The Spirit Intercedes- Romans 8:26-27

In this passage, Paul tells us of the intercession of the Holy Spirit on behalf of believers. We will examine these two verses closely to determine just how the Spirit intercedes for us and what form His intercession takes. Paul begins, in verse 26, with the phrase “in the same way”, linking this verse with something which precedes it, in this case verse 23. There we find that we who have the Spirit groan inwardly, and here the Spirit Himself also groans in His intercession for us. In verse 26, we find that it is “the Spirit” who helps us, obviously a reference here to the Holy Spirit, not the human spirit, due to the use of the definite article and its connection to verse 23. The Holy Spirit here “helps” us. The Greek word here is sunantilambano, and it literally means “to take part with”, and is defined as the Spirit “shouldering the burden our weakness imposes”. The weakness here may be seen as our “creatureliness”, as the fact that we are finite and limited, we do not know all things and are not in control of all things (though many of us try to be). The weakness is further defined here as not knowing what to pray for. This does not mean here that we cannot find the words to pray, but that the words we pray are uninformed. We do not know God’s will so that we can pray for it (as in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:10), and fit our lives into God’s purposes for them. Our weakness here is in our humanness, in our not knowing God’s will and not being able to control all things. Because of this, we do not pray “as we ought”, Greek katho dei, “as is proper”, as in accordance with God’s will. Because of this the Spirit “intercedes” for us with “groans that words cannot express”. This phrase is crucial to our understanding of this verse. and we will unpack it now in order to determine exactly what Paul is telling us here. The Greek translated intercedes here is huperentunchano, a compound word based on the root tunchano, a word used in pagan Greek to describe random chance. The noun form of this word is the name of the pagan deity of fortune or luck, and the idea behind the term is to describe that which man cannot ordain or control, that which is beyond his own control and in the hands of another. Paul here adds two words to this root, the Greek en (in) and huper (above or beyond). What he is telling us here, then, regarding the Spirit’s involvement, is that the Spirit is completely in control of what man cannot control or ordain, that His intercession here is an “active” one, not merely speaking on our behalf but acting to control all circumstances to bring us into God’s will for our lives. He does so with “groans”, the Greek stenagmos, used to describe travail or one groaning as in childbirth, used to describe a “period of turmoil which produces a new order of things or new life”. The fact that these groanings are without words serves also to emphasize the “active” nature of the Spirit’s intercession, not merely an audible intercession but an active one, working to control what we cannot control in order to produce new life, a new order of things. The purpose of His intercession is then given in verse 27, where we find that He “searches” our hearts, the Greek search here being euranao, “to test to prove genuine”. The Spirit intercedes to transform our hearts, to make them “genuine”, to make us truly desire God’s will (not our own), and to teach us to depend completely upon God due to our own “weakness”, our own inability to know and control things. This is the purpose here of the Spirit’s intercession for us, not that we would have our own way and get what we want from God, but that our hearts would be transformed so that we would desire what God desires, and that our thinking would be transformed so that we would think as God does, so that we would desire, know and do God’s will for our lives. This is the “new order of things” which the Spirit “travails” to produce in us. We can then rest in the knowledge here that the Spirit is in control of all the things which are beyond our control, and that He is constantly working on our behalf, working to produce God’s best in our lives (since we don’t know what that is), that He is constantly “working all things together for the good of those that love Him” (Romans 8:28).

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