by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 4 Study # 1 January 15, 2008 Lincolnton, N.C.
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.
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.
I. Paul's Reference to the Spirit.
A. An overview of the previous paragraph.
1. Its thesis: Glory is worth its temporal price of endurance.
2. Its rationale.
a. Nothing we have to endure is comparable to the glory we will be given if we, in fact, endure (8:18). This is Paul's absolutely firm conviction as a part of the way he thought ("I consider....").
b. Even the creation actually recognizes, and anticipates, the actual revelation of the sons of God (8:19). This establishes the grand superiority of the future over the present.
c. In the wisdom of God, He did not ask for volunteerism regarding "suffering the vanity"; He simply "subjected" His creation to it (8:20).
d. In that "subjection", He established "hope" regarding the infinite superiority of the coming "freedom" (8:21).
e. And, Paul claimed, "we know" these facts from our witness of the creation's "birth pain" experience (birth pains indicate an anticipated "birth" to come): 8:22.
f. And the gift of the Spirit simply intensifies the truth of the rationale: even those who have the Spirit know He is the down payment on a greater glory (8:23).
g. So that it all boils down to "hope" in its reality, not as a "seen" present, but an "unseen", but expected, future (8:24-25).
B. The Next Concept: the Spirit's "help with our weakness".
1. What is the "weakness"?
a. The Textus Receptus has the plural, "weaknesses", but the editors of the Nestle/Aland 26 do not consider the support for it as of sufficient value to even acknowledge it.
b. Paul identifies it as an inability to know for what we ought to pray.
c. But, that inability indicates some degree of tension regarding the "suffering" and our willingness to endure it.
d. Even the later promise that "all things work together for good" presupposes that we are still struggling with the reality of which Paul wrote: "I consider..." (8:18). It does not seem to me to be necessary to say that all things work together for good if, in fact, it is already a part of our "reckoning". That this is the problem seems to sponsor even another attempt to establish it in our minds. If it is true that all things work together for good and that nothing we have to endure is comparable to the glory that is to come, yet we still have a "weakness" that requires the Spirit to step in with prayer according to the will of God, there is something genuinely problematical with men regarding suffering. That "something" is the residue of the Adamic selfishness that does not consider suffering a thing to be accepted without whining about it. For God, enduring the unpleasant for some beloved one's sake is not an issue; it is a knee-jerk response on His part because He is love. But, His creatures (some of them) are "fallen" and enduring anything unpleasant for another's sake is a "cross to be borne" in their eyes, being too focused upon themselves in any case.
2. What does the Spirit do about our weakness?
a. The verb is a three-part combination that includes three ideas. The ideas are "together", "against" and "take up". He joins us against the weakness by taking it on with us. The human condition is no small thing. Even the gift of the Spirit, given with some degree of conditionality (obviously "omnipotence" would have no "problem" and if we actually had access to it, we would have no "problem"), does not make the process "easy" or "uncomplicated". John the Baptizer was "filled with the Spirit" from the womb, but yet he claimed to be so "unworthy" that he ought not to even loose the thongs of Jesus' sandals. The human condition is profoundly complex and enormously difficult of solution. The actual defeat of Sin in all realms will happen, but not without powerful, sustained effort over centuries of Time. Satan would have us believe it will not happen at all; God would have us believe that it is inevitable; but we are the ones who will have to come to both the understanding and commitment that will bring us into the realization of God's inevitability. Thus Paul wrote to "us" with words of the Spirit about the inevitability of divine victory.
b. The Spirit converses with the Father about our weakness so that it is effectively addressed if we will work "together" with Him "against" it. That involves two crucial issues: our taking responsibility to do what we have the ability to do; and His willing to do for us what we cannot do. These are, to be sure, mismatched inequalities (we are seriously limited in what we actually can do and He is omnipotent), but they are both a part of the solution. Love cannot exist without personal involvement.