Romans 8:26-27 The Spirit Makes Intercession


Today we will see again that just as creation groans, so do Christians within themselves. And just as hope sustains us in our suffering, so does the Spirit sustain us in our weakness.

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The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses

What does likewise/in the same way refer to? “. . . as hope sustains Christians in their waiting, so also does the Spirit” (Moo, 139). Hope sustains us in our sufferings, and the Holy Spirit sustains us in our weakness. What the Spirit does is bear a burden along with us.

Weakness is not limited to prayer, but most likely refers to the whole of the fallen human condition. Yet, our inability to pray as we ought maybe best demonstrates our weakness. The Apostle introduces the issue of our weakness and then “zeroes-in-on” our weakness in prayer. Why does he do that? “Prayer covers every aspect of our need. . .” (Murray, 311). In all of our prayers we are weak. The issue is not that we do not know how to pray, but that we do not know what to pray. Maybe we do not know if we should pray for deliverance from suffering or strength to endure it. I think that unless we have a clear understanding of Scripture to apply to a certain situation, we should always pray, ‘If it is Your will’ because we do not always know God’s will for every situation. This particular weakness of our prayer lives cannot be overcome in this life. That is why we are pointed to the Spirit. With His help this lack of ability in prayer is overcome.

The Spirit Himself makes intercession

The help of bearing a burden is found in the intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit. Because the language of the passage is that the Spirit “helps” (or comes to aid, or bears along with us) we cannot say that the Spirit intercedes for us apart from our involvement. It appears that what is meant is that when we pray, the Spirit aids our prayers. Yet, “. . . All attention is focused on the Spirit. . .” (Moo, 525). He is the One who transforms our prayers.

The Spirit intercedes for us, “with groanings which cannot be uttered.” These are “wordless” groans. Some have claimed that this refers to some type of heavenly prayer language that is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is related to the gift of speaking in tongues. I find that to be a stretch. I’ll give you a few reasons why I believe that is an incorrect interpretation.

1) The Scripture is clear that the gift of tongues was only for some believers, but the Spirit’s intercessory ministry is for all. Those who claim a special prayer language do not claim it for all believers, but only themselves. This leads to a second point.

2) Spiritual gifts are for the edification of the church, not individuals. This intercession is not a “spiritual gift.” No one can biblically claim that they have a special prayer language to use for their own benefit in tough situations.

3) I take the phrase “which cannot be uttered” to mean “unspoken” and yet tongues were definitely spoken. In conclusion, I do not believe that verse 26 refers to some type of personal, heavenly prayer language that some have called glossolalia. The groanings are those of believers, but the word is used metaphorically. Just as the whole creation does not literally groan, neither do believers. These are “wordless” groans that I take to me something like “longings” from within our hearts. These groans are not audible, but are inaudible, unspoken, unexpressed longings of Christians who desire the full restoration of all things. The Holy Spirit identifies with our sufferings and longings by coming to our aid. This is the tension of the present age. We are saved, but not fully saved. We must endure until the end. We suffer, long, wait, and pray full of hope and with the help of the Spirit.

He who searches the hearts

If verse 26 teaches that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know what to pray for, then verse 27 teaches that His intercession is effective.

Searching the hearts of people is solely a divine activity. From Old Testament to New Testament we are told time and again that God sees into our hearts. He knows the counsel of our hearts. Yet, it is a good thing that the Father can see into our hearts because that is the place where the Holy Spirit is interceding for us. At the time that this intercession is taking place within us, it is undetectable to us. We do not know when this is taking place, and we do not know what the Spirit is communicating to the Father. The Father knows exactly what the Spirit is expressing because He knows the mind of the Spirit. What a great passage on the Godhead. The three persons of the triune God know each other perfectly. They are always in perfect accord. The Father knows precisely what the Spirit intends. The Father knows and responds to His intentions and not ours so that what is good and right may be done for us. As Martin Luther put it, “The counsel and will of God far excel our counsel and will.”

The Spirit prays for us and He knows the will of God perfectly. He knows what we do not know at all times- the perfect will of God. He is the One who makes intercession for the saints (those who have come to God by faith in Christ).

Conclusions and Applications

We have an intercessor in heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is able to save all those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them from the right hand of God. And yet, we have another. The Spirit also intercedes for us from within our hearts. God sees into our depths where, in fact, the Spirit is interceding for us.

Keep this in mind- apparently the Spirit does not constantly intercede for us. Sometimes we are told ‘no’ in response to our own prayers. The Apostle Paul was told no in response to his request that the thorn in his flesh be taken away.

The measure of God’s grace is not our weakness, but the love of the Holy Spirit. God’s mercy toward us is not based on how well we pray, but how much the Spirit cares for us.

