This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon on John 14:12-26 preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday February 25-26, 2012.
If the Holy Spirit is indeed “the shy member of the Trinity” (always drawing attention to Jesus), then Romans 8 is a passage where His bashfulness if most noticeable. The role of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8 is often tragically lost and often leads to applications of this passage that do not reflect Paul’s pastoral intent when he penned these verses.
Most Christians know (whether they quote or cringe) verse 28, “All things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” But few recitations of this passage trace the journey of how Paul applied this truth; as a result the sovereignty of the Father is emphasized to the neglect of the compassion of the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a journey from verse 25 to verse 28.
“But if we hope for what we do not see…” (v. 25)
Paul is writing to hurting, longing, waiting Christians. They want something (every indication is that their desire is for a good thing) but they do not have it. God seems silent to their prayers and they are struggling to maintain an accurate view of Him as gracious and good.
“…we wait for it with patience.” (v. 25)
Patience is a pretty word on paper. It sounds nice. We use it as a compliment. But patience is a virtue only necessary because of sin, so it feels like Hell. In the perfect rest of Heaven patience will be as irrelevant as time. So these waiting, hoping believers are withering as they cling to a belief in God’s faithfulness with their patience.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness…” (v. 26)
We know their wasting away because Paul speaks to their growing weakness. In this moment the Holy Spirit softly enters the text… and our lives. “Likewise” reveals how much the Spirit embraces our sorrows. The Spirit is there to help. But if the Spirit’s help is like much of the help we get from those who lead with Romans 8:28 during our suffering, we may be hesitant to receive it.
“…for we do not know what to pray for as we ought…” (v. 26)
These weak Christians, wearied by waiting for God to deliver, are beyond words to speak. When asked, “What’s wrong?” They shake their head as if to say, “I don’t know where to begin… Reciting it again would only magnify the echo of sorrow… I’ve talked to God and He was silent; what good would it do tell my sorrows to you?”
“…but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (v. 26)
What is going on here? The Spirit is speaking truth, but He is speaking to the Father, not the weary believers. The Spirit is not saying “just do this” or “something good is about to happen.” The Spirit is taking our pain and despair to the ear of the Father. Even our hopeless silence cannot be silent in the Father’s presence because of the Holy Spirit.
“And he who searches hearts…” (v. 27)
The words of the Holy Spirit are not just “on our behalf,” they are the exact representation of our heart. The words coming before the Father in our suffering are everything we would say if we had the wherewithal to articulate our hope depleted soul-aches. Our pain screams we are alone. The prayers of the Spirit remind us we are known.
“…the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (v. 27)
Not only is our heart’s cry translated to God, our soul’s essence is knitted with God’s will (i.e., direction) for our life. The reach of the Spirit’s prayer is so great that it can connect our pain and God’s redemptive agenda. The distance that leaves our mind speechless is not too far for the Holy Spirit.
“And we know…” (v. 28)
This ministry of intercession by the Holy Spirit is what gives Paul confidence to speak into suffering. Paul is not offering a quick answer. Instead Paul is summarizing the implication of the tender, personal ministry of the Holy Spirit. We should only speak this truth to others in the same pastoral way that the Spirit brought Paul to this truth, through much listening and great compassion.