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Groanings too Deep for Words (Romans 8:26-28)
The Work and Ministry of the Holy Spirit
Groanings Too Deep for Words
Romans 8:26-28
 
The greatest blessing God has given to believers is the security of our salvation and the promise of eternal life in heavenly glory.  From Romans 8:1, we know that we are in a no condemnation status before God.  That is repeated near the end of the chapter in verse 34 when the rhetorical question is asked, “Who condemns?”  Is there some higher court than Christ or God? 
 
And there we are told that nothing can separate us from that love of God which is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So the theme of this chapter from the beginning to the end is that as Christians, we are afforded the privilege of living in a place of security and love before God and that place, that standing is unalterable, unchangeable and unloseable.  It is a permanent no condemnation status. 
 
Therefore, it is altogether right and scriptural to say that those of us who belong to Christ will one day be glorified.  In the next week or so, God willing, we'll be looking at verse 29 and that is basically a summary statement of what I just said.
 
verse 29
 
We are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.  That means we go from being predestined to being called to being justified to being glorified, and nobody falls through the cracks. 
 
Now, knowing myself as I do, and my propensity to mess up, I will tell you that no doctrine of Scripture is more comforting, more strengthening and more encouraging than to know I am safe and secure in my relationship with God.  In fact, that is the basis for my hope.  I am banking on what Christ did on the cross, the Spirit's ability to apply it to me, and God keeping His promise.   
 
We live with hope and it is not a wishful kind of hope, but rather a fixed certainty based on the revelation of God's Word.  One of these days, life here on earth will be completed, and either we will go to be with Christ at the moment of our death or Christ will return and take us home.  And in that moment we will be changed to be like Him.  Our no-condemnation status will come to completion as we are glorified.  
 
Now, in the meantime,  as we saw last week, we groan.  Not only do we groan, all of creation groans. And together, we live and exist in anxious anticipation of that day. We are longing to be all that we have been promised to be in full glory. 
 
We feel the weight of our sin, we feel the curse of God, we feel the power of corruption within us.  We understand the decay and the inevitability of death that stalks us all.  We groan and creation groans as we wait for all that’s going to happen when there is the creation of a new heaven and a new earth and all the curse goes away.
 
But there’s a third groaning in this passage that is quite remarkable, and it is
 
 
3.  The Groaning of the Holy Spirit
 
verses 26-28
 
Interesting, isn't it, that not only does creation groan and not only do the redeemed of God groan as we await our glorification, but even the Holy Spirit suffers the unfulfillment of the believers in whom He dwells until the curse is removed.
 
Now keep in mind, this chapter is helping us understand that the Holy Spirit has three essential ministries in our lives.  First is the ministry of
 
- regeneration
 
He takes dead people and through a new birth experience, He gives us life. 
 
Second is the ministry of
 
- sanctification
 
It is He who conforms us to the image of Christ.  Second Corinthians 3:18 describes it as moving from one level of glory to the next as we gaze on Christ as revealed in Scripture.  As we study and see Him as the perfect model of Spirit-filled humanity, we see what man is designed by God to be.
 
The third and final ministry is
 
- glorification
 
We give a picture of that in our very first expression of obedience when we are baptized.
We are buried with Him in a picture of His death and raised to walk in a new way of living.  As just as the Spirit raised Christ from the dead, He will also raise us to be in His very likeness.
 
So in which aspect of His ministry does this text fit?  Well, obviously, it has to do with our sanctification.  We are groaning as we look forward to the day when we'll be delivered from the presence and power of sin. 
 
And as we groan, we discover He is groaning as well.  Let's begin there.
 
1.  The Groaning
 
This text is one of the great biblical treasures.  It describes the means by which the Holy Spirit supports and secures us in our journey to glorification. 
 
And while it is one of the great biblical treasures, it is also one of the most abused texts in the New Testament.  There are many who would have us to this is a verse about speaking in tongues.  That's what “groanings too deep for words” is talking about. 
 
And what they teach is that this verse says when you don’t know how to pray in words that you do understand, you can pray in words that you don’t understand and this is the Holy Spirit doing what you can’t do. 
 
But that is not at all what this verse means and it is unfair to what it really means to impose that on it.
As always, with any text, we always begin with the context, the setting for what is being said.
Notice how the verse begins:  "likewise, the Spirit".  Stop right there. Likewise means, "in the same way".   So, in the same way that creation groans, waiting for the revealing of the sons of God and in the same way that we ourselves groan, waiting for the adoption of sons, the redemption of our body, the Holy Spirit also groans. 
 
