Pastor David B. Curtis


Weakness In Transition

Romans 8:26-27

Delivered 11/20/2011

In our last study of Romans we looked at verses 24-25 of chapter 8, and the focus of our discussion was on "time." Paul's audience looked forward to salvation with hope. They did so because it was future to them. It is not future to us. The ages have changed, and what was future to them is past to us. We must learn to read the Bible with audience relevance. What did it mean to its original audience?:

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:24-25 NASB

Notice that Paul says, "We wait eagerly for it"--they were waiting for the redemption of the body. They were still under the Old Covenant and its bondage. They waited eagerly for it because it was near. Jesus said to them, "Your redemption is drawing near." This is what we talked about last week about the "already, but not yet" character of the transition period.

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23 NASB

The "body" here is singular, it is not referring to our individual bodies, but to the corporate body of Christ. "Redemption" is apolutrosis, which means: "deliverance at a cost" or "release by payment of a price." Imbedded in the word "redemption," in the original language, apolutrosis is the little word lutron: "ransom." In other words, the idea of redemption is deliverance or release by payment of a ransom. This concept is always in view even when the word redemption is used in passages such as Exodus 6:6, 15:13; Psalm 74:2; and 78:35. Even in these First Testament passages it is clear that redemption is based on some great expenditure of God. The price God paid is always in view. The New Testament terms for redemption always have in mind a price paid. In redemption someone's release or deliverance is accomplished at the cost of a ransom payment. What's the ransom? What's the payment?:

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mark 10:45 NASB

The answer is that the life of the Son of Man is the ransom paid in redemption. He gave His life so that there could be release and deliverance. Christ died for man's sins in A.D. 30, but Paul says in Romans 8:23 that they were, "waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." Paul probably wrote Romans in A.D.55 or 56. So 25 years after Christ died Paul says that they are still waiting for the redemption of the body. They were still waiting eagerly for their redemption--it was "not yet."

But notice what Paul says in:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace Ephesians 1:7 NASB

Paul talks about redemption here like it was a present possession--it was "already." But notice what he says just a few verses later:

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 NASB

Here we see that the Holy Spirit was a pledge to them, a guarantee or promise in view of their coming redemption--"not yet." We see the same thing in:

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 NASB

Again they were sealed by the Holy Spirit until ,the future to them, day of redemption-- "not yet.." But then in Colossians Paul says:

in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:14 NASB

Again, he says they have redemption--"already." People use these verses to argue against the inspiration of Scripture. Which is it? Did they have it, or were they waiting for it? People see this as a contradiction because they don't understand that the transition period was a time of "already but not yet." They had the promise of it, they had the Holy Spirit as the guarantee, but they still waited for the consummation. Redemption was still a hope to them. Until A.D. 70 and the consummation of all they were promised, they lived in hope. Notice what the transition saints hoped for:

For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5 NASB (emphasis DBC)
But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 NASB (emphasis DBC)
in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, Titus 1:2 NASB (emphasis DBC)
so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:7 NASB (emphasis DBC)
looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, Titus 2:13 NASB (emphasis DBC)

The return of Christ was their blessed hope because all that they hoped for would be fulfilled by His presence.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13 NASB (emphasis DBC)

The transition period was an age of hope. They hoped for what they did not see. They hoped for the completion of their redemption.

There are some Preterists who think everything was completed in the death of Christ on the cross in A.D. 30. They see no transition period, no "already but not yet," which I see as not a biblical position. We looked last week at many Scriptures that pointed to a future to them fulfillment that was yet to arrive. Let me give you a couple of more things that show that until A.D. 70 redemption was not complete.

