“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rm 8:26-28)
Already But Not Yet
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rm 8:22-23)
One of the important characteristics of being Christian can be summarized in the phrase, “Already But Not Yet.” This is a well known theological phrase that has been used by many theologians to explain the current situation Christians are in.
The coming of the kingdom of God on earth has already started with the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus brought God’s kingdom on earth so that he could proclaim, “The kingdom of God has come upon you” (Lk 11:20), and “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Lk 17:21)
So, with the coming of Jesus, the kingdom of God was officially initiated. However, even though it has already started, it’s not completed yet. It will fully come true when Jesus returns. So, we’re kind of caught in the middle between ‘already’ and ‘not yet.’
This principle can be applied to all aspects of Christian life. Even though Jesus was raised from the dead and became “the first fruit of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Co 15:20), and the promise of resurrection of our bodies was given to us in Him, no one else has been resurrected yet. However, “When Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2), and “We will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom 6:5)
And, even though the time will surely come when God dwells among us and there’s no pain or suffering anymore, the world we’re living in now is still full of suffering, anguish, and sorrow.
So, one of the common characteristics of Christians is to groan inwardly, waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
That’s why Paul said, “We ourselves… groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rm 8:23)
We groan now and wait eagerly, because what’s promised to us has not yet been completely fulfilled and we’re caught between already and not yet.
Paul also said in 2 Corinthians,
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2Co 5:1-4)
As Christians, we’re eagerly looking forward to the day of our complete redemption which was already promised and shown in Jesus, but hasn’t appeared yet. Meanwhile, we groan from the burdens of this life, awaiting the much more glorious eternal kingdom.
Christians’ Groaning and Hope
In other words, we groan in a good way because we put our hope in the things that will come true in Jesus in the future, not in earthly things. If we didn’t have hope in the kingdom of God, we would be satisfied with the things we have now and only seek things in the world. However, because we have glorious hope in the world to come, we now groan.
Regarding Christian hope, Paul said,
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Rm 8:24-25)
One of the important characteristics of hope is that it’s not fulfilled yet. We don’t put our hope in things that have already happened. We always hope for something that we really want to have in the future.
So, the hope and promises we have in Christ make us groan because even though we know that the glorious future is waiting for us, we’re still in the present suffering for Christ.
The Works of the Holy Spirit
That’s why we always need help from the Holy Spirit to live out our faith. As Paul said,
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Rm 8:26-27)
We’ve talked about what the Holy Spirit does in us. First, in regard to the law, the Holy Spirit sets us free from the law of sin and death so that we can truly obey and follow God’s law. Second, in relation to our identity in Christ, the Holy Spirit reminds us that we’re God’s children even when we lose confidence because of our failures.
Now, Paul talks about how the Holy Spirit works in us and helps us. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness by interceding for us through wordless groans.
When we don’t even know what and how to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us. The reason that He can be our perfect intercessor is that God searches our hearts and knows everything about us, and so does the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows our hearts and God’s will for us, so He can pray for us according to God’s will.
When we don’t know what to do, where to start, or even what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and prays for God’s will to be done in our lives. Through help from the Holy Spirit, we can hope for things that are unseen. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome our present suffering and fix our eyes on things to come.
In All Things God Works for the Good
That’s how we can maintain our faith despite our weaknesses and deficiencies. We can’t stand on our own, but the Holy Spirit helps us when we are weak. Through the Holy Spirit, we can overcome our sinful nature, have confidence in our adoption as children of God, and continue to live out our faith.
So, after listing the works of the Holy Spirit, Paul said, let’s read it together,
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)
The reason we are able to live good lives is not because of us, but because of God. Because God works for our good in all things, we can continue to come before His presence.
In this verse, the phrase “all things” includes all aspects of our lives whether they are good or bad. God never gives up on His people. Even when we fall and make mistakes because of our weaknesses and sinful nature, God doesn’t leave us alone, but reaches out His hand with great compassion and love. Despite our failures, He continues to love us the same and guide us.
The time I felt most deeply connected with God was when I realized what an unforgivable sinner I was before the Lord. The Holy Spirit convicted my soul and made me realize my sins. And, when I faced my past sins, I could truly experience how great Jesus’ love for me was.
God even used my past sins as a tool through which I could experience His love. I’m not saying that God made me sin for that purpose. It definitely wasn’t God’s will for me to sin. It was my own bad decisions and mistakes.
However, God used them to guide me to the gospel of Jesus Christ and completely changed me from the inside out. I think that’s the meaning of “in all things God works for our good.” No matter who we have been and no matter what we’ve done, God has the power to change us and guide us to the right path.
Before we wrap up, let me talk about one more subject. What is the good for which God works in us? God working for our good in all things doesn’t necessarily mean that all things go well.
We can find the meaning of “good” in the following verse. Paul continued,
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Rm 8:29)
The good that God wants to achieve in us is for us to take after the image of His Son, Jesus. It’s for us to recover the good image of God that we lost because of our sin. In all things, God works for us so that we can attain the fullness of Christ. That’s the good God is creating in us. That’s the good we should pursue as Christians.