NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XXXIV)

Verse 28: We know that everything works out for the good of those who love Him. These are the ones God chose for His purpose.

Now Paul places the emphasis on how praying to God with the help of the Holy Spirit will result in His answers working everything out for our good according to His will. This is certainly something Joseph experienced and told his brothers: “You meant to do me harm, but God meant it for good – so that it would come about as it is today, with many people’s lives being saved.”1 And in the case of the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness, God did not answer their prayers as they thought He should, but to teach them a valuable lesson that they would use later in the Promised Land for His glory.2

And later, the Psalmist expressed it this way: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we are unafraid even if the earth were to give way, even if the mountains were to tumble into the depths of the sea, even if its waters were to rage and foam, and mountains were to shake at its turbulence.”3 And to the prophet Zechariah God explained it this way: “I will bring the third that came through the fire and make them pure, as gold and silver are refined and purified by fire. They will call upon my name and I will hear them; I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’4 In other words, don’t focus on the circumstances, focus on the One who controls the circumstances.

No wonder that Paul told the Corinthians: “These sufferings of ours are for your benefit. And the more of you who are won to Christ, the more there are to thank Him for His great kindness, and the more the Lord is glorified. That is why we never give up.5 And he wrote to the Philippians: “I know that as you pray for me, and as the Holy Spirit helps me, this is all going to turn out for my good… While I am going through all these trials here, just as I have in the past; and that I will always be an honor to Christ, whether I live or whether I must die. For to me, living means opportunities for Christ, and dying – well that’s better yet!6 Then to the Thessalonians he penned: “This is only one example of the fair and just way God does things, for He is using your sufferings to make you ready for His Kingdom.7

The writer of Hebrews uses Proverbs 3:11-12 to explain to his readers: “When He punishes you, it proves that He loves you. When He spanks you, it proves you are really His child. Let God train you, for He is doing what any loving father does for his children. Whoever heard of a son who was never disciplined?8 And the Apostle Peter echoed this same thought: “These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold.9

God allowing us to suffer through temporary afflictions for our good was very much a part of Jewish teachings. In the Babylonian Talmud, we find the pathetic story of a man named Nahum of Gamzi. There is a town mentioned in the OT by the name of Gimzo,10 but Jewish scholars believe this is not the name of a place but a combination of the words “also” and “this.” Anyhow, he was blind in both eyes and both his hands and legs had been amputated, and he was covered with bed sores because he was lying in an old dilapidated house, in a bed where its feet were in standing bowls of water to keep ants from crawling up onto the bed. His disciples became so concerned about his health that they offered to sanitize the house. But he warned them that his presence in the house was the only thing keeping it from collapsing.

So they asked Nahum, since he was such a pious believer, how all this happened to him. He explained, that on a journey to his father-in-law’s house with donkeys loaded down with food, drink, and treats, a poor man met him and asked for something to eat. He asked the man to wait while he unloaded something from one of the donkeys. But it took him so long to unpack that the poor man died from hunger on the spot. This troubled Nahum so much that he laid down on the poor man’s body and put this curse on himself: “May my eyes which had no pity upon your eyes become blind, may my hands which had no pity upon your hands be cut off, may my legs which had no pity upon your legs be amputated, and my mind was not satisfied until I added, may my whole body be covered with boils.”11

Once his disciples understood his plight, they thanked him for telling them his story. He responded that he was pleased that they were able to see him this way. So the question was asked by those listening to the Rabbi tell this story and asked him, “Why was he called Nahum of Gamzi?” The Rabbi said: Because whatever befell him he would declare, “This is for the best.” So wherever he went and no matter what bad things happened to him, he would always say it as God’s way of working things out for his good.

We find this same theme in another Tractate in the Talmud where Rabbi’s are discussing all the things we should thank God for. He mentioned such things as the way the body was formed, for healing, for sleep, for dreams, for clothing, hand washing, etc. Then we read that Rabbi Huna quoted to his students a proverb from Rabbi Akiba that says: A person should make it a habit of always saying, “Whatever the All-Merciful does is for my good.’’ Then Rabbi Huna shared Rabbi Akiba’s story of when he was traveling along a road and came to a certain town where he looked for a place to stay overnight. But everywhere he went they refused to let him in. Nevertheless, each time he would say, “Whatever the All-Merciful does is for my good.” So he decided to spend the night out in an open field. He had brought along a rooster, a donkey, and an oil lamp. But after he got settled, a sudden gust of wind came up and blew out the lamp. Then in the dark a weasel came and stole his rooster, then lions came and carried off the donkey. Yet, when he found out in the morning what happened he said: “Whatever the All-Merciful does is for my good.” That same night some bandits raided that city and carried off the inhabitants of the town where he wanted to stay. The next morning as he was passing by the town, he saw one survivor and said to him: Didn’t I tell you, “Whatever the All-Merciful does is all for our good?”12 In the footnotes, we find this explanation of why Rabbi Akiba was so thankful that things worked out for his good, because the lamp had not gone out, or the rooster or the donkey been stolen by other animals, they might have disclosed his location to the bandits and he too would have been taken hostage.13

But such discipline and training were not offered to everyone just because they prayed, not even to some of those who claim to be His children. Paul adds two qualifiers: First, they must love God. This principle was already prevalent under the first covenant. God made this very clear to the Israelites: “I lavish my love upon thousands of those who love me and obey my commandments.14 Since love is an act of the will, just saying we love God is not enough. When done willingly and wholeheartedly, obedience is one form of showing true love. This was explained later by Moses: “O Israel, listen: There is one ADONAI and He is our only God. You must love Him with all your heart, soul, and might. And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today.15