The Christ Event--the forty year transition period is the "Christ Event":

And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Acts 2:1 NASB

I think that you are all aware of what happened on Pentecost. This is the birth of the Church. How does Peter interpret what happened at Pentecost? He says, "This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel." Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that Pentecost is the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. Then he quotes Joel 2:28-32:


Please notice that this is one prophecy of one event that encompassed the pouring out of the Spirit and the pouring out of wrath. This is a prophecy of "the Christ event." This "Christ Event" encompasses the Cross, Pentecost, the Resurrection, the Judgment, and the Parousia. Please notice that Joel's prophecy covers from Pentecost to the Day of the Lord. It covers a 40 year period that was equal to a generation.

We see this same idea, of an event that takes place over a period of time in:

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:1-2 NASB

What I want you to see is that John's message also covered a forty year period. John announced in verse 2 that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, meaning it was very near--his is a reference to Pentecost. But John's message also involved judgment:

"And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 3:10 NASB

In order for the kingdom to be consummated (which would happen forty years later) there must be a time of judgment. The axe is there at the root ready to cut down any tree that is not bearing good fruit. John places an emphasis on fire again in verses 11 and 12. In those verses there is a reference to the coming destruction.

The Jews of John's day knew these prophecies of Hebrew Scripture. They understood that before the kingdom would be consummated, God's judgment would fall on unbelievers, who would be rooted out of the kingdom as the Messiah established His rule and reign:

"As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11 NASB

Here John refers to the Christ Event; it begins with Pentecost--the baptizing with the Holy Spirit, and ends with fire--the destruction of Jerusalem. So A.D. 30 began the Christ event, but it was not completed until forty years later in A.D. 70.

Another thing that I think is very important in this discussion of when redemption was complete is where the Feasts of the Lord put the Day of Atonement. Old Covenant Israel had seven holidays that were prescribed by God. These seven holidays are discussed throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. But only in Leviticus 23 are all seven holidays listed in chronological sequence. the Feasts of the Lord were appointed times of worship for Israel that would serve as "dress rehearsals" in God's prophetic calendar.

Fundamentally, these seven feasts represent and typify the sequence, timing, and significance of the major events of the Lord's redemptive career. They commence at Calvary, where Jesus voluntarily gave Himself for the sins of the world (Passover), and climax at the consummation of the Messianic Kingdom at the Lord's Second Coming. These seven feasts depict the entire redemptive career of the Messiah.

I believe the seven annual feasts, or holy days of Old Covenant Israel, which take place in the first seven months of their agricultural year, were all fulfilled both prophetically and spiritually in the period from the cross to the fall of Jerusalem--the Christ Event.

The feasts actually convey two forty year exodus periods. The first exodus period was when Israel, after the flesh, was removed from bondage to Egypt at Passover, and they were put in the wilderness on a physical journey to a physical promised land. Now the more important and the spiritual exodus we are not so familiar with: this exodus runs from the Cross to A.D. 70. We see this second exodus terminology all through the book of Romans.

Let's briefly run through these feasts and their significance:

1. Passover--please keep in mind that Passover is a type, or picture of something much greater--it pictured Calvary!

The typical significance of the Passover is very clear in the New Testament writings. Probably no Mosaic institution is a more perfect type than this. The first Passover was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan, and almost two thousand years later Jesus Christ was crucified on the 14th of Nisan. While Israel was celebrating their Passover, Jesus, the true Lamb of God, was being crucified. He was the Lamb of God that the ancient Passover lamb typified. He died to save us from God's judgments just as that lamb died instead of the first-born.

2. Unleavened Bread--as with the other feasts of the Lord in Leviticus 23, the prophetic meaning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is found in the work of the Messiah. Passover pictures the substitutionary DEATH of the Messiah as the Passover Lamb. The Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures the BURIAL of the Messiah and His sinless life, and the feast that follows, FIRSTFRUITS, pictures the RESURRECTION of the Messiah.

3. Firstfruits--Fifteen hundred years before Christ's resurrection God predicted in type and shadow that Jesus would be crucified on the 14th of Nisan and would rise from the dead three days later on the first day of the week, and it happened exactly as God said it would.