We have seen the groaning of creation and the groaning of the believer, so now Paul mentions the  groaning of the Holy Spirit, and all of this groaning is for the same reason.  All three entities that are groaning are groaning because there is an unfulfilled promise out there. 
 
Now it is understandable for the creation to want to be delivered and glorified and certainly it is understandable for the believer to want to be glorified, but the problem is, wanting and waiting is no guarantee it's going to happen. 
 
But here we read about the groaning of the Holy Spirit, and He is the guarantee it's going to come to pass.  So the Holy Spirit is involved, deeply and passionately in this groaning.  Notice, He expresses Himself through groans "groanings which cannot be uttered"... In other words, they are too deep for words. 
 
What an amazing thought!  The Holy Spirit is so  intimately involved in the agonizing reality of the burden and the weight of sin in the lives of those in whom He lives that it moves Him to groaning.
 
He comes alongside us in our desire to be free from the flesh, our unredeemed humanity, and to receive full salvation; full sonship; full, righteous perfection.  In fact, He not only comes alongside us, our eternal  glory is actually secured, guaranteed, through this groaning intercession of the Holy Spirit. 
 
Notice the next phrase in verse 26.  It says, the Spirit “helps our weakness.” 
 
So what is our weakness?  That's referring back to verse 23 where we are told that those who have received the down payment on our future glory, the firstfruits, are groaning because we can't do anything about getting glorified. 
 
We are groaning under the weakness of the flesh and sin.  We can't save ourselves.  We can't keep ourselves saved and we sure can't take ourselves to glory and change ourselves to be life Christ.  But the Holy Spirit helps our weakness.
 
Listen:  this doesn’t mean weak prayers, it doesn't ; mean a kind of a weak understanding of what’s going on.  It's not trying and failing to be better or overcome a sin. 
 
It is the devastating weakness of our fallenness.  In fact, it is a very comprehensive word that addresses the totality of our sinfulness.  It is the weight and burden of sin and it is such an overwhelming burden that we don’t even know what to ask for. 
 
We have no plan or strategy for dealing with us.  It defies our logic and intelligence.  We are so helpless in our sin and so helpless in our suffering, we don’t know how to overcome the power of our fallenness.  We don’t have what it takes to guard our own souls.
 
 
This is an admission that we don't have the power to do anything about our sin. We don’t even know how to arm ourselves.  we are way too weak.  We can't save ourselves, we can't keep ourselves saved and we sure can't deliver ourselves into the presence of God and be presentable. 
 
This is illustrated to us in the 22nd chapter of Luke where Peter is on the brink of his classic failure around the fires at the trial of our Lord, and Jesus gives him warning. 
 
Jesus tells him in verse 31 of Luke 22:  “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.”  “Satan’s coming after you,” and he certainly did.
 
 But verse 32 says, “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” 
 
What was Peter’s attitude going into this temptation?  How did he respond?    He said it this way:  “If everybody fails You, I won’t.”  He was brimming with self-confidence. 
 
But the truth is he didn’t even know how to pray for himself.  He didn’t understand the profound nature of his own weakness.  He had no ability to understand the forces that he was going to encounter. 
 
And what he came to understand was his security was not in his own will power. He was secured because the Lord Jesus prayed for him that his faith would not fail. 
 
That’s the intercessory work of the Lord Jesus Christ that secured Peter, and that’s a model of His high priestly work in that He ever lives to make intercession for us.  And that is what is being pictured here in the groanings of the Spirit. 
 
Listen:  the only reason that you’re going to heaven when you die, the only reason you stay saved, the only reason you enjoy the security of your salvation is because you have a high priest in heaven continuing to intercede for you and you have the Spirit of that priest living in you as the guarantee that you will make it. 
 
By the way, did you ever think about how much divine power it takes to get a believer from grace to glory?  According to this text, it involves the continual, unending, relentless intercession of the Son and the Spirit.
 
And yet people think they can do it by themselves?  Do you really think you can hang on by yourself?  Not a chance!   We could never attain to the resurrection of glory by the strength of our own flesh.  We could never overcome our own sinfulness.  We could never protect ourselves from failure! 
 
The only hope we have is for God to provide us with a relationship that will not fail, and then sustain it through the never ending intercession of both Christ and the Holy Spirit. Let's thinka bout that.
 
2.  The Intercession
 
verse 26
 
So how does the Holy Spirit help our weakness and the fact that we don’t know how to defend ourselves, even through prayer, even tapping into the divine power? 
 
He does it through interceding for us. The word means to rescue someone with no resources of his own who find himself in very great danger.  Picture someone without a life preserve who cannot swim being swept down the river toward Niagara Falls.
That’s the extremity of this verb. 
 
