Life through the Holy Spirit
Sermon: Life throught the Spirit March 2, 2008
Romans 8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but [live] according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but [controlled] by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if [you live] by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
THE HOLY SPIRIT (SPIRIT OF LIFE) BRINGS @ GREAT CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE
8:2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (RVR) Porque la ley del Espíritu de vida en Cristo Jesús me ha librado de la ley del pecado y de la muerte. (VP) porque la ley del Espíritu que da vida en Cristo Jesús, te liberó de la ley del pecado y de la muerte
If you want to change…..you need the HOLY SPIRIT….you can’t do it without Him!
“The law of the Spirit of life” is described in Romans 8.
life (21xs) + living (26xs) = 47xs in Romans
John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
2 Cor 3:6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
13 Names of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit of God 1 Cor. 3:16
The Spirit of Christ Rom. 8:9
The eternal Spirit Heb. 9:14
The Spirit of truth John 16:13
The Spirit of grace Heb. 10:29
The Spirit of glory 1Pet. 4:14
The Spirit of life Rom. 8:2
The Spirit of wisdom and revelation Eph. 1:17
The Comforter / Helper John 14:26
The Spirit of promise Acts 1:4–5
The Spirit of adoption Rom. 8:15
The Spirit of holiness Rom. 1:4
The Spirit of faith 2 Cor. 4:13
57 ministries of the Holy Spirit
Gen.1:2/Ps 104:30 When you send your Spirit they are created & you renew the face of the earth
Examples of Jesus in the Gospel giving life
57 ministries of the Holy Spirit
1. Was at work in creating the universe Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30
2. Inspired the writing of the Old Testament 2 Sam. 23:2; Isa. 59:21
3. Inspired the writing of the New Testament 1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Thess. 4:15
4. Came upon Joseph Gen. 41:38 5. Came upon Moses Num. 11:17
6. Came upon Joshua Num. 27:18 7. Came upon Othniel Judg. 3:10
8. Came upon Gideon Judg. 6:34 9. Came upon Jephthah Judg. 11:29
10. Came upon Samson Judg. 14:6, 19; 15:14–15 11. Came upon Saul 1 Sam. 10:10
12. Came upon David 1 Sam. 16:13; Ps. 51:11 13. Came upon Elijah 1 Kgs18:12; 2 Kgs 2:16
14. Came upon Elisha 2 Kings 2:15 15 Came upon Azariah the prophet 2 Chron. 15:1
16. Came upon Zechariah the high priest 2 Chron. 24:20 17. Came upon Israel’s elders Num. 11:25
18. Led Israel through the wilderness Neh. 9:20
19. Will minister to Israel during the Great Tribulation Joel 2:28–32
20. Will minister to Israel during the Millennium Zech. 12:10; Ezek. 37:13–14; 39:29
21. Restrains the power of Satan Isa. 59:19; 2 Thess. 2:7–14
22. Provided the Savior with his earthly body Luke 1:35; Matt. 1:18–20
23. Anointed the Savior Matt. 3:16; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38; Heb. 1:9
24. Directed the Savior to be tempted by Satan Matt. 4:1
25. Empowered the Savior Matt. 12:28
26. Caused the Savior to sorrow John 11:33
27. Caused the Savior to rejoice Luke 10:21
28. Led the Savior to Calvary Heb. 9:14
29. Raised the body of the Savior Rom. 8:11; 1 Pet. 3:18
30. Convicts the unsaved person of sin, righteousness, and judgment John 16:7–11
31. Gave birth to the church Acts 2:1–4; Eph. 2:19–22
32. Desires to inspire the worship service of the church Phil. 3:3
33. Desires to direct its missionary work Acts 8:29; 13:2, 4; 16:6–7, 10
34. Desires to aid in its singing services Eph. 5:18–19
35. Appoints its preachers Acts 20:28
36. Anoints its preachers 1 Cor. 2:4
37. Warns its members 1 Tim. 4:1
38. Desires to determine its decisions Acts 15:28
39. Desires to direct its evangelistic attempts Rev. 22:17
40. Alone is able to condone or condemn its ministry Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29
41. Regenerates the believing sinner Titus 3:5; John 3:3–7; 1 Pet. 1:23
42. Baptizes the believer Rom. 6:3–4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:4–5; Col. 2:12
43. Indwells the believer John 14:16, 20; 1 Cor. 2:12; 3:16; 7:37–39; Rom. 8:9; 1 John 3:24
44. Seals the believer 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:14
45. Fills the believer Acts 2:4
46. Conforms him to the image of Christ 2 Cor. 3:18
47. Strengthens his new nature Eph. 3:16; 1 Pet. 2:2; Jude 1:20
48. Reveals biblical truth to him 1 Cor. 2:10
49. Assures him concerning salvation and service Rom. 8:16; 1 John 3:24
50. Gives him liberty Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:17
51. Fills his mouth with appropriate things Mark 13:11
52. Prays for him Rom. 8:26
53. Guides him John 16:13; Rom. 8:14
54. Teaches him 1 John 2:27
55. Empowers him for witnessing Acts 1:8
56. Imparts the love of Christ to him and through him Rom. 5:5
57. Will someday raise the bodies of all departed believers Rom. 8:11
THE HOLY SPIRIT (SPIRIT OF LIFE) BRINGS @ GREAT CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE
Rom.8:4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live [peripateo] according to the sinful nature but live [walk peripateo] according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature “have their minds set” [phroneo] on what that nature desires; but those who live[walk] in accordance with the Spirit “have their minds set” [phroneo] on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind [phronema] of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
(RVR) para que la justicia de la ley se cumpliese en nosotros, que no andamos [vivimos] conforme a la carne, sino [andamos] conforme al Espíritu. 5 Porque los que son de la carne piensan [phroneo ] en las cosas de la carne; pero los que son del Espíritu, [piensan] en las cosas del Espíritu. 6 Porque el ocuparse [phroneo] de la carne es muerte, pero el ocuparse del Espíritu es vida y paz. 7 Por cuanto los designios de la carne son enemistad contra Dios; porque no se sujetan a la ley de Dios, ni tampoco pueden;
(VP) Lo hizo para que nosotros podamos cumplir con las justas exigencias de la ley, pues ya no vivimos según las inclinaciones de la naturaleza débil sino según el Espíritu. 5 Los que viven según las inclinaciones de la naturaleza débil, solo se preocupan por seguirlas; pero los que viven conforme al Espíritu, se preocupan por las cosas del Espíritu. 6 Y preocuparse por seguir las inclinaciones de la naturaleza débil lleva a la muerte; pero preocuparse por las cosas del Espíritu lleva a la vida y a la paz. 7 Los que se preocupan por seguir las inclinaciones de la naturaleza débil son enemigos de Dios, porque ni quieren ni pueden someterse a su ley.
v.4-5 we need to LEARN TO WALK with the Spirit
A baby learning to walk….some never crawl, they go straight to walking
An injury that requires you to relearn to walk
v.5-7 we need to LEARN TO THINK like the Holy Spirit thinks)
a mindset that includes one’s will, affections, mental processes
to be Spiritually minded [NKJV]
Who know how you think better than anyone else?
THE HOLY SPIRIT (SPIRIT OF LIFE) BRINGS @ GREAT CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE
Rom 8:8Those controlled by the sinful nature [in the flesh] cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives [dwells] in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
(RVR) 8 y los que viven según la carne no pueden agradar a Dios. 9 Mas vosotros no vivís según la carne, sino [viven] según el Espíritu, si es que el Espíritu de Dios mora (vive) en vosotros. Y si alguno no tiene el Espíritu de Cristo, no es de él. 9 Mas vosotros no vivís según la carne, sino según el Espíritu, si es que el Espíritu de Dios mora [vive] en vosotros. Y si alguno no tiene el Espíritu de Cristo, no es de él. 10 Pero si Cristo está en vosotros, el cuerpo en verdad está muerto a causa del pecado, mas el espíritu vive a causa de la justicia. 11 Y si el Espíritu de aquel que levantó de los muertos a Jesús mora [vive] en vosotros, el que levantó de los muertos a Cristo Jesús vivificará también vuestros cuerpos mortales por su Espíritu que mora [vive] en vosotros.
(VP) 8 Por eso, los que viven según las inclinaciones de la naturaleza débil no pueden agradar a Dios. 9 Pero ustedes ya no viven según esas inclinaciones, sino según el Espíritu, puesto que el Espíritu de Dios vive en ustedes. El que no tiene el Espíritu de Cristo, no es de Cristo. 10 Pero si Cristo vive en ustedes, el espíritu vive porque Dios los ha hecho justos, aun cuando el cuerpo esté destinado a la muerte por causa del pecado. 11 Y si el Espíritu de aquel que resucitó a Jesús vive en ustedes, el mismo que resucitó a Cristo dará nueva vida a sus cuerpos mortales por medio del Espíritu de Dios que vive en ustedes.
BECAUSE he lives in us …….. CHANGE IS POSSIBLE in each of us
John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
THE HOLY SPIRIT (SPIRIT OF LIFE) BRINGS @ GREAT CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE
Romans 8:12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live [zao] according to it. 13 For if you live [pres.subj.act] according to the sinful nature, you will [pres.ind.act] die; but if [you live, zao] by the Spirit you put to death [pres.ind.act] the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led [ago, pres.ind.pass] by the Spirit of God are sons [huios] of God
(RVR) Así que, hermanos, deudores somos, no a la carne, para que vivamos conforme a la carne; 13 porque si vivís conforme a la carne, moriréis; mas si [vivis] por el Espíritu hacéis morir las obras de la carne, viviréis. 14 Porque todos los que son guiados por el Espíritu de Dios, éstos son hijos de Dios
(VP) Así pues, hermanos, tenemos una obligación, pero no es la de vivir según las inclinaciones de la naturaleza débil. 13 Porque si viven ustedes conforme a tales inclinaciones, morirán; pero si por medio del Espíritu hacen ustedes morir esas inclinaciones, vivirán. 14 Todos los que son guiados por el Espíritu de Dios, son hijos de Dios.
Consequences of living by the Spirit
v.13 = VICTORY over sin and tempation
See chapter 7:7-25 Paul’s struggle with sin
THE HOLY SPIRIT (SPIRIT OF LIFE) BRINGS @ GREAT CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE
Rom. 8:14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
(RVR) 14 Porque todos los que son guiados por el Espíritu de Dios, éstos son hijos de Dios. 15 Pues no habéis recibido el espíritu de esclavitud para estar otra vez en temor, sino que habéis recibido el espíritu de adopción, por el cual clamamos: ¡Abba, Padre! 16 El Espíritu mismo da testimonio a nuestro espíritu, de que somos hijos de Dios. 17 Y si hijos, también herederos; herederos de Dios y coherederos con Cristo, si es que padecemos juntamente con él, para que juntamente con él seamos glorificados. 18 Pues tengo por cierto que las aflicciones del tiempo presente no son comparables con la gloria venidera que en nosotros ha de manifestarse.
(VP) 14 Todos los que son guiados por el Espíritu de Dios, son hijos de Dios. 15 Pues ustedes no han recibido un espíritu de esclavitud que los lleve otra vez a tener miedo, sino el Espíritu que los hace hijos de Dios. Por este Espíritu nos dirigimos a Dios, diciendo: “¡Abbá! ¡Padre!” 16 Y este mismo Espíritu se une a nuestro espíritu para dar testimonio de que ya somos hijos de Dios. 17 Y puesto que somos sus hijos, también tendremos parte en la herencia que Dios nos ha prometido, la cual compartiremos con Cristo, puesto que sufrimos con él para estar también con él en su gloria. 18 Considero que los sufrimientos del tiempo presente no son nada si los comparamos con la gloria que habremos de ver después
Adoption into God’s family v.14-17
Eph.1:5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance
with his pleasure and will— see Gal.4:5-7
QUESTION- Are you happy with the family God put you in?
Prayer Helper v.15
Blessings to come in the future v17-18
inheritance & glory……..Jewish vs. Romans custom of dividing the inheritance
Comfort in present sufferings v.17-18
2 Cor. 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all).
Keep things in Perspective!!!!....logizomai (reason long and hard)
THE HOLY SPIRIT (SPIRIT OF LIFE) BRINGS @ GREAT CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE
Romans 8:23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
(RVR) y no sólo ella, sino que también nosotros mismos, que tenemos las primicias del Espíritu, nosotros también gemimos dentro de nosotros mismos, esperando la adopción, la redención de nuestro cuerpo. 24 Porque en esperanza fuimos salvos; pero la esperanza que se ve, no es esperanza; porque lo que alguno ve, ¿a qué esperarlo? 25 Pero si esperamos lo que no vemos, con paciencia lo aguardamos
(VP) Y no solo ella sufre, sino también nosotros, que ya tenemos el Espíritu como anticipo de lo que vamos a recibir. Sufrimos profundamente, esperando el momento de ser adoptados como hijos de Dios, con lo cual serán liberados nuestros cuerpos. 24 Con esa esperanza hemos sido salvados. Solo que esperar lo que ya se está viendo no es esperanza, pues, ¿quién espera lo que ya está viendo? 25 Pero si lo que esperamos es algo que todavía no vemos, tenemos que esperarlo sufriendo con firmeza
The change of a new body (glorified one) & a change of a new residence (heaven)
Eph 1:14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (RVR) que es las arras [garantía NBLH] de nuestra herencia hasta la redención de la posesión adquirida, para alabanza de su gloria.
2 Cor 1:22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come
APPLICATION QUESTION: Are you giving God your firstfruits?
Groan - With grief over our remaining sinfulness (Rom.7:24)
Creations groans (8:21)
Man groans (2 Cor.5:2,4) Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life
Have HOPE that things will change for the better BECAUSE the Spirit of Life lives in you
THE HOLY SPIRIT (SPIRIT OF LIFE) BRINGS @ GREAT CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE
Rom.8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
(RVR) Y de igual manera el Espíritu nos ayuda en nuestra debilidad; pues qué hemos de pedir como conviene, no lo sabemos, pero el Espíritu mismo intercede por nosotros con gemidos indecibles. 27 Mas el que escudriña los corazones sabe cuál es la intención del Espíritu, porque conforme a la voluntad de Dios intercede por los santos.
(VP) De igual manera, el Espíritu nos ayuda en nuestra debilidad. Porque no sabemos orar como es debido, pero el Espíritu mismo ruega a Dios por nosotros, con gemidos que no pueden expresarse con palabras. 27 Y Dios, que examina los corazones, sabe qué es lo que el Espíritu quiere decir, porque el Espíritu ruega, conforme a la voluntad de Dios, por los del pueblo santo.
Strength in Weakness
Jesus our Intercesor in Heaven
Rom 8:34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God & is also interceding for us. (RVR) ¿Quién es el que condenará? Cristo es el que murió; más aun, el que también resucitó, el que además está a la diestra de Dios, el que también intercede por nosotros. [Heb.7:25, 1Jn2:1
The Holy Spirit our Intercessor in our Heart
Rom 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father. (RVR) Pues no habéis recibido el espíritu de esclavitud para estar otra vez en temor, sino que habéis recibido el espíritu de adopción, por el cual clamamos: ¡Abba, Padre!
SOMEONE IS PRAYER FOR YOU…..FOR WHOM ARE YOU INTERCEDING???
THE SPIRIT OF LIFE TRANSFORMS US
2 Cor 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (RVR) Por tanto, nosotros todos, mirando a cara descubierta como en un espejo la gloria del Señor, somos transformados de gloria en gloria en la misma imagen, como por el Esp del Señor. (VP) Por eso, todos nosotros, ya sin el velo que nos cubría la cara, somos como un espejo que refleja la gloria del Señor, y vamos transformándonos en su imagen misma, porque cada vez tenemos más de su gloria, y esto por la acción del Señor, que es el Espíritu.