4. Feast of Weeks or Pentecost--Jesus was resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits. Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, the promised New Covenant arrived on the Feast of Pentecost.

The spring festivals were fulfilled by Jesus, who was our Passover Lamb; He died on the day of Passover. He was without sin and is the Bread of Life. Jesus was in the sepulcher on the day of Unleavened Bread, and He was the kernel of wheat that was buried in the earth. Jesus arose as First Fruits of the barley harvest, He Himself being the first of those to rise from the dead. Finally, the promised New Covenant arrived during the feast of Pentecost to gather all believers in Christ to be God's spring harvest in the earth. As these four feasts describe in detail the significant events during the first coming of Messiah, we will find that the fall festivals give us tremendous insight and understanding concerning the events of Jesus' Second Coming.

The remaining three feasts are the fall feasts, which were a prophetic foreshadowing of the Second Coming of Christ. The Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles started about 4 months after the end of the spring festivals. All three of these feasts took place in Tishri, or September. These three feasts speak of the resurrection; the consummation of redemption after the outpouring of God's wrath; and the New Heaven and Earth, which is typified by the Feast of Tabernacles.

Between Pentecost and Tabernacles there was an interval of time of about 4 months. This gap can be seen as being prophetic. The newly redeemed nation of Israel experienced Passover through Pentecost--from leaving Egypt, their place of bondage, up to receiving the covenant from God at Sinai. However, through unbelief and stubbornness (except for Joshua and Caleb), they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and it was a different generation that entered the Promised Land and celebrated Tabernacles. Thus this four month gap can be seen to be a reminder of this forty years.

At the end of the first 40 year period, the Israelites of faith entered the temporal land of promise in which God enabled them to defeat their physical foes. At the end of the second 40 year period, salvation was complete, and God's people entered their eternal Promised Land in which God enabled them to defeat their spiritual enemies (I Cor. 15:26,54-57).

If Christ has not come yet today, then all believers are still waiting for the inheritance of redemption. But we believe that He has returned, and has fulfilled all aspects of the "exodus shadow," using the very same chronology in the first century, as He did in the initial shadow.

5. Feast of Trumpets--we see the spiritual anti-type of the Feasts of Trumpets in the fall of Jerusalem and the Parousia of our Lord in A.D. 70. Thus at the blowing of the trumpet, in Matthew 24, the scene was set, and Christ fulfilled the feast. Guess what month it was when Jerusalem fell? "The city was taken on September 8, A.D. 70, after the last siege had lasted about five months" (Josephus, vol. 1, p. 467).

We see the type of this feast, in Joshua chapter 6, with the destruction of Jericho at the end of the forty year exodus. SEVEN priests, with the Ark of God in the midst, marched with seven trumpets around the wall of Jericho for 6 days. ON the SEVENTH DAY they marched around SEVEN TIMES. At the close of the march, the trumpets were blown, the people shouted, and God caused the walls of Jericho to collapse. The victory was COMPLETE.

The events of Jericho offered a graphic image and actual prophecy of events at the close of the Jewish age, forty years after Pentecost, when there were seven angels with seven trumpets of doom and judgement.

6. Day of Atonement--Yom Kippur was also a very solemn day for the priesthood of Israel. Only on that singular day of the year was the high priest permitted to enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple and stand before the presence of God's glory. Who is the anti-type of the High Priest? Jesus Christ. All believers entered the holy of holies on the Day of atonement. We are in Christ and we are in God's presence. If you examine the Scriptures concerning the Second Coming of Christ, you will find that it uses Yom Kippur terminology:

so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. Hebrews 9:28 NASB

This is the only place in the New Testament where the return of Christ is called a Second Coming. At His Second Coming, He was to bring "salvation" those who eagerly waited for Him. The context dealing with the Day of Atonement would tell us that He uses salvation here of redemption. Full and complete redemption came at the Second Coming.

