The Spirit causes His people to love the Law. The Spirit causes His people to long for the renewal of the world. The Spirit also helps us in our weakness.
Paul here states that we do not know how to pray as we should. That sounds different than most teaching, doesn’t it? In most religious contexts, we hear that we ought to pray harder and say the correct, holy words. The longer our prayers, the more often we ask, and the holier we are, the more likely our requests will be answered in our favor. Scripture tells us something quite different about prayer, admitting that we don’t really know how to pray. Think about it, we close our eyes and bow our heads, perhaps kneel a knee or fall prostrate, and we speak some words out loud or in our minds to a spiritual, transcendent being. It’s a kind-of odd practice, but it’s all we have to try to tell God how we feel or what we want. It is a practice even stranger to the gentiles to whom Paul writes. I think we are meant to be encouraged. When we are weak, and even though all human prayer is insufficient because we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit intercedes with groaning too deep for words. It is the words of the interceding Spirit that the Father listens to. The Father always answers the Spirit.
The Spirit intercedes in our prayers according to the will of God. Look at the context of verse 28, it’s about prayer and the intercession of the Holy Spirit. In His answer to the Holy Spirit’s intercession in our prayers, God is working all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He has more than our momentary happiness or needs in mind. He is working all things together to accomplish real good, even when that means not giving us what we want or think we need. Why?
Those He foreknew, a word referring to relational knowledge and not knowledge of fact—He knew His people relationally before the foundation of the world. Those He foreknew, He also predestined—He set those He knew relationally before the foundation of the world with a certain destiny to be conformed to the image of Christ. He would never lose any of His children, but raise them for His kingdom. He set our destiny. He did this so that His Son, Jesus Christ, would become the firstborn among many brethren–Christ is exalted in this justification of people. Those who have their destinies set in Christ, He called–invited to be children of God. All who are called, He also justified–all those who are called do receive salvation. God has not failed. Those He justified, God also glorified–notice the past-tense, we are free from our inglorious estate, sin, and the shame of our wretchedness if we are in Christ.
Paul uses this doctrine of predestination to encourage and edify the unincorporated in Rome. If God is for us, even ensuring the salvation of His people by setting their destinies, no one can be against us. We can’t even ruin the good plan of God for ourselves. I’m happy about that because I would surely mess it up and lose my salvation if I had the ability. God did not spare His Son but gave Him up for us, so that He would have us securely. If the Father did this for us, how could we possibly imagine that He would not give us all things? He will! No one can bring a charge against us because we are not the ones who justify ourselves. It’s not up to us. God is the one who justifies. It is fully Him. I don’t have to feel like I’m not good enough because my work doesn’t get me there anyway. No one can condemn me if I am in Christ. We have an intercessor–the Christ. Neither tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword can separate us from the love of Christ. Despite the troubles of this world, we are conquerors (notice the present-tense). Nothing–no death, life, angels, principalities, things present, things to come, powers, height, depth, or created thing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ. We are secure. We are victorious.
Here, there are two soteriological doctrines presented: predestination and perseverance. There are many who want to have security in salvation without predestination, but you can’t have one without the other. If our destinies are not set, salvation can be gained and lost by the individual person. If our destinies are set, salvation is unwavering. This text is particularly clear about the issue. It is meant to encourage the immature and non-believers in Rome. A prayer cannot save you since we don’t know how to pray, but God can and will. Your calling by the Holy Spirit is evidence that Christ has chosen you, not the cause.
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