We need somebody beyond us and above us with far greater insight, far greater power than we have, and it is the Spirit Himself. 
 
And I love the way it is phrased in the verse.  It is the Spirit Himself.  It is not someone delegated by the Holy Spirit.  It is not some angel, as powerful as they may be.  It is not some other spiritual human.  It is the Spirit Himself.  This is His work,, His ministry.  It was He who gave us life.  It is He who conforms us to the image of Christ and it t is He who secures us.
 
So how does He do it? How does He intercede for us?  He does it with "groanings which cannot be uttered", literally "too deep for words.” 
 
Now understand this is not a human speaking in grunts and gibberish and tongues.  This is not ecstatic utterances.  In fact, this isn’t anybody saying anything that can be heard.  Read what it says:  This is the Holy Spirit saying things that can’t be heard. 
 
It plainly says these things can't be uttered.  They can't be spoken.  They are "too deep for words.”  These are the groanings, not of men, but groanings of the Spirit. 
 
And remember the motivation of these groanings is the heart of the Holy Spirit aching for the glorification of every believer.  And this aching causes the Holy Spirit to speak silently to the Father in some kind of inter-Trinitarian conversation about the well-being of believers. 
 
The Holy Spirit understands our flesh, understands our weakness, understands temptation and on our behalf goes to the our Heavenly Father to speak to Him regarding us and through this groaning intercession between Father and Spirit, our glorification is guaranteed.
 
Notice to whom the Holy Spirit is speaking.
 
verse 27
 
So Who could that be?  What did Samuel record while on his search for the next king of Israel? 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” 
 
First Kings 8:39 says, “You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men.” 
 
First Chronicles 28:9 says, “The Lord searches every heart, understands every motive.” 
 
Psalm 139: “Lord, You have searched me and known Me.  You know when I sit down; You know when I rise up.” 
Proverbs 15:11: “Even Sheol and Abaddon are open before the Lord.”
 
 Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, exceedingly corrupt.  Who can know it?”  The answer:  “I, the Lord search the mind.” 
 
Acts 1:24: “Lord, You know every man’s heart.” 
 
There’s no creature, says the writer of Hebrews, hidden from God’s sight.  “All things are open and laid bare to Him with whom we have to do.” 
 
So the Holy Spirit is interceding for us in this wordless communication from His own eternal, holy mind to the Father and His mind.  The One who searches the hearts, God, knows the mind of the Spirit through perfect communion, as He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
 
So what is the will of God for the saints?  In this setting, it is our glorification.  What do we read in
 
verse 29? 
 
The Father planned it.  The Son provided for it.  And the Holy Spirit preserves, protects and guarantees it. 
 
So the Spirit is praying for our future glorification and His prayer is absolutely consistent with the Father’s will.  What an amazing verse!   
 
Now, as I was processing that this week, I had a thought and the thought was this.  Most of the time, while we are going through life, while we are groaning, to use Paul's word, we deal with a lot of things going on around us.
But very seldom, if ever, do we give any thought to what is going on inside of us. I would guess most of us never even think about the ongoing, intercessory work of the Spirit of God who never slumbers or sleeps and how He is conversing in wordless expressions with our heavenly Father about us. 
 
Do you think about the fact that in all the struggles and issues of your life, the Spirit of God is relentlessly interceding on your behalf, silently, in perfect communion with the mind of God to effect the purposes of God? 
 
Does it ever cross your mind that you have an advocate in Jesus Christ, your big brother, who represents you in every accusation brought against you?  Do you allow yourself to be encouraged by the fact that there is One who stands at the Father’s right hand in your defense as the One who paid in full the price for all your sins?  That’s why you get to glory.  That’s why no one can ever condemn you.
 
I would suggest we should train ourselves and condition ourselves to think about the amazing truth that we have dual representation in the presence of God the Father through God the Son and God the Spirit so that even when we don't know what we should pray for as we ought, our needs are perfectly presented to Him in full assurance that one day, we will be with Him in glory.
 
Now, all of that gets us to verse 28, and there we see
 
 
 
 
3.  The Truth
 
verse 28
 
Now I know that verse 28 is a popular verse and anybody who's been in church for any length of time has it memorized.  And it is a great verse, but I'm afraid it sometimes gets isolated away from its setting here in the chapter and it is the context of where it is found that gives it such rich meaning. 
 
When Paul says, “And we know”, that is sequential.  It is connected back to what he's just been talking about which is this groaning, intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit in perfect harmony with the purposes of God to bring us to eternal glory. 
 
In other words, it is because of the Spirit’s intercessory work and because of God’s divine purpose that God Himself, in answer to the Spirit’s pleas, “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
 
That doesn't occur in a vacuum.  And I will tell you from experience, it is easy to just quote Bible verses and use them out of convenience or because they make us sound so spiritual. 
 