8:26 Likewise. As the creation (v. 22) and believers (v. 23) both groan for ultimate restoration, the Spirit does as well. groanings which cannot be uttered. Divine articulations within the Trinity that cannot be expressed in words, but carry profound appeals for the welfare of every believer (1Cor. 2:11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God). This word of the Holy Spirit parallels the high priestly work of intercession by the Lord Jesus on behalf of believers (Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:14–16; 7:24–26). 8:27 the mind of the Spirit. No words are necessary because the Father understands and agrees with what the Spirit thinks. See Jude 20 BKC - 8:26-27. These verses point out that believers are not left to their own resources in their sufferings (v. 18) and groaning (v. 23). The Spirit helps (pres. tense, “keeps on helping”) us in (the Gr. here does not have the words rendered “us in”) our weakness. It is not that the Spirit helps in those occasional times when Christians are weak; their state is one of weakness and the Spirit continually helps them. The Greek word for weakness (astheneia) may include physical, emotional, and spiritual disability (James 5:14) evidenced by inward “groaning” (Rom. 8:23). “Helps” translates synantilambanetai, a rich word that pictures someone helping another carry a heavy load. (It is used elsewhere in the NT only in Luke 10:40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!) One evidence of their weakness is the fact that believers do not know what they ought to pray (lit., “what we should pray as it is necessary”). In their weakness both the content and the manner of proper prayer eludes them, but the Spirit Himself comes to their rescue and intercedes (pres. tense, “keeps on interceding”) for us with groans that words cannot express. Natural Creation groans (Rom. 8:22) and believers groan (v. 23), and so does the Holy Spirit. This has nothing to do with praying in tongues, as some suggest. The groaning is done by the Holy Spirit, not believers, and is not stated in words. The help the Spirit gives (v. 26) is His interceding. “Intercedes” translates hyperentynchanei, which occurs only here in the NT; it means “approaches or appeals to someone.” The One who searches our hearts is God (1 Sam. 16:7; Heb. 4:13), and He knows (oiden, “knows perceptively or intuitively”) the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes (entynchanei; Rom. 8:26) for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Even though the Spirit’s words are not expressed, the Father knows what the Spirit is thinking. This is an interesting statement about the Father’s omniscience and the intimacy within the Trinity. The Lord Jesus continually intercedes for believers in God’s presence (v. 34; Heb. 7:25) and the Holy Spirit also intercedes on their behalf! Though believers are ignorant of what to pray for and how to voice those requests, the Spirit voices their requests for them. *8:26 Among the benefits of adoption into God’s family is the special supernatural care bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon the child of God. The Holy Spirit is present within the Christian to assist him in those moments of moral, physical, or emotional weakness. Frequently a disciple confronts difficulties so insurmountable that he cannot even approach prayer skillfully. He knows that he must approach God, but he has already said all that he knows to say to God. In those instances, the promise is that the Holy Spirit “makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Some have interpreted this verse as arguing for “prayer tongues.” However, close examination reveals that the believer is not speaking at all. The Holy Spirit is making the intercession. Moreover, the precise words in Greek are stenagmois alalēgtois, “groanings which cannot be uttered.” Literally, the words might be rendered “unspoken sighings.” In other words, the communication is nonverbal, involving no speaking of any kind. *8:26 Though more may be involved in the concept of weaknesses, the primary reference here is to mental ignorance. The contrast offered by Paul in this verse is between our inability to know how to pray and the effective prayers of the Spirit Himself. The emphasis indicates that the Spirit Himself prays for us. He intercedes on our behalf before the throne of God (1 John 2:1). But His intercession cannot be uttered, which means it is “unexpressed, unspoken.” No language is in view here, only the inner groanings of the Spirit. 8:27 As children of God, we do not always know what to pray for or how best to pray (v. 26), but we can know the purpose of God which the Holy Spirit desires to accomplish. *. The Spirit’s Groanings Having discussed the groaning of the creation (verses 19–22) and of God’s children (verses 23–25), Paul now introduces the groanings of the Spirit (verses 26, 27). He tells us something about their (a) necessity, (b) Author and character, and (c) effectiveness.
(1) Their Necessity The apostle points to “our weakness,” human limitation due to sinfulness. That weakness consists, at least in part, in this, that “we do not know what we ought to pray.” We are not sure about the prayer content that is in harmony with God’s will (see verse 27). By saying “we” the apostle is including himself. It may seem strange for a man of Paul’s stature to make this admission. How was it possible for this marvelous missionary, ardent lover of souls, divinely inspired author, to make such a statement? With the exception of the prayers of Jesus Christ, is there anything in the line of prayer more thought-filled, fervent, and sublime than the apostle’s prayer recorded in Eph. 3:14–19? The solution is probably along this line: Paul certainly knew what the general content of prayer should be. He knew that one should pray for the forgiving spirit, for peace among the members of the church, increase in knowledge of spiritual things, readiness to bear witness for Christ, courage amid affliction and persecution, helpfulness toward all who are in need, gratitude toward God; in fact, all the fruits of the Spirit (see Gal. 5:22, 23). But what to pray for in any particular difficulty or situation was not always clear. A good illustration is the incident recorded in II Cor. 12:7, with reference to “the thorn in the flesh.” Exactly what that thorn may have been no one knows. What we do know is that the apostle found it to be very bothersome. So he prayed, “Lord, please remove that thorn.” Three times he uttered this prayer. He seems to have been of the opinion that the removal of the thorn would make him a more powerful witness for Christ. But God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” And see also Phil. 1:22–24.
If the objection should be raised, “Then why not permit the Holy Spirit to do all the praying? Why should we pray at all?,” the answer would be: (a) a child of God needs to, and wants to, pour out his heart to God in prayer and thanksgiving; (b) the Holy Spirit prays only in the hearts of those who pray; (c) God has commanded his people to pray and has promised to grant all such requests as are in harmony with his will; and (d) there must be many prayers which do not need to be counteracted by the Holy Spirit. The words, “the Spirit is helping us in our weakness” must not be interpreted too narrowly, as if the meaning would be that the Spirit only helps us to pray. He helps us “in our weakness,” of whatever nature that weakness may be, including our weakness in prayer.(2) Their Author and Character How does the Spirit help us? The answer is, “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.” What do these words mean?The most obvious interpretation, the one which the person unaquainted with doctrinal presuppositions would be most likely to adopt is certainly this, that these unspoken words are those of the Spirit.
Not all interpreters agree with this conclusion, however. In order to prove their contention that these groanings are those of the saints, not those of the Holy Spirit, an appeal is made to Gal. 4:6, where the same apostle states, “And because you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ ” The further reasoning is as follows, “Even though Paul seems to be saying that the Spirit is crying ‘Abba! Father!’ he cannot mean this, for God cannot be the Father of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it must be true that the cry is uttered not by the Spirit but by God’s children, although through the Spirit. The same must be true here in Rom. 8:26b: the groanings, though ascribed to the Spirit, who may well be their Author, are actually those of God’s children. It is they who groan.” With due respect for those who so reason, I must, nevertheless, disagree. The appeal to Gal. 4:6 is not conclusive. Note the following meaningful differences, which at the same time are reasons for believing that the groanings are those of the Spirit: 1. Here in Rom. 8:26b Paul does not say, “the Spirit intercedes for us.” He says. “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings,” etc. There is therefore a real difference between Gal. 4:6 and Rom. 8:26b. 2. In order to make his meaning even more unambiguous, the apostle continues in verse 27 by saying, “And he who searches the hearts knows what is the Spirit’s intention.” Not: the intention of believers, but that of the Spirit. Exegetically, therefore, I am forced to agree with those who say that the groanings to which reference is made here in verse 26 are those of the Spirit. Is not the real reason why certain eminent interpreters refuse to ascribe these groanings to the Spirit theological rather than exegetical? They do not wish to ascribe to any of the three persons of the Holy Trinity qualities that would seem to be unworthy of him. At times this reason is stated in so many words. And even though I cannot agree with their exegesis of Rom. 8:26, particularly with their unwillingness to ascribe to the Spirit these groanings, I honor them for their desire to remain doctrinally sound, especially in a day and age when by many such soundness is ridiculed. But exegetical accuracy is as important as doctrinal purity. Both are needed. To the reasons given for believing that the groanings of verse 26 are those of the Spirit, the following should be added: 3. Since in verse 23 Paul has already discussed the groanings of the saints, it is hard to believe that he would return to this subject in verse 26. Moreover, the words introducing verse 26, namely, “And in the same way” imply a comparison; most likely between, on the one hand, the groanings of the creation and of believers (respectively verses 19–22; verses 23, 24); and, on the other, the groanings of the Spirit (verses 26, 27). 4. In verse 26 these groanings are linked inseparably with the Spirit’s intercession. This intercession is mentioned again in verse 27. In verse 34 the verb which in verse 27 describes the Spirit’s intercession, is used in connection with the Son’s intercession. If, then, verse 34 refers to Christ’s own intercessory prayer, why should not verse 27 describe the Spirit’s own intercession, accompanied by groaning’s? Exactly what this groaning of the Holy Spirit implies would be difficult to define. Are we in error when we state that it means at least the following: the Spirit loves the saints so exceedingly that he yearns for that great day when, delivered from every speck of sin, they will glorify God forever and ever in the perfection of holiness and joy? Although it would be difficult to prove that the words, “That Spirit which he made to dwell in us yearns for us even unto jealous envy” (James 4:5) are the best translation of the original, yet, they may shed light on the meaning of the Spirit’s groaning. And do we not meet with similar highly emotional expressions by means of which we are given a glimpse into the very heart of God? See, for example, the following: How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I cast you off, O Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within me, All my compassions are kindled. Hos. 11:8 If one wishes he may call the statement, “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings,” “highly anthropomorphic.” Still, it expresses a truth we can ill afford to neglect. If human knowledge points back to divine omniscience; and human power, to divine omnipotence, it is hard to believe that human emotion reflects nothing at all in God. Romans 8 teaches that believers have two intercessors: the Holy Spirit and Christ. Christ performs his intercessory task in heaven (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; I John 2:1); the Holy Spirit, on earth. Christ’s intercession takes place outside of us, the Holy Spirit’s within us; that is, in our very hearts (John 14:16, 17). Christ prays that the merits of his redemptive work may be fully applied to those who trust in him. The Holy Spirit prays that the deeply hidden needs of our hearts, needs which we ourselves sometimes do not even recognize, may be met. Christ’s intercession may be compared with that of a father, the head of the family, for all the family members. The Holy Spirit’s intercession reminds us rather of a mother kneeling at the bedside of her ailing child, and in her prayer presenting that child’s needs to the heavenly Father. (3) Their Effectiveness The Spirit’s intercession, accompanied by groanings, is not fruitless. Would not he who is constantly searching human hearts be able to read the intention of his own Spirit, who dwells in these hearts? Would he not know the meaning of that Spirit’s unspoken groanings? Again and again Scripture bears testimony to the truth of God’s omniscience. See, for example, the following passages: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Sam. 16:7). “Thou alone knowest the hearts of all the sons of men” (I Kings 8:39). “The Lord searches every heart and understands every motive” (I Chron. 28:9). “O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up …” (Ps. 139:1, 2). The entire Psalm bears testimony to God’s omnipresence and omniscience. “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord” (Prov. 15:11). “The heart is deceitful above all things. It is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, the Lord, search the mind. I try the heart” (Jer. 17:9, 10). “Lord, thou knowest everyone’s heart” (Acts 1:24). “The Lord will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts” (I Cor. 4:5). “There is no creature hidden from God’s sight. All things are open and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). But not only does God know everything. What is emphasized is that he knows that the Spirit is interceding in harmony with his (God’s) own will. Are not Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the One true God? Any clash between them is therefore impossible. Note too that the Holy Spirit is described as constantly interceding “for the saints,” that is, for those people who have been set apart in order to live lives to the glory of the Triune God as revealed in Christ Jesus. See on 1:7. And since there is perfect harmony between the persons of the Holy Trinity, so that the Spirit’s intercession, accompanied by groanings, coincides completely with the Father’s will, the result must be that this intercession is always effective. It never fails. None of the saints is ever lost. All reach heaven at last. Better still: see verse 28.
* 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. “In the same way” indicates a comparison with something just preceding. Many think Paul is comparing the Spirit’s groaning for us with the groaning of the creation and of ourselves (vv. 22–23). While the idea of a threefold groaning is very interesting, this is probably not the point. More likely the comparison is between the way hope sustains us in the midst of present sufferings (vv. 18–25), and the way the Spirit sustains us by personally aiding us in our weakness. The idea is that we have more than enough resources to keep us going in the midst of earthly trials. What is the nature of “our weakness”? The word refers, as MacArthur says, to “our human condition in general” (I:466). This includes not only our natural finiteness, but also especially our spiritual weakness or sin-sickness, the second part of our “double trouble.” This includes weaknesses related to living in a not-yet-redeemed body and in a sin-corrupted world. While acknowledging that such weakness exists, Paul’s main point is that the Holy Spirit comes to our aid and gives us inward spiritual power at exactly those points where this weakness puts us in danger of doubt and sin. He shoulders the burdens of our suffering and fills in the breaches in our defenses against our spiritual enemies. This is his ongoing work of sanctification, and the very reason for his indwelling. See 8:13; Eph 3:16; Phil 2:13. One weakness is that we are not even aware of all our weaknesses. Thus we do not always know exactly what to pray for in the prayer aspect of our spiritual warfare (Eph 6:18). The NASB says that “we do not know how to pray,” but this is too ambiguous. Paul is not talking about the manner of prayer, but its content (not the “how,” but the “what”). Also, he is not talking about all prayer, for surely we know to pray for such things as our daily bread and workers for the harvest, and we know to intercede for the sick. Even in our spiritual warfare, we may know in general what to pray for, but in this and other things we may not know exactly what to pray, or how to word our prayers. In such matters there is a proper kind of petition, one that is within God’s will (“what we ought”), but we simply may not know what it is or may not be able to articulate it. Here is one of the ways the Spirit comes to our aid. In our feeble attempts at heartfelt prayer, he intercedes for us, standing between us and the Father. “Intercede” means to make an appeal to someone on another person’s behalf. The same combination of words is used in v. 27, “the Spirit intercedes for the saints”; and in v. 34, “Christ Jesus … is also interceding for us.” Thus we have two divine intercessors between us and the Father: Jesus intercedes for us in heaven at God’s right hand (v. 34), and the Spirit intercedes for us from within our hearts. This does not negate Christ’s role as a unique intercessor or mediator (1 Tim 2:5–6), because he is the only one who stands between us and the Father’s wrath, the only one who secures for us the decree of justification. The Spirit’s intercession is in the realm of our sanctification and is specifically related to our prayer life. By his divine power he looks upon the deepest levels of our hearts and gives content to our unspoken and uncertain prayers, then he lays these prayers before the Father’s throne. Knowing that this happens alleviates the frustration and despair that might otherwise arise out of our uncertainty concerning God’s will and our inability to know what to pray for. The Spirit’s intercession takes the form of “groans that words cannot express.” “Groans” is the noun form of the verb used in vv. 22–23. It refers to the nonverbal vocalizing of deep inward feelings, as in a sigh or groan. Some think these are our own groanings, as stirred up and enabled by the Spirit, but this does not fit the concept of intercession. Others rightly see them as the Spirit’s own groanings, as he extracts the deepest unformed prayers from our hearts and presents them to the Father in a kind of intradivine communication that does not need words. This communication is described as “groans” because it conveys to the Father not only our thoughts but also the deep feelings associated with them. Exegetes debate whether ἀλάλητος (alalētos; “that words cannot express”) means “unutterable, inexpressible, unable to be spoken”; or simply “unspoken, unexpressed, wordless.” In the final analysis this does not matter, since the reference is to the Spirit’s communication and not ours. We assume that whatever is in our hearts could be expressed in words if we knew exactly what to pray for. What the Spirit carries to the Father may or may not be adaptable to human speech; the point is that this communication is not on that level in the first place. 8:27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. This continues the thought of the Spirit’s intercession for us in our prayers. Just as the Spirit reads our hearts and translates our uncertain petitions into meaningful prayer (v. 26), so does the Father know the mind of the Spirit and thus receives these prayers into his own bosom (v. 27). “He who searches our hearts” refers to an aspect of God’s omniscience or universal knowledge, namely, the fact that he knows the contents of the hearts of all human beings. The “heart” is equivalent to the soul or spirit or inner man, which includes the mind. The Bible often states that God knows what is in our hearts. The argument here is from the greater to the lesser, or from the less likely to the more likely. If God knows what is in the minds of created beings who are qualitatively different from him and relatively independent of him, then surely he knows what is in the mind of the Spirit himself, who is qualitatively equal with God and one in nature with him. What he sees in the mind of the Spirit are the nonverbal groans that convey the contents of the saints’ uncertain and unspoken prayers. If God the Father can directly search our hearts, why is it necessary for the Spirit to intercede for us? It is not a matter of necessity but of choice. In relation to our redemption the triune God has chosen to divide the various aspects of his redemptive activity among the various persons of the Trinity (see GRe, 159–161). Since the Spirit is specifically responsible for our sanctification, and since this weakness in our prayer life is a matter of sanctification, this intercession is part of his distinctive work; i.e., it is “in accordance with God’s will” that the Holy Spirit should intercede for the saints. (On “saints,” see 1:7.)
