Tag Archives: intercessor

Romans 8:32-34 – Jesus Intercedes

Last time we dealt with verse 31’s reflection on the surety of “these things” – our future glory.

  • We saw that the surety of our future glory is found in God’s faithfulness – He is for us.

 

And though the “who” try to thwart God’s glorification plan of believers…

  • Nobody, no “who”, can successfully stand against our glorification.

 

Today we will unpack verses 32-34.

  • Romans 8:32–34 (ESV) — 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

 

 

Verse 32:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

  • In verse 32, Paul continues his glorification apologetic.

 

Paul’s logic here is simple enough – a greater-to-the-lesser argument:

  • God is a spare nothing “grace-giver” (unstated premise).
  • He “grace-gave” His Son “for us all”.
  • All things” are not nearly as valuable as “his own Son”.
  • So God will certainly “grace-give” us “all things”.

 

Given this, we can formulate a Romans 8:32 paraphrase:

  • God the Father is a spare nothing grace-giver! He gave his Son…He will certainly give us glorification!

 

Tom Schreiner sums up Paul’s point:

“Since he has done the greatest thing imaginable—sacrificing his Son to death for their sake—then it surely follows that the Father in his grace will grant them everything along with his Son”

 

Doug Moo points out that Paul is fond of assuring us with greater-to-the-lesser arguments.

  • Romans 5:8–9 (ESV) — 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

 

So, Paul wants the church at Rome (and us) to think through the implications of what God has done.

  • Was the giving of the Son an historical event?
  • Was it something that actually took place?
  • YES!

 

So elect of Rome stop doubting your future!

  • It doesn’t matter that you groan and suffer now.
  • It doesn’t matter that the “who” are against you.

 

What matters is that God is a spare nothing “grace giver”.

  • Something clearly demonstrated on the cross.

 

So live in hope!

  • A hope full of historical content.

 

Though the effects of Garden Exile linger…

  • Groaning, suffering, doubt…
  • Rejoice!
  • There will never be a glorification exile.

 

 

Verses 33-34:

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

 

In these verses, Paul brings us into God’s law court.

  • “The presumed setting is a type of heavenly courtroom where the fate of Christians supposedly hangs in the balance” – Michael Bird.

 

We know this because the language is, “dominated by judicial imagery” – Doug Moo.

  • Charge”, “justifies”, “condemn”, “interceding”.

 

This is not just New Testament language:

  • Isaiah 50:8 (ESV) — 8 He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me.

 

Paul’s point with this language is to further illustrate:

  • How God is for us and…
  • Why the “who” will fail (Schreiner).

 

Paul’s language bears this out.

  • Who will “bring any charge”?
  • God “justifies
  • Who is to “condemn”?
  • Jesus is “interceding

 

So once again, Paul brings up the nefarious “who”.

  • A “who” we encountered last week.
  • A “who” that we will unpack when we get to verse 38.

 

The “who” are trying to bring charges against us.

  • They are trying to condemn us.

 

But Paul reminds us that the “who” can bring no charge or condemnation.

  • It is God who justifies and it is Jesus who is interceding.
  • Romans 8:1 (ESV) — 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

 

Justification and Condemnation:

We have already talked about justification and condemnation – because Paul has.

  • So I want to focus in on the idea of Jesus interceding.

 

Suffice it to say, N.T. Wright sums up Paul’s justification point.

  • “God has declared all those who believe in the gospel to be in the right, and no one will be able to overturn God’s verdict” – N.T. Wright.
  • Not even the “who”.

 

And what is the Gospel as described by Paul in our text?

  • The Gospel that makes us right?
  • It is succinctly found in verse 34.

 

Paul’s verse 34 Gospel:

  • Jesus “died”.
  • Jesus was “raised”.
  • Jesus was exalted – “at the right hand of God”.
  • Jesus “is interceding for us” – currently, right now!

 

So who is not the Gospel?

  • You and your testimony!

 

Let’s unpack this intercessor stuff.

 

 

Jesus as Intercessor (vs. 34):

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

 

Paul raises the specter of a “condemner” – the “who” that keep creeping up.