The prophet Nehemiah expressed this same concept: “I cried out, ‘O LORD God, O great and awesome God who keeps His promises and is so loving and kind to those who love and obey Him! Hear my prayer!’16 Even the Promised Land was only pledged to those who loved His name.17 So the Apostle Paul was repeating for the Jews in Rome the words they had read and studied from the time they were young. But that was not new, Jesus Himself quoted them: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only God. And you must love Him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.18

So we should not be surprised that Paul wrote the Corinthians: “That is what is meant by the Scriptures which say that no mere man has ever seen, heard, or even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love the Lord. But we know about these things because God sent His Spirit to tell us, and His Spirit searches out and shows us all of God’s deepest secrets. No one can really know what anyone else is thinking or what they are really like except that person themselves. And no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit.19

The Apostle James had this to add: “Happy is the person who doesn’t give in and do wrong when they are tempted, for afterward, they will get as their reward the crown of life that God has promised those who love Him.20 He goes on to say: “Listen to me, dear brothers: God has chosen poor people to be rich in faith, and the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs, for that is the gift God has promised to all those who love Him.21 And the Apostle John shared this with his readers: “God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son into this wicked world to bring to us eternal life through His death. In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but His love for us when He sent His Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins… So you see, our love for Him comes as a result of His loving us first.22

Since Paul was writing to a large contingent of Jewish members of the church in Rome, we can see that by him also being a Jew he would know about these sayings and stories just as they would. So why not choose something they were familiar with the make an essential point about the importance of loving God before certain blessings could be expected. Nevertheless, it was a lesson to the Gentiles and to all believers who would read this letter in the centuries to come.

1 Genesis 50:20 – Complete Jewish Bible

2 Deuteronomy 8:2-5

3 Psalm 46:1-3 – Complete Jewish Bible (46:2-4)

4 Zechariah 13:9

5 2 Corinthians 4:15-16a

6 Philippians 1:19-21

7 2 Thessalonians 1:5

8 Hebrews 12:6-7

9 1 Peter 1:7a

10 2 Chronicles 28:18

11 Babylonian Talmud: Seder Mo’ed, Masekhet Ta’anith, folio 21a

12 Ibid: Seder Zera’im, Masekhet Berachoth, folio 61a

13 Ibid. folio 61b, fn (1)

14 Exodus 20:6

15 Deuteronomy6:4-6

16 Nehemiah 1:5

17 Psalm 69:36

18 Mark 12:29-30

19 1 Corinthians 2:9-11

20 James 1:12

21 Ibid. 2:5

22 1 John 4:9-10, 19

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POINTS TO PONDER

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As an avid reader, I have always been impacted and inspired when I read books by those, and about those, who have gone through heartaches, trials, persecution, rejection, and many disappointments but remained true to their faith in God. I don’t ever remember being emboldened or motivated by a book about someone who never had any problems and sailed right through to success with little difficulty.

That’s why when I read this quote by a famous Swiss psychiatrist who did groundbreaking work in dealing with death and dying, it struck me as so real. She said: “The most beautiful people we have admired are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”1

Why is it that so many want to be prosperous by way of good luck? They’re always looking for ways to win a lottery or be selected as a sweepstakes winner. Blood, sweat, and tears are not part of their formula for success. Which of these pictures would inspire and awe you the most: a mountain climber standing tall at the peak of the world’s highest mountain, his climbing outfit unmarred and glistening in the sun, who got there by way of a helicopter; or, the climber next to him, bent over from exhaustion, with rips and tears in his outfit, and bumps, bruises, and cuts underneath, who got there by climbing up the steepest face on the mountain?

I don’t think it would be hard to guess which one would be the most meaningful. So the next time you are faced with roadblocks on your way to achieving something significant, don’t try to find a way around them. First, see if you can move them or break through them. If that doesn’t work, climb over them. While it’s not necessary to look for hardships, don’t avoid dealing with them when they come your way. If you want what you learn to be an encouragement, motivation, and influence to others to keep going, be that example yourself. Stay on the hard-road, don’t detour over to the high-road. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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BLAMING OTHERS INSTEAD OF BLAMING OURSELVES

The grief David felt that was caused by Absalom’s treacherous conniving with others to remove him as king of Israel and Judah, left scars on David’s soul. But he decided to seek reconciliation instead of retaliation. He did not want to become like those who attempted to end his reign. From what David said in Psalm three, and now what he shares in Psalm four, he never wanted to end his day without taking his needs to the Lord to receive guidance and understanding. David was not looking to get even but simply to stay balanced emotionally and mentally. This tempered his thought process and softened his plea for God’s help. So in this Psalm, he had a message for anyone facing the same dilemma:

O One True God, You were the One who taught me how to live right so I could cope with stress, so I’m asking You to be patient with me and give attention to my prayer as I call out to You. For I have asked the elders, ‘How long will you continue to question my integrity? Will you carry on without a purpose? Will you continue acting on unfounded accusations? Remember this: the LORD Eternal chose godly people for Himself and He listens when they call out to Him. Show some respect, don’t do anything stupid. Take a break, breathe in deeply, and think things over. Give the LORD Eternal the respect He deserves and learn how to trust in Him. Many are asking if we would ever be respected as a people.’ O LORD Eternal, You have directed Your smile of approval toward us. You made me glad, and I rejoice with my brethren in their success. That’s why I can put my head on my pillow with peace of mind, O LORD Eternal, for I know Your loving arms are around me.” Psalm 4:1-8

Reflection: The story is told of a man named Yada who found himself in peril. Yada’s boat was sinking, and as the water rose up around his legs he begins to blame the boat builders for using inferior materials and creating a badly designed craft. Then he berated the weatherman for not precisely predicting the path and intensity of the storm, while simultaneously criticizing the Coast Guard for not forcing him to stay in the harbor even though he ignored their warnings not to sail. Finally, he blamed God for not sending the storm to another area to keep it from interrupting his spur-of-the-moment plans. So you can imagine what he said when the boat sank because he did nothing to stop the leak or bale out the water.