I’ll leave you with three specific applications:

1) Make prayer a habit

2) Pray in a variety of ways: adoration, confession, petition, thanksgiving

3) Trust the Spirit to perfect your imperfect prayers

Hope will sustain you in suffering. The Spirit will sustain you in weakness.

Romans 8:18-25 The Sufferings of this Present Time


The last thought of the previous passage really set us up for today’s sermon. In verse 17 we were told that we are heirs of God, “if indeed we suffer with [Christ], that we may also be glorified together.” The promise of glory was made in that verse, and now we have an entire passage on the subject. This sermon and the next two are all about the glory that will be ours. We will see that this glory “is the climax of God’s plan for the world and for his people. . .” (Moo, 137).

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The Sufferings of this Present Time (18)

We have already been told that if we are to share in Christ’s glory, then we must share in His sufferings; but Paul wants to make it clear that no matter the intensity of our present sufferings it will not even come close to comparing to the intensity of the glory of God that we will experience in the near future. The sufferings of this present time include those things we suffer at the hands of others and from living in a fallen world. From the beginning of church history until now, in our country and around the world, Christians have been persecuted for their faith. They have been mentally, emotionally, and physically abused. They have suffered lack of employment, their families have disowned them, and they have been imprisoned among many other things for the sake of Christ. They have been miserable for His name’s sake. That is suffering. Yet, we also suffer because of the weakness of our condition. We suffer from poor health, broken relationships, financial misery, and so much more. Sometimes we bring these things upon ourselves, and sometimes they come upon us from no direct cause of our own.

Maybe you have thought to yourself that God’s children should not suffer the way they do. Maybe you’ve thought that you would give up your hope in Christ because of suffering. The main point of verse 18 is to help you to persevere through sufferings. Those of you who have not suffered much: you will. If you live long enough, you will suffer. This passage helps you to prepare. Thus, this verse serves two help two kinds of people: those who are suffering to persevere and those who haven’t suffered to be prepared. The challenges of this life are worth it because of what will soon be revealed to us. We are promised that no matter the intensity of our present sufferings, they will not compare to the intensity of our future glory.

The Whole Creation Groans (19-22)

When was it that the creation was subjected to futility? The earth was cursed when Adam and Eve sinned against God (Gen 3:17-18). The futility that it was subjected to is a state of frustration. We can be quite sure that the earth, “did not reach its original created goal of being a place where people could dwell securely and with minimal labor” (Moo, 137). God is the One who subjected it to the frustration on account of Adam’s sin, but it was in hope. The creation is portrayed the same way we have been. It is seen as a slave who will be delivered from bondage.

The whole creation, the earth and all that it includes, has shared in the suffering of the present age and so will share in the future glory. God has reconciled “all things to Himself” by Christ (Col 1:20). He has made peace through the blood of Christ’s cross, and all things will share in the glory that awaits us.

In verse 22 we are taken from the slave illustration to the example of an expectant mother. “The pain of an expectant mother is a natural and common biblical metaphor for hope. . .” (Moo, 137). Childbirth can be very long and very painful, but the joyous outcome does not even compare in significance. The delay and the pain soon fade away as joy overwhelms the mother and family. Groaning in that situation can be attributed to the pain of the mother and/or the longing for the labor to come to pass. This is how creation is depicted. When Paul says that the “whole creation” groans in this way, he means the earth and all that’s in it (the animate and the inanimate; the beasts and the birds; the trees and the dirt; the waters and the mountains).

Even We Ourselves Groan (23)

Verse 23 is the main point to which the Apostle has been leading us. Christians also groan in a similar manner. Even we ourselves groan during the sufferings of this present time. The Spirit is brought back into the conversation. What are the firstfruits of the Spirit? Life in the Spirit is a pledge of the glory to come. Now we see in a mirror dimly, then we will see face-to-face. We groan for several reasons including: our sufferings, our weaknesses, the incompleteness of our salvation, our struggles with sin, and much more. “Our groans express both present pain and future longing” (Stott, 242).

The last phrase of this verse demonstrates that already-not-yet nature of the Christian life that will be the last idea of this passage. On the one hand we are already the children of God, and on the other hand we are not-yet adopted. We are eagerly waiting for the adoption. We are saved, but not fully saved.

We were Saved in this Hope (24-25)

We have figured out that we must live this life in hope, and that is how this paragraph is ended. We are eager for the future, but we are patient in the meantime. The hope that the Apostle talks about is our complete deliverance.