*God’s Praying for Believers (26–27) “And in the same way” introduces the third phase of Paul’s reasoning in chap. 8. As God has furnished power and the prospect, both assuring the justified of success, “in the same way” He gives help in prayer where they can feel so weak. Paul says five things in the two verses about God’s provision. The Assistant (26a). As the Spirit helps in two earlier ways in chap. 8, He helps Christians’ weakness. Paul says “our weakness,” so the great apostle and writer of Romans, godly and mature, needs assistance in prayer as others do. A very long word for “helps” here appears elsewhere only in Martha wanting her sister Mary to devote her help together with her (Lk. 10:40). The word combines three terms in a compound, sun (“together with”), anti (“over against”) as one assumes a position distinct from another to do his part, and lambano (“to take”), receive one’s share to do. The Spirit’s help is not together with a believer’s weakness in the sense of 50–50 teamwork or even 95–5. He does what we due to weakness are not able to do (Rom. 8:3; Phil. 2:12–13; cf. Jn. 15:5). A. T. Robertson’s illustration in his Word Pictures of the New Testament does not reflect the real case. He has two men carrying a log, one at either end. It is more apt to depict a person confronted by different ways to go and being completely without knowledge of what leads where. A person discovers where he desires to go, sees him moving in the wrong way to get there, leads him to what he really is seeking, and even presents his wish to gain his acceptance there. The admission. Help from the Spirit is in the praying believers’ weakness. For, this weakness, by Paul’s admission, is in this, believers do not know “what [ti] to pray” as “we should,” that is, what would be “according to [the will of] God” (v. 27). Paul does not say we do not know “how to pray,” for he does not use the word pos, “how.” His point is that believers can pray desiring God’s will, but in weakness not know what the Spirit’s perfect knowledge perceives is the best, God’s will. Paul faced this himself when he prayed to gain sufficiency, asking God to remove “a thorn in the flesh,” some problem or a person like a thorn thwarting him (2 Cor. 12:7–9). The form in which he prayed to get what he sought was not what God thought best. God gave him the essence, what he longed to have, but in a different form. God answered what he desired not by sufficiency in the problem removed but by sufficiency though the trial remained. The Spirit knew what was the will for Paul better than Paul in weakness knew. Since the word for believers’ prayer is the general one proseuchomai, it embraces different aspects of approaching God. One is in making petitions for personal needs, as Paul’s above. Another is in intercessory pleadings, for example we may earnestly pray in our weakness for God to use a believer in witnessing to a father in a home. Salvation of the father is the essence of the prayer. God answers by saving all the members of the family (cf. Acts 16), or does not save the father at that time. But a son listening from another room bows down before God, and the son later leads his father to Christ. Confession is another aspect of prayer. A Christian examines his heart and in his weakness does not know precisely what to pray. Does he need to confess a sin against another believer, or was it sin? God knows his heart, the Spirit knows how to present his sensitive longing to be right with God, and all is well. The advocacy (26c). In the phrasing, the emphasis is that “the Spirit Himself,” i.e. “He, not someone else” is the advocate helping Christians. No help comes from angels, or humans, but does come from Him. That He makes intercession is not in conflict but coordination with Christ’s intercession (v. 34). The cooperation of Father, Son and Spirit guarantees this. The advocacy by the Spirit is introduced by “but” (alla), putting Him in strong contrast to believers who do not know what to pray as suits God’s will. He does know, and intercedes accordingly. “Intercedes” is in the present tense, showing that the Spirit carries on this ministry for the saints continuously. The word is a compound, huperentugchano, which appears only here in the NT. Its meaning is “to plead, intercede on behalf of.” The basic word entugchano is the one in v. 27 as the Spirit goes on interceding (present tense) for God’s people. This shorter form meant “to meet with, as to communicate,” and came to be used for making petition or intercession in prayer. It is the term in Acts 25:24 for Jews appealing in a legal suit against Paul, and in Rom. 11:2 for Elijah pleading with God against Israel. Paul uses it in Rom. 8 not only of the Spirit interceding for believers, but of Christ making advocacy (34). The same word depicts Christ’s intercession later (Heb. 7:25). It is in “groanings without words” that the Spirit assists God’s people as they pray. Stenagmois is the word in the LXX for distressed Israelites’ groanings to God for help (Exod. 2:24; Ps. 79:11). Romans 8 speaks of three groanings. Creation groans to be delivered from its futility (22, cf. 20a), Christians groan inwardly with longing for the fullness of redemption’s blessing yet to come (23), and the Spirit has groanings helping them in prayer. The groanings of v. 26 are placed in the wording not in reference to believers, but to the Spirit. He is the One said to intercede with groanings. It is true that Christians groan (23) and can even do so in prayer at times when they can only sigh their yearnings and have no words. However, the groanings “without words” (not “inexpressible”) are related only to the Spirit here, in His intercession. So, what does intercession in groanings without words refer to? It does not naturally deal with praying in tongues for a number of reasons. Tongues have a focus on praise/thanks (I Cor. 14:15–17), not intercession. Second, tongues involve words in a language, and the idea here is “without words.” Third, the Spirit’s prayer help meets a problem of all Christians, whereas only some speak in tongues or have the gift of tongues in NT passages. All of Rom. 8 deals with blessing for all believers. The reference also is not to times of only being able to sigh rather than say prayers, although believers do have such an experience. It is not probable that the focus would narrow only to this smaller part of prayer in a context that is referring to general blessing true for Christians at all times. It also does not appear likely that Paul, in his one reference to believers needing help in prayer, would limit mention of the Spirit’s help just to times of sighing. This would bypass the majority of prayers. It is also not convincing that “without words” means that either believers or the Spirit would be unable to find words, i.e. they are inexpressible. In the Bible’s many references to believers’ prayer burdens for which they need God’s help, the meaning is invariably asking in words. Believers at least know how to pray in words, even if they are a bit amiss at times (Matt. 7:7–11; 21:22 etc.). Romans 8:26 does not literally link believers with the term “without words,” but rather the Spirit. And the Spirit would not find believers’ words inexpressible, as He knows all things and nothing is too hard for Him. However, He does not need words to represent Christians at the throne, nor does the Father require words to understand the intent. God knows the very intent of the heart before words are even formed (Ps. 139:1–4). He knows all things such as man’s intent (I Cor. 4:5; Heb. 4:12; Rev. 2:23). Christians could use words in prayer, and the Spirit articulate the prayer before the Father without words. No groaning of humans would be too deep for the Spirit, who knows not only everything about men but the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:10). Paul immediately clarifies (27). The awareness (27a). This is not a matter of believers praying without words, but of God not needing them. The focus is on searching the hearts (not a focus on man’s words), and knowing the mind of the Spirit (not words). God is aware of the intent in hearts, and perceives the Spirit’s mind (phronema) as His advocacy focuses on the quest, His will. In the context, the same word for “mind” surfaces twice in 8:6 and again in 8:7. It is the whole mind, thought-world, of a person as to its tone or value system. This is true of a mind set on things the ethical “flesh” prizes which to God are of a worthless quality and destiny called “death” (6a). Or, it pertains to a mind keyed to the Spirit and values He esteems which are of a treasured quality and effect called “life and peace” (6b). The mind in its set of values acclimated to the “flesh” is hostile toward God, not even able to be submissive toward His Law (7), not capable of pleasing Him (8). A mind drawn to the Spirit is identified with such values or fruits (cf. 6:22; 7:4) as freedom (8:2), life and peace (6), yielding to God (7), in short whatever pleases Him (8). The mind of the Spirit embraces such qualities that are positive, for He is the source for “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22) or having the will of God.God the Father is reasonably in Paul’s thought as the One who “searches the hearts.” For nearby in the passage Paul distinguishes Father and Son (8:3, 17, 29, 32, 34, 39). Scripture speaks of the Father searching hearts (27), the Son searching the minds and hearts (Rev. 2:23), and the Spirit searching all things, even the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:10). Though various vocabulary expresses this, the Lord searches all hearts (1 Chr. 28:9) and says He searches the human heart which is deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9–10). In Rom. 8:27, the statement that the Father knows the Spirit’s mind probably has the sense that He knows intuitively (ouden). A form of the same word is used tree times in a row om vv 26–28. We often do not know intuitively in prayer what kind of answer is God’s will, but God always does and can work what is best. In v. 28, we know intuitively by faith that God arranges all for good. The agreement (27b). The rest of the verse shows that the Father knows the content of the Spirit’s prayers for believers “because” the Spirit intercedes according to God’s will. What in each saint’s prayer comports with His good value system and plan, the Father “knows” in His infinite intuitive sense. Paul does not fill out the picture with some phrase as in other prayer passages, “and they shall receive,” or “and He will do it,” or “and it shall be done unto them.” Yet this conclusion is the spirit of the passage.
*4. Groaning, the Spirit and Prayer (8:26–28) This begins with the words in the same way, probably referring back to the hope provided by the Spirit in verses 23–25. As the Spirit gives us hope, the Spirit also helps us in our weakness. The verb helps is significant, used in the lxx to show how the seventy elders appointed to serve as judges over Israel were to “come to the aid of” or “share the burden” of responsibility with Moses (Ex 18:22; Num 11:17). So this means more than the Spirit helping us as we struggle with our infirmities; the Spirit also shoulders our burden along “with” us (syn- meaning “together with,” so Moo 1996 contra Cranfield 1975). The other primary place the verb occurs in the lxx gives this idea as well, for there God says of David, “My hand will sustain him, surely my arm will strengthen him” (Ps 89:21). When David lacked strength, God provided it by taking over the burden of his “weakness,” a term that describes the human condition in the period between Adam and the Lord’s return. While some take this specifically to be weakness in prayer (Cranfield 1975; Schreiner 1998), it is better to take this more generally of our human frailty (Dunn 1988a; Fee 1994:578; Moo 1996).
Paul gives one specific instance of this weakness: we do not know what to pray for as we should (better than niv). As Cranfield points out (1975:421), this is not discussing how we should pray or the general content of our prayer but rather the specific content, the very thing we are praying for, namely, our troubles. As we should connotes praying according to divine necessity, that is, praying according to the will of God (note the parallel with the Spirit interceding “in accordance with God’s will” in v. 27). O’Brien (1987:67–68) says there are two aspects of this: we do not know what to ask for in accordance with the will of God, and even when we know what we want we cannot know whether it is in line with his purposes. When I pray for healing, financial aid, social relationships and so on, I do not know what is the actual will of the Lord in the circumstance. This is a very important qualification, especially for those who think that faith always gets its request from God. God is clearly sovereign over our prayers and knows when to say no to them. In fact, from the perspective of true faith, God’s no is actually a yes, for it is an affirmation of his love in giving us what we need rather than what we want. This is essentially the message of Hebrews 12:5–11, in which trials are said to be the result of a loving Father who disciplines us “for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (v. 10). Let me give a personal example. I have had chronic asthma virtually since I was born (I had my first attack when I was eight days old). I spent two childhood summers inside because my doctor (erroneously) told me I could not play outside. I have prayed all my life for healing, and some real prayer warriors have also prayed for me. God has never healed my asthma, and at this very moment I am on a two-week heavy dosage of prednisone for a severe attack. I still pray for healing (with only a grain of mustard seed faith!) but know that this has all been God’s will and that I will only understand what it has contributed to who I am and what I have become when I get to heaven. I do know that God’s will has been done and (by faith) that it has all been for the best. So Christ’s Gethsemane prayer (Mk 14:36 and parallels) is the model for all our petitions: “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you.… Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
But the most wonderful thing about our finite prayers is that we are not alone. What a joyful truth this is! When we feel that somehow God has forgotten us, when we complain as Israel did in Isaiah 40:27 (“My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”), at that very moment the Spirit is closer to us than at any other time. As we groan in our infirmities, the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Far from being unaware of our troubles, at that very moment the Spirit is entreating or petitioning God more deeply than we ever could! Far from being an uncaring God, the Spirit is groaning along with us! These intercessory groans are an expression of the Spirit’s deep love and concern for us, and they are the Spirit’s own, words that in a sense are “too deep for human utterance.” Our own prayers are insufficient, for they are finite and ignorant of God’s true plan. But that is the very source of our greatest comfort. While we do not know, the Spirit does, and he is praying for us more deeply than we are praying for ourselves. Moo quotes Luther here (1996:526 n.): “It is not a bad but a very good sign if the opposite of what we pray for appears to happen. Just as it is not a good sign if our prayers eventuate in the fulfillment of all we ask for. This is so because the counsel and will of God far excel our counsel and will.” O’Brien goes a step further (1987:70, 73): Our very weakness in prayer is part of the main idea of verses 18–30, the glory to come. Our inadequacy points forward to the intercessory power of the Spirit, and that very intercession is a foretaste of the future glory that will be ours.
The value and effect of the Spirit’s prayer for us is further clarified in verse 27. God is described as the one who searches our hearts, referring to him not just as the one who judges our innermost thoughts (1 Sam 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; Ps 26:2; 44:21; Jer 17:10) but also as the one who knows our deepest needs and hears our heartfelt groanings. As Dunn says (1988a:479), the thrust is of comfort rather than warning or caution. “Paul assumes an openness and honesty before God expressed in this fumbling and confusion which has not tried to cloak or conceal itself either in strict silence or in idle words, but has confessed its dependence on God in this humbling wordless groaning.” And if God knows our hearts, how much more he knows the mind of the Spirit, that is, the intention and meaning of the Spirit’s petitions for us. This is based on the fact that the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. It is hard to know whether the conjunction tells the reason (because, so Moo 1996; niv; nrsv; nlt) or the contents of the Spirit’s prayer-intention (that, so Cranfield 1975; jb). Providing the reason may be slightly better, but both produce a similar meaning, that God knows the Spirit prays in keeping with his will. This is how we know that God’s will is going to be accomplished, for the Spirit’s intercession undergirds our prayers. That takes away a great deal of pressure regarding asking for the wrong thing.
8:26 Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. In the same way that our “hope” gives us fortitude, the Holy Spirit strengthens us and sustains us through times of trial. Our weakness (evidenced by our “groaning,” 8:23) may be physical, emotional, or spiritual. While we were yet sinners, Christ interceded for our sins; as believers, the Spirit intercedes for our weakness. At times, our weakness is so intense that we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. At those times when we don’t know what to pray for or how to pray because we don’t know what God’s will for us is, the Spirit voices our requests for us. He intercedes by appealing to the only one who can help us, God himself. We may not know the right words to say, but the Holy Spirit does. His groanings to God become effective intercession on our behalf.
The companionship of the Spirit in prayer is one of the themes of this chapter. It is the Spirit who urges us to call “Abba, Father” (8:15). Here, the Spirit literally “joins in to help” us, expressing for us what we can’t fully express for ourselves. How should we pray?
• Utilize all the forms prayer takes: adoration, confession, petition, thanksgiving, and meditation. As we pray, we should trust the Spirit to make perfect what is imperfect.
• Listen during prayer. We should ask the Spirit to search our hearts and minds, and then we should be silent.
• Practice prayer as a habit.
• Combine prayer with other regular spiritual disciplines (see Philippians 4:4–8).
• Confess sins that the Spirit points out.
The Holy Spirit lays hold of our weaknesses along with us and carries his part of the burden facing us as if we were carrying a log, one at each end.
8:27 He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit. The One who searches our hearts is God, and he also knows what the Spirit is requesting (see 8:26). God can look deep, past our inarticulate groanings, to understand the need we face, our hidden feelings.
The Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. This is a beautiful picture of the Trinity. The Father knows what is being requested because he knows the Holy Spirit; elsewhere we read that Jesus Christ also intercedes for us (8:34).
|HELP IN PRAYINGAs believers, we are not left to our own resources to cope with problems. Even when we don’t know the right words to pray, the Holy Spirit prays with and for us, and God answers. With God helping us pray, we don’t need to be afraid to come before him. We simply ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for us “in accordance with God’s will.” Then, when we bring our requests to God, we trust that he will always do what is best.|
NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM GOD’S LOVE / 8:28–39
Alongside the theme of glory in the Christian life is the theme of victory. We get to be on the winning side, though our contribution is almost insignificant. We are protected by a God whose love cannot be measured and from which, as Paul will eloquently explain, absolutely nothing can separate us.
This section begins with some concluding remarks on how God responds to our prayers and the trials that motivate them. Paul briefly outlines God’s plan, emphasizing God’s effective work in our behalf. Following this, Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:31). His answer includes a listing of problems and situations that might threaten us, but are unable to ever “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39). Even though we don’t know how to pray according to God’s will, the Spirit does. That is why it all works for the good. God gives us what we truly need, not what we want.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
I do not know of any subject that has caused more perplexity for more Christians than the subject of prayer, unless perhaps it is the matter of knowing God’s will. And, of course, the two are related. They are related in this text as well as in other places, for the verses we are now studying speak of the Holy Spirit’s help in prayer, concluding that “he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (v. 27, emphasis added).
Christians who want to pray in accordance with God’s will find themselves asking: What should I pray for? How should I pray? Can I pray with confidence, “claiming” things by faith? Or do I have to make my prayers tentative, adding always, “If it be your will”?
What happens if I pray wrongly? Can prayer do harm? Does prayer get God to change his mind? Can it change God’s plans? If not, does it even matter if I pray?
As I say, I do not know any subject that has caused more perplexity and been more of a continuing problem for more believers than this one. But we have help in this area, the help of the Holy Spirit, which is great indeed. It is what Romans 8:26 and 27 are about.
“In the Same Way”
These verses begin with the phrase “in the same way.” So we first need to ask what this refers to. It is a connecting phrase, of course, and most of the commentators link it to what immediately precedes. That is, they link it to the Christian’s hope. The idea seems to be that we endure sufferings in this life but that we are able to handle them in two ways: first, by hope, that is, by a sure and patient looking forward to the final redemption of our bodies; and second, by the help of the Holy Spirit in prayer.