The phrase “Yada, yada, yada” certainly applies here to this man’s endless complaints instead of taking responsibility. Troubles and trials may come our way but this does not mean we should resign to our fate instead of relying on our faith by holding on to the promises of the Promise Maker. Even though our difficulties may be due to someone else’s actions, there is no need to take ownership of how they are handling their predicament and incur the same grief and anxiety their actions will bring them. Rather, contemplate on how to be an inspiration for others to talk about, instead of being an imbecile others will jest about. In the words of a chorus we used to sing as children, “The more we pull together, together, together; the more we pull together the happier we’ll be.” – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XXXIII)

The Apostle James takes knowing what God wants for our life another step: “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask Him, and He will gladly tell you, for He is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask Him; He will not resent it. But when you ask Him, be sure that you really expect Him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; and every decision you then make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer.1

And the Apostle John is in agreement. He tells his readers: “Dearly beloved friends, if our consciences are clear, we can come to the Lord with perfect assurance and trust, and get whatever we ask for because we are obeying Him and doing the things that please Him.2 Later on John reiterates: “We are sure of this, that He will listen to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line with His will. And if we really know He is listening when we talk to Him and make our requests, then we can be sure that He will answer us.3

So the point here in Paul’s teaching is that when the Holy Spirit joins us in our petitioning God for what we need to do His will, He will answer. The Spirit always helps us ask for things that are in accordance with God’s will for our lives and our destiny. That’s because the Spirit knows the mind of God and what He wants for us.4 This led early church scholar Origen to say that Paul is telling us that God pays less attention to the words we use in prayer than He does to what is in our heart and on our mind.5 And the early church writer of a commentary on Paul’s Epistles notes that Paul makes it clear: since the prayer of every spirit of man is known to God, from whom nothing is secret or hidden, how much more then should the Father know what the Holy Spirit, who is the same essence as Himself, is saying.6

Then an early church Bishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church makes the point we often see that all the good promptings which bring us to repentance result from the activity of the Spirit, and pure prayer which brings all these good promptings to completion, is also stirred up in our soul as the result of the Spirit’s activity. He too, in a hidden way, initially arouses us to groan at the memory of our sins.7 And then we have the thoughts from the Bishop of Arles, who was known for his pastoral skills, that even when one of God’s saints kneels or stands in silence, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit causes the shouts of their heart to be heard in the presence of God.8

Reformer John Calvin finds what Paul says here as a rational motive to enhance our confidence that we are being heard by God when we pray with His Spirit because this allows the Father to thoroughly know our desires because they are also known by His Spirit. Calvin advises that we should notice how Paul uses the world knows to indicate that God does not regard these emotions of the Spirit as new and strange. Therefore, He does not reject them as being unreasonable. Instead, He permits them to rise upward to Him as prayer. Then He graciously receives them as something that He allows and approves of.9 As Calvin sees it, Paul is saying that God not only listens when we come to Him as children, but that He willingly draws us close to Him so that our unanswered prayers do not become a reason for doubting that our heavenly Father loves us with all His heart.

Wesleyan theologian Adam Clarke explains his understanding of what Paul is saying here. To him, it implies that our Lord is making intercession for us to the Father. He does so by negotiating and managing all the affairs pertaining to our salvation, as a friend and personal representative. To think about it, that’s a lot to ask of the King of Glory. And the Holy Spirit also makes intercession for the believer. Not by petitioning God on their behalf, but by directing and qualifying their prayers in a proper manner. He does so by His authority and influence on their hearts. This is all in accordance with what the Gospel says about the particular work and office of the Holy Spirit.10 But Clarke also focuses on the fact that the Holy Spirit speaks for us in a way that conforms with God’s mind, intentions, and design for our lives. This is true even when saints express themselves in words, desires, groans, sighs, or tears. For Clarke, God reads the language of the Holy Spirit, even if we do not understand, and prepares an answer according to the request the Spirit communicates to Him on our behalf.

Clarke then draws this conclusion: what we can learn from all this is that a person need not be fluent and trained in how to recite prayers. That is not essential to praying. In God’s eyes, even a simple and uncomplicated prayer can be considered a powerful expression of need or praise. This is true even when the person praying is unable to utter a single word. How precious this is, that God understands even the unutterable groan of a person who is mute because it contains God’s language spoken by the Holy Spirit. We all know that sometimes our needs or desires are so deep and personal that they are hard to express. Even if we could speak many languages there’s none expressive enough to say all we’d like to tell God. Often, such requests and desires have been put in our heart by God. And since they came from Him, they express what God really wants for us. In Clarke’s mind, this provides a sense of great encouragement to all those who are agonizing for the day they will enter heaven’s gates.11

Robert Haldane gives us an outline to help us see what Paul is saying here about intercession. For Haldane, someone might object and ask: “To what purpose are those groanings which we cannot understand?” He believes that if the Apostle Paul were here today he might share some of these reasons: First, God knows exactly what these prayers mean because He is able to search a person’s heart, something He knows very well.12 Even when a believer sighs and groans due to his being in such bewilderment and distress that he cannot utter a single word, those sighs and groanings are full of meaning to the omniscient God. Secondly, God knows what is “on the Spirit’s mind.” Therefore, whatever the Spirit is dictating in the believer’s heart is approved by God because He and the Spirit are of one mind. Thirdly, because He makes intercession, it is not necessary that we fully understand His intercession. It is for this reason why God knows the mind of the Spirit. It is also the reason why He will hear and answer the groans which the Holy Spirit evokes. A further reason is, that this intercession is custom made for believers. That is why He said: “Gather to me my faithful, those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”13