But it is absolutely wrong to speak and quote and apply this verse to any set of circumstances we want to as if any and everything that ever happens is working out to be good.  That's not true.
 
The “good” being referred to here is our eternal glory.  You say, well how do you know?  I know because of the context.
That's what's being discussed.  Our eternal glory is the end goal of the whole process according to verse 30. 
 
Verse 19 talks about “the revealing of the sons of God”.  In verse 21, it is “the glory of the children of God.” That’s the theme of verses 24 and 25 where he mentions our “hope.”  So the good being spoken of here is our eternal glory.
 
And the point is this:  Because of the plan of God and the provision of Christ and the protection of the Holy Spirit through His intercessory ministry, God is causing all things to work together for our final, eternal, ultimate good. 
 
Not everything in this life works out for good – far from it.  If you are spiritually minded, you might be able to draw a good lesson from it.  It might make a good sermon illustration.  It might ultimately draw you and others to the Lord.  It might strengthen you or improve your prayer life.
 
It might produce patience. It might perfect and mature you.  It might equip you to counsel and warn others, and all of those are wonderful realities.
 
But that’s not the good that’s being spoken of here.  The good that dominates this passage is that ultimate, final good that is the glorification of true believers.  We are secured to that final good and to that end and through the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit, “God causes all things to work together for good.” 
 
If you want to know just how sure is our glorification and how committed is God to seeing that it takes place, there it is.
 
"All things work together for good”.  That means nothing that you ever encounter can change the fact that one day you will be like Christ and live forever in heaven with God.  Nothing.  In fact, that's just a positive way of saying "there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
 
And there are no limits on that. Whatever it is, whatever the nature, whatever the number, whatever the extent, whatever the character of whatever may come in a fallen, corrupt world to people who still bear the weight of the curse in their unredeemed humanness.  No matter what comes, any and everything that comes is woven together by God for our final and ultimate good.
 
It all “works together”.  That's a reminder of God's providence.  While all things are not necessarily good in themselves, and while all things don’t necessarily combine to produce good in this life, they do work together for our final good.
 
Some of you are living with that.  Life’s not being good to you.  You've got illness, loss of jobs, loss of houses, loss of lots of things. But in the end, there is a good, the ultimate good, eternal glory, that will come to pass.  That’s the good that is the theme here, and it’s attached to the hope mentioned in verses 24 and 25, our eternal hope.
 
So what kind of good is eternal glory?  It is good in the moral sense.  It may not look good.  It may not appeal to the eye.  It may not make sense.
It may not be logical.  But this is true, moral goodness.  Real goodness.  Ultimate goodness.  And in the providence of God everything contributes to that  goodness. 
 
Good things work together for our good.  But so do bad things.  Bad things such as suffering, struggling with temptation, even sin work together for our good.  God gets a hold of all of these things and works them, in response to the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit, for our final good.
 
So how could we ever lose our salvation if everything that happens to us works together for our eternal good?  There’s no other option.
 
Next, notice
 
4.  The Recipients
 
verse 28
 
Up in verse 27 this same crowd is identified as "the saints" for whom the Spirit is interceding. These are they who have been covered with the righteousness of Christ.
 
And then, here in verse 28 they are described as those who love God and are those called according to His purpose.  By the way, all three of those phrases are describing Christians. 
 
We are made saints by the righteousness of Christ, we prove we are saved because we love God and we are on our way to perfection and glorification by the will of God.
 
And don't miss the fact that all three aspects of salvation are addressed there.  We are made to be saints.  That is conversion.  We love God that is in the present tense, here and now.  That's sanctification.  And we are called "according to His purpose" which is glorification when we are forever changed into what He designed.
 
And for all those true believers, the saints, the called who love the Lord, the promise is a wonderful promise.  The Holy Spirit is interceding in perfect harmony with the will of God so that God is causing everything that happens in the life of those who love Him to come together in the end for their eternal good and glory because that was His purpose from the very beginning. 
 
We are predestined to that purpose.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  One final thought and we'll be through.  Let's call it
 
5.  The Confidence
 
verse 28 says, “We know.”  This isn’t a maybe; we know this.  This is the certainty of our security.  So how do we know?  Because God revealed His plan, start to finish.  We have been made aware of the purpose of God.  He has determined to predestine, call, justify, and glorify a redeemed people.  That's His plan.  He drew the plan, Christ provided the necessary sacrifice, and the Spirit makes the plan work all the way to the end.
 
I can hardly wait to get to verses 29 and 30 to see what comes next!
 
Let's pray.
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