In The Same Way, The Spirit Helps Us
This post consists of an abbreviated version of my sermon from Sunday, December 12, 2010.
(These are my notes. The preached message itself has a lot of variation and augmentation!)
As I went back to this text during the week, it struck me that it is not a “disembodied” truth.Romans 8:28 cannot be separated from the rest of the chapter and just tossed out to our hearts content.I mean, really, why should I expect all things to work together for good right?
Do they work together for good for everyone – regardless of what they do?
And, more importantly, why do they?
How does God do this in us?
The thing is, this promise will only bring comfort and joy if we really believe it right?
And if we’re loving God…and called according to His purpose.
So I started reading from verse 1 this week and discovered this amazing thing about Romans 8.
It is the testimony of a man who is in love with the Holy Spirit!
Read verses 1-4
Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all that you are.
Now, is the Holy Spirit God? (In the immortal words of Sarah Palin – “You Betcha”
The Nicean Creed that…
“He, the Holy Spirit, proceeds from the Father.. and that together with the Father and the Son He is to be worshiped and glorified.”
So, we should love the Spirit – as a person.
Not as a force or power, but as a person who thinks about you and has emotions for you and works for you – in fact, as we will see in a moment, prays for you – in a very personal way!
Look at all that this chapter says about the Spirit!
IT IS AMAZING!
· According to verse 2 the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets you free from the law of sin and death.
· According to verse 4 the Spirit helps you fulfill the just requirement of the law.
· According to verse 6 the mind controlled by the Spirit gives life and peace.
· According to verse 11 God will raise you from the dead by the Spirit who dwells in you.
· According to verse 13 the Spirit helps you put to death the deeds of the body.
· According to verse 14 the sons of God are led by the Spirit.
· According to verses 15-16 the Spirit bears witness in us that we are the children of God and so gives us assurance of our salvation.
· According to verse 23 the Holy Spirit is the foretaste and guarantee of our final redemption.
If you love the Word, you will Love the Spirit.
They are not in competition – if you love the Spirit you will love the Word.
“…for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” (1Thess. 1:5)
In 2 Samuel 23:1-2 - David is speaking his last words
“Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse declares, The man who was raised on high declares, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel, “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue.
Now, back to Romans 8….
Verse 26 specifically….
Read the verse…
Now, this is what got me started because as I began to read this word – I kept thinking about one word right at the beginning…
So I went back to look for the answer.
Now, the reason Paul begins verse 26 with the word – “likewise” - or– “in the same way” is because he’s been trying to explain what he’s been saying all along – his purpose in this chapter is to convince us of what he had said in verse 18 – that’s the heart and anchor of the Chapter.
So he’s been trying between verse 18 and verse 26 to convince us why our sufferings are worth enduring.
Now, this is the heart of the message – if we understand this argument – then Romans 8:28 – and the whole chapter has power for us.
If we separate the flow of Romans 8, from Romans 8:28 – then there is little or no power in Romans 8:28 for us…
So, hang on with me here….this is worth the price of admission…
Watch the flow– in verse 19, Paul tells us that the Creation is waiting with“eager or anxious longing.”
What’s the implication?
So should we! We should be also anxiously longing for this “revealing.”
But how can we anxiously long for something we don’t recognize?
What we are longing for is the “revealing of the sons of God.”
I MEAN WHAT EVER IT IS…IT HAS TO BE GOOD…CAUSE YOU HAVE THE CREATION ANXIOUSLY LONGING…
WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A LOT MORE THAN THE TWO OR THREE OF US HERE…
There’s a lot of creation out there waiting for whatever this is…
I looked it up – you know what – it’s big!
They’ve got some sophisticated ways to calculate the size based on this thing called the Cosmic Background Ratiation…anyway…
One egghead said…
“… the radius of the visible universe, is calculated to be about 14.0 billion don’t ask what a parsec is - you’ll get a big headache – take my word for it – it’s about 45.7 billion light years.
while the current distance to the edge of the observable universe is calculated to be 14.3 billion parsecs (about 46.6 billion light years),
OTHER ESTIMATES PUT IT AT OVER 180,000,000,000 LIGHT YEARS!
AND YOU KNOW WHAT, WE DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT MORE IS OUT THERE!
NOW, I’M GOING TO PUT THIS IN MIAMI TERMS SO YOU CAN UNDERSTAND IT!
THAT’S WAY PAST HIALEAH!
All of that infinity is waiting for something to happen…
Eagerly waiting…means we’re holding something up…
What is this Revelation that the Creation anxiously awaits?
