Does Romans 8:26 Teach a Second Person
in the Godhead?
Romans 8:26 says; ĎBut the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.í I always hear this verse interpreted to be a referece to praying in tongues, but it does not seem likely that tongues are in view here simply because tongues can be uttered, yet these groanings cannot. What do you think?
Secondly, Please explain this verse to me according to the Oneness Theology? If the Father is the Holy Spirit in another mode as Oneness believers teach, then how can the Father intercede with himself? Please also clarify to whom the Holy Spirit intercedes. Would this be to himself? This verse seems to teach a plurality of persons in the Godhead, not the view of Oneness Theology which says the Holy Spirit is the same person as the Father.
I agree that we must question whether or not Romans 8:26 is referring to tongues. Tongues are utterable, as Acts 2:4 makes clear, yet the Spirit is said to make intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Also, the text says specifically says that the intercession involves groanings, without any mention of tongues. The Biblical teaching on tongues is that it is an intelligible language, although not known by the speaker (Corinthians 14:2). The Greek word translated as "tongues" (glossa) literally refers to a spoken language. Language is intelligible, while groanings are unintelligible. For these reasons it does not appear that Paul had tongues in mind when he penned this verse.
Now concerning the explanation of this passage from a Oneness perspective, we do not see this passage as indicating that the Father intercedes with Himself, nor as indicating a plurality of persons within the Godhead. How can it be that one person in the Godhead pleads with another person in the Godhead on our behalf, and yet there be only one God? Such a view is very tritheistic, and lends itself to the notion that one person wills something the other does not. It also lends itself to the notion that one person of the Godhead could know something that another person does not. Such is even contrary to Trinitarian orthodoxy. The fact of the matter is that this passage is not an easy passage for Trinitarians or Oneness believers. On the surface level this passage lends itself more to a Tritheistic interpretation than a Trinitarian or Oneness interpretation.
Romans 8:34, just eight verses later, declares that it is Christ who makes intercession for us. Who is it that makes intercession: the Spirit, Christ, or both? Why is it that they must make intercession to the Father? Why doesnít the Father ever make intercession? Is the Father more stubborn than they? I am not intending to be sarcastic, but trying to make a point. What is our conception of the Godhead? Are there three persons in heaven all trying to convince one another on what to do? Even Trinitarian theology would call such a scenario absurd.
I do not claim to have a perfect or flawless explanation of this most difficult text, but I will offer my understanding of it. This passage teaches us a plurality of functions of God, not a plurality of persons in the Godhead who interact with one another. It is God who searches our hearts (it is said that Jesus searches our hearts in Revelation 2:23), and His self-same Spirit makes intercession for us because we do not always know what the will of God is. We do not know how to pray as we ought, so Godís one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4) who knows His own will prays for us the way we should pray (in His will).
This passage seems to teach a plurality of persons in the Godhead because of the reference that says God "knows the mind of the Spirit." This language is reminiscent of the language Paul used in I Corinthians 2:12-13 when speaking of God and His Spirit. I believe an examination of this passage will shed light on the Biblical concept of "Spirit of God," "Spirit," or "Holy Spirit," and answer for us the way in which the Spirit knows the mind of God. Paul said concerning the deep things of God: "But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, even the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:12-13). We can make as much distinction between God and His Spirit as we can between a man and his spirit. I can distinguish my spirit from my flesh, and speak of my spirit as distinct from me, but my spirit is not a distinct person within me. I am one person, a unified whole, being both body and spirit. Godís Spirit is no more distinct from Him than my spirit is from me. There is no knowledge that my spirit knows without being able to say that I know that knowledge. Just as our spirits know ourselves, likewise Godís Spirit knows Himself and prays for us accordingly to the knowledge of His will.
The Scriptural use of the appellation "Holy Spirit" is not to indicate a distinct person in the Godhead, but speaks of God as He is. God is Spirit (John 4:24), and God is holy (Joshua 24:19), so it is no surprise that the Spirit is referred to as belonging to YHWH in the OT, or as being the Holy Spirit in the NT. Godís very nature is a holy spirit.
Do not think I am saying that wherever the Bible says "Holy Spirit" that we should substitute "Father" in its place. There is a reason why the Scripture speaks of God as the Holy Spirit. Godís Holy Spirit is "just God himself in the innermost essence of his being."1 The references to Godís Holy Spirit often speak of God in activity. The term serves to signify a certain aspect of Godís self-revelation to man. There is a reason why God is called the Holy Spirit. If terminology was not important, God would not have called himself by this name, and associated the Holy Spirit with certain activities such as sanctification. For such reason I do not try to substitute the references to Godís "Spirit" in Romans 8:26-27 with "Father."
You can point to Romans 8:26 in an attempt to show that the Spirit is distinct in person from the Father, but what about Romans 9:9, 11? Here Paul said, "But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of the God dwells in you. Now if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Ö But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also give life to your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you." In verse fifteen we are said to be filled with the Spirit. If the Spirit of God is the Father as contrasted with the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of adoption, then we are said to be filled with the Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. These names are used interchangeably. It cannot be that we are filled with three Spirits, for there is only one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4). It seems that the Holy Spirit is the Father, and is the Spirit of Christ (See also II Corinthians 3:17; compare Acts 5:3 with 5:4; Romans 8:26 with 8:34; I Corinthians 3:16 with 6:19).
Just as passages such as Romans 8:26-27 cause some difficulty for the Oneness position, passages like Romans 8:9-11 and others cause trouble for Trinitarians. We all have our problem passages to deal with. It is not a matter of one position having all the easy answers to all the tough questions, but which position most faithfully deals with the whole of the Biblical teaching on the nature of God, and can most adequately deal with the "problem" passages.
1. J. Hampton Keathley III, "The Trinity (Triunity) of God;" available from http://www.bible.org/docs/theology/proper/trinity.htm; Internet; accessed 19 September 1999. <back>
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