Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 4 Study # 1
April 30, 2017
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what [is] the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to [the will of] God.
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.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
1901 ASV Translation:
26 And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for [us] with groanings which cannot be uttered;
27 and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to [the will of] God.
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.
29 For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren:
30 and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
- I. Paul's Direct Turn to the Ministry of The Spirit to Us.
- A. Now, in the same manner, The Spirit also "helpeth" our weakness... .
- 1. The question at the beginning concerns "in the same manner".
- a. The most likely antecedent for this idea of "same manner" is in 8:25 where we read "...in hope we were saved...".
- 1. This fits the need for a "like manner" of action by the Spirit (He saved us by generating the persuasion that led to the faith that God responded to with "justification").
- 2. It also fits the need for a "like manner" of "setting" in "our weakness". We do not, by nature, "eagerly await" a long, very long, developing future of glory. Our "weakness" is not simply what Paul goes on to write -- we are too ignorant to be able to pray with insight and understanding --; it is also our inability to look beyond the end of our noses while we are in the midst of serious suffering. At the time of suffering, we have one fixation: get me out of here now. A long developing future of glory takes a very far away "back seat" to our fixations. The Spirit "helps" us in this just as He did when He saved us by grace while we were in the midst of our "weakness" (dead in trespasses and sins).
- b. There is no other obvious antecedent in the immediate context.
- 2. The issue of His "help".
- a. The word used is only used here and in Luke 10:40. In that text Martha wants Mary to "help" her with the serving. The article on the word in Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon is exceedingly brief.
- b. The word picture that the etymology gives us is likened unto the game some of us have played where two teams take hold of opposite ends of a rope with a line drawn on the ground half way between the ends of the rope and the teams compete by trying to pull each other over the line. In this picture, the Holy Spirit takes hold of our rope in the midst of the pull of the suffering that is designed to get us "over the line" of disbelief and self-pity.
- B. The specific nature of "our weakness".
- 1. The word used is widely found in the New Testament in specific reference to physical illnesses that tend to make the "ill" incapable of doing what needs to be done.
- 2. Paul is not, here, thinking of physical illness, but of the spiritual "illness" of succumbing to those sufferings that have been caused by faithfulness to Truth by reason of the persecutions and afflictions that the wicked heap upon us in order to promote unfaithfulness.
- II. The Setting For This Ministry of the Spirit to Us.
- A. Paul declares that we are ignorant of how it is necessary for us to pray.
- B. This "ignorance" is rooted in the prior concept of "suffering". We do not know how to respond to our sufferings in prayer. Should we pray for deliverance as did Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-8), or should we pray for "sufficient grace" to endure as God told Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9) or should we respond is some other way?
- 1. Generally, our ignorance is enhanced because of the "fog of war". The sufferings are a "war against the soul" and when we are subjected to this "bondage of corruption", we tend to turn inward, thus creating the "fog" of not "looking unto Jesus".
- 2. The Spirit is more than aware of this tendency in us, so He steps up. He "intercedes for us with unuttered groanings."
- C. These "unuttered groanings" are not necessarily "inexpressible" (as far as I can tell, the word does not mean they cannot be expressed), but they are not expressed in the speech of the one who is too "ill" to pray correctly. The Spirit, apparently, also "groans" (the word is the same as used to tell us the creation "groans" and we, also, ourselves "groan"). The difference is that His groanings are His own and they are not expressed by the vocal abilities of the human beings involved.
- III. The Effectiveness of This Ministry of the Spirit to Us.
- A. His prayers arise out of the awareness of "the One Who examines the hearts" who "knows" what the "thinking" of The Spirit is.
- 1. This verse is a gold mine for our understanding of the working of the Spirit.
- 2. It tells us that it is connected to the actual condition of the heart in that it is tied to The One Who examines that heart.
- 3. It tells us why the "groaning" is not "uttered": The Reader of the heart does not need to be "told" what is there. Apparently, The Spirit is involved in what The Reader discovers in His examination.
- 4. The Spirit "prays", as Paul says, "according to the standard(s) of God".
- B. Asking God to do what He wants to do is enormously effective.