Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 4 Study # 1
Thesis: Our indwelling "Helper" does what we cannot do.
Introduction: In our last study we asked the question: Why did Paul state the obvious when he said that hope is a future thing that cannot be seen in the present? We attempted to answer that by saying that Paul was pressing his readers regarding the content of their expectations for the future because no one functions without "expectations" and, therefore, legitimate expectations are absolutely crucial. The battle over behavior (it is, after all, actual behavior that makes the world function, not its preliminaries) is rooted in doctrinal promoters and their ability to establish a vision of the future that is sufficiently appealing so as to sponsor the actual activities of behavior. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded by "hope-claims" that are designed to get us to act in certain ways. What we buy into as "hope" is, therefore, absolutely crucial. So, Paul maintained his focus on "hope" so that his readers would give it some serious consideration and then act in harmony with it.
This evening we come to a new paragraph, but not a new issue. The issue is, and always will be, what we are going to do. There are only two options: we will either act out of the flesh (and die), or we will act out of the Spirit (and live) -- 8:13. But those options are rooted in two critical realities. The first is what we have come to expect from our actions; and the second is where we go for the ability to accomplish our actions. We have been told by Paul that we ought to expect incomparable glory from actions springing out of the Spirit and incomparable death from actions springing out of the flesh. And we have been told by Paul that actions that spring out of the Spirit do so when we engage His willingness and power by turning in trust to Him. So, this evening we find Paul turning to the issue of this "Helper's" help.
January 15, 2008
- I. Our First Consideration: the Spirit.
- A. According to 8:15, we have received the Spirit of Adoption from God.
- B. According to 8:23, this Spirit that we have received is the firstfruit of the coming glory.
- C. And, according to the text before us (8:26), we are to consider this Spirit as our "Helper".
- 1. This issue of "Helper" arises for one simple reason: 8:17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, and our current verse (26) all tell us that our current experience is going to be "difficult"; it is going to have more than a little "suffering" in it.
- 2. This issue of "Helper" is a recurrent theme for one huge reason: 8:13, to which we referred in the introduction, tells us pointedly and without ambiguity that what we do is going to determine what we experience over the long haul.
- II. Our Second Consideration: Our Weakness.
- A. The textual backdrop has a minor difference in that some manuscripts have the plural, but the greater evidence seems to be in favor of the singular.
- 1. This is the consensus of the majority of modern scholars in the field of textual studies.
- 2. It agrees absolutely with the context in that Paul tells us what the "weakness" is in the very next phrase.
- B. The use of "weakness" is, however, instructive.
- 1. The word is the one typically used for a physical illness and brings with it the metaphor of a physical body which has been compromised in its abilities by an aggressive adversary.
- a. Modern medical discoveries give us significant insight into the metaphor in that it is by them that we understand the conflict in our bodies between our immune system and an aggressor from without.
- b. But the point is this: Paul does not consider that what is wrong with us can be "fixed" by our natural immune system -- i.e., anything within us that we can marshall against the attack.
- 1) If there is a "natural" solution that is built into our natural condition, we would not need any "helper".
- 2) If the problem was a relatively small matter, we would not need the Omnipotent Spirit to be whatever "helper" we needed.
- 2. The word is used in this context, not as a minor illness, but as a deadly (mortal) one.
- a. In the material world there is a host of adversaries, most of which are no match for the inner army.
- b. But in the world of which the material is simply a metaphor, Sin is the adversary and it only takes one "slip-up" to make it impossible to recover on one's own [Jesus said, "He that commits sin is the servant of it" in John 8:34] (and the "one" slip-up has already been accomplished).
- C. The use of "weakness" also immediately turns our attention to the question of whether there is any real solution.
- 1. In the identification of the actual "weakness" we are turned to the answer to this question.
- a. The actual weakness has something to do with "knowing" for what we ought to "pray".
- 1) This strongly implies that if we were to "pray" correctly, we would have the solution that we need.
- 2) But, "correct prayer" depends entirely upon proper understanding as well as proper motivation.
- a) If I do not "know" properly, I cannot ask God properly, and He cannot answer me according to my request.
- b) If I do not "want" properly, I will not ask God properly, and He will not answer me whether I ask or not.
- b. The actual weakness of ignorance about prayer implies two other things.
- 1) The weakness is mortal and impossible of recovery without help.
- 2) There is a potent need for "help".
- 2. In the reference to the Spirit as the Solution to our weakness as One Who prays, we find a strong declaration that the mortal issue can be overcome.
- a. The solution is still "prayer", but it is not ignorant or general, or generic.
- b. Interestingly, the text does not propose that the Spirit is the solution; rather, He is the One who effectively seeks the solution from the Father.
- III. Our Third Consideration: Prayer as the Mechanism of the Solution.
- A. When Paul posits "prayer" as the solution, he does so under the assumption that both we and the Spirit will "work together" in addressing the weakness.
- 1. The verb is a double composite ["together", "against", and "take/receive" -- sunantilambano].
- 2. Paul does not take us out of the picture, nor does He present the Spirit as the solution except as an "agent".
- B. Paul uses "face-to-face-expression-of-potent-desire" as his first explanation of "prayer" as the mechanism of the solution.
- C. Paul uses "over-in-reaching" as his second explanation of "prayer" as the Spirit's "intercession" as the mechanism of the solution [the triple composite implies a knowledge of the Spirit regarding the God Who is "over" the situation as well as a knowledge of the person "in" which He resides as He "reaches" for a solution].
- D. In any case, it is the Father Who is the Solution and He gives it as a consequence of our dependence upon the Spirit's sure knowing and interceding.