  • “To be sure, Satan, the ‘accuser,’ may seek to do so; so may our enemies and, perhaps most persuasively of all, our own sins” – Doug Moo.

 

But even though all this is going on…

  • Paul assures us that Jesus is “interceding for us” (vs. 34).

 

This idea of Jesus as intercessor is present throughout the New Testament.

  • Hebrews 7:25 (ESV) — 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
  • Hebrews 9:24 (ESV) — 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
  • 1 John 2:1 (ESV) — 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
  • Acts 7:55 (ESV) — 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
    • This shows that we even have human accusers/condemners.

 

 

Intercessor Questions:

I have two questions about Jesus as intercessor.

  • (1) What exactly is Jesus doing as He intercedes?
  • (2) And why, given the indicatives of the Gospel, does Jesus need to intercede – doesn’t this imply that the work on the cross isn’t done?

 

(1) To answer our first question, we look to the definition of the word in context – ἐντυγχάνω.

  • The BDAG puts it like this – to intercede here is to “appeal to someone against a third person”.
  • Similarly, Bill Mounce says it refers to Jesus pleading our cause.

 

So with these we have Jesus:

  • “Appealing” and “pleading” to the Father on our behalf.
  • And He is doing so in opposition to the one bringing charges against us.

 

And the EDNT confirms that this takes place in a judicial setting:

Intercession, “belongs primarily to the conceptual world of the ruler’s court… where accusations against another, and where requests on behalf of another are made with the hope of receiving a hearing”.

 

These give us an idea of what Jesus is doing.

  • But we have to flesh this out even more.
  • And it will help us to know in what capacity Jesus is interceding.

 

Given all the judicial language and the court setting…

  • It seems Jesus intercedes as a type of divine advocate – a lawyer.
    • we have an advocate with the Father” – 1 John 2:1.
  • But that is not the only, nor the most important capacity of His intercession.

 

Jesus also intercedes for us in His capacity as our High Priest – back to Hebrews 7.

  • Hebrews 7:22–26 (ESV) — 22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

 

So what is the role of the High Priest? (From LBD)

  • Covenant enforcer – temple duties and Sinai covenant
  • Heart circumciser
  • “Handling of sacrifices and offerings” – LBD
  • Entrance into holy of holies on Day of Atonement.

 

These functions of the High Priest…

  • Found their perfection and completion in Jesus Christ.

 

John Murray says of this priestly intercession:

“For nothing serves to verify the intimacy and constancy of the Redeemer’s preoccupation with the security of his people, nothing assures us of his unchanging love more than the tenderness which his heavenly priesthood bespeaks and particularly as it comes to expression in intercession for us” – John Murray.

  • Our God participates in our life – continually!

 

So these observations help us understand what Jesus is doing as He intercedes.

 

(2) So what of our second question:

  • If “it is finished” – Jesus’ cry on the cross:
  • Why does Jesus have to intercede?
  • There are a couple of good answers to this question.

 

The first answer is:

  • Jesus intercession is ongoing because the “who” and their charges are ongoing.
  • Jesus continually intercedes because the charges keep coming and will come.
  • Again, more on this when we get to verse 38.

 

The second answer comes from John Piper.

Jesus’ intercession is, “the ongoing presentation of the reality established at the cross, and through faith, by the Spirit. God the Father doesn’t just look back to the cross. He looks straight ahead into the face of the living, righteous Jesus Christ who is our righteousness…” – John Piper (Ask Pastor John).

 

In other words, looking at the Gospel described in verse 32:

  • Jesus “died”.
  • Jesus was “raised”.
  • Jesus was exalted – “at the right hand of God”.
  • Jesus “is interceding for us”.

 

We can see that the intercession is not a separate thing from the Gospel.

  • It is part of the Gospel – it is part of the foreknown and predestined plan of God.
  • It is part of how we are brought into God’s family.
  • How we are made into the image of Christ.

 

The continual intercession of Christ is His ongoing expression of His death, resurrection and exaltation.

  • It can be put this way – what does Christ plead on our behalf?
  • “Christ pleads His death!” – John Piper.

