What God Knows When the Spirit Intercedes -- By: Timothy Wiarda

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 17:2 (NA 2007)
Article: What God Knows When the Spirit Intercedes
Author: Timothy Wiarda

What God Knows When the Spirit Intercedes

Timothy Wiarda

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary

When Paul refers to the Spirit’s interceding for believers in Rom 8:26-27, he pictures the Spirit as bringing elements of the believers’ felt experience of suffering to God. Through the Spirit’s intercession God knows the heart experience of suffering believers. This often overlooked aspect of Pauline pneumatology may have something to contribute to contemporary theological discussion of God’s capacity to be touched by human suffering.

Key Words: intercession of the Holy Spirit, intercession, Holy Spirit, Pauline pneumatology, passibility, divine suffering, Rom 8:26-27

Paul’s brief reference to the Spirit’s intercession in Rom 8:26-27 comes as a word of encouragement to Christians in their weakness.1 No extant text from the period clearly parallels this motif,2 however, and interpreters debate Paul’s meaning at a number of points—what ὡσαύτως connects with, the nature of ἡ ἀσθένεια ἡμῶν, the relation between the Spirit’s intercession and the prayers of believers, the meaning of ἀλάλητος, and the sense of κατὰ θεόν. This article does not aim to resolve all these matters, though I will comment on some of them. My primary goal is to highlight some aspects of Paul’s word of encouragement that have not received the full attention they deserve. These include his emphasis on Spirit-to-God communication, his strong hint that the believer’s experience of weakness forms a major part of what the Spirit communicates to God, and his emphasis on God’s resulting knowledge of the heart experience of suffering Christians.

Perhaps I should explain that a particular theological interest lies behind this study and to some extent shapes the questions it tries to answer. I want to see what Paul’s teaching about the Spirit’s intercession might contribute to theological discussion about God’s capacity to be touched by human suffering. Though Paul himself is not directly concerned with the

kind of issues systematic theologians debate when they discuss divine passibility, I believe it is quite legitimate to let this topic motivate an exegetical study of Rom 8:26-27. This is first ...

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