And finally, it is added that the Spirit makes intercession “according to the will of God” (verse 27). These prayers are heard then because when the Spirit intercedes for the children of God, He inspires no desires except what is agreeable to God’s will. This helps us see how sure we can be that those groanings which cannot be articulated will be heard and answered. For “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.14 Haldane is convinced that the most effective prayers are not those of human eloquence, but those which spring from the sincere desires of the heart.15

Charles Hodge notes that although there are times when our desires and needs are too difficult to express, that the eye of Him who searches the heart can read and understand them. This is not a new concept, it was already revealed in the First Covenant. For instance, Jeremiah tells us: “Only the LORD knows! He searches all hearts and examines deepest motives so He can give to each person his right reward, according to his deeds—how he has lived.16

Albert Barnes notes a similar understanding of how the believer is benefited. He says we should not believe that when the Holy Spirit assists and inspires our prayers we are infallible and cannot make improper requests. Rather, with the influence that the Holy Spirit has over the believer’s mind, they can avoid asking for things they really don’t need or that do not fit God’s calling on their lives compared to how much they are willing to yield to His guidance. Barnes says, that believers are safest when they yield themselves completely to the directional influence of the Holy Spirit. And the doctrine Paul states here is one that brings great consolation to the believer’ heart. We may be considered poor and needy, or ignorant and blind, but in the midst of our feebleness, we can ask God for help through His Spirit. When He answers, we can rejoice in His presence. And we can be assured that His power will sustain us through our hours of sighing, and to guide us as we march toward that city whose builder and maker is God.17

John Stott makes us aware of those involved when we pray. First, there’s us, kneeling in our weakness, not knowing exactly what to pray for. Second, the indwelling Holy Spirit comes to our aid by interceding on our behalf, using our voice to do so. But when we are speechless because our need or burden is too difficult to utter, He will not only speak for us but do so according to God’s will. Third, there’s our Mediator, Jesus, God’s only Son who is at His right hand ready to endorse the prayers that the Holy Spirit brings to the Father in His name. And fourth, there’s God the Father who both searches our hearts, knows the Spirit’s mind, and is moved with love when He sees the nail prints in the hands of His Son. He hears and answers accordingly to what the Spirit says and the Son agrees we need. Of these four, Paul emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Stott points out that Paul states three facts about the Holy Spirit. First, “the Spirit helps us” (because of our weak state of mind and spirit); secondly, “by interceding for us” (because in our ignorance we are not sure what to pray for); and thirdly, “according to God’s will” (this causes God to listen and respond without hesitation).18 What can be said then that would make us any more confident when we pray?

1 James 1:5-8

2 1 John 3:21-22

3 Ibid. 5:14-15

4 2 Corinthians 2:11

5 Origen: on Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

6 Ambrosiaster: On Paul’s Epistles, op. cit., loc. cit.

7 Philoxenus of Mabbug: On the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. (Mabbug is near today’s Kirkuk, Iraq.)

8 Caesarius of Arles (France): Sermon 97.2

9 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

10 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 157

11 Ibid.

12 1 Chronicles 28:9

13 Psalm 50:5 – Complete Jewish Bible

14 1 John 5:14

15 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 388-389

16 Jeremiah 17:10, (Cf. Psalm 139:1-12; Revelation 2:23

17 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

18 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XXXII)

Swiss theologian Frédéric Godet sees an elevation of our natural groanings that come before God. For him, the Apostle Paul now elevates such natural groanings to become those made by the Holy Spirit Himself. This series of successive changes to a higher level is so evident in what Paul says that it is astonishing how so many commentators could have missed it. However, Godet believes there is a significant difference between the first level of natural groaning and the Spirit’s supernatural groaning. All Paul is saying is that the one can lead to the other. Godet sees no conflict indicated here; for the groaning of the Spirit is in agreement with that of believer’s.1 In other words, the groan of the Spirit is not separate, but in harmony and communal with that of the believer.

John Stott seems to vary somewhat from what others have said about the groanings being unutterable. He says that to be honest, the English translations of this verse are somewhat inaccurate. For the Greek adjective alalētos simply means “wordless (BAGD).2 The point Paul is making here is not that the groans cannot be expressed with words, but the person groaning chooses rather not to say anything and let the groaning speak for itself. That way, the groans are unexpressed, rather than being expressed. Stott says that in this context, these wordless groans must surely be related to the groans both of God’s creation (v. 22) and of God’s children (v. 23), namely “agonized longings,” as J. B. Phillips puts it in his translation. These longings are for final redemption and the consummation of all things. The key part here is that if they are wordless, then they can be soundless. In other words, the word “groan” is a metaphor for that aching, desperation, longing one feels deep inside for an answer from God to their dilemma.

This brings up the fact that sometimes we simply do not know what to pray for. That may be because we are not certain of exactly what is needed. We’re torn between praying for deliverance from our sufferings, or for strength to endure them.3 Also, we cannot always be sure of the outcome of our circumstances.4 Furthermore, it’s not clear where we stand in the situation and whether we are in a position to make a precise request or not. That’s why the Spirit graciously intercedes for us and does so with unspoken groans.5 Stott goes on to say that these groans can hardly be understood as glossolalia since those “tongues” or “languages” were expressed in words which some might understand and interpret.6 Rather, it can be understood as that unexpressed aching of the heart that is hard to explain to another human being but one knows it is real.