 

And, importantly, this continual intercession of Jesus the Righteous…

  • Glorifies Christ and the Father – continually!

 

BTW – Christ’s intercession compliments the Spirits’.

  • “The intercession of the Spirit for us in our hearts has its counterpart in the intercession of Christ for us at God’s right hand.” – CNUOT.

 

 

Conclusion:

N.T. Wright leaves us with this application.

“This thought [of Jesus’ intercession] is a great comfort, especially when the going is tough, as it often was for Paul and as it often will be for those who follow and live by his gospel” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

 

 

Romans 8:26-27 – Holy Spirit Groaning

Romans 8:26–27 (ESV) — 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

 

Verse 26:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

 

Likewise and Weakness:

Paul transitions from the hope we have in both the “now” and “not yet”…

  • Into another positive feature of the Christian life (as opposed to our sufferings and groanings).
  • …the Spirit…

 

In fact, the “likewise” here is connected directly to the hope of verses 24 and 25.

  • “…in the same way [as this hope sustains us] (Doug Moo)”, Paul says, “the Spirit helps us…

 

So, if the hope we have in the “now” wasn’t cool enough…

  • Paul tells us the indwelling Spirit is present with us as part of this hope.

 

And the best part is what the Spirit is doing on our behalf.

  • Paul says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness”.

 

What is “our weakness”?

 

The things that come along with:

  • body of death” (7:24)
  • the sufferings of our present time” (8:18)
  • groan inwardly” (8:23)

 

The word literally refers to a physical debilitating sickness or disease – BDAG.

  • So Paul’s use here is metaphorical.
  • And he is referring to our “lack of spiritual insight” or “moral deficiency” – BDAG.

 

So our weakness is this:

  • Because of our “lack of spiritual insight”…
  • Because of our “moral deficiency”…
  • We don’t pray “as we ought”.

 

What does Paul mean that we don’t pray “as we ought”?

  • Moo says Paul is referring to content not style.
  • Schreiner agrees.

 

In other words…

  • The problem here is not that we aren’t articulate enough…
  • Or don’t use enough Christianese…
  • Or don’t pray in a British accent.

 

The problem is that the things we actually pray for…

  • Are apparently, more often than not, outside of God’s will.

 

So the question is what are the right things to pray for – what is the right content?

  • Generally speaking, the things that God wills.
  • “What Paul apparently has in mind is that inability to discern clearly God’s will in the many things for which we pray…” – Doug Moo.
  • Paul says as much in verse 27 – “according to the will of God”.
    • More on the 26 and 27 connection in a bit.

 

 

Spirit Intercession:

This sounds like a serious problem.

  • But this is not where Paul is headed.
  • This is not a beat down passage.

 

Paul has some good news.

  • Because we are in Christ and indwelled by the Spirit…
  • Paul gives us some good news that mitigates our “weakness”.

 

Paul says that…

  • The Spirit “intercedes” on our behalf.

 

In other words, due to our “weakness” and the inability it brings…

  • The Spirit intervenes for our sake.
  • The interceding or intervening of the Spirit is the “help” the Spirit brings us in our weakness.

 

Parsing all this out:

  • We simply have a difficult time discerning the will of God.
  • We do our best and offer up our prayer and petitions in this light.
  • However, our “weakness” means we fail to discern the will of God on a regular basis.
  • But, the Spirit does know the will of God and intercedes on our behalf.

 

Before we move on, we have to ask one more question.

  • Didn’t Jesus teach us how to pray?

 

Jesus said the following:

  • Matthew 6:9–15 (ESV) — 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

How do we square what Jesus teaches here with what Paul teaches?

 

 

Inexpressible Groanings:

What exactly is the nature of the Spirit’s help and interceding?

  • groaning too deep for words” – “stenagmos alaletos

 

Or as other translations put it:

  • “sighs to deep for words” – NRSV
  • “groans that words cannot express” – NIV
  • “inexpressible groanings” – NET
  • “unspoken groanings” – HCSB

 

To begin with this is not the same kind of inward groaning believers express.

