The Holy Spirit in Romans 8:18-27

I am scheduled to teach an adult elective class tomorrow at The Sanctuary UPC in Hazelwood, Missouri, where Mitchell Bland is pastor. The plan is to examine references to the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:18-27 as found in my book The Holy Spirit: A Commentary. I am posting the handout here. It is an excerpt from the book, which is available at I also plan to post the video of the class session at least by Monday, January 4, 2021.

The Holy Spirit in Romans 8:18-27

January 3, 2021

[1] According to Romans 8:23, not only does creation, apart from human beings, groan in anticipation of the revelation of the sons of God; so do those people who have experienced the new birth. We believers “groan within ourselves” as we eagerly await the ultimate and final manifestation of our redemption: the redemption of our body, the material person. (See Romans 8:19, 21.) This event is “adoption.” This does not suggest believers are not yet adopted. In a very real sense, adoption occurs upon the reception of the Holy Spirit. (See Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:5-7; Ephesians 1:5.) But just as we are already redeemed, yet we anticipate the final work of redemption, so although we are already adopted, we eagerly await adoption’s final accomplishment. This may be spoken of as the “already, but not yet” aspect of redemption. There is a sense in which we are already redeemed; there is a sense in which our redemption has not yet occurred. Prior to the return of the Lord, the inner man is redeemed. At His coming, the outer man will be redeemed as well. This is further seen in that what believers now experience is the “firstfruits of the Spirit.” This indicates a greater and final work of the Spirit is to follow.

[2] Suffering believers receive help from the indwelling Holy Spirit with their weaknesses (Romans 8:26). They are not expected to maintain hope on the basis of sheer determination alone (Romans 8:25.) In many of the painful circumstances believers face as they await the redemption of their bodies (Romans 8:23), they are unsure even as to how they ought to pray. It is at times like these that “the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Paul described the creation (Romans 8:22), the believer (Romans 8:23), and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26) as groaning. Contextually, the cause of the groaning is the painful influence of sin on all of creation, including human beings. The Spirit’s identification with the believer is so intimate and intense that He groans in empathy with the believer’s weaknesses. This verse does not remove the believer’s responsibility to pray intelligent prayer when the situation is such that he knows how he should pray, but it holds out the promise that in these situations beyond the believer’s ability to comprehend, the Holy Spirit intervenes.

[3] This is probably not a reference to praying with tongues, although praying with tongues is a valid exercise. (See I Corinthians 14:2, 14-15.) In this case, the intercession of the Spirit is made “with groanings which cannot be uttered.” The tongues, or languages, with which one speaks by the influence of the Holy Spirit are genuine, intelligent words, not groanings. They are words which can be uttered (Acts 2:4). The reference here is to those situations where the difficulty is so overwhelming and the solution so elusive that the believer is helpless to make any progress in prayer. He is not to despair, however, for the Holy Spirit is fully aware of the believer’s needs, and He intercedes on behalf of the suffering believer.

[4] It is God who searches the human heart (Romans 8:27; see also I Samuel 16:7; I Kings 8:39; I Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 17:3; 139:1; Hebrews 4:13). God knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit’s intercession on behalf of the suffering believers is “according to the will of God.” The fact that when the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the believer, He does it “according to the will of God” underscores the fact that when the believer is able to pray intelligently, he must pray according to the will of God. All of God’s works are done according to His will. God is sovereign; He knows what is best in every situation. Believers must always pray for the will of God to be done.[1] To assume to know what is best in a given situation, and to attempt to order God to act according to one’s own opinion, is the height of presumption.

[1] See Matthew 6:10; 26:42; Romans 1:10; James 4:15; I John 5:14.

(c) 2021 by Daniel L. Segraves