There are groups who teach that in the end times the "manifested sons of God" will be super-saints who will not have struggles or problems like others, but will exist on a different level than the rest of us.
"Join us," say these groups, "and you, too, can be one of the manifested sons of God."
And all you gotta do is buy my tape series…
I have a real problem with this interpretation because the Bible never even hints at this sort of stuff…
Who, then, are the manifested sons of God?
We are! – look at (1Jn_3:1-2).
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:1-2
The manifestation of the sons of God will take place when Jesus comes back, when we see Him, when we are made like Him, and when, at last we will be the kind of people we've longed to be.
There are other verses that mention this revealing…
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”
1 Peter 5:1-4
“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed….and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
So we’ve answered that question, but there’s another one…that we need to understand because verse 19 says something else about this REVELATION OF THE SONS OF GOD –
AND, REMEMBER THIS IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE VERSE 26 POINTS BACK TO IT – BY SAYING “IN THE SAME WAY” OR “LIKEWISE”
ARE YOU WITH ME?
So, What does it mean to “wait” with eager or anxious longing?
If we understand this, then Romans 8:28 has life for us…
Here’s what A.T. Robertson, my home boy, says about this word – “eager longing” or earnest expectation –
The Greek word is Apokaradokeo….I have to wait for the Revelation of the Glory of the Sons of God with APOKARADOKEO!
“This substantive has so far been found nowhere save here and Phi_1:20,
It is a double compound (apo, off from, kara, head, dokeō, Ionic verb, to watch), hence to watch eagerly with outstretched head.”
Barclay, the great Brittish preacher and scholar writes about this word:
That “it describes the attitude of a man who scans the horizon with head thrust forward, eagerly searching the distance for the first signs of the dawn break of glory. To Paul life was not a weary, defeated waiting; it was a throbbing, vivid expectation.”
Back to this “anxious longing” business…
Must be read in The Message to be well understood – unless you are a thorough Greek Scholar – this is the value to the Message – you have a Greek Interpreter by your side called Eugene Peterson…
Fortunately we have the next best thing – the Message Translation:
“That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance.
If you are not reading The Message together with your other Bible Trans – I feel bad for you!
THIS REALLY STRUCK ME – ESPECIALLY IN VERSE - He even argues that the inward groaning that we all feel is the indication of what the Spirit is doing – telling us – hold on, hold on, it’s worth it!
Paul tells us why it’s worth holding on – because of the Glory which will be revealed!
NOW, HERE IS WHERE THE POWER OF ROMANS 8:28 CAN REALLY KICK IN - THIS IS WHY WE CAN HAVE FREEDOM FROM WORRY
1ST – BECAUSE - The Spirit Helps Us In Our Weakness – THEN WE CAN KNOW THAT….
2ND – BECAUSE All Things Work Together for Good – AND THIS IS NO A TEMPORARY THING… - VERSE 28
3RD – BECAUSE No Power in the Universe CAN Separate Us From the Love of God in Christ Jesus. – VERSE 39
NOW HERE’S THE LINK….
Romans 8:28 frees us from worry about the future because the Holy Spirit Helps Us in Our Weakness… v 26
THIS IS WHY WE CAN TRUST THAT ALL THINGS WORK AND WILL WORK TOGETHER FOR GOD…
“In the same way (as the Creation) 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;
Now, I want to finish with this for today,
What is our weakness?
It isn’t that we don’t know what to pray…
WELL - YES AND NO RIGHT?
WE HAVE A LOT OF STUFF TO PRAY ABOUT HERE – IN THIS PRAYER GUIDE CALLED THE BIBLE…
AND, IN THE WORST CASE WE CAN JUST PRAY THE PRAYERS OF JESUS RIGHT?
BARCLAY WRITES THIS…
“In the last analysis the perfect prayer is simply, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit. Not my will, but Thine be done."
So we have a lot of stuff to pray about I think…
OUR WEAKNESS IS THAT we get tired in the waiting for the Glory to be revealed…because of the futility, the frustration…
Look at verse 20 again –
Notice the word “futility” – Gk. - tēi mataiotēti
Rare and late word, from mataios, empty, vain…
Why is the waiting so difficult for us?
It is difficult, because, we like the Creation have been subjected to futility.
This is an interesting word – and an important word to understand – because we all feel this word – it is very real to us – this is the air we breathe as we wait.