Douglas Moo adds his interpretation to this by saying that our understanding of God’s precise will for our lives falls way short of being perfect. That’s why in many situations we are confused about what answer or solution we should request. Then the Holy Spirit comes to our aid, interceding on our behalf with “groans that words are unable to express.” Moo also notes that a few interpreters think Paul may be referring to speaking in tongues.7 Moo believes that the gift of tongues is given only to some Christians.8 Others suggest Paul is using vivid imagery to refer to the Spirit’s prayer in our hearts to the Lord.9 Still, other commentators think Paul refers to the Christian’s own audible but wordless groanings as he or she struggles before the Lord in prayer. But if that is true, would that not affect someone in a coma who senses what’s going on around them and can consciously cry out to God with feelings instead of words to be left on their own without the Holy Spirit’s assistance?10

Moo goes on to say that deciding between these last two alternatives of the Spirit’s groans being just that or praying in tongues is a difficult task. He notes that “groaning” has been used metaphorically in the context (v. 22), so the Spirit simply groaning is certainly possible. Moreover, the phrase translated “with groans that words that cannot express” in the NIV can mean either “not spoken” (not expressed at all) or “unspoken” (not expressed in words). Whichever it may be, Paul’s main point is clear enough: These groanings of the Spirit are perfectly in accordance with God’s will (verse 27). By this, we know for sure, that God knows our heart. Not only that but that He hears and answers those prayers. Just because we don’t always know how to pray or what to pray for does not hinder God working out His perfect will in our lives. Moo concludes that we may not know what to ask for in any given situation but the Spirit does. His requests are in perfect harmony with getting us to our destiny chosen by God for our lives. Jesus knows how to intercede for us before the Father,11 guaranteeing our salvation. So, in the same way, the Spirit intercedes for us in preparation for that day of salvation.12

Verse 27: God already knows our deepest thoughts. And He understands what the Spirit is saying because the Spirit speaks for His people in the way that agrees with what God wants.

For Paul, the benefit of having the Spirit assist us in prayer is that the Spirit speaks God’s language. Even when we have feelings that are beyond expression, the Spirit from within us can communicate what we feel and need in a language we do not understand. It doesn’t always have to be verbal, it can emanate directly to God from the heart. David instructed Solomon on this subject when he told him: “Solomon, my son, get to know the God of your fathers. Worship and serve Him with a clean heart and a willing mind, for the Lord sees every heart and understands and knows every thought. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him.13

One reason why it is so important that we recognize God’s omniscience is because it is impossible to fool Him. For instance, in dealing with Kush the Benjaminite, one of Saul’s chief henchmen, David made this part of the song he wrote about the encounter: “You, the righteous God, look deep within the hearts of men and examine all their motives and their thoughts.”14 And the descendants of Korach taught this: “If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, wouldn’t God have discovered this since He knows the secrets of the heart?15 And Jeremiah depended on God to help him deal with his persecutors since God could clearly see their hearts and motives.16

So when Jesus was teaching His disciples on prayer and how to avoid the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, He told them: “Remember, your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!17 That’s why when the disciples gathered to choose a successor to Judas Iscariot, they prayed for the right man to be chosen: “O Lord,” they said, “you know every heart; show us which of these men you have chosen as an Apostle to replace Judas Iscariot the traitor.18 And when Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem to meet the council, after the meeting Peter stood up and said: “God, who knows men’s hearts, confirmed the fact that He accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He gave Him to us.19

Paul had been under scrutiny both by believing Jews and nonbelievers who accused him of customizing the Gospel to fit the needs of his audience, rather than demanding that the Gentiles and Jews change to meet the needs of the Gospel. So Paul told them: “We speak as messengers from God, trusted by Him to tell the truth; we did not change His message one bit to suit the taste of those who hear it; for we serve God alone, who examines our hearts’ deepest thoughts.”20 This same awareness inspired the writer of Hebrews to say about God: “He knows about everyone, everywhere. Everything about us is bare and wide open to the all-seeing eyes of our living God; nothing can be hidden from Him to whom we must explain all that we have done.21

Therefore, since His Spirit lives within us and helps us communicate with our Heavenly Father, everything we think and feel will be obvious to Him. All too often, believers form an image of God in their minds and speak to Him as though He is a picture on the wall or the figure on the mantelpiece, and forget He is a living God who sees, hears, and knows all things. And why ask a dead human being of the past to intercede with the Father when He sent His Holy Spirit to do that? That’s why David made it clear: “I cried to Him for help with praises ready on my tongue. He would not have listened if I had not confessed my sins. But He listened! He heard my prayer! He paid attention to it!22 Being open and honest before God are critical factors in whether or not our prayers will be answered.

But Paul didn’t want these Roman believers to forget that access to God and the door to His throne room of grace and mercy cannot be opened by man alone in order to enter. Like any person who comes to a judge to make their case known, there is the need for a counselor. So Paul tells them that the Holy Spirit is the one who intercedes for us. In fact, Paul told the Ephesians: “All of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, may come to God the Father with the Holy Spirit’s help only because of what Christ has done for us.”23 That way, everything presented to the Father will be in harmony with His will.

The prophet Jeremiah found this out to be true when he conversed with God who told him: “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find Me when you seek Me if you look for Me in earnest.24 This prophecy was certainly made real through Christ. In fact, on one occasion, Jesus was explaining to the disciples what He expected of them. So He told them: “In solemn truth I tell you, anyone believing in Me shall do the same miracles I have done, and even greater ones because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask Him for anything, using My name, and I will do it, for this will bring praise to the Father because of what I, the Son, will do for you. Yes, ask anything, using My name, and I will do it!25

1 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

2 BAGD is code for the Walter Bauer Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

3 Cf. Philippians 1:19ff; John 12:27

4 1 John 3:2

5 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

6 See Acts of the Apostles 2:4ff; 1 Corinthians 14:13ff, 26ff

7 E.g. Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans, pp. 239– 242; Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, pp. 577– 586

8 1 Corinthians 12:30

9 C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 422

10 Douglas Moo: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

11 Cf., Romans 8:34

12 Ibid.

13 1 Chronicles 28:9

14 Psalm 7:9

15 Ibid. 44:20-21 – Complete Jewish Bible (44:21-22)

16 Jeremiah 11:20

17 Matthew 6:8

18 Acts of the Apostles 1:21-26

19 Ibid. 15:8

20 1 Thessalonians 2:4

21 Hebrews 4:13

22 Psalm 66:17-18

23 Ephesians 2:18

24 Jeremiah 29:11-13

25 John 14:12-14

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

elgreco_paul154x200

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XXXI)

Reformer Martin Luther knew what it was to plead with moans and groans before the Lord. He learned that such groanings are so profound that only God can understand and appreciate them. Luther points to David having a similar prayer which made him feel so crushed inside that his anguished heart made him groan out loud.1 Luther then goes on to say that we should not consider it a bad sign, rather a good sign if our petitions to God bring us the opposite of what we asked for. By the same token, it would not be a good sign, rather a bad sign, if we were granted everything we prayed for.2 Therefore if the Holy Spirit carries our inexpressible groans to God’s heart, then we should also be willing to accept the answer from His heart. All He wants is that His will is done, even though we may not understand all the reasons why. We must trust Him and by faith accept His answer as best for us.

John Calvin has an interesting way of sharing his thoughts on what Paul says here. He tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us carry part of our burdens, especially those that weigh us down the most. That way He not only gives us some relief but lifts us up so that we can walk with our heads held high. He goes on to say that this is connected with what Paul said earlier about how the creature and creation must deal with the emptiness of this life. This sometimes leads to our being unable to know exactly how to pray and what to pray for. Calvin admits that there are various scholarly expositions of this passage. But for him, Paul seems to have had this in mind: When we go to God in prayer we know what we want but we don’t know what we really need. We are so disturbed by a situation that we don’t know what is best to ask God for. So it is no secret that we should follow the example of our Lord Jesus and simply say, “Father, not my will but Your will be done.34

This is why the Spirit was sent to help us. Calvin says it is not we who groan, but that through the impulse of the Spirit we express our deepest feelings with groans because they are beyond our capability of formulating them into words. Think of it this way, you have a child or spouse in another room of the house, and they are trying to let you know sick they are. If their words do not carry the urgency that would prompt you to take immediate action, their painful groans will. When you hear them moan in agony, it causes you to drop everything and run to find out what’s wrong. Paul is saying something similar here, in that God hears such groans, and through the Spirit knows exactly what’s wrong and what is needed.

Adam Clarke points out an interesting aspect of the composite Greek word synantilambanomai (Literally – to take [hold] with me) that Paul uses here. It is translated into English as “help or helps,”5 meaning: To grab hold of along with another, to strive to obtain with others, to help someone in obtaining something. Clarke explains that it is a compound word that signifies one person helping another person to carry their burden. That helps us understand that the one who prays receives assistance from the Spirit of God so that their prayer gets to God swiftly. We must be ready to use whatever strength we have to do our part, while at the same time leaning on the strength of the Holy Spirit within us to get things done for God’s glory.6 Therefore, when we have needs and do not know exactly how to pray as we should, and are thereby liable to make endless mistakes, we must depend on the Holy Spirit to assist us in bringing them by prayer before God’s throne of grace and mercy.

Robert Haldane points out that as believers we need to exercise patience. It is only after we have done the will of God that we can expect the promises that He has made to the faithful. Sometimes our patience is not what it ought to be, and we start thinking about dismissing any hope of accomplishing what He sent us out to do, in spite of the great reward that awaits a faithful servant. That’s why the Apostle Paul presents the Roman believers with a variety of options to consider during the time of conflict, especially when things get difficult. First, he reminded them, in verse 17, of their communion with Jesus Christ, and that, if they suffer with Him, they will also be glorified with Him.

Then in verse 18, Paul told them that their sufferings cannot be compared to the glory of which they will be made partakers of when it’s over. Paul offers that what they are currently going through is part of waiting for the day of deliverance when the children of God will be presented for all the world to see. Paul does so by reminding them of the promise God has already made assuring them that although it is still in the future, they can take hold of it now by hope. No doubt, those who are weak in the flesh and feel inferior to the powers of the enemies they face, will object, in spite of all the encouragement they are given. They do not want to continue going through so many trials and testings before final victory is won. That’s why now the Apostle Paul points out an additional, internal source of encouragement of the highest consideration. That is, the Holy Spirit residing in them is there to help them with their frailties as He intercedes for us to the Father. Haldane wants everyone to know that the Holy Spirit’s presence is sufficient to ease every despondent fear, and give them the strongest assurance that it will end just as God promised it would.7

Then Albert Barnes focuses on the Greek word hyperentygchanō that Paul uses here. It is used nowhere else in the NT. It means: to intercede for someone. According to Barnes, it also means to be present with someone for the purpose of aiding them in any manner, just as a lawyer does in a court of law. Barnes makes it clear that the Holy Spirit does not do it on His own, but assists and aides us in our petitions to God the Father. In other words, the Spirit does not pray for us but assists us as we pray for our needs and how to cope with our infirmities. Barnes gives us his understanding of how the Spirit helps when our groans represent needs that cannot be put into words. For him, these are emotions which are sometimes too deep to articulate. We, therefore, need another language, the language of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that the Spirit produces these groanings on His own. These come from deep-felt emotions caused when the soul is oppressed and overwhelmed. That’s when He lends us His assistance and sustains us. This verse may be thus translated: “The Spirit greatly aids or supports us in those deep emotions, those intense feelings, those inward sighs which cannot be expressed in language, but which He enables us to bear, and which are understood by Him that searches the heart.8 No wonder Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the “comforter.”9

Baptist preacher Octavius Winslow speaks of those who complain about the hold sin still has on their lives when they pray. In one sermon he acknowledges that there is never a time when a person feels the chafing of sin’s chains more than when they get away from others into the sacred presence of God. How great it would be if they could then feel free! Then they could pour out their unchained emotions as they are moved, prompted, and pray unhindered because of the freedom of God’s Spirit! But instead, they find that prayer comes hard. What can they say? What should they ask for? What do they really need? It seems that their emotions are dried up, and the things they want to tell God stop at the tip of their tongue, freeze on their lips. So they rise from their knees feeling that their prayer has turned into nothing but worthless chatter, like a chirping sparrow.