So Jesus dies on Passover as the Lamb of God, but it is not until forty years later that the Day of Atonement takes place. It is not until after the Second Coming that redemption is complete. Forty years after Christ death man if finally brought into the presence of God.

7. Feast of Tabernacles--was to celebrate and commemorate: 1) The end of the wanderings in the desert of the children of Israel. 2) It also was a celebration of their inheritance of and entry into Canaan--the Promised Land.

The anti-typical fulfillment came at the end of the 40 year transition period (A.D. 30-70) when the Old Covenant came to an end and the New Covenant was fully consummated, and the inheritance of the New Heavens and the New Earth arrived, where we "tabernacle there with God." Tabernacles speaks of the final rest as well as the final harvest.

So we must understand the Christ Event if we are going to understand Scripture. We must know what "time" it is. Our text for today in Romans was written in "the present age" and refers specifically to those saints who were waiting for the adoption of sons, the redemption of the body. What ever this text means, its meaning is first and foremost for the first century saints, its original audience. Once we understand what it means to them, then we can see if it applies to us.

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; Romans 8:26 NASB

"In the same way"--the word speaks of comparing one thing with another. What is Paul comparing? Some say that Paul is comparing groans. The creation groans, the first fruits groan:

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:22-23 NASB

And in the same way as the creation and the first fruits groan, so does the Spirit groan. The Holy Spirit is groaning in anticipation of the glorious liberation of the children of God.

It may be referring to groaning, but I see it as referring more to the help of the Spirit. Notice what Paul previously said about the Spirit:

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11 NASB

"Will also give life"--this is the future aspect. This is the promise of future resurrection. The Spirit, who raised up Christ, will one day raise them as well. The Holy Spirit, who presently lives within them, was a "down payment" on God's future deliverance. While they were waiting for the redemption of their body, the Spirit was helping them in their present state of weakness.

"The Spirit"--Paul has been referring to the work of the Holy Spirit throughout his letter. In Romans 1:3 he spoke of the resurrection as being the work of the Spirit, and in this chapter he says that the Spirit will raise the church (Rom 8:11). In this verse Paul tells us that the Spirit is the one who aids believers in their weakness by interceding for them.

Let me just say here that the Spirit is God, not some kind of force or energy or impersonal power. He is not a third God--that would be polytheism and heresy. He is the third person of the Trinity who is one God.

"Helps our weakness"--the word "helps" is sunantilambanetai, which is made up of sun: "together with," anti: "over against," and lambano: "to take." It has the idea of "to lend a hand together with,"or "to come to the aid of someone." It's a "present tense," meaning that this is something that the Spirit is constantly doing.

The only other use of the word in the New Testament is in:

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." Luke 10:40 NASB

Martha asked the Lord to tell Mary to come alongside her and give her some help. Tell her to assist me in preparing and serving.

What is this "weakness" that Paul speaks of in verse 26? This refers not just to weak prayers, but it refers to the whole debilitating power of their present condition. Paul uses this same word in:

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 1 Corinthians 15:42-43 NASB

The body he is talking about here is the body of Christ. "It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power"--they had not been raised and were still in weakness awaiting being raised in power.

Paul is not saying that the Holy Spirit helps them in all their weaknesses. He is not talking about all the struggles of life. Paul is talking about release from the body of death. The word "weakness" is the Greek noun astheneia (as-then-e-ah) and is singular; weakness. Paul uses the first person plural when describing weakness! Not just the weakness of the Roman Christians, but Paul himself was in this state of weakness.

"We do not know how to pray as we should"--the Spirit helps them because they don't even know what to pray for. The Spirit is praying for their glorification. This is security! The Holy Spirit was praying for them. I see an illustration of this in:

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:31-32 NASB

Satan wanted to destroy Peter, but Jesus prayed for him. I know that in our text it is the Holy Spirit that is praying but there is perfect harmony between the members of the Trinity.