LET ME BRING IT HOME SO YOU CAN UNDERSTAND WHERE THE PAIN IS COMING FROM…
THE SENSE OF VANITY, EMPTINESS, OF NOT FINDING MEANING – OF THINKING THAT THINGS ARE JUST RANDOM…
LOVED ONES WHO SUFFER, THINGS THAT DON’T UNRAVEL AND DEVELOP, THE UNFILLED LONGINGS OF OUR SOULS – THE HOPES DEFERRED THAT MAKE THE HEART SICK…
THE “ALMOST MADE IT…”
THE TIMES WHEN WE THOUGHT WE FOUND MR. RIGHT, OR MRS. RIGHT – BUT NOT QUITE…THE WISHING THAT PEOPLE WOULD JUST WAKE UP AND BECOME WHAT THEY’RE CALLED TO BE AND CAPABLE OF!
THIS IS FUTILITY AND VANITY, AND EMPTINESS..
THIS WASTES AT OUR BONES AND BLASTS US OUT OF THE PRAYER CLOSET AND OFF OF OUR KNEES TO GET BACK ON FACEBOOK!
R.C. Sproul in his commentary on Romans says this about this word FUTILITY:
“IT IS ONE OF THE UGLIEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. NOTHING CAN DRIVE THE HUMAN BEING TO DESPAIR MORE QUICKLY OR DEEPLY THAN THE IDEA THAT OUR PAIN AND LABOR ARE JUST AN EXERCISE IN FRUSTRATIONS AND THAT THEY ARE MEANINGLESS”
HE TELLS THE STORY OF THE GREEK MYTH OF SISYPHUS – WHO WAS SENTENCED TO VAIN LABOR – FUTILITY BY THE GODS – SO FOR ETERNITY HE HAS TO USES ALL HIS ENERGY TO PUSH A GIGANTIC ROCK TO THE TOP OF A MOUNTAIN, BUT AS SOON AS HE GETS TO THE TOP, THE ROCK FALLS BACK TO THE BOTTOM, AND THEN HE STARTS ALL OVER AGAIN.
But listen to Paul’s words to the Corinthians – because they are in contrast to this crippling futility:
1 Corinthians 15:58
“therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord”
Sin brought the Fall, and in the Fall God has subjected Creation to futility – but there’s a huge difference for the believer – notice the two little words in verse 20 – “in hope.”
Read verse 20….
This is the hope of the Gospel – your pain and suffering is not meaningless and futile – our work is not futile – every ounce of effort, every tear we shed in this world is not meaningless…
God has subjected the world to futility…not because He is not good – but because He is good and cannot tolerate evil.
Our sin brought this on.
But verse 20 is good news!
LISTEN, WE ARE TIRED IN THE WAITING!
BECAUSE THE WAITING IS FUTILE AT TIMES!
LISTEN TO HOW PETERSEN TRANSLATES VERSE 26
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” (Rom 8:26)
This is Powerful – I thought this was that if I moaned the right way, in a spiritual way – moaning in tongues - then He interprets this and sends it on up…
People listen…these aren’t made up “aching groans” – they are real groans – Christians – real Christians – Spirit filled Christians – ache and groan – it isn’t a sin, and you aren’t going to jeopardize the inheritance of the promises just because you ache and groan from time to time…
In fact, for the believer, these groans that come from our spiritual struggle are taken by the Spirit and turned into PRAYER!!
Again, Robertson brings light on a word – in particular the word “help”
What sort of help are we getting?
“…to lend a hand together with, at the same time with one. Only twice in N.T., here and Luk_10:40in Martha’s plea for Mary’s help. Here beautifully Paul pictures the Holy Spirit taking hold at our side at the very time of our weakness (associative instrumental case) and before too late.”
It isn’t a dissociated, disinterested help….
The Spirit is helping our weakness – and he’s right there with us…doing something significant!
Paul is saying that, because of our weakness, we do not know what to pray for, but the prayers we ought to offer are offered for us by the Holy Spirit.
C. H. Dodd defines prayer in this way--"Prayer is the divine in us appealing to the Divine above us."
Now you see why 26 and 28 are dynamically linked.
Paul is saying this…look…
Things might seem futile and empty – but they are not. Keep looking ahead to the Glory – focus on the Glory which is to be Revealed…for now, we get tokens of Glory – here and there, a bit here, a drop there…
A momentary downpour from time to time, Pentecost, the Reformation, the 1st and 2ndAwakenings, the Huguenots, the Welsh Revival, Azuza, Toronto, Brownsville, sporadic glory, here and there…sometimes fading out into frustration and flesh – but…don’t lose faith, this light and momentary affliction won’t last…
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
He is working all things together for the Good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes…
Foreknown – loved ahead of time -
Predestined to be conformed
Called and Justified
All for one purpose to share his glory at the Revelation of the Sons of God.