But why do they feel so bound? Can it be of their own creation? Might it be that they are trying to get enthused about praying to God instead of letting the influence of the Holy Spirit be their source of excitement about talking to the Living Creator? Are they trying to impress God with their own knowledge of His Word and move Him with their pious words? Why are they not bowing before Him with a humble heart and a contrite spirit? Are they looking at themselves instead of looking to Jesus who stands beside the Father as their Mediator? Are they guilty of coming to God with the proud spirit of a Pharisee, rather than with the contrite spirit of the publican!10 Is it possible that they come to God thinking that they deserve a blessing instead of asking for a blessing? How can they feel so satisfied with themselves when without Him they are poor and miserable? But listen to Paul share God’s remedy, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Part of His indwelling is to set us free to go to our Father in prayer with an open heart and open mind.11

Charles Hodge also comments on the Holy Spirit as our helper, representing Him as condescending enough to take upon Himself; as it were, a portion of our sorrows to relieve us of their pressure. Hodge says that this is an example of how the Holy Spirit can assist us: “The Holy Spirit helps us where we are weak. We do not know how to pray or what we should pray for” (v. 26). The necessity for this kind of help is not because we don’t know how to pray, but the fact that we often do not know what to pray for. We just don’t know what’s best for us under the circumstances.12 Hodge then points to something that the Apostle Paul may have already known from reading Greek literature where it was said that Pythagoras13 thinks it is wrong when we pray for ourselves because we do not know what will help us.14 For Hodge, that would be a miserable condition. So instead of letting our ignorance putting a lock on our lips while our hearts break inside, allow the Holy Spirit to give us a language heard and understood by God. If we are not sure what to pray, let the Holy Spirit show us the way.15

Charles Spurgeon suggests that instead of it saying that the Spirit makes intercession for us, it should read this way: “The Spirit Himself teaches us what we should pray for.” Spurgeon goes on to question whether or not we really know what our groanings are for. In one sermon he expressed the fear that those who’ve never had groanings which cannot be put into words, will then never know anything of that delight which also cannot be expressed because it’s the only way to help us get relief. As Spurgeon sees it, the groanings that cannot be uttered lead on to unutterable joy. For Spurgeon, if there is any place that our feebleness can be expressed it is in prayer. Even the strongest among us are on their knees seeking more strength. None of us need to stop short of the reaching our full stature in Christ Jesus. We could then go from asking to seeking, and from seeking to knocking so the Spirit can help us find what we need in order to be at full strength for the battles ahead.16

1 Psalm 38:9

2 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 126

3 Luke 22:42

4 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

5 See Luke 10:40

6 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 156

7 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 385

8 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

9 John 14:26

10 Luke 18:10

11 The Works of Octavius Winslow: op. cit., loc. cit.

12 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 430

13 Pythagoras of Samos (570-495 BC), Greek philosopher and mathematician

14 Lives of the Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius (404-323 BC), Translated by Robert Drew Hicks, Bk. 8:9

15 Hodge, ibid, pp. 430-431

16 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

elgreco_paul154x200

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XXX)

Verse 26: The Holy Spirit also helps us. When we are very weak, the Spirit joins to help us with our weakness. When we don’t know how to pray as we should, the Spirit Himself speaks to God for us. That way, He intercedes with God for us. Sometimes, He even speaks to God with feelings too deep for us to express with words.

Paul now indicates that his call for patience is not dependent on the believer’s faith and strength alone. When things began to weigh the believer down and there is more to worry about than to celebrate, Paul says that God has supplied a resource for each believer to draw from and be invigorated by – the Holy Spirit. It is easy to testify and proclaim our faith in God when things are going right. But the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that he had no interest in bragging about what he had accomplished, but to openly acknowledge that the Spirit used his weakness for God’s glory.1 He goes on to say: “I am glad to be a living example of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own strength and abilities.”2

The writer of Hebrews saw it this way: “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses since He had the same temptations we do, though He never once gave into them and sinned. So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive His mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need.3 In other words, God is not requesting from us any more than He demanded from His own Son. We are not pioneers cutting a new path through a jungle of trials and tribulations. No! Since our Lord Jesus blazed the trail ahead of us, we are only asked to follow in His footsteps.

It is important for us to understand the critical place Christ fills in our daily lives. When we encounter difficulties and meet opposition we have a tendency to ask God for things that are not in our best interest or His. He is the one who called us out of darkness. He is the one who placed our feet on the road leading to our destiny. So knowing what He wants for us is better than always asking for what we want. Two of Jesus’ disciples learned this the hard way when they and their mother came to Jesus asking that they are promised thrones next to Him in His Kingdom.4 In his letter, James made this point: “The reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask you don’t get it because your whole aim is wrong – you want only what will bring you enjoyment.”5

Therefore, says Paul, we need some guidance when we pray for answers to our questions on how to best navigate life’s stumbling blocks involving problems and challenges, turning them into opportunities and possibilities as stepping-stones. Paul’s answer is very clear. The Holy Spirit knows the mind of God to the point where there are no secrets between them. Therefore, the Spirit is the One best equipped to help believers in knowing God’s will. Even King David expressed this confidence: “Lord, you know the hopes of humble people. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort their hearts by assisting them.”6

All of this is possible, says Paul, because we are God’s children. And as His sons and daughters, He has place Christ’s way of thinking in our hearts, so that when we speak to Him we do so as a member of His family. This allowed Paul to tell the Ephesians: “Now all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, may come to God the Father with the Holy Spirit’s help because of what Christ has done for us.”7 Later on, Paul advised them: “Keep praying. Ask God for anything in line with the Holy Spirit’s wishes. Plead with Him, reminding Him of your needs, and continue to pray for all Christians everywhere.”8

The Apostle Jude shared this same thought: “But you, dear friends, must build your lives even more secure on the foundation of our holy faith, learning to pray in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. Stay always within the boundaries where God’s love can reach and bless you. Wait patiently for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in His mercy is going to bring you.”9 Jude goes on to explain that this is important when we encounter those who argue against us. It will help us to be merciful to those who doubt us. By doing so, we may save some by snatching them from sure destruction. And for others we know, help them find the Lord by being kind to them. But be careful that we ourselves are not pulled along into their errors. This will help us hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners.

