At the Orchard we have been studying through Romans; not an easy book to always understand. I think this is the fourth time teaching through it, and I always garner something new. Last week I read with fresh eyes the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:27. “And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Earlier it says this intercession occurs with “unspoken groanings.” (8:26)
First why is the Holy Spirit interceding for us? The answer in the text is that we are weak and don’t know what we should pray as we go through life. For example we tend to miss the big picture and the most important things that should be prayed for. We pray for healing in sickness, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But a more important thing may be to pray for endurance of faith while we are sick. So it’s not that we are physically weak, but we are spiritually weak and lack spiritual perspective. We may fail to see the important matters because we are more concerned about immediate relief. In otherwords we miss the primary issue because we are concerned about secondary issues.
Second note the way the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. It says “with unspoken groanings.” The Greek translation of the OT uses this word for “groaning” 30 times and a similar word 27 times to render 15 different Hebrew equivalents. Both verb and noun are used as strong expressions for human lament and powerless suffering in situations that people cannot change on their own (cf. Job 23:2; 30:25; Ps 30:11 LXX; Jer 4:31). A look at the context reveals that the “groanings” are referred to in 8:22 to creation groaning (lamenting) about being in a fallen state and not being able to fulfill the purpose that God had created it for which is to bring complete glory to God and to essentially be the temple for God’s presence. Thus creation longs for the resurrection of the sons of God for it knows that when this occurs creation itself will be liberated and made new. Of course creation is personified in the text, but the groanings can be seen in the fact that creation and humanity are not always great friends.
The second place where “groanings” are referred to is our own. We live in a world of suffering. We are “eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” But in the meantime there is struggle. The redemption of our bodies occurs at the second coming of Christ and the final resurrection. For those that now die in the Lord their spirits (souls) go to be with Christ. This is commonly called the “intermediate state.” At the coming of Christ those that are now with Christ will receive their new bodies first. Then those who are still alive on earth will be resurrected. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4). But right now as believers we are groaning. We are experiencing the stress of living in a fallen world, with fallen bodies, and subject to suffering of various kinds. We long for the new era to be ushered in when the distress of this world will be replaced by the joy of the next. This is our hope.
Why is the Holy Spirit groaning? He is God. He is not experiencing suffering. He is almighty. The reason the Holy Spirit is groaning is because He is so one with us that He empathizes with us in our sufferings. Every believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. He is the one who comes alongside us to counsel, comfort, and even correct us. He is called the “Firstfruits” of the age to come because in the age to come the presence of God will be manifest in all His glory. But the point is the Holy Spirit empathizes with our suffering and takes our groanings and intercedes to God for us based upon our experiences in this life. When we groan He groans.
Third, what is the Holy Spirit interceding for us? It says He intercedes for us according to the will of God. Now the question is remains, “What is the will of God?” We actually have the answer in the text.
In Romans 8:28 the will of God is that all things that come into our lives are to mold us according to the purpose of God. And the purpose of God is that we are conformed to the image of the Son of God; that we are glorified at the resurrection. Therefore God’s will is that we receive the salvation that He has promised us. And what the Holy Spirit prays for us is that in every situation we experience that God’s purpose for us is achieved.
This is quite remarkable. Here we see how the Triune God is working on our behalf. The Father is sovereignly working His purpose. The Son is before the Father interceding on our behalf. And now the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us and taking up our agonizing groanings before the Father and prays that we will ultimately experience the purpose for which we are called.
With that in mind the next verse is a great comfort. And one we will be looking at this next Monday night. “What shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” The answer is NO ONE can succeed against us. What a great comfort to know our conquering security in Christ.
This past week I watched a show where legendary coach Lou Holz lost his house in a fire and many of his precious memories were lost. He made a point that just about everybody goes through three trials a year. Whether the number is true or not, it certainly points to the fact we will suffer trials of many kinds. Job suffered trials as temptations to curse God and die. His was far more than three. We have the entire Triune God on our side, and we have the Holy Spirit praying for us to make sure we remain steadfast in faith and get through them.