Wednesday, 24 July 2013
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26
News Flash: This verse has nothing to do with “speaking in tongues.” This is not a verse which can be used to defend the unintelligible emanations which proceed forth during charismatic gatherings.
Paul uses the term “Likewise” to open this verse. It is the Greek word hōsautōs and means “in like manner.” In like manner of what? Paul has said that the creation groans with birth pangs and we likewise groan, eagerly waiting for our body’s redemption. This is the comparison that he is using. It is not an excuse to stand in church and draw unnecessary attention to oneself by making up a “prayer language.”
This is actually an important theological issue and to diminish it as has been done in the past 100 years or so is to devalue the worth of sound biblical interpretation. And so we continue – “Likewise the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses.” We are mortal and we are weak. Some of us are weak in physical strength, some weak in health, some weak in knowledge, some weak in elocution, etc. The weakness of our prayer life is what Paul is speaking of.
We often have real needs and/or desires that we simply can’t put into words because our thoughts, our ability to reason the issue out, or the interference of our emotions causes us to be unable to accurately express what is on our heart. When this happens, “we do not know what to pray for as we ought.” This is our weakness and yet, it is not a problem to God. Instead, the “Spirit Himself” who is the third member of the triune God, makes intercession for us.
Paul says that it is He who searches our hearts and minds and he uses a word, hyperentynchanei, which is found nowhere else in Scripture. The Spirit takes our place and makes the plea to God for us. This intercession has nothing to do with audible emanations flowing off our tongues. Instead, it is speaking of our internal “groanings, which cannot be uttered” because we don’t know how to utter them. These are sorted out and brought to God in knowing and understanding. In other words, what we simply cannot tell God, the Spirit does for us.
The Spirit is the one who aids us, just as an advocate in a court of law would. We have no idea how to defend ourselves in a legal situation because we simply don’t have the knowledge or training to do so. In such a case, we wouldn’t walk up to the judge and start flapping off unintelligible syllables. Rather the advocate would speak on our behalf, carefully stating to the judge the things we are unable to probably elucidate.
This is the intent and meaning of what Paul is stating here. Because we can’t put into words the things that we want to say but the Spirit can, and because the Spirit knows the mind of God, the two are brought into a point of harmony. This is done silently and with the decorum of the Holy Spirit tending to His troubled child, not with outlandish fantasies of the mind and of the tongue.
Life application: If you want to make noises for the Lord, do them in a way which builds up the church and glorifies God. With such shouts of praise and honor, the Lord is well-pleased.
Yes Lord God! With my tongue I will speak and sings words of praise, glory, and honor to You. And with my heart and mind I will think on Your greatness at all times. When my words fail me, I will remain quiet and allow the Spirit to search me out and carry my troubles and woes to You for a happy resolution. In all ways, may you be glorified though the words and thoughts which proceed from me. Amen.