However, the Spirit does this all in complete confidence. It is amazing to imagine how the Spirit performs such a ministry on behalf of each believer regardless of language. But it is so needed because life can be both trying and confusing. Listen to King David’s prayer: “Pity me, O Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, for my body is sick, and I am upset and disturbed. My mind is filled with apprehension and with gloom. Oh, restore me soon. Come, O Lord, and make me well. In your kindness save me. For if I die, I cannot give you glory by praising you before my friends. I am worn out with pain; every night my pillow is wet with tears. My eyes are growing old and dim with grief because of all my enemies.”10 And in another prayer, by the descendants of Korach, we hear this plea: “As the deer pants for water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. Where can I find Him to come and stand before Him? Day and night I weep for His help, and all the while my enemies taunt me. ‘Where is this God of yours?’ they scoff.11

But that was under the first covenant. Paul wanted the Roman believers to know that it is different under the last covenant with Christ serving both as our Savior and High Priest. We can go directly to the Father and have Christ intercede for us. And with the Holy Spirit helping us, we can share our need and then trust God to supply that need according to His will.

Many early church scholars have much to say on this subject. For instance, Origen likens the weak believer to a sick person who often asks the doctor for things that only make them worse than things that can make them better.12 Then Novatian, an early church theologian, says that the Holy Spirit is constantly talking into the divine ear of God on our behalf. He does so sometimes with what Paul says here are “sighs too deep for words.” In so doing, the Spirit discharging His duties as our advocate by rendering His services in our defense. He has also taken up residence in our bodily temple to bring about our sanctification.13 And Ambrosiaster says that our prayers are ineffective because we ask for things contrary to reason. That’s why Paul shows us here that this weakness in us is compensated for by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us for that purpose. In other words, the Holy Spirit helps because He refuses to allow anything we ask to be given to us before the proper time or against God’s will.

Ambrosiaster also makes the comment that Paul indicates that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, not with human words, but according to His own language. That’s because what comes from God speaks like God. That’s why the Spirit speaks the same way as the One who sent Him. Yes, the Spirit given to us pours out our prayers so that whatever our inadequacies and lack of foresight may be, by His actions and communication with God will acquire those things that will benefit us the most.14 To put this another way, it is like the mother or father whose child cannot express him or herself properly, who intercedes and tells the person taking the order what the child is actually asking for. They make it clear that maybe this is not what the child really needs, and suggests something more nutritious and healthier.

We hear early church preacher Chrysostom’s telling us that Paul says it is not possible for us human beings to have precise knowledge of everything we need. That’s why we should joyfully yield to the Creator of our nature and with great relish accept those things He has decided to give us. We should not keep staring at the events around us or those coming our way but look at the choices and options the Lord is offering us. As Chrysostom sees it, God knows better than we do what is for our benefit. Not only that, but He also knows what direction we must go as we look ahead to that glorious day of our final salvation.15

Then, when we look at Augustine’s writings, he says that it is clear from what comes next that Paul is saying here that there are two reasons we do not know what we ought to pray for. First of all, we do not know what the future holds for us nor if we are headed in the direction we should be going. And secondly, many things we take for granted in this life may not be what we should long for since they don’t really meet our needs. Not only that, but it can be the other way around. By His love, the Spirit sighs by making us sigh, thereby, kindling in us the fire of hope for the future life. Do the Scriptures not say, “The LORD your God is testing you to see if you truly love Him with all your heart and soul?16 That should help us understand that there is nothing that escapes God’s notice.17

Pelagius also believes that the Holy Spirit helps with those things that are part of our future hope so that the things we request can relate to our spiritual needs not only our physical needs. That’s because we are still weak in the flesh and need all the help the Spirit can give us. We are still having trouble seeing what’s up ahead.18 This causes us to ask for things that are harmful instead of helpful. That’s why our requests must not be granted if they are not God’s will for our lives.19.20 And then Bishop Theodoret cautions us not to be so misled as to think that everything we want can actually help us. We don’t know as much about what is good for us as God does. Then early church scholar Pelagius encourages believers to give themselves to the One who holds the keys to the universe. Even if we can do nothing more than groan under the impulse of the grace that dwells within us, God will handle our affairs wisely and will ensure that we get what we need to remain steadfast and secure.21

1 2 Corinthians 12:5

2 Ibid. 12:9

3 Hebrews 4:15-16

4 Matthew 20:20-22

5 James 4:2-3

6 Psalm 10:17

7 Ephesians 2:18

8 Ibid. 6:18

9 Jude 1:20-22

10 Psalm 6:2-7

11 Ibid. 42:1-3

12 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

13 Novatian: The Trinity 29.16

14 Ambrosiaster: On Paul’s Epistles, op. cit., loc. cit.

15 Chrysostom: Homilies on Genesis 30.16

16 Deuteronomy 13:3

17 Augustine: On Romans 54, op. cit., loc. cit.

18 See 1 Corinthians 13:12

19 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

20 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

21 Theodoret of Cyr: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

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