The Spirit Helps Our Infirmities!
Romans 8: 26a
Against a dark background of present suffering, Paul has been depicting the future glory of believers.
He has been encouraging them to be patient in their suffering because of the surpassing greatness
of the coming glory.
In this passage of Scripture, two further reasons for patience are added:
The help given by the Spirit of God
The knowledge of the loving purpose of God
Paul presents to us a variety of considerations.
For our support in our warfare, which is wrought with so much difficulty, he reminds us
of our communion with Jesus Christ -- and if we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified with Him.
He tells us that our suffering bears no comparison to the glory that shall be ours. (Verse 18)
Next, he draws an argument from the present state of creation and suffering
to waiting and expecting its deliverance.
He is also expecting the revealing of the sons of God.
Then, he reminds us of the pledges we have already received, although that glory is still future
and is now enjoyed by us only in hope.
These encouragements are elating!
The question is: How can we, who are so weak in ourselves
and so inferior in power to our powerful enemies, bear up under so many trials?
Therefore, in verse 26, Paul points out an additional and internal source of encouragement.
This is an encouragement that we should highly consider.
It is that: "The Holy Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know
not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us
with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Verse 26)
Jesus, Himself, assured His disciples and us that He has ascended to His Father
and that in His Father's house are many mansions. He has gone to prepare a place for us.
He also assured us that He will return and receive us to Himself, that where He is, we may be also.
But all these consolations would be insufficient without Jesus adding that He would not leave us orphaned.
He promised that He would give us another Comforter to abide with us forever, even the Spirit of truth.
Without such support, we would be overwhelmed by the weight of our afflictions and overcome
by our multitude of temptations.
Look at that wonderful consolation!
We have not only an almighty Surety, but we also have an almighty Comforter the Holy Spirit Himself.
He dwells in us and abides in us.
He confirms our joy and establishes our hope.
He gives us the assurance that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.
Paul connects our patient waiting out the time with the Spirit's help, and the link is our weakness.
"The Spirit" is presented in His work as the Paraclete,
who is called to our side to aid us. (John 14:16)
In this verse, Paul points to the living, indwelling, abiding presence of the Holy Spirit
as the mighty source of strength and comfort in our current weakness. (Vs.26,27)
The help of the Spirit is needed because of our human infirmity and of our ignorance. (Vs.26)
Man's infirmity or weakness is due not only to the flesh, but to sin which continues to dwell in the flesh. (7:18; 8:3)
The action of the Spirit is independent.
He goes as He chooses.
We do not possess Him He possesses us.
He anticipates and intervenes in our infirmities.
It is only by the help of the Holy Spirit that we, the children of God, are able to join
the Son of God in prayer:
"Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me;
yet not what I will, but what thou wilt." (Mark 14:36)
So, here is another ministry which the Holy Spirit fulfills for us.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned four times in verses 26 and 27.
"He helps us in our weakness," and the particular weakness here is our ignorance in prayer.
With the word, "likewise," Paul piles one reason for confidence on another.
As hope sustains us, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
The expression "helpeth our infirmities," is very significant.
Paul is saying that the Holy Spirit carries, or bears with us, our afflictions.
If asked why this help which we receive from the Holy Spirit is distinguished from the support
we have from hope and patience, the answer is: that the Holy Spirit supports us,
as being the first cause and efficient principle.
Hope and patience support us as His instruments.
The little English verb, "helps," translates a very big verb in Greek, "sunantilambanomai".
It is used only one other time in the New Testament. (Luke 10:40)
The Greek word for help is an interesting double compound.
Sunantilambanomai is made up of sun, "together with" anti, "over against" and lambano, "to take".
Abbott-Smith suggests this meaning: "Take hold with at the side for assistance."
"The Holy Spirit lays hold of our weakness along with (sun) us, and carries
His part of the burden facing us (anti) --as if, two men were carrying a log, one at each end."
The person helping does not take the entire load but helps the other person in his endeavor.
One could translate, as Martha asked, "Bid her lend me a helping hand." (Luke 10: 40)
The idea was that Martha would continue preparing the meal, but needed Mary to help her.
Just so, the Holy Spirit indwelling the Christian, comes to the aid of that Christian
in his spiritual problems and difficulties, not by taking over, but by helping him to bear his weaknesses.
If we are not delivered from them, we are enabled to bear them.
The one particular form of help which all Christians need, and which Paul proceeds to specify,
is that of help in prayer.
It is here that we find our most abundant consolation in Him, Who is the promised Comforter.
The all-powerful God, our Father, through His Holy Spirit comes to help us in our infirmities.
Notice, Paul does not say infirmity, but he says infirmities.
He reminds us how numerous they are, so that we may humble ourselves before God,
renounce our pride and presumption, and plead for His support.
The burden of believers are of two kinds:
The one is sin.
The other is suffering.
At the present time we have many infirmities.
We are in ourselves altogether weak, but the precious Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts
and is our strong consolation.
Without Him we could not bear our trials.
We could not endure what we are called to endure.
But as He dwells in us, He gives us that aid of which we stand in need.
Are we weak?
Are our troubles great?
Then, the Almighty Spirit of God comes to support us!
Are we bowed down under the weight of our afflictions?
Then, He, who is all-powerful, bears them with us!
The word, "infirmity," combines the two ideas of weakness and burden. (Cf. Hebrews 4:15)
We have heavy burdens to bear but little strength to bear them. (Cf. Matthew 11:28)
"Infirmity" is a comprehensive term in itself and can cover the whole range of weaknesses,
which characterize us in this life.
The particular weakness, to which Paul points us in this verse, is our ignorance in prayer.
So, the infirmities here are not physical but spiritual.
It is not that the Spirit helps us in our high aspirations or our most noble dreams or our grand plans --
"the Spirit helpeth our infirmities."
This knowledge should thrill us and assure us for who should be more confident
and undisturbed than we, who have God for our Father, Christ for our Saviour, the Spirit for our Comforter,
and heaven for our eternal home.
As hope (vs. 24, 25) sustains us in suffering, so the Holy Spirit helps our infirmity.
Through the past verses, we have viewed the gracious activities of the Holy Spirit: