Having considered the apostle’s teaching in the early part of Romans chapter 8, we come now to some very profound words on the subject of God’s eternal purposes, and our Christian response to these. Paul has expounded strongly encouraging truth concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer. His divine ministry is in the believer’s mind and heart, so that he lives out the mind of the Spirit and not the mind of the flesh. All of this leads wonderfully to our appreciation of the truth of adoption and the fatherhood of God. In turn, this stirs in our hearts a longing for the ultimate fulfilment of all the associated promises, notably the redemption of our body.
But just as the gracious Holy Spirit creates this sanctified hope in our hearts, He also understands the severe limitations we face in speaking to God with full understanding of these profound things. So we have in verse 26, ‘In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.’ Now here is a very remarkable thing in Paul’s unique presentation of the gospel which we call the epistle to the Romans. It is part of the precious declaration of many aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit for the Christian. And it is the only place in the whole of the New Testament revealing how intimately the Holy Spirit shares with us and supports us in prayer.
Who has not felt an overwhelming sense of inadequacy in trying to express our thoughts and petitions to the Lord? Especially as we consider the deep well of divine purpose and knowledge, so very far beyond the capacity of our tiny minds. Praise God, the Holy Spirit comes alongside, and as this passage reminds us, ‘the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will’ (v.27). This is a unique gem of New Testament teaching on prayer and one which, although we cannot stay now to discuss it further, calls for the most careful meditation. It offers a wonderful re-assurance to our often troubled human spirit.
We should always remember that this amazing Holy Spirit support in our prayers is linked to a verse which has brought great comfort to many, and yet leaves certain questions in our frail human minds too. The words are, ‘And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ Then we are reminded of the believer’s place in divine foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and ultimate glorification. These issues could engage our meditation for a long time, but it seems that the apostle is saying here, ‘Trust the great God whose eternal purposes for each of us are so profound; trust Him to weave every thread of the fabric of our lives with perfect wisdom and love, so that the final outcome is always, whatever the circumstances of life, a good one.’
‘What then shall we say in response to this?’ asks verse 31. We have come to one of the points in Romans where Paul pauses to take stock. And what a magnificent stock-taking! ‘If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ Who, he demands, will bring any charge, will dare to condemn? The Lord Jesus Christ, our intercessor, is at God’s right hand.
Then comes the final challenge, one which fills the believing heart with exhilaration and overflowing confidence. ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ Paul’s grand exposition of gospel truth is not dry incomprehensible theology. It is about an infinitely loving Saviour. It is about looking trouble, hardships, persecutions, famine, nakedness, danger or sword, straight in the face and asserting in calm, confident trust, ‘in all these things we are more than conquerors though him who loved us.’ Conquerors in life and in death; conquerors in the face of an uncertain future; undeterred by threats from demonic powers; indeed by any circumstance or creature; conquerors because inseparable from the divine love of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul has been stretching our minds on deep things about law and grace, about adoption and foreknowledge. But thank you, beloved apostle, for such a sweet note on which to close this section of your letter; it speaks to the heart, and the words are words of confidence, joy and glory.