  • As we observed last time, the Spirit is not a creature and not in Garden Exile.
  • Doug Moo agrees: “…the groaning of the Spirit is very different in its nature and purpose from [our] ‘groanings’” – Doug Moo.

 

The BDAG makes a subtle distinction between the Spirit’s groaning and our groaning that might help us here.

  • Whereas, we groan due to our circumstances – our weakness.
  • The Spirit groans out of concern for our circumstance – “expression of great concern” (BDAG).

 

This distinction is helpful.

  • But it doesn’t tell us what the “inexpressible groanings” of the Spirit literally are.

 

Tom Schreiner thinks they are perhaps our groanings which the Holy Spirit modifies or translates.

“God searches the hearts of believers and finds unutterable longings to conform their lives to the will of God. The Holy Spirit takes these groanings and presents them before God in an articulate form…the Holy Spirit translates these groanings and conforms them to God’s will” – Tom Schreiner.

 

 

Implications for Us:

This revelation from Paul about our “weakness” should serve to humble us.

Believers, “do not have an adequate grasp of what God’s will is when they pray. Because of our finiteness and fallibility we cannot perceive fully what God would desire” – Tom Schreiner.

 

The implication of this is simple:

  • “…we cannot presume to identify our petitions with the will of God” – Doug Moo.

 

So even in our prayer life…

  • We must depend upon the Holy Spirit.
  • In the midst of our weakness, we find the Spirit’s strength and intercession!
  • And this is good news!

 

 

Verse 27:

And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

 

Heart Searcher:

Paul says God the Father continually searches the hearts of believers.

  • T. Wright says of Paul’s word choice for “searches”:

“The word ‘searcher’ comes from a root which suggests someone lighting a torch and going slowly round a large, dark room full of all sorts of things, looking for something in particular” – N.T. Wright.

 

Wright says this is both “disturbing and exciting”.

  • I think so too!

 

Why would the idea of God the Father doing a room-to-room search of our hearts be disturbing?

  • Short answer: He is going to find the stuff of weak creatures – sin, etc.
  • And this stuff will come under judgment.
  • Romans 2:16 (ESV) — 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

 

Why would the idea of God the Father doing a room-to-room search of our hearts be exciting?

  • Because, for the believer, He will also find the stuff of those in Christ and indwelled by the Spirit.
  • And our text tells us that part of that stuff is the groanings of the Spirit.

 

N.T. Wright puts it like this:

“But the thing he is wanting to find above all else, and which according to Paul he ought to find in all Christians, is the sound of the spirit’s groaning” – N.T. Wright.

 

This is more good news for the believer!

  • God the Father, the searcher, confirms our union with Christ through the presence of an interceding Spirit groaning on our behalf.

 

It’s hard to find a better Trinitarian description of the Gospel than this.

“This hints at something deeper than merely prayer in the way that God wants or approves; God’s own life, love and energy are involved in the process. The Christian, precisely at the point of weakness and uncertainty, of inability and struggle, becomes the place at which the triune God is revealed in person” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Spirit Mindset:

Paul goes on to tell us that the Father knows the “phronema” or “mindset” of the Spirit.

  • the mind of the Spirit”.

 

So what is the “mindset” of the Spirit?

  • the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God

 

The “mindset” of the Spirit…

  • Is to intercede, mediate and translate our prayers and our groanings to the Father.
  • And to do so “according to the will of God”.

 

In other words, the “mindset” of the Spirit is CONCERN:

  • Concern for the weakness of the believer.
  • Concern for the will of God the Father.

 

This is how verse 26 and verse 27 are connected and fill each other out.

  • We are weak – so the Spirit groans (show of concern) on our behalf.
  • God the Father has a will – so the Spirit intercedes for us (show of concern) according to the Father’s will.

 

This work of the Spirit should bring us huge comfort!

  • Why?

“We discover that God himself does not stand apart from the pain both of the world and of the church, but comes to dwell in the middle of it in the person and power of the spirit” – N.T. Wright.

 

And with respect to our lives:

“Believers should take tremendous encouragement that the will of God is being fulfilled in their lives despite their weakness and inability to know what to pray for. God’s will is not being frustrated because of the weakness of believers” – Tom Schreiner.