The Intercession of the Spirit in the Saints
And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:27
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. Romans 8:27
And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will. Romans 8:27
We are here presented with another and a deeper unfolding of the work of the Spirit in relation to prayer. Having shown to us in what way he aids the infirmity of this holy exercise, chiefly by imparting the spirit of grace and of supplication, the Apostle now reminds us how those inditings, thus originating with the Holy Spirit, are in perfect harmony with the will of God. The whole subject is based upon one of the most solemn views of the Divine Being presented in the Bible. Having contemplated this, we shall then proceed to open up the Spirit's work of intercession in the saints.
"He that searches the hearts." This is, and this only can be, the prerogative of God. It is not in the power of man or angel to look within the human heart. It is the awfully solemn prerogative of God only. Thus is the truth declared: "The Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord knows the heart." "The Lord searches all hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts." "The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord tries the hearts." And what a solemn declaration of this truth is put forth by the prophet Jeremiah! "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins." With a most emphatic enunciation of this truth does the sacred canon of Scripture close: "And all the churches shall know that I am he who searches the reins and hearts and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." We find the same divine prerogative ascribed to the Lord Jesus, thus forming one of the strongest evidences of his essential Deity: "Then there arose a reasoning among those who of them should be greatest.
And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him." Again, "But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men. And needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man." How could Jesus perceive the thoughts of their heart, and how could he know what was in man- what thoughts were revolving, what schemes were planning, what intrigues were plotting in the deep recesses of the soul, were he not absolutely God? But solemn as is this view of the Divine character, the believing mind finds in it sweet and hallowed repose. What more consolatory truth, in some of the most trying positions of a child of God, than this- the Lord knows the heart? The world condemns, and the saints judge- but God knows the heart. And to those who have been led into deep discoveries of the heart's hidden evil, to whom have been made unveilings startling and distressing, how precious is this character of God- "he that searches the heart!" Is there a single recess of our hearts we would veil from his penetrating glance? Is there a corruption we would hide from his view? Is there an evil of which we would have him ignorant? Oh no! Mournful and humiliating as is the spectacle, we would throw open every door, and uplift every window, and invite and urge his scrutiny and inspection, making no concealments, and indulging in no reserves, and framing no excuses when dealing with the great Searcher of hearts- exclaiming, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
And while the Lord is thus acquainted with the evil of our hearts, he most graciously conceals that evil from the eyes of others. He seems to say, by his benevolent conduct, "I see my child's infirmity"- then covering it with his hand, exclaims- "but no other eye shall see it but my own!" Oh, the touching tenderness, the loving-kindness of our God! Knowing, as he does, all the evil of our nature, he yet veils that evil from human eye, that others may not despise us as we often despise ourselves. Who but God could know it- who but God would conceal it? And how blessed, too, to remember that while God knows all the evil, he is as intimately acquainted with all the good that is in the hearts of his people! He knows all that his Spirit has implanted, that his grace has wrought. Oh, encouraging truth! That spark of love, faint and flickering- that pulsation of life, low and tremulous- that touch of faith, feeble and hesitating, that groan, that sigh, that low thought of self that leads a man to seek the shade, that self-abasement that places his mouth in the dust, oh, not one of these sacred emotions is unseen, unnoticed, by God! His eye ever rests with infinite complaisance and delight on his own image in the renewed soul. Listen to his language to David: "Forasmuch as it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well, in that it was in your heart."
"Knows what is the mind of the Spirit." It would appear by these words, that in prayer the great interpreter of the heart is the Spirit. And when it is declared that our Father in heaven knows what is the mind of the Spirit, it means that he is essentially acquainted with all the inditings and breathings of the Spirit in the heart. With what powerful and irresistible attractions does this truth invest the throne of grace! To remember that in prayer we draw near to that God who knows all the desires of the heart, which, though they be clothed with no diction, and are inarticulate in their accents, are yet known to, and understood by, him. Yes, before that thought is conceived, or that feeling is inspired, and when actually conceived and inspired, is, perhaps, to us confused, and indefinite, and meaningless, leaving nothing to repose in but the bare consciousness of sincere desire and real earnestness; yet he who knows what is the mind of the Spirit, understands it altogether. To him it has a voice, to him a language, and to him a meaning. He knows the mind of the Spirit in his saints. Oh, sweet encouragement to prayer! It is not your voice that speaks, but the Spirit's, when you draw near to God.
"Because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." We are wont to read in the Bible of one Intercessor, and of one advocacy. "There is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." But the believer has two courts with which prayer has to do. In the court below, where prayer is offered, the Spirit is his Intercessor. In the court above, where prayer is presented, Jesus is his Intercessor. Then, what an honored, what a privileged man is the praying man!
On earth- the lower court- he has a Counselor instructing him for what he should pray, and how he should order his suit. In heaven- the higher court- he has an Advocate presenting to God each petition as it ascends, separating from it all that is ignorant, and sinful, and weak, and pleading for its gracious acceptance, and asking for its full bestowment. Here, then, is our vast encouragement in prayer. The inditings of the Spirit- the Intercessor on earth- are always in agreement with the mind of God. In prayer we need just such a Divine counselor. Is it temporal blessing that we crave? We need to be taught how to graduate our request to our necessity, and how to shape our necessity to our heavenly calling. Supplication for temporal good is, we think, limited. And this is the limit: "Having food and clothing, let us therewith be content." What child of God is warranted in asking worldly wealth, or distinction, or rank? And what child of God, in a healthy state of soul, would ask them? "But," says the Apostle, "my God shall supply all your needs, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Should God, in his providence, send either of these temporal things undesired, unasked, and unexpected, receive it as from him, and use it as to him. But with regard to spiritual blessings, our grant is illimitable, our requests may be boundless. Here we may leave the shore we have so long been hugging, and boldly launch out into the deep- even the depths of God's love, and of the Savior's grace. "Ask what you will," is the broad, unrestricted warrant. When we ask to be perfected in the love of God, we ask for that which is in accordance with the will of God- for "God is love." When we ask for an increase of faith, we ask for that which is in accordance with the will of God- for "without faith it is impossible to please him." When we ask for more divine conformity, we ask for that which is in harmony with God's will- for he has said, "Be holy, for I am holy." And when we ask for comfort, we plead for that which is in his heart to give- for he is the "God of all comfort." Oh, to possess a Divine counselor, dwelling in our hearts, who will never indite a wrong prayer, nor suggest a weak argument, nor mislead us in any one particular, in the solemn, the important, the holy engagement of prayer; who is acquainted with the purpose of God; who knows the mind of God; who understands the will of God; who reads the heart of God; yes, who is God himself. What encouragement is this, to more real prayer! Are you moved to pray? While you muse does the fire burn? Is your heart stirred up to ask of God some especial blessing for yourself, or for others? Are you afflicted? Oh, then, rise and pray- the Spirit prompts you- the Savior invites you- your heavenly Father waits to answer you.
With such an Intercessor in the court on earth- so divine, so loving, and so sympathizing; and with such an Intercessor in the court in heaven- so powerful, so eloquent, and so successful- "let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."