Romans 8, Part 6
Nov 22, 2010
Romans 8:26, and 27,
(26) And 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; (27) 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.
Recall from verse 16 that "the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." Paul distinguishes between the Holy Spirit and our spirit. Translators use capital letters when they believe it refers to the Holy Spirit, and small letters when referring to our spirit. But there are no such tools in the NT Greek as originally written.
Sometimes it is unclear which "Spirit" is meant. It is not a crucial point, of course, because the Holy Spirit has merged with our own spirit to provide that double witness of all truth. When we come to verses 26 and 27 above, however, it is helpful to understand that the "Spirit" who intercedes for us is not the same spirit that is located deep within our own hearts.
In my view, it is the Holy Spirit who "intercedes for us," because He "knows what the mind of the[human] spirit is." Here again we see a unity and a double witness by which all matters are established. It is self-evident that God knows our hearts. Many times our prayers are answered in a way that is far different from how we have actually prayed. That is because "we do not know how to pray as we should" (8:26), and the prayers of our mouths are not always in accord with the prayer of the spirit within our heart. The Holy Spirit, however, knows the true cry of our heart and bears witness with that cry, for our spirit is the New Man within, which is our Christ-Identity. The Holy Spirit always bears witness with Christ in you.
In our prayer life, then, the more that our conscious minds are in touch with the heart cry of our spirit, the better able we are to speak the actual prayer of our spirit. This becomes a third witness to fulfill the law of "two or three witnesses." The first witness is truth. The second witness establishes it as truth by law. The third witness clarifies truth to us and often reveals timing.
This is what we see in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44), the three main divisions of the Old Testament. Moses revealed truth. The prophets established it and applied it to the nation. The Psalms put it to music to make it memorable, pleasant to the ear, and to give it timing.
Hence, when we train our soul (mind) to serve the mind and will of our spirit, the soul begins to know how to express the prayer of the spirit through the body (mouth and vocal cords). At first, it may know little or nothing about the will of the spirit, for it is used to making all the decisions in life without being subject to the Christ in you. In its state of rebellion, usurping the authority of the spirit, the soulish mind must be bypassed until it has been "transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). The mind is bypassed primarily by the gift of tongues, of which Paul has little to say in the book of Romans.
Paul does make it clear, however, that prophecy is preferable to tongues (1 Cor. 14:19). In other words, it is preferable to understand what you are saying or praying, even as it is preferable to hear God's voice in your native language, rather than having to hear it in that two-step process of tongues and interpretation. Hearing God's voice in one's own language shows evidence that our soulish minds have learned the language of the spirit and have come to a more mature level of submission.
Paul discusses this more fully in 1 Cor. 14:18-25, saying he would rather "speak five words with my mind. . . rather than ten thousand words in a tongue." He then cites Isaiah 28:11 to back up his teaching, for Isaiah 28 is the foundational chapter on the gift of tongues. The people of Israel had rebelled against God and had refused to hear the prophecy of Isaiah. Ephraim was drunk on wine, rather than being filled with the Spirit (Isaiah 28:1; Eph. 5:18). So God brought judgment upon the nation and raised up the Assyrians to come and speak that word of judgment in another tongue. In that case, the unbelieving Israelites did not understand the language and needed interpretation of tongues.
Paul applies this in 1 Cor. 14:22,
(22) So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe.
The "unbeliever" can be a non-Christian attending the house church meeting, or it can be the carnal mind of the old Adam within the believers themselves. Either way, interpretation is important in order to know the will of God and disclose the secrets of the heart (1 Cor. 14:24). Paul's point is that tongues is necessary as long as there is unbelief within us or unbelievers in the world at large; but prophecy is preferable, because the Word of the Lord is expressed without the need for interpretation.
Getting back to Romans 8, we can see that just because a person has come to believe in Christ--or even to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit--does not mean that the soulish mind has learned to submit to the spirit within or even to know its language. It must be taught to hear and trained to submit.
Forty years ago (1971) my wife and I received the gift of tongues, but we discovered ten years later that we could also learn to hear His voice in English. I broke through in this regard June 5-7 of 1982, as I wrote in chapter 3 of my book, Hearing God's Voice. (My wife broke through ten years later in June 5-7, 1992.) When I first began to "hear," I thought I had reached the pinnacle of spiritual success. I soon discovered, however, that knowing the English words did not mean that Iunderstood what God was saying. I discovered that I still needed to know the interpretation of the English words in order to apply them properly.
In other words, I needed more clarity. This was provided by the revelation of timing in 1991.
So by 1992 I had an inner double witness of Spirit and spirit, with the third witness of timing. At the same time, my wife became a double witness to the word as well. This is, of course, the real purpose of marriage as established in Genesis 2:24. When we learn to go beyond an Old Covenant marriage and into a New Covenant marriage, then we may experience what God had in mind from the beginning. (See my book, Old and New Covenant Marriage.)
It takes time to learn these things and to grow spiritually. As we learn, we are said to be still "weak," to use Paul's term. God has provided us with training tools during the time that "we do not know how to pray as we should." Our spirit always prays perfectly, and the Holy Spirit bears witness. But our soulish minds need time to learn. I have found in my own life that God has brought me to a new plane of development every ten years since 1971. Tongues in 1971, prophecy (English) in 1981-2, clarity in 1991-2, and then greater clarity in 2001 in order to conduct the many battles of spiritual warfare that were accomplished in that year.
I now look forward to 2011, where it is apparent that God is putting together the two streams of the Spirit represented by quail and manna (Exodus 16). The quail is knowing the divine plan (Ex. 16:6). The manna is seeing the glory of God (Ex. 16:7). This is the balanced diet that brings us to the place of full spiritual maturity. This, I believe, is what God is doing in us now.
This is the sixth part of a series titled "Romans 8." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones