Ῥωμαίους 8·26 Ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα συναντιλαμβάνεται τῇ ἀσθενείᾳ ἡμῶν· τὸ γὰρ τί προσευξώμεθα καθὸ δεῖ οὐκ οἴδαμεν, ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα ὑπερεντυγχάνει στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις· 27 ὁ δὲ ἐραυνῶν τὰς καρδίας οἶδεν τί τὸ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος, ὅτι κατὰ θεὸν ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ ἁγίων.
And likewise, the spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. We don’t know what we should pray for, but the Spirit itself intercedes with groanings that can’t be expressed with words. But the One who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he (the Spirit) pleads in behalf of the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27
I was asked by my beloved wife to blog on this passage because she wanted to know what it really meant. Here is my attempt on some exegesis of the passage.
The context of this passage revolves around how all creation, including the members of the Roman church, is “groaning” or “sighing heavily” for the for “the adoption” into the kingdom of God, that is, according to Paul, “the redemption of our bodies.” This is shown in 8:18-25. Paul ties today’s passage (26-27) to verses 18-25 by using στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις (groanings that can’t be expressed with words). According to Paul, we may have trouble understanding what to ask for when it comes to asking for the “coming of the Lord” to come. That seems to be what is considered the weaknesses in this text. It could also mean that we may not know what to ask for as we prepare of the “coming of the Lord”. This does make sense because we are, after all, human. Most people, christians or not, would have a hard time facing the end of life as we know it. We may be bold in saying that we are ready, but I think human side of us has the tendency to frighten us. In other words, we let our faith waver and we start fearing the unknown.
People sometimes take verses of scripture out of context at times in order to make a point or to try to prove a point. If you try to keep this one within context, then it must refer to the overall theme of the text. In this case, that’s “the adoption” in which all creation is “groaning” for. I don’t think it refers to other things such as “needs” or “wants” according to this text.
One last thing
But the One who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he (the Spirit) pleads in behalf of the saints according to the will of God.
I will start this off by saying that I will probably revisit this in the future as it is a difficult reading. In looking at this, I am only analyzing the greek text only! I’m not making any attempt to interpret the text.
Who is “the One who searches the hearts”? That’s God. We know this because in greek τὸ πνεῦμα (the Spirit) is neuter in form. In other words, in greek, “the spirit” is “it”, and not “he”. In this passage, ὁ ἐραυνῶν (the One who searches) is a masculine participle acting as a noun, so it has to refer to another masculine noun. θεὸς (God) is masculine. The verb ἐντυγχάνει is in the 3rd person singular and implies a pronoun as the subject. I have translated that pronoun as “he” in my translation, but the greeks would not have seen it this way as τὸ πνεῦμα is always neuter. In summary, since ὁ ἐραυνῶν is masculine, it can’t refer to the Spirit in this text and must refer to God.
It is also a little strange that Paul says that God knows the “mind of the spirit” because the spirit pleads with God. It seems to say that the reason God knows what we the saints need is because he knows the mind of the Spirit and he knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit is pleading on the saints’ behalf. It’s interesting that Paul puts it this way. I tend to believe that he was being idiomatic in verse 27. I will let you decide what he means and if it has any theological significance. I will only say this; Is there a distinction? The text says “Yes”!