That is a valid connection, of course. But I think that D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is right when he links the apostle’s teaching about prayer in verses 26–27 to his teaching about prayer in verses 15–17. The earlier passage taught that the Holy Spirit enables us to pray, assuring us that we truly are God’s children and encouraging us to cry out “Abba, Father.” That teaching was followed by an extensive digression dealing with the sufferings endured in this life before we come into God’s presence. But then, having dealt with sufferings, Paul returns once more to the Spirit’s work in enabling us to pray, adding that the Spirit also “helps us in our weakness” (v. 26).
In other words, Paul returns to the subject of assurance, which is the chapter’s main theme. The point of these two verses is that the Holy Spirit’s help in prayer is another way we can know that we are God’s children and that nothing will ever separate us from his love.
Is Prayer a Problem?
A number of years ago the Bible Study Hour, on which I am the speaker, offered a small booklet containing several messages by another writer and myself and entitled “Is Prayer a Problem?” For most people it obviously is, as I suggested above. So the most important question is not the one in the title of that booklet but rather: Why is prayer a problem? Furthermore, what’s to be done about it? At this point our text is extremely helpful.
Let’s take the first question—Why is prayer a problem?—and deal with that. Paul answers that it is because of “our weakness.”
When Paul speaks of our weakness, it is important to realize that he is not speaking of sin. Weakness is not sin. It is true that we are sinners and often sin and that sin is a barrier to communication with God. David said of his prayer life, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Ps. 66:18). Isaiah told the Israelites, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God” (Isa. 59:2a). But that is not what is being spoken of here. The problem Paul is concerned with is weakness, and this is not sin but rather is grounded in our frailty as human beings.
What kinds of weakness are there? Physical weakness is one kind. The story of the disciples who were left by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray provides one illustration. They kept falling asleep even though Jesus had instructed them to stay awake and pray with him.
But in Romans 8 the weakness Paul has in mind is ignorance or a lack of understanding. It is expressed in the fact that “we do not know what we ought to pray for.” This is not a question of how to pray but of what to pray. Paul means that we do not know what we should ask of God. What is God’s will for us or others? In our human limitations we simply do not know and therefore do not know how to pray rightly.
Notice that when Paul writes the word weakness he adds the word our, thereby putting himself in an identical position. In other words, the weakness that makes prayer difficult is not something that only new, baby, or immature Christians have. It is part of our common human condition. Even the greatest saints have had this difficulty.
Let me offer four illustrations.
First, there is the case of Job. I pick Job because he had the testimony of God that he was a righteous man: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). There was no outstanding sin in Job that might have been a barrier between him and God. Yet, because of the things that happened to him, Job was a confused man. He did not know why he was suffering as he was. His comforters thought they knew. They would not have had any difficulty praying, at least about Job. They had it all figured out—incorrectly. Job, who knew his heart, had no answers. He prayed, “Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins? …” (Job. 7:20b–21).
Elijah is another example. This great prophet was a courageous man, having stood against the powerful prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and by God’s provision having won a great victory. Yet after the battle he was so emotionally and physically drained that he retreated to the desert fearing Jezebel, who had threatened to kill him. What did he pray? He asked to die, arguing, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4). That much was true; he was no better. But it was still a confused and foolish prayer, since God had more for him to do.
Job teaches that a man can be righteous and still not know what to pray. Elijah teaches that a person can be courageous and have the same problem.
A third example is Mary Magdalene. Her chief characteristic was love. She loved Jesus greatly. Still, love was no defense against ignorance or a lack of understanding. She had not the faintest idea what God was doing in the death and resurrection of Jesus. So when she met Jesus in the garden after the resurrection, thinking him to be the gardener, she asked, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him” (John 20:15). She was deeply devout, yet confused nonetheless.
And what about Jesus himself? This is a bold example; we have to be cautious how we use it. But we remember that in his flesh Jesus was subject to physical limitations, as we are. He grew hungry and tired as we do. He does not seem to have known everything (see Matt. 24:36). As for his praying, we know that in the garden he prayed for up to three hours that the cup of the wrath of God poured out against sin might be taken from him if it was God’s will (Matt. 26:36–46). Jesus came to a position of quiet trust and confidence as a result of that prayer time. Still, we might say that he was praying for a while at least for something that turned out not to be God’s will for him.
Is it any wonder that we have problems knowing what to pray for?
The “Burden Bearer”
But enough of the problem. We know it all too well. The point of the passage is that the Spirit “helps us” in the weaknesses I have been describing and, though we do not know what we should pray, he “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” We are weakness itself, but the Holy Spirit is all-powerful.
The first Greek word Paul uses for the Spirit’s role in prayer is a long one, and the simple English translation “helps” does not even come close to doing it justice. The word is sunantilambanetai. Like many long Greek words it is put together from a few shorter ones, in this case three. The first is sun. It means “with,” “along with,” or “together with.” The second word is anti. It means “for” or “in the place of.” The main word, the verb, is lambanō. It means “to take,” “take hold of,” “remove,” or “bear.” All together the word refers to a person coming alongside another to take part of a heavy load and help him bear it.
This reminds us of the word Jesus used to describe the Spirit when he prophesied his coming to the disciples just before his crucifixion. He called him a paraklētos, which literally means “one called alongside of another” to help. It is sometimes translated “advocate” (which also means “to call alongside of”), or “comforter.”
The idea of the Holy Spirit coming alongside a Christian to help is the same in both cases. But the special meaning in the word used here in Romans is to help by bearing the Christian’s burden. It pictures our ignorance of what to pray for as a heavy load. We are struggling along under it, as it were. But the Holy Spirit comes alongside and helps us shoulder the load. He identifies with us in our weakness, as Jesus did by his incarnation, and he labors with us.
The second word Paul uses is intercession, saying that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” An intercessor is a person who pleads one’s case. So the meaning is that the way the Holy Spirit comes alongside us to help and shoulder our burden is by pleading our case with God when we do not know how to do it. We do not know what to pray for, but the Holy Spirit does. So he prays for us, and God “who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit” and answers his very correct and powerful prayers wisely.
Jesus did that for Peter in one of the best illustrations of intercession in the Bible. He told Peter that Satan wanted to sift him like wheat. Then he said, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Peter did not know what to pray. In fact, he probably wasn’t praying at all. Later that evening he even fell asleep while praying. But Jesus prayed for him, and Jesus’ prayers were answered, as a result of which Peter was strengthened and went on to many years of useful service.
But none of this is meant to suggest that we have nothing to do in prayer or have no responsibility to pray. We do have responsibility in prayer, which is made quite clear by the word helps. The apostle says that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” He does not eliminate our need to pray regularly and fervently.
What about the word groan? This has been a problem among commentators since they cannot agree on who does the groaning. Is it the Spirit? The text seems to say that. Yet the majority feel that the Spirit, being God, does not groan, indeed cannot groan. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is emphatic on this point: “The Godhead does not groan; it is inconceivable for every reason.” However, if it is not the Holy Spirit who groans, it must be the Christian himself. Is this the correct interpretation?
I think the context is a help here and that it is no accident that the word groan or groanings occurs three times in verses 22–27. The first occurrence refers to the inanimate creation, Paul writing that “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (v. 22). The second instance is ourselves. “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly …” (v. 23). Since the word occurs a third time in reference to the Holy Spirit (“the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans …”), there seems to be a meaningful progression from inanimate nature to the redeemed to the third person of the Godhead. It is a bold progression, but it appears to be deliberate.
What does it mean? Obviously it does not mean that the Holy Spirit is unable to articulate his concerns. Yet, if the idea of bearing a heavy burden is still in view, it may be that this is what is governing the apostle’s thought. A groan is appropriate to burden bearing.
Suppose you are helping someone carry a very heavy load. What is more expressive: a groan as you stagger along beneath it or a great deal of articulate chatter? Suppose your helper is saying, “My, this piano is heavy. They certainly do make pianos heavy, and awkward, too. Probably we should have spent the money and gone ahead and hired professional piano movers. I don’t think I want to do this very often. Have you ever moved a piano before?” If you are struggling with the heavy load, too, that is probably the last thing you want to hear. If someone is chattering away like that, you would probably just want to tell this so-called helper to shut up and lift the piano. A real burden-bearer groans with you. I suggest that this is the image Paul is using.
The bearing of our prayer burdens does not have to be in words because, as the passage goes on to say, God “who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit” and answers accordingly.
I think F. Godet has the right progression when he summarizes the three groaning agents in this way:
What a statement of the unutterable disorder which reigns throughout all creation. … Nature throughout all her bounds has a confused feeling of it, and from her bosom there rises a continual lament claiming a renovation from heaven. The redeemed themselves are not exempt from this groaning, and wait for their own renewal which shall be the signal of universal restoration; and finally, the Spirit, who is intimate with the plans of God for our glory (1 Cor. 2:7) and who distinctly beholds the ideal of which we have but glimpses, pursues its realization with ardour.
The last words refer to passion that goes beyond mere words.
A First Prayer Primer
Romans 8:26 and 27 imply or explicitly teach so many lessons about prayer that a number of them can be listed as a summary of what we have been learning. They constitute something of a prayer primer for Christians.
1. We are supposed to pray. Regardless of the problems we may have with prayer—and we are reminded that the saints have all had problems with prayer at times—we are nevertheless supposed to pray. In fact, the Word of God commands us to pray. Indeed, we are told to “pray continually” (1 Thess. 4:17). Anything God tells us to do is for our good, and we are poorer if we fail to do it. Prayer is one of the great spiritual disciplines.
2. Do not expect prayer to be easy. Why should it be? Nothing else in the Christian life is easy. Why should prayer be any different? When we were studying the last half of Romans 7, I pointed out that the Christian life is a struggle and that we should not expect simple or quick-fix solutions. Our contemporary American culture has conditioned us to want easy cure-alls. In the area of our sanctification we expect immediate victories either by a formula or spiritual experience. But God does not work that way. We are called to a struggle, and our perseverance in that struggle is itself a victory, even if the results are not visible or spectacular. And the Holy Spirit will help us bear our burden.
So also in prayer. You do not have to feel good about it, though you will in most cases. You do not even have to see results. What is important is that you keep on, and keep on keeping on. One bit of verse puts it like this:
We are not here to play, to dream, to drift;
We have hard work to do and loads to lift.
Shun not the struggle; face it; ’tis God’s gift.
3. Realize what you are doing when you pray. Although the discipline of prayer is itself a struggle and more often than not we do not know what we should be praying for, we nevertheless can know and need to know what we are doing. We are addressing ourselves to the great sovereign God of the universe and are presenting our adoration, confessions, thanksgivings and supplications to him. He is hearing these prayers and responding to them consistently, perfectly, and wisely out of his own inexhaustible abundance.
Does prayer get God to change his mind? Of course not! No reasonable person would want that—because if God’s way is perfect, as it is, to get him to change it would be to get him to become imperfect. If that ever happened, the universe would fall into disorder! Any thinking person wants God always to run things according to his own perfect will, not ours.
But here is a parallel question: Does prayer change things? The answer to that is Yes—because God who ordains the ends also ordains the means, and he has made prayer a means to those ends. He has promised us that prayer is effective. Notice the difference between the two questions.
Does prayer get God to change his mind? No. It does not.
Does prayer change things? Yes, because God has ordained that it should be this way. Jesus has told us, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matt. 7:7–8). James wrote, “… You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2), adding, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b). Remember, too, that when we are talking about change the chief thing that happens in prayer is that prayer changes us.
4. Be encouraged by these verses. It is true that “we do not know what we ought to pray for.” But the Holy Spirit does, and the Holy Spirit has been given to us by God to assist precisely in this area, as well as in other ways. With his help we will make progress.
One commentator has compared learning to pray to a man learning to play the violin. At first he is not very good. But he gets the schedule of the classical music broadcasts in his area, buys the violin parts to the music that he knows will be played, and then tunes in the radio each afternoon and plays along as best he can. His mistakes do not change what is coming in over the radio in the slightest. The concertos continue to roll on in perfect harmony and tempo. But the struggling violinist changes. He gets better week by week and year by year, and the time eventually comes when he can play along with the orchestra broadcasts pretty well.
Prayer is like that. There are plenty of mistaken notes, and groans, too. But there is also progress and joy and encouragement, since God is continuing to conduct the perfect heavenly symphony, and the Holy Spirit is continuing to prepare us for the day when we will be able to take our place in the divine orchestra. In the meantime we can know that the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, like a wise and faithful teacher, is by our side.
Knowing the Will of God
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
At the beginning of the last study I said that I do not know of any subject that has caused more perplexity for more Christians than prayer, unless it is the matter of knowing God’s will. I also said that the two are related. They are related in our text, as well as in other places, for the verse speaks of the Spirit’s intercession for the saints “in accordance with God’s will.”
This verse introduces the matter of “God’s will” at the level of the Spirit’s part in prayer, not our part. “We do not know what we ought to pray for …” (v. 26). Nevertheless, it shows that there is such a thing as God’s will, which inevitably raises the question of our relationship to it. In respect to prayer we ask questions like: What should I pray for? How should I pray? Can I pray with confidence? In respect to God’s will we ask such closely related questions as: Does God have a perfect will for my life? Can I know what that will is? If I can, how do I find it? Can I ask God to show it to me? What is my responsibility for discovering it?
I can testify that in my own experience in pastoral counseling over a period of many years, I have been asked more questions about knowing or discovering the will of God than any others.
A few years ago a very good book on this subject appeared in Christian bookstores. It was written by Garry Friesen, a professor at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon, together with J. Robin Maxson, pastor of the Klamath Evangelical Free Church, Klamath, Oregon. The title is Decision Making & the Will of God. It is a good book because it examines the traditional evangelical views about knowing the will of God, critiques them, and proposes a helpful alternative. Let me summarize.
The traditional view distinguishes between three meanings of the phrase “will of God.” The first is God’s sovereign will, which the Westminster Shorter Catechism refers to as his eternal decrees “according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass” (Answer to Question 7). This sovereign will of God is hidden; it is not revealed to us, except as it unfolds in history. The second meaning of the term is God’s moral will, which is known to us because it is revealed comprehensively in Scripture. It is what God wants or desires, as opposed to what he decrees. The third meaning is God’s individual will, a term that refers to God’s plan for an individual life and is what people are thinking of most often when they speak of searching for or finding God’s will.
In their book Friesen and Maxson rightly accept the first two of these “wills”: God’s sovereign will and his moral will. But they dispute the third, that is, that God has an individual will for each life and that it is the duty of the individual believer to find it or “live in the center of it.” The grounds for their critique are these arguments:
1. The existence of an ideal “individual will of God” for Christians cannot be established by reason, experience, biblical example, or biblical teaching.
2. The practice of looking for such an ideal will has created needless frustration in decision making for many.
3. The traditional view does not work out in most situations, if ever. It is hard to apply in the minor decisions of life or in deciding between genuinely equal options, for example.
4. The traditional view is hopelessly subjective. None of the usual ways of trying to find the supposed will of God are unambiguous: an inner witness, circumstances, counsel, personal desires, or special guidance.
In light of these obvious problems and their own examination of the biblical material, the authors propose an alternative view, which they call “the way of wisdom.” A summary of their approach goes like this:
1. In those areas specifically addressed by the Bible, the revealed commands and principles of God (his moral will) are to be obeyed.
2. In those areas where the Bible gives no command or principle (non- moral decisions), the believer is free and responsible to choose his own course of action. Any decision made within the moral will of God is acceptable to God.
3. In non-moral decisions, the objective of the Christian is to make wise decisions on the basis of spiritual expediency.
4. In all decisions, the believer should humbly submit, in advance, to the outworking of God’s sovereign will as it touches on each decision.
My own evaluation of this book is that it is extremely helpful and is a significant breakthrough in cutting away many of the hangups on this subject that have nearly incapacitated some Christians. Its exposure of the weakness of subjective methods of determining guidance is astute. Its stress on the sufficiency of Scripture in all moral matters is essential. Its proposal of a “way of wisdom” in (most) decision-making matters is liberating. My only reservation is that it does not seem to deal adequately with special (and therefore also very important) situations.
I want to argue that Romans 8:27 makes an important contribution to this subject.
According to God’s Will
The first and very obvious thing this verse does is to reinforce the idea of God’s sovereign or hidden will—hidden, that is, from us. Sometimes scholars call this God’s “secret” will, because it has not been revealed. It is, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “whatsoever comes to pass.”
The existence of this sovereign or hidden will is evident from Romans 8:27 and its context in two ways. First, the verse is talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in praying with us in situations in which we do not know what to pray for. It tells us that the Holy Spirit does know what to pray for and that the Spirit’s prayers, quite obviously and naturally, are according to God’s will. This teaches that there is a divine will and that it is hidden in these instances. The second way the existence of God’s sovereign or hidden will is evident is in the fact that the phrase we are studying has a parallel in verse 28, which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” The last words, “according to his purpose,” are the same thing as “in accordance with God’s will” in the preceding verse. So what the Holy Spirit is praying for, among others, are the “things” in which God is working for the good of those who love him. These “things” are the events of life, which God controls for our good but which are unknown to us, at least until they happen.
The context of these verses also deals with the moral will of God or, as we could say, the will of God for his people as disclosed in Scripture. This is what verse 29 speaks of. For no sooner does Paul speak of God’s “purpose” (v. 28) than he goes on to declare in general terms what that purpose is: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” At this point the sovereign will of God and the moral will of God clearly come together or overlap, for the text is making clear to us that God orders all events according to his sovereign plan in order that his people might become like Jesus Christ.
But let’s go back to verses 26 and 27 at this point and ask: Is this what the things “we do not know what to pray for” are? Not exactly! Because if these things are merely our conformity to the character of Jesus Christ, then we already know this and should not be confused about it. We do not need the Holy Spirit’s help in praying for the revealed will of God because it has already been revealed to us.
If we do need the Spirit’s help, it is clearly in the area of things not revealed and for which we therefore do not know what or how to pray, and since the Holy Spirit prays for us in these areas “in accordance with God’s will,” there must be a will of God for us in these areas.
We may not know what it is.
We do not need to be under pressure to “discover” it, fearing that if we miss it, somehow we will be doomed to a life outside the center of God’s will or to his “second best.”
We are free to make decisions with what light and wisdom we possess.
Nevertheless, we can know that God does have a perfect will for us, that the Holy Spirit is praying for us in accordance with that will, and that this will of God for us will be done—because God has decreed it and because the Holy Spirit is praying for us in this area.
This should be an encouragement to everyone.
And yet, it leaves an important question hanging. Does God ever reveal to us specific parts of this plan for our lives? Or to put it another way, Can we expect him to? Should we ever seek such direction? Actually, these three variations on the question have slightly different answers.
Does God ever reveal to us specific parts of his plan for our lives? Yes. Infrequently perhaps, but nevertheless sometimes.
Can we expect him to do? No, if by that we mean that we have a right to receive some special revelation.
Should we ever seek such direction? Of course, but we must be careful how we do it and not become frustrated or be made indecisive if God fails to answer these petitions.
Speaking personally, I have not experienced many specific directions for my life from God, but I have had several, the clearest being my call to the ministry. I was in grade school at the time and had been thinking about being a pastor and Bible teacher. I asked God for a specific sign, and he gave it to me clearly. I did not presume upon it. I recognized that it could have been what many would call coincidence or that I might have misunderstood what God was saying. I anticipated and received additional confirmation along this line as I grew older. Nevertheless I took the sign at face value and moved forward in the belief that God had called me to precisely the kind of work I am doing now. And obviously he had.
Moreover, there is the matter of growth. It is true that we never know entirely what we should pray for and that in some cases we do not have the slightest idea what to pray for. But that does not mean that this is always the case or that we will fail to become increasingly perceptive about the will of God in such matters as we mature. The text says that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness, praying for us when we do not know how to pray. Yet obviously we will grow stronger and wiser and will therefore increasingly know better how to pray and what to pray for as the Spirit works with us. This is why Paul could admonish the Ephesians, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Eph. 5:15–17).
Remember the illustration of the violin player. It has been helpful to many. If prayer is like practicing the violin, it is also an exercise in coming to discover God’s will. It is a way in which we progressively discover what it means to be like the Lord Jesus Christ and in that way increasingly become like him.
A “God’s Will” Primer
At the end of the last study I offered what I called “a first prayer primer,” listing some points to keep in mind about prayer. It strikes me that it would be helpful to offer a parallel primer on the subject of knowing God’s will. This primer has six points.
1. There is a perfect will of God for all people and all events, and therefore there is also a perfect will of God for each individual believer. I do not think Garry Friesen and J. Robin Maxson deny this in their book, although they seem to, so intent are they in denying that there is a unique and special “individual will of God” for us to discover and live out. They say, “The idea of an individual will of God for every detail of a person’s life is not found in Scripture.” Therefore, “many believers are investing a great deal of time and energy searching for something that is nonexistent.”
But if there is a sovereign though hidden will of God, as they admit, and if it is all-inclusive, as it obviously must be, then it must embrace an individual will for every detail of every person’s life, believers as well as unbelievers, even if we do not or cannot perceive it. What Friesen and Maxson probably mean is that this “individual will of God for every detail of a person’s life” is not something that is available to us to be discovered.
A person may object at this point that if such a will is not subject to discovery, then whether it exists or does not exist is meaningless. But that does not follow. On the contrary, it is of the greatest importance for us to know that God has a plan for our lives and is directing us in it, particularly when we do not know what it is. It means that we can trust him and go forward confidently, even when we seem to be walking in the dark, as we often are.
2. The most important parts of the plan of God for our individual lives are revealed in general but morally comprehensive terms in the Bible. Romans 8 contains some expressions of this plan, namely that we might be delivered from God’s judgment upon us for our sin and from sin’s power and instead be made increasingly like Jesus Christ. The decisive steps of God’s plan include (1) foreknowledge, (2) predestination, (3) effectual calling, (4) justification, and (5) glorification (vv. 29–30), all of which we will examine in the next few studies.
But there are also many specifics.
The Ten Commandments contain some of these. It is God’s will that we have no other gods before him, that we do not worship even him by the use of images, that we do not misuse his name, that we remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy, that we honor our parents, that we do not murder or commit adultery or steal or give false testimony or covet (see Exod. 20). The Lord Jesus amplified upon many of these commandments and added others, above all teaching that we are to “love each other” (John 15:12).
It is God’s will that we be holy (1 Thess. 4:3).
It is God’s will that we should pray (1 Thess. 5:17).
In the twelfth chapter of Romans Paul will say, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (v. 2).
3. As concerns the parts of God’s will for our individual lives that are not revealed in the Bible, it is impossible for us to know them by any amount of merely human seeking. This does not mean that God cannot reveal these parts of his will to us or does not in some cases. (More of that later.) But it does mean that the only way we can know these hidden parts of God’s will is if he reveals them to us and that, if they are not revealed to us in general moral categories in the Bible, their discovery is beyond our ability. We will not find the answer to our questions about the will of God in these areas by reading signs, following hunches, bargaining with God, or by any other similar folly.
4. Lest we be discouraged by this, however, we need to realize that for the most part we do not need to know the will of God in hidden areas, because the Holy Spirit knows it and is praying for us in these areas in accordance with God’s will. This is what our text is chiefly saying, and it should be a great encouragement to us, as I suggested above.
Even if we knew what to pray for and prayed for it accurately or without distortion, and if our ability to walk in God’s way depended on such personal prayers and understanding, we would still be uncertain. For one thing, we could not be sure we were praying according to God’s will. How could we? We are usually off base on just about everything concerning prayer. For another thing, even if we prayed aright and knew we were doing so, we could still never be certain that we would actually walk in the way revealed to us. On the other hand, if the Holy Spirit is praying for us in these areas according to the sovereign and efficacious will of God, we can be confident and quite bold, knowing that this sovereign and efficacious will of God will be done.
Suppose Peter had been aware of the danger he was in at the time of the Lord’s arrest. He might have prayed that God would keep him from falling by denying Jesus. That would have been a good prayer. But it was not what God had in mind for him, and when he actually did fall later Peter would have thought that God had not answered his prayer or had failed him. As it was, Jesus took the part of the Holy Spirit on this occasion and prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail, even though he would be allowed to deny Jesus. And Peter’s faith did not fail. Moreover, Jesus prayed that Peter would be restored and that his restoration would enable him to strengthen his brethren when they later went through similarly dark days of failure. That, too, came to pass.
5. Since we do not generally know God’s will for our lives in areas not covered by the Bible’s moral directives (and do not need to know it), we must learn to make the wisest decisions possible, knowing that God has given us freedom to do so. In emphasizing this approach to life’s decisions, Friesen and Maxson are entirely right and very helpful.
The authors recognize the proper place of many elements in making wise decisions, including some that they had previously discounted as ways to discover the supposed “individual will of God.” They include items like open doors or opportunities, personal likes or dislikes, desires, impressions, and hunches. All these have a place as long as they are recognized for what they are, that is, not special revelations from God but important human factors that should rightly be taken into account. Planning is proper, though we must recognize that God can alter circumstances and thus force a redirection of our plans. Whatever happens, we need to be submissive to the will of God in advance and as it unfolds before us.
6. In spite of these careful remarks regarding the believer’s normative guidance, God is not in a box, and as a result he can (and from time to time does) reveal his will to individuals in special ways. There are too many Christians who rightly attest to such leading to deny it.
I feel about this matter much as I do about the question of speaking in tongues. I do not believe there is anything in the Bible to teach that tongues-speaking is a gift to be particularly sought after or desired. I do not even believe that much of what passes for this gift today is from the Holy Spirit. I think it is largely psychological. Nevertheless, I cannot follow the hard logic of some, particularly of Reformed people (even though I am one), who argue that tongues cannot occur today because all supernatural occurrences have ceased. I follow Paul, who argues that we are not to “forbid” its practice (1 Cor. 14:39).
Let us think the same about special guidance. We cannot demand it. We recognize that much of what passes for special guidance is self-deception and must therefore be on guard against it. But we should also recognize that it can occur and be careful not to question it too rigorously in others—and if God guides us in this way, we must be quick to respond.
The Groaning of the Holy Spirit And 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. (8:26–27) In the same way refers back to the groans of the creation and of believers for redemption from the corruption and defilement of sin. Here Paul reveals the immeasurably comforting truth that the Holy Spirit comes alongside us and all creation in groaning for God’s ultimate day of restoration and His eternal reign of righteousness. Because of our remaining humanness and susceptibility to sin and doubt, the Holy Spirit also helps us in our weakness. In this context, weakness doubtless refers to our human condition in general, not to specific weaknesses. The point is that, even after salvation, we are characterized by spiritual weakness. Acting morally, speaking the truth, witnessing for the Lord, or doing any other good thing happens only by the power of the Spirit working in and through us despite our human limitations. Several times in his letter to the Philippians Paul beautifully pictures that divine-human relationship. Speaking of his own needs, he said, “I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). The Spirit supplies us with all we need to be faithful, effective, and protected children of God. In the following chapter he admonishes, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). The Spirit of God works unrelentingly in us to do what we could never do alone-bring about the perfect will of God. To make clear how the Spirit works, Paul turns to the subject of prayer. Although we are redeemed and absolutely secure in our adoption as God’s children, nevertheless we do not know how to pray as we should. Paul does not elaborate on our inability to pray as we ought, but his statement is all-encompassing. Because of our imperfect perspectives, finite minds, human frailties, and spiritual limitations, we are not able to pray in absolute consistency with God’s will. Many times we are not even aware that spiritual needs exist, much less know how best they should be met. Even the Christian who prays sincerely, faithfully, and regularly cannot possibly know God’s purposes concerning all of his own needs or the needs of others for whom he prays. Jesus told Peter, “Behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32). Fortunately for Peter, Jesus kept His word despite the apostle’s foolish bravado. Not only was Peter no match for Satan but he soon proved that his devotion to Christ could not even withstand the taunts of a few strangers (vv. 54–60). How glorious that our spiritual security rests in the Lord’s faithfulness rather than in our vacillating commitment. Even the apostle Paul, who lived so near to God and so faithfully and sacrificially proclaimed His gospel, did not always know how best to pray. He knew, for example, that God had allowed Satan to inflict him with an unspecified “thorn in the flesh.” That affliction guarded Paul against pride over being “caught up into Paradise.” But after a while Paul became weary of the infirmity, which doubtless was severe, and he prayed earnestly that it might be removed. After three entreaties, the Lord told Paul that he should be satisfied with the abundance of divine grace by which he was already sustained in the trial (see 2 Cor. 12:3–9). Paul’s request did not correspond to the Lord’s will for him at that time. Even when we do not know what God wants, the indwell-ing Spirit Himself intercedes for us, bringing our needs before God even when we do not know what they are or when we pray about them unwisely. Paul emphasizes that our help is from the Spirit Himself. His divine help not only is personal but direct. The Spirit does not simply provide our security but is Himself our security. The Spirit intercedes on our behalf in a way, Paul says, that is totally beyond human comprehension, with groanings too deep for words. The Holy Spirit unites with us in our desire to be freed from our corrupted earthly bodies and to be with God forever in our glorified heavenly bodies. Contrary to the interpretation of most charismatics, the groanings of the Spirit are not utterances in unknown tongues, much less ecstatic gibberish that has no rational content. As Paul says explicitly, the groans are not even audible and are inexpressible in words. Yet those groans carry profound content, namely divine appeals for the spiritual welfare of each believer. In a way infinitely beyond our understanding, these groanings represent what might be called intertrinitarian communication, divine articulations by the Holy Spirit to the Father. Paul affirmed this truth to the Corinthians when he declared, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). We remain justified and righteous before God the Father only because the Son and the Holy Spirit, as our constant advocates and intercessors, represent us before Him. It is only because of that joint and unceasing divine work on our behalf that we will enter heaven. Christ “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). Jesus’ divine work of redemption in a believer’s heart begins at the time of conversion, but it does not end until that saint is in heaven, glorified and made as righteous as God is righteous, because he possesses the full righteousness of Christ. That is guaranteed by the heavenly high priestly work of our Lord and by the earthly indwell-ing Holy Spirit, which also make secure the divine adoption and heavenly destiny of every believer. If it were not for the sustaining power of the Spirit within us and Christ’s continual mediation for us as High Priest (Heb. 7:25–26), our remaining humanness would have immediately engulfed us again in sin the moment after we were justified. If for an instant Christ and the Holy Spirit were to stop their sustaining intercession for us, we would, in that instant, fall back into our sinful, damnable state of separation from God. If such a failing away could happen, faith in Christ would give us only temporary spiritual life, subject at any moment to loss. But Jesus offers no life but eternal life, which, by definition, cannot be lost. To those who believe, Jesus said, “I give eternal life … and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28; cf. 17:2–3; Acts 13:48). To have faith in Jesus Christ and to have eternal life are scripturally synonymous. Were it not for the sustaining and intercessory work of the Son and the Spirit on behalf of believers, Satan and his false teachers could easily deceive God’s elect (see Matt. 24:24) and could undermine the completion of their salvation. But if such a thing were possible, God’s election would be meaningless. Satan knows that believers would be helpless apart from the sustaining work of the Son and the Spirit, and in his arrogant pride he vainly wars against those two divine persons of the God-head. He knows that if somehow he could interrupt that divine protection, once-saved souls would fall from grace and again belong to him. But the never-ending work of Christ and the Holy Spirit make that impossible. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, Paul continues. He refers to God the Father, who searches the hearts of men. In the process of selecting a successor to King Saul, the Lord told Samuel, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon prayed, “Hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart Thou knowest, for Thou alone dost know the hearts of all the sons of men” (1 Kings 8:39; cf. 1 Chron. 28:9; Ps. 139:1–2; Prov.15:11). When they were choosing between Joseph Barsabbas and Matthiasas a successor for Judas, the eleven apostles prayed, “Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two Thou hast chosen” (Acts 1:24; cf. 1 Cor. 4:5; Heb. 4:13). If the Father knows the hearts of men, how much more does He know the mind of the Spirit. The Father understands exactly what the Spirit is thinking because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Because the Spirit’s will and the Father’s will are identical, and because God is one, Paul’s statement seems unnecessary. But he is pointing up the truth in order to give encouragement to believers. Because the three persons of the God-head have always been one in essence and will, the very idea of communication among them seems superfluous to us. It is a great mystery to our finite minds, but it is a divine reality that God expects His children to acknowledge by faith. In this passage Paul emphasizes the divine intercession that is necessary for the preservation of believers to their eternal hope. We can no more fathom that marvelous truth than we can fathom any other aspect of God’s plan of redemption. But we know that, were not Christ and the Holy Spirit continually on guard in our behalf, our inheritance in heaven would be reserved for us in vain.
“life” in Romans (21xs)
8:2 because thru Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death
8:6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;
8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
8:34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
2:7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
4:17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and [he] was raised to life for our justification
5:10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
5:17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
5:18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
5:21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
6:10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
6:13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
7:9 Once I was alive apart from law but when the commandment came sin sprang to life & I died
7:10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.
8:2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death 8:6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;
11:15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
14:9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
“Living” in Romans (26xs)
1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
4:14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless,
6:2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
6:8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
6:10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
7:1 Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?
7:17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
7:18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
7:20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
8:4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
9:26 and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”
10:5 Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.”
12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
14:7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.
14:8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
14:9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
14:11 It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ ”
16:4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them
Bkc 8:2. The word because (gar, “for”), connects through (lit., “in”) Christ Jesus in this verse with the identical phrase “in Christ Jesus” in verse 1. (In the Gr. word order of the sentence in v. 2, “in Christ Jesus” follows the law of the Spirit of life.) If 7:7-25 is Paul’s testimony of his struggle as a believer with indwelling sin, then “the Spirit of life” is the Holy Spirit of God, not the spirit of the new nature each believer receives. The Holy Spirit is the Member of the Godhead who regenerates every believing individual (Titus 3:5) and bestows new life (John 3:5-8), the resurrection life of Christ (Rom. 6:4, 8, 11). Romans 8:2 has the second mention of the Holy Spirit since 5:5, but He is mentioned 18 more times through 8:27. This law (“principle”; 7:23) set me free (the Gr. aorist tense suggests a once-for-all act of freedom at salvation) from the law of sin and death. That principle is called the principle “of sin and death” because sin, as Paul said repeatedly, produces death (5:15, 17, 21; 6:16, 21, 23; 7:10-11, 13; 8:6, 10, 13). As the principle of sin it contrasts with the Spirit; as the principle that brings death it also contrasts with the Spirit who gives life. For the pronoun translated me some Greek manuscripts read “us” and others “you” (sing.). The difference is incidental; the truth stated applies to every believer.
JM - 8:2–30 The Spirit, who was mentioned only once in chaps. 1–7 (1:4), is referred to nearly 20 times in chap. 8. He frees us from sin and death (vv. 2, 3); enables us to fulfill God’s law (v. 4); changes our nature and grants us strength for victory over our unredeemed flesh (vv. 5–13); confirms our adoption as God’s children (vv. 14–16); and guarantees our ultimate glory (vv. 17–30). 8:2 The word “for” introduces the reason there is no condemnation for the believer, the Spirit has replaced the law that produced only sin and death (7:5, 13) with a new, simple law that produces life: the law of faith (3:27), or the message of the gospel. the law of the Spirit of life. Synonymous with the gospel, the law of faith. the law of sin and death. The law of God. Although it is good, holy, and righteous (7:12), because of the weakness of the flesh (7:7–11; 8:3), it can produce only sin and death (7:5, 13).
Baker - For through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and of death. Paul speaks about “the law of the Spirit of life.” That the Holy Spirit is life in his very essence and also imparts life, both physical and spiritual, is clear from ever so many passages of Scripture. The basis for this doctrine is probably found already in 104:30; John 6:63; II Cor. 3:6; Gal. 6:8; Rom. 8:11.
John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
2 Cor 3:6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Gal 6:8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Ps 104:30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
The law of the Spirit of life is the forceful and effective operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of God’s children. It is the very opposite of “the law of sin and death,” for which see on 7:23, 25. Just as the law of sin produces death, so also the law, or ruling factor, of the Spirit of life brings about life. Cf. Rom. 6:23. It does this “through Christ Jesus,” that is, on the basis of the merits of his atonement, and by means of the vitalizing power of union with him. The question arises, “If in Rom. 7:14–8:2 Paul throughout speaks about himself as a believer, how can he say not only, “I am carnal, sold as a slave to sin … a prisoner” (7:14, 23); but also, “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death”? How can a slave and prisoner also be a free person? Does not this very contradiction show that we have erroneously interpreted Rom. 7:14, 23? The answer is, “Not at all.” On the contrary, when we read these passages—both 7:14, 23 and 8:1, 2, we say, “How wonderful is the Word of God! What a true picture it draws of the person I really am! On the one hand I am a slave, a prisoner, for sin has such control over me that I cannot lead a sinless life (Jer. 17:9; Matt. 6.12; I John 1:8, 10). Yet, on the other hand, I am a free person, for though Satan tries with all his might and trickery to keep me from doing what is right—such as trusting God for my salvation, invoking him in prayer, rejoicing in him, working for his causes, etc., he cannot throughout stop me from doing so. He cannot completely prevent me from experiencing the peace of God that transcends all understanding. The sense of victory, which I possess in principle even now and will possess in perfection in the future, sustains me in all my struggles. I rejoice in the freedom which Christ has earned for me!” (Gal. 5:1). When an interpreter of 7:21–8:2 limits Christian experience to what is found in 7:22, 25a, 8:1, 2, leaving out 7:21, 23, 24, 25b, does he not resemble the musician who tries to play an elaborate piece on an organ with a very restricted number of octaves, or on a harp with many broken strings?
Wiersbe - You have been made free from the law of sin and death. You now have life in the Spirit. You have moved into a whole new sphere of life in Christ. “The law of sin and death” is what Paul described in Romans 7:7–25. “The law of the Spirit of life” is described in Romans 8. The Law no longer has any jurisdiction over you: you are dead to the Law (Rom. 7:4) and free from the Law (Rom. 8:2)
College - 8:2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. “Because” (γάρ, gar) implies that this verse gives the reason for the statement in v. 1: “There is no condemnation because we have been freed from it by the law of the Spirit of life.” At first glance it seems that v. 2 is talking only about the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. This is why many expand the meaning of “condemnation” in v. 1 to include the indwelling power of sin; otherwise Paul would appear to be saying that we are justified (v. 1) because we are sanctified (v. 2), which would be equivalent to justification by works. But if we do limit “condemnation” to the penalty for sin, and “no condemnation” to justification (as I have done above), how do we avoid this conclusion? By seeing that v. 2 itself is not limited to the sanctifying work of the Spirit. It speaks rather of freedom from “the law of sin and death” in every respect, including death as the penalty for sin. Through Christ Jesus we are set free from the law of sin and death. This in itself points to the comprehensive nature of this liberation. By applying to us the full scope of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, the Spirit of life sets us free from every aspect of sin and death, including its penalty. It is difficult to decide exactly what the two uses of “law” (νόμος, nomos) mean here. We know that it does not mean law in the sense of a set of commandments, whether it be the Mosaic law or God’s law in general. The latter connotation appears in vv. 3–4, and the context shows it has a different sense in v. 2. Also because of the context, I conclude that nomos here has the general sense of “order, rule, pattern, system,” as applied on a cosmic scale. The two “laws” named here are the two competing world orders, the two rival life paradigms. The first is the life system in which the Spirit of life operates and dominates; the second is the life system controlled by sin and death. They are related to the contrasting spheres of flesh and Spirit as discussed in vv. 4b-13. As understood in this general sense, the nomos of v. 2 includes both the conceptual and the concrete, or the connotations of both “governing principle” and “controlling power.” It cannot be limited to power alone; this would limit the liberating activity of v. 2 to sanctification, and raise problems regarding the relation between v. 1 and v. 2 (see above). Thus we conclude that nomos also includes the governing principles according to which this power operates. Thus in 8:2 Paul is referring to two exclusive and competing world orders. One is the order of the flesh, in which sin is the dominant power and death the inevitable outcome. It is governed by the principle that sin and death are inseparable: wherever sin rules, it always brings death in all its ruinous varieties. The other world or life system is the order of the Spirit, in which the Holy Spirit is the dominating power and life is the inevitable outcome. It is governed by the principle that the Holy Spirit and life are inseparable: wherever the Spirit enters, he always brings life in all its abundance (John 6:63; Rom 8:11; 2 Cor 3:6; Gal 6:8). Paul’s point in this section is that, through Jesus Christ, the governing principle and the controlling power of sin and death have been driven out of our lives by and replaced by the governing principle and the controlling power of the Spirit of life. In 8:1–4 the main point is that the regulating principle that sin always brings death has been shattered by Christ’s propitiatory atonement, allowing for the justification of the wicked (4:5). In 8:5–13 the point is that the dominating power of the Spirit overcomes the dominating power of the flesh (the body of sin and death—6:6; 7:24) in the lives of Christians. How does v. 2 relate, then, to v. 1? Why is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? Because, through Christ and the world order that he has made possible, my life is no longer governed by the rules of sin and death. Yes, my sin deserves the penalty of death, but Christ’s death has paid that penalty for me, and the Spirit has applied that redemptive act to my life. This breaks the connection between sin and death! It has set me free from the principle that sin always brings death, and has restored me—a sinner—to the role of a child of God and heir of eternal life (8:15–17). Thus the liberation of 8:2 is the basis for the justification of 8:1. But it is also the basis for the sanctification of which 8:5–13 speaks. The indwelling Spirit has broken the power of the indwelling sin which seeks to drag me back down into the pits of spiritual death. When Christ gave me his Spirit, the principle and power of life took over, thus ending the illegitimate reign of those usurping tyrants, sin and death. We should note that the verb “set free” is aorist (past) tense. The act of liberation that set us free from sin’s penalty and power (the “double cure”) is a past event for any Christian. Specifically, it happened in our Christian baptism, in which we received not only forgiveness of sins (justification) through Christ’s blood, but also the indwelling presence of the Spirit of life (Acts 2:38). In that event the course of our lives as well as our ultimate destiny were totally recast or reprogrammed; the sin-brings-death system was replaced by the Spirit-gives-life paradigm. In this verse some translations read “set me free” (KJV, NIV), and some read “set you free” (NASB, NRSV). The former fits better with the first person singular in 7:7–25 (especially 7:24), but the latter has better manuscript support, according to Cranfield (I:377).
IVP - The reason (because, v. 2) for this is the liberation from sin and death that Christ has effected and the Spirit has produced. Through his sacrificial death the condemnation of the believer has been removed. The antithesis is between the law of the Spirit of life and the law of sin and death. Now Paul introduces the leading character of the chapter, the Holy Spirit, looking back to 7:6, “the new way of the Spirit.” In the Spirit we not only have a new way but a new value in the Mosaic law. Both genitives are subjective: sin and death have “used” the law to produce evil, but the Spirit “uses” the law to produce life. The Christian is not free from the law but from the law as used by sin and death. It is important to remember that this positive view of the law in the life of the Christian is the result of messianic fulfillment. The law is intact and fulfilled in Jesus (Mt 5:17–20; 7:4, 6, 22). The Jews believed that when the Messiah came he would bring “the Torah of the Messiah,” the final Torah of the new age. This is what Paul is referring to. The power of sin and death are broken in the reign of the Spirit. The Spirit of life refers to “the Spirit who gives life,” showing that the liberation of verse 1 is a liberation to true life now and eternal life in the future. Schreiner (1998:400) sees an allusion to Ezekiel 37:5–6, 9–10, 14, where the “breath of God” (the Spirit) produces life. Again Christ is the means by which this liberation has been accomplished. Finally, Paul shifts to the second person, you, to make the message more direct to the readers. He wants to be certain that you realize this essential truth of being set free from sin and death. This adds further depth to the no condemnation of verse 1. The Christian was once under bondage to sin, and the just penalty of that was death. Now both of these powers have been nullified by the Spirit, and so life in the Spirit is one of glorious freedom. That it is the Spirit rather than Christ who does this and produces life may mean that the emphasis here is more on the Christian life than on conversion. There are five liberations in the larger context: a freedom from slavery to sin (6:16–22), a freedom from being taken prisoner (7:23), a freedom from condemnation (8:1), a freedom from the power of sin and death (8:2), and a final liberation of both creation and the individual at the eschaton (8:21, 23). this is not just a “set free from” in a liberation sense but also a “set free for” in glorious Christian freedom to live for Christ. In the Spirit we are free to resist sin (here), to address God as father (8:15), to engage in Christian prayer (8:27) and to obey God’s law (8:3–4). Yet this new life in the Spirit is grounded (gar, for) in Christ and conversion.
Life App - Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. The Spirit of life is the Holy Spirit, who was present at the creation of the world as one of the agents in the origin of life itself (Genesis 1:2). He is the power behind the rebirth of every Christian, and the one who helps us live the Christian life. The Holy Spirit sets us free, once and for all, from sin and its natural consequence, death. How did this happen? Paul has used the word law (nomos) with a variety of qualifiers in his letter: “God’s law” (7:22); “law of sin” (7:25); “law of my mind” (7:23); and now law of the Spirit. A parallel can be found in 7:6, where Paul contrasts the freedom we have to “serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Paul must be referring to the binding authority of the law—I am liberated from the old authority and placed in the new. Paul is also referring to the consistent ways that the Holy Spirit works. These fall under two main functions: what the Holy Spirit does for us and what he does in us. First, this law of the Spirit set you free. What both we and the law were “powerless to do” (8:3), God did for us. Second, having been freed, “the Spirit of God lives in” us (8:9), so that we actually live “according to the Spirit” (8:4) (Galatians 2:20).
Preaching the Word - THE HOLY SPIRIT’S LIBERATING WORK (vv. 2–4) Verse 2 introduces the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing liberation: “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Here “law” carries the idea of principle: “You were under the old principle of sin and death, but that has been transcended by the new principle of life in Christ—and so you are free.” The old principle showed us our sin, stirred up our sin so that we sinned even more, and then brought us to condemnation. But the new principle liberates us. Death has been replaced with life. Here Paul gives the Holy Spirit one of his more magnificent titles: “the Spirit of life.” It reminds us of the first mention of the Spirit in the Bible (Genesis 1:2), when the Spirit brought forth creation ex nihilo. That same creative power is characteristic of this new principle. The Spirit of God “gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (4:17b). This “Spirit of life” administers the work of God the Father, thus securing our liberation. God’s work is described in verses 3, 4. The principle of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the principle of sin and death. Thus when we yield to the power of the Holy Spirit, we are liberated. We no longer have to sin. Through the Holy Spirit the virtue and perfection and power of Christ’s life is communicated to us. We actually do the Law of God from the heart. We love him with all our hearts, and we love our neighbors as ourselves. This is as great a miracle as when the Spirit hovered over the face of the deep and with power materialized a new creation at the spoken word of the Father. The Holy Spirit liberates us through Christ!
MacArthur - The phrase “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” appears at the end of verse 1 in the King James, but it is not found in the earliest manuscripts of Romans or in most modern translations. It is probable that a copyist inadvertently picked up the phrase from verse 4. Because the identical wording appears there, the meaning of the passage is not affected. The conjunction for, which here carries the meaning of because, leads into the reason there is no condemnation for believers: the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Paul does not here use the term law in reference to the Mosaic law or to other divine commandments or requirements. He uses it rather in the sense of a principle of operation, as he has done earlier in the letter, where he speaks of “a law of faith” (3:27) and as he does in Galatians, where he speaks of “the law of Christ” (6:2). Those who believe in Jesus Christ are delivered from the condemnation of a lower divine law, as it were, by submitting themselves to a higher divine law. The lower law is the divine principle in regard to sin, the penalty for which is death, and the higher law is the law of the Spirit, which bestows life in Christ Jesus. But it should not be concluded that the law Paul is speaking of in this passage has no relationship to obedience. Obedience to God cannot save a person, because no person in his unredeemed sinfulness wants to obey God and could not obey perfectly even if he had the desire. But true salvation will always produce true obedience-never perfect in this life but nonetheless genuine and always present to some extent. When truly believed and received, the gospel of Jesus Christ always leads to the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:25–26). The coming kingdom age of Christ that Jeremiah predicted and of which the writer of Hebrews refers is far from lawless. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts” (Heb. 8:10; cf. Jer. 31:33). Release from the law’s bondage and condemnation does not mean release from the law’s requirements and standards. The higher law of the Spirit produces obedience to the lower law of duties. The freedom that Christ gives is complete and permanent deliverance from sin’s power and penalty (and ultimately from its presence). It also gives the ability to obey God. The very notion of a Christian who is free to do as he pleases is self-contradictory. A person who believes that salvation leads from law to license does not have the least understanding of the gospel of grace and can make no claim on Christ’s saviorhood and certainly no claim on His lordship. In speaking of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, Paul makes unambiguous later in this chapter that he is referring to the Holy Spirit. The Christian’s mind is set on the things of the Spirit (v.6) and is indwelt and given life by the Holy Spirit (vv. 9–11). Paul summarized the working of those two laws earlier in the epistle: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). When Jesus explained the way of salvation to Nicodemus, He said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). God “saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness,” Paul explains, “but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5–6). It is the Holy Spirit who bestows and energizes spiritual life in the person who places his trust in Christ Jesus. Paul could not be talking of any spirit but the Holy Spirit, because only God’s Holy Spirit can bring spiritual life to a heart that is spiritually dead.The truths of Romans 7 are among the most depressing and heart-rending in all of Scripture, and it is largely for that reason that many interpreters believe they cannot describe a Christian. But Paul was simply being honest and candid about the frustrating and discouraging spiritual battles that every believer faces. It is, in fact, the most faithful and obedient Christian who faces the greatest spiritual struggles. Just as in physical warfare, it is those on the front lines who encounter the enemy’s most fierce attacks. But just as frontline battle can reveal courage, it can also reveal weaknesses and vulnerability. Even the most valiant soldier is subject to injury and discouragement. During his earthly life, the Christian will always have residual weaknesses from his old humanness, the old fleshly person he used to be. No matter how closely he walks with the Lord, he is not yet completely free from sin’s power. That is the discomfiting reality of Romans 7. But the Christian is no longer a slave to sin as he once was, no longer under sin’s total domination and control. Now he is free from sin’s bondage anti its ultimate penalty. Satan, the world, and his own humanness still can cause him to stumble and falter, but they can no longer control or destroy him, because his new life in Christ is the very divine life of God’s own Spirit. That is the comforting truth of Romans 8.
Expositors - The NIV differs from the familiar wording "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" by stating that "through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free." The former wording points to the Spirit as the life-giver (2Cor 3:6) but only as mediating that which is in Christ (Col 3:4). Yet the construction is somewhat cumbersome, a disadvantage not shared by the other wording. Either is possible syntactically. Paul has already noted the enslaving power of sin and the freedom from it achieved by Christ (6:18, 22). This truth was anticipated in the teaching of Jesus (John 8:34-36).
Barclay - Paul says in this passage that there was a time when the Christian was at the mercy of his own sinful human nature. In that state the law simply became something that moved him to sin and he went from bad to worse, a defeated and frustrated man. But, when he became a Christian, into his life there came the surging power of the Spirit of God, and, as a result, he entered into victorious living.
POSB - 2. (8:2-4) Holy Spirit— Life— Believer: the Spirit gives life. The term "the law of the Spirit of life" means two things. It means...· the law of the Holy Spirit.· the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus. Within the universe there is a law so important that it has become the law of the Holy Spirit. It is called "the law of the Spirit of life." What is meant by this law? Very simply, life is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone. Whatever life is—energy, being, spirit, love, joy, peace—it is all in Jesus Christ and nowhere else. Within Christ, within His very being is the Spirit of life, the very energy and being of life. This fact is important, so important that God has written it into the laws of the universe. It is titled "the law of the Spirit of life," which is in Christ Jesus and in Him alone. The Spirit of life for which we long and ache is available in Christ Jesus. "In him was life; and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (John 11:25-26). "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:12). Now for the critical question. How does the Spirit give life? How does a person go about securing "the Spirit of life" so that he may not die but live forever?
1. The Spirit gives life by freeing the believer from sin and death, that is, from the "law of sin and death." The "law of sin and death" simply means the rule and reign of death. Every man dies: death rules and reigns over every man. But the Spirit of God frees a man from the rule and reign of death. This is natural and understandable; it is common sense, for it is a rule of the universe. If a person has the Spirit of life, then he naturally does not have the spirit of sin and death. He is not sinning and dying; he is living righteously and eternally. This is exactly what the Spirit of life does for the believer:
Þ He frees the believer from sin and death: from the law or the energy and the power of sin and death.
Þ He frees the believer to live righteously and eternally: to live in the Spirit of life or in the energy and power of life.
Stated another way, the Spirit of life frees the believer from both sin and death. The Holy Spirit frees the believer to live as Christ lived, to actually live out the life which Christ lived. The active energy of life, the dynamic force and being of life—all that is in Christ Jesus—is given to the believer. The believer actually lives in Christ Jesus. And the Spirit of life which is in Christ frees the believer from the fate (law) of sin and death. This simply means that the believer lives in a consciousness of being free. He breathes and senses a depth of life, a richness, a fulness of life that is indescribable. He lives with power—power over the pressure and strain, impediments and bondages of life—even the bondages of sin and death. He lives now and shall live forever. He senses this and knows this. Life to him is a spirit, a breath, a consciousness of being set free through Christ. Even when he sins and guilt sets in, there is a tug, a power (Holy Spirit) that draws him back to God. He asks forgiveness and removal of the guilt (1 John 1:9), and immediately upon asking, the same power (the Holy Spirit) instills an instantaneous assurance of cleansing. The spirit of life, the consciousness of living instantaneously takes up its abode within him once again. He feels free again, and he feels full of life in all its liberating power and freedom. He bubbles over with all the depth of the richness and fulness of life itself. He is full of the "Spirit of life." Life itself becomes once again a spirit, a consciousness of living. He lives now and forever.
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2Co. 3:17
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23).
"Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11).
2. The Spirit gives life by doing what the law could not do. The law could not make man righteous because man's flesh is too weak to keep the law. No man has ever been able to keep the law of God, not to perfection or even close to perfection. All flesh has miserably failed—come far short of God's glory and law. Consequently, all flesh dies physically and spiritually. Therefore, righteousness and life just cannot come by the law. But what the law could not do, the Spirit is able to do. He can provide righteousness and life.
3. The Spirit gives life by Christ condemning sin in the flesh.
4. The Spirit gives life by Christ providing righteousness for us. He provides righteousness for those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. This is a most marvelous statement, a glorious truth.
a. The Spirit "fulfills righteousness in us." He credits righteousness as being in us. When?
Þ When we believe that Jesus Christ is our righteousness, the sinless and perfect Son of God.
Þ When we believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior, the One who died for us.
When we believe in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God fulfills righteousness in us; that is, He takes the righteousness of Jesus Christ (which is the righteousness of the law) and credits it to us. He actually places within us the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. He places the Divine nature (righteousness) of God in us (2 Peter 1:4).
It is critical to see this fact, for the Spirit fulfills righteousness in us, not by us. We do not and cannot even come close to keeping the law perfectly, but Christ did (see Deeper Study #2—Romans 8:3). If His righteousness cannot be credited and fulfilled in us, then we are hopeless and doomed.
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21).
"And he [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:6).
"And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39).
"Now it was written for his sake alone, that it [righteousness] was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:23-25).
"Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:11)
b. Now note: righteousness is not fulfilled or credited in everyone. It is only fulfilled in those...
· who do not walk after the flesh,
· who do walk after the Spirit.
You can tell who is righteous and who is not; you can actually see who is fulfilling righteousness and who is not. All we have to do is look and see:
Þ Is a man walking after the flesh?
Þ Is a man walking after the Spirit?
The point is this: the Spirit gives life to men, but He gives life only to those who forsake the flesh and walk after the Spirit. The spiritual man, the man who walks after the Spirit, loves Christ and wants to honor Christ in all that he does. Therefore, he strives to follow Christ and His example. Such love and honor of Christ pleases God to no end, for God loves His Son with a perfect love. He loves His Son so much that He will take whatever honor a man gives His Son and match it for the man. Whatever recognition and honor a man heaps upon Christ, God matches it for the man.
Þ If a man trusts Christ for righteousness, then God gives that man righteousnesss.
Þ If a man trusts Christ for meaning, purpose, and significance, then God gives the man meaning, purpose, and significance.
Þ If a man trusts Christ to lead him through some trial or need, then God leads him through the trial or need.
Þ If a man trusts Christ for healing, then God gives the man healing.
Whatever the man sows in Christ, he reaps: God matches it. Whatever a man measures out to Christ, the same is measured back to the man: God matches it. In fact, Scripture says that God will even go beyond and do much more than we ask or think (cp. Ephes. 3:20).
Therefore, the man who walks after the "Spirit of life" which is in Christ Jesus is given the Spirit of life. The Holy Spirit fulfills and credits him with the righteousness of the law, with the right to live eternally.
"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).
"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:13-14).
"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Gal 5:16)
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called" (Ephes. 4:1).
"And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour" (Ephes. 5:2).
"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him" (Col. 2:6).
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
"He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (1Jn 2:6
BKC - 8:3-4. Having stated the fact of freedom, Paul then explained how it is achieved. He declared again the impossibility of attaining freedom over sin through the (Mosaic) Law. It was powerless to free from sin. Not that the Law was weak in itself (as many translations suggest), for it was good (7:12). But because of sinful human nature, the Law could not deliver from sin. The words “sinful nature” translate sarx (lit., “flesh”), which can mean either human sinful corruption or human weakness (7:5, 18, 25; 8:4-5, 8-9, 12-13). God accomplished deliverance over sin, however, by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man (lit., “likeness of flesh of sin”). Jesus was sent not in sinful flesh but in the likeness of it. His human nature was protected and preserved from the indwelling principle of sin that has plagued all other human beings since Adam (Luke 1:35). He was also sent, literally “concerning or for sin” (peri harmartias, not as the niv has it, to be a sin offering). In other words He came to do something about sin. What He did was to condemn it; by His death on the cross, He condemned sin (katekrinen, “passed a judicial sentence on it”; katakrima, “punishment,” Rom. 8:1) so that those in Christ are not condemned. The goal of this was so that the righteous requirements of the Law—a life of holiness (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7)—could be fully met as believers do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. The provision of deliverance from the power of sin is through the death of Jesus Christ, but experiencing it in one’s daily conduct comes through the controlling power of the Holy Spirit. 8:5-8. In these verses Paul answered the implied question, What does it mean to live according to the sinful nature and according to the Spirit? He explained that the former means having their minds set on (phronousin, pres. tense, “keep on being mindful of or aspiring for”) what that nature desires. An unbeliever cares only for his sinful interests and has no regard for God. The exact opposite is true of those who live according to the Spirit. They aspire for or have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The sinful nature and the indwelling Spirit are in conflict (Gal. 5:17). But what difference does it make whether a person is mindful of the flesh or of the Spirit? Again Paul explained. The mind (phronēma, “mind-set, aspirations”; Rom. 8:6b-7) of sinful man (tēs sarkos, “of the flesh”) is death, that is, it is equivalent to death, or it leads to death in all its forms (physical and spiritual). On the other hand the mind (phronēma, “mind-set, aspirations”) controlled by the Spirit (lit., “of the Spirit”) is life (eternal resurrection life) and peace immediately (5:1) and ultimately. In 8:7-8 Paul focused only on the sinful mind (phronēma tēs sarkos, “mind-set, aspirations of the sin nature”; v. 6) to explain why he said (v. 6) that it ends up in death: (1) It is hostile to God (cf. 5:10); (2) it does not submit (pres. tense, “is not submitting”) to God’s Law; and (3) it cannot do so. The result is that those controlled by the sinful nature cannot (pres. tense, “are not able to”) please God. The unsaved lead lives that are totally void of spiritual life and ability. A believer, then, who gives in to his sin nature is acting like the unsaved (1 Cor. 3:3). 8:9-11. After speaking objectively about the two types of persons, Paul now addressed his readers directly. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit (lit., “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit”), if (eiper, “if, as is the fact”; v. 17) the Spirit of God lives (pres. tense, “is dwelling”) in you (v. 11). The indwelling Holy Spirit gives a believer a totally different life (2 Cor. 5:17). The opposite, however, is also true: If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (lit., “this one is not of Him”). Since only the Holy Spirit gives spiritual life, a person cannot be related to Christ apart from the Spirit. The interchange of the titles “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ” argues for the deity of Jesus Christ. This statement also makes it clear that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is the identifying mark of a believer in Jesus Christ (1 John 3:24; 4:13). Another significant fact is that Romans 8:10 equates the indwelling presence of Christ (Christ is in you) with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (vv. 9, 11). This adds further support to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Verse 10, like verses 9b and 11, is a conditional statement in which in Greek the condition is assumed to be true; if can be understood as “since” or “because.” As a result of Christ’s indwelling presence, your body is dead (or, “subject to death”; 7:24) because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. Because of God’s imputed righteousness, a believer is alive spiritually. The eternal, spiritual life of God is implanted by the indwelling Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ here and now, even though a believer’s body is mortal. Then Paul wrote about an even better promise (8:11). Since God raised Jesus from the dead (lit., “out from dead ones”; 4:24; 6:4), God promises believers in whom His Spirit . . . is living (8:9) that He will also give life to their mortal bodies through His Spirit. In other words, God promises spiritual resurrection life now (6:4, 8, 11) for each believer’s mortal body and physical resurrection in the future for that mortal body (6:5; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:42, 53; 2 Cor. 4:14).
JM - 8:4 righteous requirement of the law. The thoughts, words, and deeds which the moral law of God demands. The ceremonial aspect of the Mosaic law has been set aside (Col. 2:14–17), and the basic responsibility for the civil aspect, which shows the application of the moral law in a community, has been transferred to human government (13:1–7). The moral law finds its basis in the character of God and is presented in outline form in the Ten Commandments; its most condensed form is in Jesus’ commands to love God and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. It has never been abrogated, but finds its authority in the New Covenant. Every unbeliever is still under its requirement of perfection and its condemnation, until he comes to Christ (Gal. 3:23–25) and every believer still finds in it the standard for behavior. fulfilled. Although the believer is no longer in bondage to the moral law’s condemnation and penalty (7:6), the law still reflects the moral character of God and His will for His creatures. But what the external, written code was unable to accomplish, the Spirit is able to do by writing the law on our hearts (Jer. 31:33, 34) and giving us the power to obey it. not walk according to the flesh but … the Spirit. Not an admonition, but a statement of fact that applies to all believers. “Walk” refers to a lifestyle, the habits of living and thinking that characterize a person’s life (Luke 1:6; Eph. 4:17; 1 John 1:7). Since every true Christian is indwelt by the Spirit (v. 9), every Christian will manifest the fruit He produces in their life (Gal. 5:22, 23). 8:5 those who live … the flesh. All unbelievers (v. 4). set their minds. This Gr. verb refers to a basic orientation of the mind—a mindset that includes one’s affections, mental processes, and will (Phil. 2:2, 5; 3:15, 19; Col. 3:2). Paul’s point is that unbelievers’ basic disposition is to satisfy the cravings of their unredeemed flesh (Phil. 3:19; 2 Pet. 2:10). those who live … the Spirit. All believers (v. 4).
8:6 carnally minded. In the Gr. “minded” is a noun form of the verb in v. 5. “Carnally” means “of flesh.” This is a simple spiritual equation: The person with the mind set on the flesh is spiritually dead (1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1). spiritually minded. This describes every Christian. The person with his mind set on the things of the Spirit is very much spiritually alive and at peace with God (5:1; Eph. 2:5). 8:7 enmity against God. The unbeliever’s problem is much deeper than acts of disobedience, which are merely outward manifestations of inner fleshly compulsions. His basic inclinations and orientation toward gratifying himself—however outwardly religious or moral he may appear—are directly hostile to God. Even the good deeds unbelievers perform are not truly a fulfillment of God’s law, because they are produced by the flesh, for selfish reasons, and from a heart that is in rebellion (5:1). 8:8 in the flesh. See 7:5.
8:9 dwells. Refers to being in one’s own home. The Spirit of God makes His home in every person who trusts in Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 12:13. When there is no evidence of His presence by the fruit He produces (Gal. 5:22, 23), a person has no legitimate claim to Christ as Savior and Lord. 8:10 the body is dead because of sin. The body is unredeemed and dead in sin (6:6, 12; 7:5; 8:11, 23). the Spirit is life because of righteousness. It is best to translate the word “spirit” as the person’s spirit, not the Holy Spirit. Paul is saying that if God’s Spirit indwells you (v. 9), the human spirit is alive (Eph. 2:5) and can manifest true righteousness (v. 4). 8:11 your mortal bodies. See 6:12; cf. 8:23.