"But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words"--This is the only text that refers to the interceding work of the Spirit. Paul uses another compound word huperentugchanei, this time prefixing it with the preposition, "on behalf of," or "for" with the root word, "intercede. It's the only time this word is used in the New Testament. The word means that the Spirit pleads on their behalf or that He has turned to them with the purpose of pleading their cause.

Some expositors tell us that this groaning is not that of the Spirit, but that of the believer, pointing out that the Spirit, being God, cannot groan. The groaning here is obviously metaphorical. This verse seems to be saying that the Holy Spirit prays for them, not that He prays through them to the Father.

John MacArthur writes, "Now I have to say that verse 26 is a severely abused text. I frankly expect most Bibles to bleed here. And most of the people who have abused this text have been those who have been associated with this speaking in tongues interest."

Many commentators, from various backgrounds, have suggested that Paul is referring here to the "gift of tongues." But again, it is the Spirit that groans, not the believers. A strong objection to this being a reference to tongues speaking is that these verses (26-27) refer to all the transition saints, but not all believers spoke in tongues:

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 NASB

The construction in the Greek demands "No" as the answer to each of these questions. Not all spoke in tongues so this cannot be what Paul is referring to, because the Spirit helps all the transition saints with their weakness.

Another objection to the tongues view is that Paul specifically says that the praying of the Spirit is "too deep for words"--his is from the Greek word alaletos, which is from laleo: "to speak." Alaletos means: "without speech."No one is speaking in this text.

and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:27 NASB

Commenting on this verse Tom Holland writes, "Understanding this verse is problematical." I agree! Who is the "He" in this text? Are there two different "He's"? Most see the first "He" as the Father and the second "He" as the Holy Spirit. To support this they cite verses that speak of God knowing man's heart:

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 NASB

I'm not sure what this proves; we know it is the LORD, we just don't know what member of the Trinity it is. I think the "He" in our text, both of them, refer to Christ. "And Christ (He) who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because Christ (He) intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." This is what Paul later says:

who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Romans 8:34 NASB

The writer of Hebrews tells us:

but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:24-25 NASB

So Christ prays for believers, and so does the Spirit:

and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:27 NASB (emphasis DBC)

Did you notice that this is a Trinitarian verse? The "He" here is Christ, who knows the mind of the Spirit and this intercession is according to the will of God.

Though the word "Trinity" is never found in the pages of Scripture, it is a doctrine that is taught throughout the Scripture. The very first mention of God in the Scripture is in the plural:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 NASB

"Elohiym" is the Hebrew word that we translate as "God" in Genesis 1:1. The ordinary sense of the word is "gods."

"Trinity" is a word used to express the unity of God subsisting in three distinct persons. It is a word describing the unity of the Godhead as three co-eternal, co-equal Persons, each having the same substance, but distinct Persons. It is a word that describes a purely revealed doctrine, indiscoverable by reason, but clearly taught in Scripture.

As Christians, we affirm that there is one eternal being known as Yahweh. Yet this One eternal Being exists in three individual Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Logically, in our human minds, we cannot entirely understand how one Being can exist in three Persons. Yet, as Christians, we affirm both truths to be true. The Trinity is one of the distinctive doctrines of Christianity. Just because it's hard for the brain to understand, it doesn't mean we should pretend it's not there.

"He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God"--who are the saints? These are not special Christians, but every believer. The word means: "holy ones," and is used throughout the New Testament for ordinary believers. This is contrary to the Roman Catholic teaching that the saints intercede for the lesser Christians. In this context it is referring to the saints of the transition period.

With the Trinity praying for them, these first century saints were secure as they waited for the redemption of the body.

So do these verses have any application to us?:

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 NASB

These verses tell me that God is for me. If the Trinity was so involved in the bringing to glory these first century saints, just think how involved they are in our lives. We are part of the redeemed body of Christ, we are in a face-to-face relationship with the Trinity.

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