Bible Study · Define · Romans 8:28 · Word Definition

Defining Terms is Vital to Bible Study Part III

We have talked a lot about how to study your Bible. Just picking it up and reading will provide knowledge of God and blessings to your life. If you know how to study your Bible, you will have a better grasp of what is being written and who God is. The first two parts to this series were written years ago and – like the leftovers in the back of your fridge – were forgotten.

In this series I am specifically using the often misinterpreted verse Romans 8:28 as a case study. I want to continue this series to help you understand God’s Word. You can read Read Until You Bleed and A Serial Killer, My Wife, and a Drunk Stranger, which are Parts I and II.

After doing some basic and repetitive reading of the Bible passage, and making sure we understand the basic context, our next step in our study is defining our terms. If we don’t understand what the words in the passage mean, then how can we understand the entire meaning?

First, are there words that we don’t use anymore or that we do use, but we use in a different way? For our case study of Romans 8:28, I believe all of the words are basic, and have similar meaning to when they were written. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

For an example of words that may change, or are used differently in a different context, let’s use the word “hope.” In modern context, often “hope” is a wish. I hope my Eagles, Mets, Penguins … win. I hope to have a great meal tonight. This hope is unknown and depends nothing on me. In Biblical context, when the word hope is being used to refer to God, it doesn’t refer to wishing but as expectation. These are two totally different concepts. This is why we must know not only what words means, but what they meant to the original recipients of the passage.

Second, do you know who the pronouns represent? Rewriting someone’s name would be redundant in a sentence. But sometimes we get confused about the meaning of a passage because we misunderstand our pronouns. Often they are pretty easy to label. Sometimes there are sharp nuances we can’t miss.

For our example of Romans 8:28 the first “we” in the sentence doesn’t mean all people, but specifically believers. How can we know that? Looking back to the context of the surrounding passage and the verse itself, Paul is specifically talking about “those who are called according to His purpose.”

Third, for more clarity, we can slowly pick out a couple key words and really consider them. How do they connect to each other? Many times we hear this verse quoted by athletes after they have won the Superbowl or maybe an Olympic medal.

For them, it is God working out good. Now, for a Christian athlete, could this be part of God’s plan? Absolutely. But often we leave it there like it doesn’t apply to anything else.

The “working all things together for good” is said to specifically be for God’s purpose, according to this verse. In other words, the beneficent of the good thing is first and foremost for God’s purpose and glory, and then man. Let’s make sure that we understand how to connect words within a sentence.

When studying your Bible, do you take time to look at the words closely? Do they mean the same thing today as they meant when they were written? How do they connect to other words in the verse, chapter, or book? Who specifically is being spoken about with the pronouns in what you are studying? 

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