"Work Together"

17 July 2013

A Word Study on “Work Together”

I have found that the better I understand the meanings of words and how they are used in grammatical structure, the easier it is for me to understand any written or spoken communication. The same applies with the language of the Bible. Words mean something. If we redefine a word to our fancy, then we can make the Bible say anything we would like. However, if we understand how words are used both contextually and throughout the Bible, we can come to a better understanding of what the Lord is revealing to us in His word.

The case verse I would like to address is Romans 8:28. It reads:

“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.”

There are many interpretations of this text among the Primitive Baptists as well as denominational groups. However, they cannot all be right. It is my belief that we can gain a better understanding of this verse if we do a word study on the words “work together.”

The English phrase “work together” is translated from the single Greek word συνεργέω “sunergeo”. It is where we get our English word “synergy.”

Synergy is a physiological term that many use in modern day group efforts. The biological definition applies to muscles each doing their own part but working together to perform a specific task. For example, the various muscles in an arm work independently and together to lift heavy objects. They do not work contrary to the intended goal because they are controlled by the central nervous system and brain. They “work together” in synergy to accomplish what each could not finish alone.

Many motivational speakers and corporate trainers use the term synergy when trying to get an organization to work together to improve business. Their focus is that each person should do his part, but each also has the end goal in mind. They share the desired outcome and the design to reach it. Corporations that work this way do not have individuals doing things contrary to the will or objective that the company has in mind.

Although the word synergy is not found in the Bible, I believe this is what Paul has in mind. The word dinosaur is not in the Bible because the word did not exist until two centuries after the King James translation of the Bible. Yet, even though the word does not appear, no one would doubt that behemoth, leviathan, and many others fit our definition of dinosaur. The same applies to synergy. According to the Oxford Universal Dictionary the word does not appear in the English language until 1847. Nevertheless, the concept is taught in scripture and uses the term “work together” in the text under consideration.

Furthermore, we will see through textual study of the use of the word elsewhere in scripture, Paul does not simply mean “together,” “in proximity,” or “occurring at the same time.” The other Biblical uses will prove that the word in Romans 8:28 is referring to working in harmony with common motivation and objective.

Strong’s defines this Greek word “to be a fellow worker, that is, co-operate.” The root words are defined as “union” and “work.”

There are five occurrences(Strong’s says seven but this is the repetition of work along with together) of the Greek word in the New Testament translated thusly,

work together - Romans 8:28 helpeth - 1st Corinthians 16:16 workers together - 2nd Corinthians 6:1 working with - Mark 16:20 wrought with - James 2:22

Helpeth - 1st Corinthians 16:16

In this verse, Paul is clearly exhorting the brethren to unity in an effort. Help is a word that we all easily understand. If I desire to carry a heavy load into the house and my friend desires to carry the same load out of the house, we will not be helping one another. We may lift the load together but the stronger of the two will prevail and his will is accomplished.

Some might say this is how God works in the Romans 8:28 text. They say that He overrules the will and objectives of the wicked. But that is not what the text says. In order for my friend and I to help each other is to have the same will and end in mind. The only way that someone can help you is to actually accomplish that which you desire. Sunergeo in this verse means a cooperative motivation and effort.

Workers together - 2nd Corinthians 6:1

The “we” in this verse includes Paul and Timothy. They, together, beseech the Corinthian brethren. They had the same motivation and desires, Philippians 2:20 confirms this in Paul’s own words. Therefore, it can be said that they were workers together. If either one had a different motivation or end in mind, they could not be said to be workers together.

Pointing back to our Romans 8 text, we can see that, once again, the word shows unity of purpose and desire. Sinful acts have no desire to benefit the Lord’s people. So how can they be said to work together with the good works of God? They cannot. They are contrary to God’s will and are not working together with Him.

Working with - Mark 16:20

Here evidence is given of the Lord working with the preachers because they worked signs and wonders given to them by God. The preachers were not going about to do their own fleshly desires. Their will was the same as Jesus’. Therefore, it can be said that Jesus was working with them. The text does not say that Jesus was working against them, overruling them, or in spite of them. The text says with them.

To say that the will of God is working with the sinful will of man is a gross heresy.

Wrought with - James 2:22

The major point that James makes in his epistle is how good works are the evidence of faith. If the works are not motivated by faith, then they are not good works. In order for faith to be made manifest, the works must be in agreement with the faith.

Once again, sunergeo holds true to the definition of cooperative will, effort, and objective.

All four of these occurrences of the Greek word sunergeo show a clear unity in motivation and objective. Therefore, I believe we can safely take this meaning back to our text in Romans 8:28. The sinful acts of men and horrible evils that occur in the world are in direct contradiction to the will of God revealed in the Bible. Therefore, they cannot be in unity with God as far as motivation and objective. And, if they are not in unity in this manner, they cannot be said to be working together with God.

According to Vine’s, there are three other Greek words that Paul could have chosen for “work.” All three show personal motivation, not cooperative will and effort. Had Paul desired to show that sin works with it's own motivation but then God works them together by overruling their intended outcome, he would have used one of these words instead. Paul did not intend to show how sin and God’s overruling power worked together because they do not! They have contrary wills and objectives. Paul’s intent was to show that everything God has done in salvation works together in an unbreakable chain to secure the adoption of the elect.

While I agree that God does overrule in His providence some if the wicked acts of men, I do not believe this verse teaches that concept. Paul clearly uses the term “work together” as it is used elsewhere in the Bible and intends all the things that God does. Each link in the process of salvation is not sufficient alone. God could elect some but if He were to not regenerate them and eventually glorify them, His own holy nature would not allow them in His presence. Jesus Himself said “ye must be born again.” The elements listed in verses twenty-nine and thirty work together for the good of God’s elect.

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22nd November 2017 19:48

Tags: cooperation, providence, romans, salvation, synergy, together, work

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Elder Bryce Lowrance

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