Saturday, May 30, 2009

Romans 8:26-28

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Rom 8:26-27).

The first thing we see in this passage is that we do not know how to express ourselves so that our prayers correspond to our need. This is referring to what we pray about, not how we pray. Our greatest need is to know and do His will. And even if our prayers are sincere and unselfish, we still don't know what to pray for. Therefore, we should always pray in the Spirit because He helps us in our weakness and intercedes and speaks for us in accordance with His will.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints (Eph 6:18).

It should be noted that while there is "one Mediator" between God and man (1 Tim 2:5), we have two divine intercessors, one in heaven and one on earth—Jesus Christ at the Father's right hand, and the Holy Spirit within us. Jesus Christ intercedes regarding to our salvation.

Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us (Rom 8:34).

Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Heb 7:25).

Whereas, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us regarding our Christian experience.

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom 8:16).

Since we do not know how to pray apart from His help, we are instructed to pray at all times in the Spirit (Eph 6:18). But what does that mean? I believe it means to pray in our new nature in the Holy Spirit's power. Our new nature is born of the Spirit, and that which is born of the Spirit is spiritual (Jn 3:6). Although the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is hard to understand, it is what makes us truly alive (Rom 8:10-11). We cannot see the Spirit, but He is there affecting our lives. He does His work through our new nature, interceding, guiding, strengthening, encouraging, comforting, etc... Therefore, when we pray, we pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit's power.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (Jn 3:6).
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (Rom 8:6).

Praying in the Spirit is a choice we make—something we decide to do. But it seems a paradox. On the one hand we are told to do something—pray in the Spirit—and then told the Spirit Himself intercedes for us. At the same time He constantly prompts us to put on the new man. So where does He end and we begin, and vice versa? I don't know. It seems that He provides what He commands and we don't do all that much.

This same thought is seen in other references to our Christian walk, too: Gal 5:16, Walk by the Spirit. Rom 8:13, By the Spirit...putting to death the deeds of the body. 1 Cor 12:3, Say Jesus is Lord by the Spirit. Phil 3:3, Worship by the Spirit of God. In all these things we are supposed to do something. But we are to do them in a way that it is the Spirit who is doing them through us.

The way I see it is, we yield. That is our response. That is the part we do. We yield to the Holy Spirit and put on the new man, and He helps us in our weakness and works through us.

I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness (Rom 6:19).

On the other hand, when we don't pray in the Spirit and pray in our old nature, our prayers are foolish and selfish. But God, who searches the hearts, knows what in our prayers is merely of our own finite, fallible mind, and what is of the Spirit, Who always prays for us according to the will of God.

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it (Ps 139:1-6).

When we are guided by the Holy Spirit, we begin to see truth objectively. I suppose that may surprise some unbelievers, because they accuse us of looking at everything subjectively. What they don't understand is that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit and therefore seem foolish to them. They cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is only when the Holy Spirit is within us, helping us in our weakness, that we can get away from the subjectivity of our fallen nature and see the truth through Him, who is the Spirit of truth (Jn 15:26). We see the groaning world of chaos that is the result of sin and know that the same chaos of sin is within us, and we groan in unison with it (Rom 8:22-23). When we go on to read verse 26, we see that in the same way the Holy Spirit is helping us, interceding with groanings which are too deep for words. "In the same way" seems to refer to the Holy Spirit groaning within us, empathizing and sharing our burdens, as we groan in the midst of a groaning creation. In doing so, He strengthens us to bear our trials with confidence and courage, and at the same time directs our hearts toward God.

We've seen from verses 26 and 27 that we don't know how to pray. However, verse 28 tells us something we do know—that all things work together for good to those who love God.

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

"All things" here refers to circumstances in general, with special reference to difficult circumstances or hardships. And "those who love God" refers to believers as a class. God works all things with a plan for good. It is not fate or luck. He causes it.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen (Eph 3:20-21).

Most would agree that the Apostle Paul suffered more than any other believer who has ever lived. Yet he who wrote, "all things work together for good." Romans 8:28 is probably one of the most widely used verse in all of Paul’s epistles. When things go wrong, this verse will probably be quoted by someone. However, in the middle of our difficulties the last thing we need to hear is that what has just happened to us is good. That is not what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote this verse under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Terrible circumstances are not good. They come into our lives because we live in a cursed and sinful world. But God can use them for good. All things don't always work out for our present, apparent good, but they do for our future, eternal good (v 29-30).

I think Donald Grey Barnhouse in his book, God's Heirs, says it well here:

It was the sin of Naomi's son in marrying the Moabitess, Ruth, when the law sternly forbade such a marriage, that ultimately brought Ruth into the fold of God. She would never have had Naomi as a mother-in-law if this sin had not been committed, and she would not have been able to say, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; whither thou goest I will go; whither thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people and thy God my God (Ruth 1:16). The sin of her husband in marrying her brought her to a widowhood which later put her in the line of the mothers of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus. She had been chosen by God for this purpose and the Lord caused the events of human living, including human sin, to bring about His purposes.

And one must never be drawn into the logical fallacy of thinking that this makes God a partner in sin, or that He condones sin in any way. God could never have worked with the human race if He had not worked with them as sinners. We are sinners, and the whole pattern of the life of each of us is made by the interweaving of the acts of our Adamic natures and the results of those acts. Even when we have been born again the flesh is present with us, and even after we know that we have been joined to Christ the living Head of our new spiritual relationship to God, we are aware of the continuing presence of the body of death within us.

Does the Holy Spirit's intercession indicate that the Father, Himself, is not willing to keep us secure, or to work all things out for our good? Absolutely not, because our crucified, risen Lord at the Father's right hand effectively pleas in our behalf (v 31-38).

Therefore, we can rest assured that all things will work together for good because God has told us this is so. We don't know exactly how He's going to do that. But we can take great comfort in the fact that the final outcome will be for good, and bring satisfaction to our loving heavenly Father who worked out His perfect plan in our lives to His glory.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6).

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