Conclusions and Applications

You must know this, Christian; only after a life of suffering will we see His glory. If all you seek in this life is to be comfortable, then you are not seeking Christ. If you are setting your eyes on dollars, then you are not setting your eyes on Christ. If you are hungry for pleasure, then you are not hungry for righteousness. Christ was exalted in glory after He was humbled in suffering. The present age is marked by suffering and the next is marked by glory for the children of God.

It has been said, “The word ‘hope’ is the pivot on which Paul turns from the past to the future of creation” (Stott, 239). God has promised that suffering will not last forever for creation or those who have put their faith in Christ.

Romans 8:14-17 Led by the Spirit of God


We saw in the first 13 verses of Romans chapter eight that the key theme was life. We have life because Christ has set us free and the Spirit of God dwells in us. Now the discussion of this sections focuses on adoption. We are the sons and daughters of God, bought with a price. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are referred to as the children of God in each of the four verses in today’s passage.

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Led by the Spirit (14)

The “religious” world around us has declared that all people are sons and daughters of God. It is true that the Apostle Paul affirms that all people are God’s offspring in the sense that He has created us all. I have taught on several occasions that all people are made in God’s image, though it is marred has been marred by sin. Human life should be respected and honored from conception until death, but the New Testament is clear that only those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. Those who have been born again; those who are being sanctified; those who are being led by the Holy Spirit are the true children of God.

Verse 14 connects to verse 13 with the word “for” (which can also mean “because”). A great example of what the Spirit does is that He leads us in putting to death the deeds of our bodies. That is one aspect of the Spirit’s leading. To be led by the Spirit is to be completely directed by Him in every part of one’s life.

To be a son/daughter of God is to have life (v13). The new life is real life. It is life with meaning and purpose. Those outside of Christ really have no life. There is only superficial meaning. The Bible teaches that outside of Christ men and women are dead in their trespasses and sins. God wants to make us alive in Christ Jesus.

The Spirit of Adoption (15)

We have not received a spirit of bondage. Before we learned that we could be saved from the wrath of God by placing our faith in Christ, our minds were guilt-ridden and fearful. Our hearts condemned us and our minds were alienated from and enemies of Almighty God. But thanks be to God that He is both just and the justifier of all those who trust in the One He has sent. Our fear has been replaced by freedom in Christ Jesus (v2).

Adoption in the Roman culture was purposeful. A man would adopt a son to carry on his name and to inherit his estate. An adopted son would be equal in every way to a naturally born son and would share in all things with the other siblings. Adoption had a significant place in Roman culture to say the least. The people of the Roman church would have known well what the Apostle was talking about. They had been chosen by God on account of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and they had been given a unique status in the kingdom of God. They were and we are the children of God; born of His Spirit.

This Spirit of adoption prompts us to call out to God by calling Him Father. Those who are not God’s children; those who are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit; those who are in fear of Almighty God would never call Him Father. Only those who have the Spirit of adoption cry out to Him in this way. The historical evidence seems to show that Judaism did not promote a sense of closeness with God. Yet, Jesus always referred to God as Father in both His prayers and in His teaching. In Gethsemane He called out to God with the Aramaic word “Abba” and the Greek word “Pater” meaning “Father, Father.” We are able to call out to God, even cry out to Him like a confident, enthusiastic little child as opposed to a fearful slave of an oppressive owner.

We are Children of God (16)

By the instigating work of the Holy Spirit we are able to call out to God by calling Him Father. This is the Spirit bearing witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. The Holy Spirit has a ministry of assuring the believer inwardly. There are external truths that can be seen and prove all sorts of truths about the faith, but there are things known within the Christian that cannot always be outwardly articulated. The Holy Spirit ministers to my soul in ways that I could never describe, and He has done the same for those of you who have come to faith in Christ. This reminds us of Romans 5:5 which says, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” It seems that these inward evidences are most notably experienced in prayer. This is just another reason that Christians should develop a healthy prayer life both in public and in private.

We are Heirs of God (17)

If we are children of God, then we must be heirs of God. Remember back to verse 15 and the idea of adoption. To be adopted in the ancient world was to be chosen. It was to inherit an adopting father’s estate. The Apostle has talked about what it means to be a child of God in the here and now, but he must also tell of what it means to be a child of God in the eschaton. Also remember that the New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit is the deposit of our inheritance. Thus, Paul continues his teaching on the Christian life in the present and into the future by showing how involved the Spirit of God is. “. . . the same indwelling Spirit who assures us that we are God’s children also assures us that we are his heirs” (Stott, 235).

Of course the promise comes with a condition. That last phrase of our passage today declares what the whole New Testament teaches. We are not promised health, wealth, and earthly prosperity in the here and now; but we are promised that after a life of suffering a glorious future awaits us. If we share in Christ’s sufferings, we will share in His glory.