JM - 8:4 righteous requirement of the law. The thoughts, words, and deeds which the moral law of God demands. The ceremonial aspect of the Mosaic law has been set aside (Col. 2:14–17), and the basic responsibility for the civil aspect, which shows the application of the moral law in a community, has been transferred to human government (13:1–7). The moral law finds its basis in the character of God and is presented in outline form in the Ten Commandments; its most condensed form is in Jesus’ commands to love God and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. It has never been abrogated, but finds its authority in the New Covenant. Every unbeliever is still under its requirement of perfection and its condemnation, until he comes to Christ (Gal. 3:23–25) and every believer still finds in it the standard for behavior. fulfilled. Although the believer is no longer in bondage to the moral law’s condemnation and penalty (7:6), the law still reflects the moral character of God and His will for His creatures. But what the external, written code was unable to accomplish, the Spirit is able to do by writing the law on our hearts (Jer. 31:33, 34) and giving us the power to obey it. not walk according to the flesh but … the Spirit. Not an admonition, but a statement of fact that applies to all believers. “Walk” refers to a lifestyle, the habits of living and thinking that characterize a person’s life (Luke 1:6; Eph. 4:17; 1 John 1:7). Since every true Christian is indwelt by the Spirit (v. 9), every Christian will manifest the fruit He produces in their life (Gal. 5:22, 23). 8:5 those who live … the flesh. All unbelievers (v. 4). set their minds. This Gr. verb refers to a basic orientation of the mind—a mindset that includes one’s affections, mental processes, and will ( Phil. 2:2, 5; 3:15, 19; Col. 3:2). Paul’s point is that unbelievers’ basic disposition is to satisfy the cravings of their unredeemed flesh (Phil. 3:19; 2 Pet. 2:10). those who live … the Spirit. All believers (v. 4). 8:6 carnally minded. In the Gr. “minded” is a noun form of the verb in v. 5. “Carnally” means “of flesh.” This is a simple spiritual equation: The person with the mind set on the flesh is spiritually dead (1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1). spiritually minded. This describes every Christian. The person with his mind set on the things of the Spirit is very much spiritually alive and at peace with God (5:1; Eph. 2:5). 8:7 enmity against God. The unbeliever’s problem is much deeper than acts of disobedience, which are merely outward manifestations of inner fleshly compulsions. His basic inclinations and orientation toward gratifying himself—however outwardly religious or moral he may appear—are directly hostile to God. Even the good deeds unbelievers perform are not truly a fulfillment of God’s law, because they are produced by the flesh, for selfish reasons, and from a heart that is in rebellion (5:1).8:8 in the flesh. See 7:5. 8:9 dwells. Refers to being in one’s own home. The Spirit of God makes His home in every person who trusts in Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 12:13. When there is no evidence of His presence by the fruit He produces (Gal. 5:22, 23), a person has no legitimate claim to Christ as Savior and Lord. 8:10 the body is dead because of sin. The body is unredeemed and dead in sin (6:6, 12; 7:5; 8:11, 23). the Spirit is life because of righteousness. It is best to translate the word “spirit” as the person’s spirit, not the Holy Spirit. Paul is saying that if God’s Spirit indwells you (v. 9), the human spirit is alive (Eph. 2:5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved) and can manifest true righteousness (v. 4). 8:11 your mortal bodies. See 6:12; 8:23. BKC 8:9-11. After speaking objectively about the two types of persons, Paul now addressed his readers directly. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit (lit., “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit”), if (eiper, “if, as is the fact”; cf. v. 17) the Spirit of God lives (pres. tense, “is dwelling”) in you (cf. v. 11). The indwelling Holy Spirit gives a believer a totally different life (2 Cor. 5:17). The opposite, however, is also true: If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (lit., “this one is not of Him”). Since only the Holy Spirit gives spiritual life, a person cannot be related to Christ apart from the Spirit. The interchange of the titles “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ” argues for the deity of Jesus Christ. This statement also makes it clear that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is the identifying mark of a believer in Jesus Christ (cf. 1 John 3:24; 4:13). Another significant fact is that Romans 8:10 equates the indwelling presence of Christ (Christ is in you) with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (vv. 9, 11). This adds further support to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Verse 10, like verses 9b and 11, is a conditional statement in which in Greek the condition is assumed to be true; if can be understood as “since” or “because.” As a result of Christ’s indwelling presence, your body is dead (or, “subject to death”; 7:24) because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. Because of God’s imputed righteousness, a believer is alive spiritually. The eternal, spiritual life of God is implanted by the indwelling Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ here and now, even though a believer’s body is mortal. Then Paul wrote about an even better promise (8:11). Since God raised Jesus from the dead (lit., “out from dead ones”; 4:24; 6:4), God promises believers in whom His Spirit . . . is living (8:9) that He will also give life to their mortal bodies through His Spirit. In other words, God promises spiritual resurrection life now (6:4, 8, 11) for each believer’s mortal body and physical resurrection in the future for that mortal body (6:5; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:42, 53; 2 Cor. 4:14). 8:12 the flesh. Our unredeemed humanness—that complex of sinful passions that sin generates through its one remaining domain, our bodies (6:6, 12; 7:5). 8:13 put to death the deeds of the body. Paul’s first instruction concerning what his readers must do in the struggle with sin destroys several false views of how believers are made holy: 1) that in a crisis-moment we are immediately made perfect; 2) that we must “let God” take over while we remain idle; and 3) that some turning-point decision will propel us to a higher level of holiness. Rather, the apostle says the Spirit provides us with the energy and power to continually and gradually be killing our sins, a process never completed in this life. The means the Spirit uses to accomplish this process is our faithful obedience to the simple commands of Scripture (Eph. 5:18; Col. 3:16; cf. 13:14; Pss. 1:2; 119:11; Luke 22:40; John 17:17; 1 Cor. 6:18; 9:25–27; 1 Pet. 2:11) 8:14 led by the Spirit. Believers are not led through subjective, mental impressions or promptings to provide direction in making life’s decisions—something Scripture nowhere teaches. Instead, God’s Spirit objectively leads His children sometimes through the orchestration of circumstances (Acts 16:7) but primarily through: 1) illumination, divinely clarifying Scripture to make it understandable to our sinful, finite minds (Luke 24:44, 45; 1 Cor. 2:14–16; Eph. 1:17–19; Eph. 3:16–19; Col. 1:9); and 2) sanctification, divinely enabling us to obey Scripture (Gal. 5:16, 17; 5:25). sons of God. When a person experiences the Spirit’s leading in those ways, he gains assurance that God has adopted him into His family (8:15–17; 1 John 3:2) BKC 8:12-14. Paul drew a conclusion and made an application from his previous discussion. Therefore . . . we have an obligation. Each believer’s responsibility is a positive one—to live each day in the control and power of the Holy Spirit. But first Paul expressed this truth negatively—not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. Each Christian is to refuse to follow the inclinations and desires of his sin nature. He is to deny the efforts of that nature to impose its lifestyle on him (Titus 2:12). The reason is that a sinful manner of life results in death. This does not suggest that a believer who sins will face eternal death in hell; instead, it means he will not enjoy his spiritual life. He will seem like an unsaved person (1 Cor. 3:1-4) and will be unable to enjoy the indwelling presence of the Spirit. You will die is literally, “you are about to die,” or “you are at the point of dying.”On the other hand, if by the Spirit you put to death (pres. tense, “are putting to death”) the misdeeds of the body, you will live. A few Greek manuscripts have “flesh” instead of “body.” But the body is the vehicle by which one’s sin-nature expresses itself (Rom. 6:6, 13). Only by the Holy Spirit’s power can a believer put to death the sins of his former life (Eph. 4:22-31; Col. 3:5-9). This is what Paul referred to when he said “count yourselves dead to sin” (Rom. 6:11). Paul then continued his explanation. Those who are led (pres. tense, “are being led”) by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Many Bible students see no difference between the word translated “sons” in 8:14 and the word translated “children” in verse 16. However, in verse 16 the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence attests the believer’s birth relationship to God (tekna, “children,” is lit., “born ones”). But in verse 14 the Holy Spirit’s control and direction attests the believer’s privileges in God’s family as a “son” (huios means a child mature enough to take on adult family privileges and responsibilities). A son in God’s family is led by God’s Spirit. * 8:14 Being led by the Spirit is virtually synonymous with walking according to the Spirit. “Walking” highlights the active participation and effort of the believer. “Being led” underscores the passive side, the submissive dependence of the believer on the Spirit. these are sons of God: Those led by the Spirit are God’s children, and the sovereign Lord, in turn, is their Father (2 Cor. 6:18). 8:15 spirit of bondage … to fear. Because of their life of sin, unregenerate people are slaves to their fear of death (Heb. 2:14, 15), and to their fear of final punishment (1 John 4:18). Spirit of adoption. Not primarily a reference to the transaction by which God adopts us (Eph. 1:5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will; Gal. 4:5–7 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir), but to a Spirit-produced awareness of the rich reality that God has made us His children, and, therefore, that we can come before Him without fear or hesitation as our beloved Father. It includes the confidence that we are truly sons of God. Abba. An informal, Aram. term for Father that conveys a sense of intimacy. Like the Eng. terms “Daddy” or “Papa,” it connotes tenderness, dependence, and a relationship free of fear or anxiety (Mark 14:36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will). 8:16 bears witness with our spirit. In Roman culture, for an adoption to be legally binding, 7 reputable witnesses had to be present, attesting to its validity. God’s Holy Spirit confirms the validity of our adoption, not by some inner, mystical voice, but by the fruit He produces in us (Gal. 5:22, 23) and the power He provides for spiritual service (Acts 1:8). 8:17 heirs. Every believer has been made an heir of God, our Father (Matt. 25:34; Gal. 3:29; Eph. 1:11; Col. 1:12; 3:24; Heb. 6:12; 9:15; 1 Pet. 1:4). We will inherit eternal salvation (Titus 3:7), God Himself (Lam. 3:24; cf. Ps. 73:25; Rev. 21:3), glory (5:2), and everything in the universe (Heb. 1:2). Unlike the Jewish practice of the primacy of the firstborn son, under Roman law the inheritance was divided equally between the children, where the law more carefully protected possessions that had been inherited. joint heirs. God has appointed His Son to be heir of all things (Heb. 1:2). Every adopted child will receive by divine grace the full inheritance Christ receives by divine right (Matt. 25:21; John 17:22; 2 Cor. 8:9). if … we suffer with Him. Proof of the believer’s ultimate glory is that he suffers—whether it comes as mockery, ridicule, or physical persecution—because of His Lord (Matt. 5:10–12; John 15:18–21; 2 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 3:12). 8:18 glory … revealed in us. This looks forward to the resurrection of the body (v. 23) and the subsequent complete Christlikeness which is the believer’s eternal glory. See Phil. 3:20, 21; Col. 3:4; 1 John 3:2. 8:19 the creation. This includes everything in the physical universe except human beings, whom he contrasts with this term (vv. 22, 23). All creation is personified to be, as it were, longing for transformation from the curse and its effects. the revealing. Lit. “an uncovering,” or “an unveiling.” When Christ returns, God’s children will share His glory. See v. 18. 8:20 futility. This refers to the inability to achieve a goal or purpose. Because of man’s sin, God cursed the physical universe (Gen. 3:17–19), and now, no part of creation entirely fulfills God’s original purpose. 8:21 delivered. Cf. 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 21:4, 5. 8:23 firstfruits of the Spirit. Just as the first pieces of produce to appear on a tree provide hope of a future harvest, the fruit which the Spirit produces in us now (Gal. 5:22, 23) provides hope that we will one day be like Christ. groan. With grief over our remaining sinfulness (7:24; cf. Ps. 38:4, 9, 10). adoption. The process that began with God’s choice (Eph. 1:5) and included our actually becoming His children at salvation (Gal. 4:5–7) will culminate with our glorification—the full realization of our inheritance (vv. 29, 30). redemption of our body. Not the physical body only, but all of man’s remaining fallenness (6:6, 12; 7:5; cf. 1 Cor. 15:35–44; Phil. 3:20, 21; 2 Pet. 1:3, 4; 1 John 3:2). 8:24 hope. See note on 5:2.
BKC - 8:15-17. In contrast with the control of sin, which enslaves to the point of fear, believers have received the Spirit of sonship. The word translated “sonship” (huiothesias) means “placing as a son” and is frequently translated “adoption” (v.23). Believers are adopted sons (Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5), not slaves (Gal. 4:7); so they need not be enslaved to sin or in fear. In NT times adopted sons enjoyed the same privileges as natural-born sons. So, instead of cowering in slave-like fear, Christians can approach God in an intimate way calling Him Abba, Father. “Abba” is a Greek and English transliteration of the Aramaic word for father (used elsewhere in the NT only in Mark 14:36; Gal. 4:6). Besides being adopted into God’s family as sons, believers also are His children (tekna, “born ones”) by the new birth (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1-2). And the Holy Spirit, who gives believers life, testifies with (not to) their spirit(s) of the fact of the new birth. In many families children inherit their parents’ estates; each child is an heir and the children together are co-heirs. Similarly, since Christians are God’s children, they are His heirs (Gal. 4:7), and they are co-heirs with Christ. They are recipients of all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3) now, and in the future they will share with the Lord Jesus in all the riches of God’s kingdom (John 17:24; 1 Cor. 3:21-23). Sharing with Jesus Christ, however, involves more than anticipating the glories of heaven. For Jesus Christ it involved suffering and abuse and crucifixion; therefore being co-heirs with Christ requires that believers share in His sufferings (John 15:20; Col. 1:24; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12). In fact believers do share in His sufferings; if indeed translates eiper, which means “if, as is the fact” (Rom. 8:9). Then after the suffering they will share in His glory (2 Tim. 2:12; 1 Peter 4:13; 5:10). Goal of sanctification (8:18-27). 8:18. In one sense this verse is the conclusion of the preceding paragraph in which believers are assured of being heirs of Christ’s coming glory. However, Paul reminded his readers that sharing in the glory of Christ in the future required sharing “in His sufferings” in this life. But after careful figuring (Logizomai, I consider) Paul concluded that our present sufferings are far outweighed by the glory that will be revealed in (as well as to and through) us. This future glory is so great that present sufferings are insignificant by comparison. Also the glory is forever, whereas the suffering is temporary and light (2 Cor. 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all). Certainly this truth can help believers endure afflictions. Romans 8:18 also serves as a topic sentence for the following discussion on the relationship between believers and the whole Creation, both in their afflictions and in their future glory. 8:22-23. In one sense verse 22 is an appropriate conclusion to the preceding paragraph, summing up the present cursed state of the physical creation. Paul said, We know (oidamen, continuing state of knowledge that grows out of perception) that the whole Creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth (lit., “keeps on groaning together and keeps on travailing together”) right up to the present time. The emphasis on “together” in these verbs does not include believers in Christ, who are specifically mentioned in verse 23, but involves the various parts of the natural Creation. At the same time verse 22 introduces this new paragraph, which sets forth the hope of future deliverance from suffering under the curse of sin. Paul had begun this section by referring to the believers’ “present sufferings” (v. 18), a subject to which he returned in verse 23. Believers are described as the ones having the firstfruits of the Spirit. This is an appositional use of the genitive and means that the Holy Spirit is “the firstfruits” (aparchēn) of God’s work of salvation and re-creation in believers. Elsewhere the Holy Spirit is called a deposit (down payment or earnest) guaranteeing our inheritance (Eph. 1:14; 2Cor. 1:22), a similar idea. A farmer’s “firstfruits” were the initial harvesting of his first-ripened crops. This first installment was a foretaste and promise that more harvest was to come. Similarly God the Holy Spirit, indwelling believers, is a foretaste that they will enjoy many more blessings, including living in God’s presence forever. Because of “present sufferings” (Rom. 8:18) believers, like the Creation, groan inwardly (v. 22; 2 Cor. 5:2) as they wait eagerly (from apekdechomai, the same word used of the Creation in Rom. 8:19 and of the manifestation of hope in v. 25) for their adoption as sons, which is identified as the redemption of their bodies. The word “adoption” (huiothesian, “placing as a son”; trans. “sonship” in v. 15) describes a believer’s legal relationship to God as a result of God’s grace received by faith. (Regeneration, however, describes a believer’s relationship to God as a result of the new birth.) Israel had received adoption by God (9:4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises), a reality undoubtedly growing out of her covenantal ties with God (Deut. 7:6-9). In one sense each believer has already received the adoption because he has “received the Spirit of sonship” (lit., “adoption,” Rom. 8:15) and is a son of God (Gal. 4:6-7). At the same time, as Romans 8:23 states, believers still anticipate their adoption in its completeness, which is said to be “the redemption” (apolytrōsin; etymologically the Gr. word describes a release or deliverance or manumission achieved by a ransom payment [lytron]; 3:24) of their bodies. This is called the revelation of the sons of God (8:19) and “the glorious freedom of the children of God” (v. 21). It will occur at the Rapture of the church when believers will be raised and transformed with glorious bodies (1 Cor. 15:42-54; 2 Cor. 5:1-5; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Thes. 4:13-18). Paul called that day “the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). 8:24-25. God has promised that a believer’s body will finally be delivered from sin and its effects by the work of His Son. Those who respond by faith to that promise have hope, a confident expectation of that bodily redemption (Gal. 5:5). This is the final step of salvation and it was in that anticipation that we were saved. The redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23) obviously has not yet occurred (Who hopes for what he already has?), but it is hoped for and eagerly anticipated (wait is from apekdechomai; vv. 19, 23) with steadfast endurance (patiently is lit., “through endurance”) in present sufferings (v. 18).
Sermon: The Holy Spirit Changes Us (Romans 8)
The Holy Spirit (Spirit of life) brings about great changes in your life (Romans 8:2)
We need to learn to walk with the Spirit (Romans 8:4-5)
We need to learn to think like the Holy Spirit thinks (Romans 8:5-7)
Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, change is possible in each of us (Romans 8:8-11)
The Consequences of living according to the Spirit
Victory over Sin & Temptation (Romans 8:12)
Adoption into God’s family (Romans 8:14-17)
Prayer Help (Romans 8:15)
Blessings Tomorrow (Romans 8:17-18)
Comfort Today (Romans 8:17-18)
A New Body (Romans 8:23-25)
Strength in Weakness (Romans 8:26-27)
Sermon: El Espiritu Santo nos Cambia
El Espíritu Santo (Espíritu de vida) conduce a gran cambios en tu vida (Romanos 8:2)
Tenemos que aprender como ander conforme al Espíritu de vida (Romanos 8:4-5)
Tenemos que aprender a pensar como el Espíritu de vida (Romanos 8:5-7)
El Espíritu Santo vive en el creyente y por lo tanto, cambio es possible para todos (Rom 8:8-11)
Las Consequencias de andar conforme al Espíritu de vida
Victoria sobre el pecado y la tentación (Romanos 8:12)
Adopción a la familia de Dios (Romanos 8:14-17)
Ayuda en tus Oraciones (Romanos 8:15)
Bendiciones en el futuro (Romanos 8:17-18)
Comfort en los sufimientos de hoy (Romanos 8:17-18)
Un Nuevo Cuerpo (Romanos 8:23-25)
Fuerza en la Debilidad (Romanos 8:26-27)