrive and grow despite the persecution they faced. Their faith, perseverance, and determination to follow Christ in the face of great adversity are a testament to the power of belief and the resilience of the human spirit.
How do you face dark times?
So that’s the history, but how did they bear up under those difficult times? How do you face dark times?
The answer was found in the timely encouragement from God.
A few years previously Paul, sat in Corinth and wrote one of the most significant messages to the Romans. It was an exhaustive work, teaching and explaining the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It emphasised that salvation comes through faith in Jesus and not through works of the law. He also discussed the problem of sin and the need for repentance, reconciliation with God, and living in the Spirit. There was encouragement for believers to use their gifts to serve one another, to love and respect one another, and to live in harmony with their neighbours. It was a letter that served as a profound theological foundation of Christian faith and belief, demonstrating how Christianity can transform and renew individuals, communities and the world.
God’s majesty: Omnipresence, Omnipotence, and Omniscience.
And so, one of the verses in the letter to the Romans was a pertinent one that prepared them for the troubles ahead, including the trials they faced. The verse carried a promise and pointed towards the immense pillars of God’s majesty: Omnipresence, Omnipotence, and Omniscience.
If you are going to make a statement, whether it be a threat or a promise, it is important to maintain integrity and congruency by being able to do, show, and be what you say. Well, the verse we will encounter describes the comprehensive nature of God’s power and knowledge. It highlights His Lordship, His ability to accomplish all that He desires, and His presence to witness the fulfilment of His plans.
And what of us and the circumstances we face? Even from a distance, Paul speaks to the many challenges that people face in the world today. He would likely acknowledge the pain and anxiety that people feel as they struggle to make ends meet in the face of an escalating cost of living crisis. No doubt he would also speak to the political turmoil and despondency that many people feel in the midst of a divisive and contentious political climate. In addition, he might address the fear and uncertainty and anxiety that comes with the threat of war spreading across Europe and other parts of the world.
Despite all of these challenges, Paul’s message would be one of hope and encouragement, emphasizing the importance of love, faith, and compassion.
We have come this far without mentioning the actual verse: Romans 8:28
“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.”
καὶ οἴδαμεν ὅτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν τὸν θεὸν πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν,
τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν.
God is able to work all things together for our good, even the difficult and challenging circumstances that we may face in life. It is a promise that we can hold onto, no matter what happens, knowing that God has a plan and a purpose for our live, accompanied by a radical call to trust in God’s sovereignty and to believe that he is at work in our lives, even when we cannot see or understand what is happening. It’s a promise that calls for faith, but Paul has a conviction: “And we know…”
Rather than rush in here, let’s investigate this a bit further because this was written in February 2023 and I know you will need to call on this verse and encouragement in days to come.
Romans 8:28 starts with a startling big promise. You might not always be convinced of it, but Paul is adamant; “we know” (οἴδαμεν) the truth of this verse is not in doubt. Paul is making a confident claim about God’s character and actions, and he expects his readers, and you, and me to accept it as true. It’s assertive, matter-of-fact and correcting to anyone wobbling in the faith.
The words “God works” (συνεργεῖ) is also significant, as it implies a collaboration or cooperation between God and his people. The word “synergize” comes from this Greek word, and it speaks of joint effort or partnership. God is not working alone, but is actively involved in the lives of his people. Paul makes a bold claim about God’s sovereignty and providence, stating that God is able to work literally all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. The word, “literally” was put in by me for emphasis, but it is a redundant word – either God works all things together or He doesn’t! Paul was insistent that He does.
The next part is the challenge. God does good things for us not because we deserve them but because of who He is. Take hold of “for the good” (εἰς ἀγαθόν) because it is also important, as it suggests a much broader perspective on what is truly good. God’s ultimate goal is not simply to make his people happy or comfortable, but to conform them to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29).
Yes, this may involve temporary suffering or difficulty, but it ultimately leads to a greater good. It is important to note that the “good” that Paul refers to here is not necessarily the same as what we might consider good in our own limited human perspective. Instead, Paul is speaking of the ultimate good that God has in store for those who trust in Him and follow His will. This may include spiritual growth, increased faith, and essentially, eternal life with God.
The last part of the verse was never meant to be a disqualifier; “according to his purpose” (κατὰ πρόθεσιν) highlights the idea that God has a specific plan and purpose for each of his people. This plan is not arbitrary or random, but is based on God’s infinite wisdom and knowledge. This suggests that even the most challenging and difficult circumstances are part of God’s plan for our lives and can be used for our ultimate good and his ultimate glory.
As you let this verse go around and around in your head, it can provide comfort and hope. God is true to His word, and it really is imperative to restate and retell this marvellous promise to one another, bringing it up in prayer as a great reassurance.
It’s important to note that the promise of Romans 8:28 is not a guarantee of a trouble-free life, nor does it mean that God causes or desires evil or suffering, but rather, it is a reminder that even in the midst of trials, God is at work for our ultimate good and his ultimate glory.