Justification and Assurance
(f) The Spirit Maketh Intercession
In examining the subject of assurance Paul, through this 8th Chapter of Romans has been responding to that which discourages our hearts and robs us of peace. In v1-12 he viewed the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. In v17-25 he considered the sufferings that afflict us in life. The Apostle, however, showed us in these passages that these difficulties rather than hindering assurance are actually used by God to strengthen or confirm our faith. Therefore the fact that we experience the battle with the flesh is proof of our spirituality. Sufferings have the effect of preparing us for glory in that they help to loosen our ties with the world.
In this study Paul isolates another challenge which perplexes all Christians; prayer. Prayer is the privilege which becomes a problem because we are hindered and frustrated by ourselves and by others as we attempt to seek God. Our lack of prayer both in the time we devote to it and in the reality of God’s presence could so easily make us doubt our salvation. While we know the doctrine regarding prayer, while we know the power that exists through prayer and while we readily agree with every exhortation concerning prayer we are most frustrated when applying all of this body of truth to our hearts.
In assisting us in this area Paul shows us that the Holy Spirit’s function is to assist us in prayer. This is a chapter which constantly emphasises the Spirit’s ministry. The Holy Ghost dwells in us (v9), He is the spirit of adoption who convinces us of our place in God’s family (v15-16) and He is the one who makes intercession as we pray.
1: The Cause of the Spirit’s Intercession
The Spirit must make intercession because we possess “infirmities” in the matter of prayer. There are times when we are hindered in our prayers by our sin, but that is not the kind of weakness that Paul has in mind. There are weaknesses common to humanity that are not sinful; it is no sin to be human and humans are not divine. Paul is identifying two human weakness here:
A Ignorance – “..we know not what we should pray for as we ought…”.
B Pressure – Paul has just expounded hope in the midst of adversity. Trouble in life can create pressures which we our human state find impossible to articulate in prayer.
Notice how Paul personally writes of “our infirmities”. They are common to all Christians, himself included. Job was the righteous man who was confused (Job 7:20-21) , Elijah was the fearless man who prayed for death (1 Kings 19:4) and Mary Magdalene was the loving woman who was ignorant of the resurrection (John 20:15). We all suffer from infirmity.
2: The Character of the Spirit’s Intercession
A The Spirit makes intercession by helping us. The word “helpeth” comes from a complex Greek word which means to come alongside and assist with the carrying of a burden. Christ before his crucifixion called the Holy Ghost the paracletos, translated Comforter. The paracletos too was one called to the side of another.
B The word “intercession” itself means to plead one’s case before another. We are clueless, we don’t know what to say, but the Spirit understands what to pray for and He frames the words.
C This intercession of the Spirit is carried out with “groanings which cannot be uttered”. Groaning is expressive of pain under a heavy load and we can certain that the Godhead cannot groan in this sense. Paul has already written of the creation and the people of God groaning (v22-23). Therefore the groaning is ours as we attempt to pray. Yet the Holy Ghost comes and helps us as we groan, he shoulders the weight and helps us bear the load. The groaning refers to his very real assistance in sharing the burden.
3: The Comfort of the Spirit’s Intercession
The intercession of the Spirit does not excuse us for failing to pray. If we are careless regarding prayer if there is no burden on our part, there are certainly no groanings, therefore the Holy Ghost will not help because we are not bearing the load. Where there is a burden, however, and a desire and an effort the Holy Ghost will assist us. The Christian who is battling in prayer, discouraged because of his own failings and lack of success, can be encouraged because this is the very situation that the Holy Ghost helps.
4: The Conclusion of the Spirit’s Intercession
As the Spirit makes intercession we are also encouraged because he helps us discover the will of God. As our ignorance in relation to prayer frustrates us so also our lack of understanding in regard to God’s will. As we labour and persevere the Holy Ghost reveals the will of God and gives us peace in our hearts. He not only reveals God’s will for life but he also teaches us appropriate desires and petitions which in turn supplies with power in our prayers (James 4:3, Psalm 37:4). Therefore Holy Ghost praying the need for our lives and for this age.