The Blessing of Guidance - Part 2 of 4 (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints* according to the will of God.
God, through His omniscience* is the One who searches the hearts. Therefore, He is entirely acquainted with the desires of our hearts, even though they cannot be uttered. God knows what is in the mind of the Spirit because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. God’s knowledge of the mind of the Holy Spirit does not come from His intercession in our hearts. The Holy Spirit is one with the Father and with the Son in the Trinity, which is the “Godhead.” Since the Spirit’s groanings are in accordance with God’s mind, His intercession for us is consistent with how God deals with us and it fulfills His purposes for us. The Spirit articulates those prayer burdens that God’s people cannot even express. The Spirit’s intercession can be trusted because He intercedes according to God’s will. Moreover, because they are always in accordance with God’s will, they are always for our good. Thus, intercession is made for us not only by God the Son, who sits at the right hand of God the Father but also by God the Spirit who dwells within the believer.
The phrase “according to the will of God” is, literally, “according to God.”
I am convinced that most Christians, who read these lines, recall one time or another when you were so burdened you could not utter words in prayer. All you could say was, “O Lord…have mercy!” or words similar to those. Nevertheless, the Holy Ghost knows the burden, the desire, the longing of the heart of the believer; therefore, He helps us at such a time.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
There are no accidents. God is working out all things together for good for those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose. It may not always seem so! Sometimes when we are suffering heartbreak, tragedy, disappointment, frustration, and bereavement, we wonder what good can come out of it. However, the following verse (v.29) gives the answer: whatever God permits to come into our lives is designed to conform us to the image of His Son. When we see this, it takes the question mark out of our prayers. By faith, we believe that He who gave His own Son can only mean good for us in all that He does. Impersonal forces such as chance, luck, or fate do not control our lives, but the One in control is our wonderful, personal Lord, who is “too loving to be unkind and too wise to err.”
When left to our own resources, suffering is more likely to harden and embitter, than it is to enable and dignify. However, the Bible is full of occasions where God turned things around; making good out of what is evil. You may remember that Joseph could look over his life, a life that had been filled with disappointments, and sufferings, and say to his brothers—who were responsible for his misfortune—“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good…” (Gen. 50:20). And I am confident that we as children of God, will be able to look back over our lives someday and say, “All of this worked out for good.” Job could say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him… (Job 13:15). That is the kind of faith in God we need. We know that He is going to make things work out for good because He is the one motivating it. He is the one who is energizing it.
Paul has already given us two sources of encouragement for the believer, in the midst of the distress of this world. He has presented the future adoption of our bodies at the coming of the Lord as a source of strength and hope. The Spirit of God within us is also given as a source of strength. Now the apostle lists a third source of encouragement for the believer. In the midst of the sufferings of this life, God has given us knowledge that He is working out every detail of life to fall in line with His eternal purpose for our lives. He is doing it for them who are the called according to his purpose. There is nothing in the makeup of our universe to make us optimistic that everything will eventually work out to the satisfaction of good people. Rather, Paul is simply saying that God works in all things for the good of those who love Him. The called is not used here in the general sense of “many are called but few are chosen,” but in the specific sense of those who comprise the family of God.
Therefore, the promise of all things working together for good is given to a specific group, the called (i.e., those who are in Christ Jesus and justified by His blood, and who have responded to His call.). The world in general does not have this promise. All things, however contrary to us, are under His control. Troubles, therefore, do not hinder Christian progress. Instead, they serve to further the intention of God’s grace.
To them that are called—The two descriptions, those who love God, and those who are the called are to one another as cause and effect. Those who love God are necessarily those who are called. It is significant that believers love for God always follows God’s calling of him, and is undoubtedly the product of the indwelling Holy Spirit—“We love Him because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). The call (always in the Epistles an effectual call) produces the response of love for Him who calls. As believers, we were foreknown and foreordained prior to our birth. Yet God does not manipulate us like puppets. Rather He calls us; He beseeches us to receive His offer of salvation. When we are quickened by the Spirit of God and respond to His call in faith, we are then justified in His sight by faith.
29 For whom He foreknew*, He also predestined* to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
For whom He foreknew,—This and the next verse confirm verse 28, providing the ground of the certainty that God works all things together for good. While God foreknows all men, according to His attribute of forethought, yet obviously the word here refers to those who have been described as “them that love God.” God foreknew us in eternity past. This was not mere intellectual knowledge. As far as knowledge is concerned, He knew everyone who would ever be born All ideas of human merit are absent from this passage since what is being stressed is the absolute sovereignty of God in all His purposes and actions.
Foreknowledge is not the same as predestination; the very verse before us distinguishes the two. His foreknowledge marks out the persons; His predestination determines His purposes and acts on their behalf. Illustration: On the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter vividly illustrated the harmony between God’s sovereignty and man’s personal responsibility. Even though the Cross was in the eternal plan of God and part of His sovereign will, those who crucified Christ did so as a rebellious act of their will. Therefore, they bore personal responsibility for Christ’s death. We too are responsible for our personal actions and behavior. “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” (Acts 2:23).
Probably no doctrine has evoked a greater variety of interpretations than that of God’s foreknowledge. Although it is true that foreknowledge means to know beforehand, in the context of God’s purpose, to interpret the expression in this way would be an oversimplification. For God to preview history in order to discern our response to the gospel, and then act accordingly, would make the creature sovereign over the Creator. When God takes knowledge of His people it is more than just a basic understanding of them. It is the knowledge a father has of his child. God knows and loves the world, but His foreknowledge of His own is an intimate knowledge, which results in an abiding love (5:8) for us that, draws us to Him in salvation.
God alone has complete knowledge; nothing can be hidden from Him—“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Prov. 15:11). Nothing escapes His notice. He is absolutely omniscient. He is constantly aware of all that is going on in the universe. Of course, the important point in this context is that He knows where there is real faith and where there is only intellectual assent to facts. Foreknowledge must be understood as a part of God’s relationship to His creation (Jer. 1:5). Reconciling God’s foreknowledge with the moral responsibility of humankind is a wonderful mystery of theology. In any case, God’s salvation is born out of His eternal purposes and is not dependent upon our own initiative or the world’s changing circumstances—“He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:20). Christ’s work for us was no afterthought on God’s part. The Redeemer was destined to die for us before the creation of the world. But at the end of the times, that is, at the end of the dispensation of law, He appeared from heaven to rescue us from our former way of life. Lincoln comments: “In these last times—the world’s moral history was closed at the cross of Christ. It has shown itself fully and got to its end before God.”