Romans 8:26–27: the Spirit’s Help

Read the Bible in 2011* ◊ Week 4: Sunday

In the same way 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; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26–27

From no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus in verse 1, to the declaration nothing can separate us from the love of God in verse 39, in Romans 8 we hear all that God has done for us, all that God does for us, and all that God will do for us. In Romans 8:26–27 we learn God has not left us to go it alone in this life or to try to tough it out by ourselves. We don’t wait in hope and persevere without help. Paul continues to encourage us by explaining the very real help God gives us.

In this world creation groans and we groan, but Paul tells us in Romans 8:26 the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. We are not alone. In the midst of our suffering, groaning, and tears, God is right there with us interceding for us with groanings too deep for words. R. C. Sproul writes (his emphasis):

“But it is not merely hope and patience that make it possible for Christians to endure the present tribulations and sufferings of this world. Paul speaks of another crucially important dimension in verse 26: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. One very important part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to sustain us in the midst of tribulation. He is the one who stands with us in our moments of darkness and trial. He helps us to persevere.”1

Remember Jesus is called Immanuel, “God with us.” He is God with us even though right now we do not see Him. The night before He was crucified when Jesus told His disciples He was going away, He knew they were troubled and their hearts were filled with sorrow. He reassured them time and again they would not be left alone; He would not leave them as orphans; He would come to them.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
John 14:16–18
“These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
John 14:25–27
“But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”
John 16:5–7

Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Helper four times that night. John MacArthur explains:

“The Greek word for “Helper” is parakletos, which literally means “one who is called [kaleo] alongside [para].” (We sometimes use the word Paraclete, even in English, to signify the Holy Spirit)…

“Jesus had been their Paraclete for three years. He had helped them, comforted them, walked alongside them. Now they would have another Helper—one exactly like Jesus—to minister to them.”2

In his commentary on John, R. V. G. Tasker writes,

Comforter in its more original sense of ‘strengthener’ is the AV and RV translation of paraklētos…designating one called to the side of another to befriend him, advise him, and if necessary plead his cause. The word is also used in I John ii. I of Christ as the believer’s ‘advocate’ in heaven.”3

“This other Advocate…will be the disciples’ reservoir of power and unfailing guide when Jesus has left them. While Jesus has been with them, He Himself has been their Advocate. He has stood beside them like counsel for the defense summoned to the side of a prisoner to plead his cause and strengthen him in the hour of trial. He has prayed for Peter that his faith may not utterly fail (Lk. xxii. 32). He has defended the disciples against the charge brought against them by the Pharisees of breaking the sabbath (Mk. ii. 23ff.). He has be­friended the blind man, upon whom He bestowed sight, after his excommunication from the synagogue (ix. 35). And at His forthcoming arrest He will plead with His adversaries to allow His followers to go free, so that the whole weight of the enemy’s attack may fall upon Himself (see xviii. 8). After Jesus has returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit which is His Spirit will continue to perform, in a manner unrecognizable by and unintelligible to the world, the same office He has Himself discharged for them so lovingly while He has been with them on earth.”4

While we’re in this world as we falter, fail, grieve, and struggle, we are not alone. Paul tells us in Romans 8:26, the Spirit also helps our weakness. We need help, but we don’t even know how to ask for help, we don’t even know what kind of help we need, we do not know how to pray as we should.5

We don’t fully understand the present: we’re not infinite in knowledge and we don’t grasp all the moving parts of our circumstances. We certainly don’t grasp future events. We don’t even know the intricacies of our own hearts. But God does. And the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.6 Francis Schaeffer writes with such warmth to reassure us:

“…as Paul describes the Spirit’s present, continual interceding for each of us individually, it is like a flaming fire that could never be impersonal. What does the Holy Spirit do for us? He “makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” The whole creation “groans” under the terrible weight of the consequences of our sin (8:22). “Even we ourselves groan” (verse 23) as we live in this fallen world. But amid all this suffering and amid all our longings there is someone else who groans. It is “the Spirit himself,” making “intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (verse 26). You won’t be lost again. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you’ll be there on resurrection day. Weak and infirm though you may feel, faltering though your love may often be, you’ll be there. For it does not rest upon you, it rests upon the work of the whole Trinity. The Holy Spirit would have to fail you for you to be lost again. His intercession for you would have to be of no avail. Well might the sun grow dark or the universe turn into chaos, but this one thing you can know for sure: the Holy Spirit is interceding before God’s throne on your behalf, and He will not fail in His work of intercession. Some people talk about the “perseverance of the saints” as though it were some mechanical thing. But is isn’t like this at all. It is a living vibrant thing as “the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”7

Whatever your present circumstances, whatever your future holds, know that the Holy Spirit Himself is interceding for you.


Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications. (Site has been deleted since posting).
Prayer Session: Theindigochxld. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
1R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans (Christian Focus Publications, Ltd; Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, United Kingdom: 2011) 179.
2John MacArthur, The Upper Room: Jesus’ Parting Promises for Troubled Hearts (Kress Biblical Resources, The Woodlands, TX: 2014) 103. MacArthur adds, “The Holy Spirit is not a mystical power or ethereal force; He is a person as much as Jesus is a person. He is not a floating fog or some kind of ghostlike emanation. It is unfortunate that the King James translators used the term “Ghost” instead of “Spirit” to translate the Greek word pneuma. For generations people had the erroneous idea that the Holy Spirit is something like the comic-book character Caspar the Friendly Ghost. He is, however, not a ghost, but a person.”
3,4R. V. G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. John (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI: 1960) 172, 166–167.
5,6See John MacArthur’s sermons on this passage at Grace to You: “The Holy Spirit Prays for Believers: Romans 8:26–27,” December 7, 1997. “The Spirit’s Groans for Glory: Romans 8:26–27,” September 4, 1983. “Groanings Too Deep for Words: Romans 8:26–28,” January 8, 2012.
7Francis Schaeffer, The Finished Work of Christ: The Truth of Romans 1–8 (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 1998) 223–224.
Further reading:
Alistair Begg, “Five Truths About the Holy Spirit.”
Nathan W. Bingham, “Does the Holy Spirit fill us at our conversion, or must we invite Him?

*In 2011 I started a year-long series of posts, “Read the Bible in 2011.” On the directory pages if a day didn’t link to a post, it was simply a brief reminder about the reading. I’m filling in some of those gaps with new posts with “Read the Bible in 2011 Redux” as a category.

Copyright ©2021 Iwana Carpenter

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