Conclusions and Applications

In this passage we are given several ways of knowing that we are sons/daughters of God.

The children of God are those who:

1. Are led by the Spirit of God

2. Do not fear, but call out to God by saying, “Father”

3. Are borne witness to the fact in their spirits by the Holy Spirit

4. Suffer with Christ

Romans 8:8-13 You are Not in the Flesh


Wednesday the country will celebrate its independence once again. America has been marked by freedom for over 230 years. We are proud of our heritage, our founding documents, our laws, our freedoms, and all of our history. We realize what God has done in blessing this land in that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been spread throughout the world. His blessings on our nation have allowed for all sorts of merciful deeds to be shared in countless nations. The influence of America has been great for these many years, and we believe that it is because of the guidance of the sovereign hand of God. Freedom has been experienced throughout this land and many others because of God’s mercy.

I can stand here in freedom and declare to you today that God has done something even greater, something that has had an even longer effect on the history of the world. He has sent His Son who gave His life as a ransom for many. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” We have eternal freedom in Christ Jesus our Lord. We saw last week in Romans 8:1-2 that, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

The rest of the passage from last week showed that there are two categories in which people can operate. There is the flesh, the nature that all receive from Adam and is dominated by sin and death. There is also the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is dominated by life. We can either be influenced by the Spirit or the flesh. The Spirit’s influence leads to life and peace while the influence of the flesh leads to death and enmity. Today’s text finishes those thoughts from last week. The Apostle is direct when he states to the Christians in Rome, “You are not in the flesh.”

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The Flesh Cannot Please God (8)

Those who are operating in the “flesh,” the old, Adamic nature cannot please God because the flesh is not submissive to the law of God. The flesh forces us to set our minds on the things of this world. When we operate under that old influence we are setting our minds on things that will soon pass away, things that will only gratify us for a short period of time. We set ourselves up against God by our own wicked works when we are in the flesh. Living according to the flesh may please you in the immediate, but not God. Don’t ever get your pleasure confused with His. And this condition of being in the flesh is not something that anyone can save themselves from. Those who are in the flesh cannot be pleasing to God in any way. The language is strong.

You are Not in the Flesh (9)

But here’s the thing, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. How can you know that you are operating under the influence of the Spirit? If the Spirit of God dwells in you, then you are not in the flesh, and you must have the Spirit of Christ to belong to Christ. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is what makes someone a Christian.

The Spirit is Life (10-11)

The body is mortal, destined for death. Yet, our spirits are alive because the Holy Spirit has given us new life in Christ. This is the parallel that is given in chapter five. In Adam we receive death because of his disobedience, but in Christ we receive life because of His righteousness. Christ has secured righteousness for all those who trust in Him. Christ’s righteousness is attributed to our accounts in God’s eyes when we put our faith in that atoning work of the cross.

I want you to grasp something this morning. The same Spirit who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in you today, if you have been born again! What a thought! Our bodies are dead and our spirits are alive, but we have been promised that our bodies will be made alive as well. Christ has redeemed us. Because of His death and resurrection, we have been given new life in our spirits and our bodies will be raised and glorified. We will be changed at the return of the Lord, and we will be given bodies that are not subject to death.

We are Debtors (12-13)

Our debt/obligation is not to the flesh. We owe it nothing. It has been condemned, and we are putting its influence to death as we keep in step with the Spirit. Based on the argument of the passage thus far, our debt is to the Spirit. We are to live according to His desires and decrees.

The Spirit leads us against sin. If it is sin that brings death, then we must put to death the deeds of the body. Listen, verse three told us that sin has already been condemned. We should act on that condemnation by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Flesh will only bring about death and death eternal, that is, separation from God and His blessings. The Spirit leads us into war against our sinful deeds that are prompted by the flesh. We need to follow His lead. The Apostle says in another place that we are to “put off, concerning [our] former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. . . .” Of course, we must add, this is not always painless. Turn with me to Mark 9:43-48. Now, the Lord is being extreme to make His point. The intensity of His illustrations show the importance of the subject. Sin must be dealt with. The flesh must be done away with. We can do this by following the lead of the Spirit who puts to death those deeds of the flesh. We will set our minds on the things of the Spirit, not the things of the flesh.

Conclusions and Applications

Those godly things, those “church” things like reading your Bible, memorizing Scripture, praying, singing hymns, making friendships, and attending corporate worship are not “old” things, but “new” things. Do you see where I am going with this? Many today think that those are things of the past, but in reality they are things of the new life. These practices set our minds on the things of the Spirit and have eternal effects. Let me encourage you celebrate with pride the freedoms of this nation, but to above all set your minds on Christ this week. Would you consider the eternal freedom you have in Him?