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26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.


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26, 27. Likewise the Spirit also, &c.—or, "But after the like manner doth the Spirit also help.

our infirmities—rather (according to the true reading), "our infirmity"; not merely the one infirmity here specified, but the general weakness of the spiritual life in its present state, of which one example is here given.

for we know not what we should pray for as we ought—It is not the proper matter of prayer that believers are at so much loss about, for the fullest directions are given them on this head: but to ask for the right things "as they ought" is the difficulty. This arises partly from the dimness of our spiritual vision in the present veiled state, while we have to "walk by faith, not by sight" (see on 1Co 13:9 and 2Co 5:7), and the large admixture of the ideas and feelings which spring from the fleeting objects of sense that there is in the very best views and affections of our renewed nature; partly also from the necessary imperfection of all human language as a vehicle for expressing the subtle spiritual feelings of the heart. In these circumstances, how can it be but that much uncertainty should surround all our spiritual exercises, and that in our nearest approaches and in the freest outpourings of our hearts to our Father in heaven, doubts should spring up within us whether our frame of mind in such exercises is altogether befitting and well pleasing to God? Nor do these anxieties subside, but rather deepen, with the depth and ripeness of our spiritual experience.

but the Spirit itself—rather, "Himself." (See end of Ro 8:27).

maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered—that is, which cannot be expressed in articulate language. Sublime and affecting ideas, for which we are indebted to this passage alone! "As we struggle to express in articulate language the desires of our hearts and find that our deepest emotions are the most inexpressible, we 'groan' under this felt inability. But not in vain are these groanings. For 'the Spirit Himself' is in them, giving to the emotions which He Himself has kindled the only language of which they are capable; so that though on our part they are the fruit of impotence to utter what we feel, they are at the same time the intercession of the Spirit Himself in our behalf."

27. And—rather, "But," inarticulate though these groanings be.

he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he—the Spirit

maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God—As the Searcher of hearts, He watches the surging emotions of them in prayer, and knows perfectly what the Spirit means by the groanings which He draws forth within us, because that blessed Intercessor pleads by them only for what God Himself designs to bestow.

Note, (1) Are believers "led by the Spirit of God" (Ro 8:14)? How careful then should they be not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph 4:30)! Compare Ps 32:8, 9: "I will … guide thee with Mine eye. Be not (then) as the horse, or as the mule," &c. (2) "The spirit of bondage," to which many Protestants are "all their lifetime subject," and the "doubtsome faith" which the Popish Church systematically inculcates, are both rebuked here, being in direct and painful contrast to that "spirit of adoption," and that witness of the Spirit, along with our own spirit, to the fact of our sonship, which it is here said the children of God, as such, enjoy (Ro 8:15, 16). (3) As suffering with Christ is the ordained preparation for participating in this glory, so the insignificance of the one as compared with the other cannot fail to lighten the sense of it, however bitter and protracted (Ro 8:17, 18). (4) It cannot but swell the heart of every intelligent Christian to think that if external nature has been mysteriously affected for evil by the fall of man, it only awaits his completed recovery, at the resurrection, to experience a corresponding emancipation from its blighted condition into undecaying life and unfading beauty (Ro 8:19-23). (5) It is not when believers, through sinful "quenching of the Spirit," have the fewest and faintest glimpses of heaven, that they sigh most fervently to be there; but, on the contrary, when through the unobstructed working of the Spirit in their hearts, "the first-fruits" of the glory to be revealed are most largely and frequently tasted, then, and just for that reason, is it that they "groan within themselves" for full redemption (Ro 8:23). For thus they reason: If such be the drops, what will the ocean be? If thus "to see through a glass darkly" be so very sweet, what will it be to "see face to face?" If when "my Beloved stands behind our wall, looking forth at the windows, showing Himself through the lattice" (So 2:9)—that thin veil which parts the seen from the unseen—if He is even thus to me "Fairer than the children of men," what shall He be when He stands confessed before my undazzled vision, the Only-begotten of the Father in my own nature, and I shall be like Him, for I shall see Him as He is? (6) "The patience of hope" (1Th 1:3) is the fitting attitude for those who with the joyful consciousness that they are already "saved" (2Ti 1:9; Tit 3:5), have yet the painful consciousness that they are saved but in part: or, "that being justified by His grace, they are made (in the present state) heirs according to the hope (only) of eternal life," Tit 3:7 (Ro 8:24, 25). (7) As prayer is the breath of the spiritual life, and the believer's only effectual relief under the "infirmity" which attaches to his whole condition here below, how cheering is it to be assured that the blessed Spirit, cognizant of it all, comes in aid of it all; and in particular, that when believers, unable to articulate their case before God, can at times do nothing but lie "groaning" before the Lord, these inarticulate groanings are the Spirit's own vehicle for conveying into "the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth" their whole case; and come up before the Hearer of prayer as the Spirit's own intercession in their behalf, and that they are recognized by Him that sitteth on the Throne, as embodying only what His own "will" determined before to bestow upon them (Ro 8:26, 27)! (8) What a view do these two verses (Ro 8:26, 27) give of the relations subsisting between the Divine Persons in the economy of redemption, and the harmony of their respective operations in the case of each of the redeemed!

Third: Triumphant Summary of the Whole Argument (Ro 8:28-39).

28. And—or, "Moreover," or "Now"; noting a transition to a new particular.

we know, &c.—The order in the original is more striking: "We know that to them that love God" (compare 1Co 2:9; Eph 6:24; Jas 1:12; 2:5) "all things work together for good [even] to them who are the called (rather, 'who are called') according to His (eternal) purpose." Glorious assurance! And this, it seems, was a "household word," a "known" thing, among believers. This working of all things for good is done quite naturally to "them that love God," because such souls, persuaded that He who gave His own Son for them cannot but mean them well in all His procedure, learn thus to take in good part whatever He sends them, however trying to flesh and blood: and to them who are the called, according to "His purpose," all things do in the same intelligible way "work together for good"; for, even when "He hath His way in the whirlwind," they see "His chariot paved with love" (So 3:10). And knowing that it is in pursuance of an eternal "purpose" of love that they have been "called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ" (1Co 1:9), they naturally say within themselves, "It cannot be that He 'of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things,' should suffer that purpose to be thwarted by anything really adverse to us, or that He should not make all things, dark as well as light, crooked as well as straight, to co-operate to the furtherance and final completion of His high design."

29. For—as touching this "calling according to his purpose" (Ro 8:28).

whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate—foreordain. In what sense are we to take the word "foreknow" here? "Those who He foreknew would repent and believe," say Pelagians of every age and every hue. But this is to thrust into the text what is contrary to the whole spirit, and even letter, of the apostle's teaching (see Ro 9:11; 2Ti 1:9). In Ro 11:2, and Ps 1:6, God's "knowledge" of His people cannot be restricted to a mere foresight of future events, or acquaintance with what is passing here below. Does "whom He did foreknow," then, mean "whom He foreordained?" Scarcely, because both "foreknowledge" and "foreordination" are here mentioned, and the one as the cause of the other. It is difficult indeed for our limited minds to distinguish them as states of the Divine Mind towards men; especially since in Ac 2:23 "the counsel" is put before "the foreknowledge of God," while in 1Pe 1:2 "election" is said to be "according to the foreknowledge of God." But probably God's foreknowledge of His own people means His "peculiar, gracious, complacency in them," while His "predestinating" or "foreordaining" them signifies His fixed purpose, flowing from this, to "save them and call them with an holy calling" (2Ti 1:9).

to be conformed to the image of his Son—that is, to be His sons after the pattern, model, or image of His Sonship in our nature.

that he might be the first-born among many brethren—"The First-born," the Son by nature; His "many brethren," sons by adoption: He, in the Humanity of the Only-begotten of the Father, bearing our sins on the accursed tree; they in that of mere men ready to perish by reason of sin, but redeemed by His blood from condemnation and wrath, and transformed into His likeness: He "the First-born from the dead"; they "that sleep in Jesus," to be in due time "brought with Him"; "The First-born," now "crowned with glory and honor"; His "many brethren," "when He shall appear, to be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is."

30. Moreover—"And," or "Now"; explanatory of Ro 8:29—In "predestinating us to be conformed to the image of His Son" in final glory, He settled all the successive steps of it. Thus

whom he did predestinate, them he also called—The word "called" (as Hodge and others truly observe) is never in the Epistles of the New Testament applied to those who have only the outward invitation of the Gospel (as in Mt 20:16; 22:14). It always means "internally, effectually, savingly called." It denotes the first great step in personal salvation and answers to "conversion." Only the word conversion expresses the change of character which then takes place, whereas this "calling" expresses the divine authorship of the change, and the sovereign power by which we are summoned, Matthew-like, Zaccheus-like, out of our old, wretched, perishing condition, into a new, safe, blessed life.

and whom he called—thus.

them he also justified—brought into the definite state of reconciliation already so fully described.

and whom he justified, them he also glorified—brought to final glory (Ro 8:17, 18). Noble climax, and so rhythmically expressed! And all this is viewed as past; because, starting from the past decree of "predestination to be conformed to the image of God's Son" of which the other steps are but the successive unfoldings—all is beheld as one entire, eternally completed salvation.




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