043 | Romans 8:26-30

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
— Romans 8:26-30 ESV

This would be a good time to go ahead and be completely upfront and transparent. I am unashamedly a spirit-filled, Pentecostal, miracle expecting, tongue talking, born again believer. I make no apologies for this, nor do I hide it. This particular passage is about to exasperate that fact so get ready because I want to spend a few minutes talking about the power of praying in tongues.

First, let me clarify a few misbeliefs about people speaking in tongues…

1. You don’t have to speak in tongues to be saved. I don’t know what goober came up with that, but tongues are not a requirement of salvation.

2. Speaking in tongues doesn’t mean God loves you more.

3. If you’ve never spoken in tongues, there is no condemnation.

4. Speaking in tongues, at least the ability to pray in tongues, is for every believer. Every. Single. Believer.

5. Speaking in tongues isn’t as weird as it sounds.

Alright, NOW let’s look at the passage!

It’s really hard for me, as a Pentecostal with a biased view (which I’ve totally owned at this point) to look at Romans 8:26 and not see an obvious reference to speaking in tongues. Now, if you go to google and search the various opinions about whether or not this is about speaking in tongues, you’re gonna find one key argument to say that it’s not.

Anyone who refutes Romans 8 having a “speaking in tongues” insinuation is gonna reference the original greek language from which this is translated. Anytime the scripture directly address speaking in tongues, it universally uses one greek word, “glossia.’ That word is not used here... The word here literally means noise, groaning, weird sounds.

I’m gonna give you a reason for that, but let’s move forward with the presupposition that I’m right and this is about speaking in tongues. Otherwise, this is gonna be long.

There isn’t a lot about speaking in tongues written in the new testament. We get one line in Mark, several instances in Acts, a vague reference in Romans, and a corrective teaching in First Corinthians. There’s also one in Ephesians, but I’m gonna keep that secret and I’ll teach it to you another day!

We’ll exclude the Mark instance because it is prior to pentecost. But when we look at the other three, we can deduce a few things. In Acts, we see that speaking in tongues is recurring in the early church after pentecost. In other words, it’s normal and doesn’t stop happening. In 1 Corinthians we see that if it gets out-of-hand, it gets addressed. That begs this question... Why doesn’t this subject show up more often in the new testament?

Here’s my hypothesis from study and experience. The baptism of the holy spirit, speaking in tongues, gift of tongues, whatever you call it, happens (or is received) in an experiential way. Meaning you’re gonna be in an atmosphere that is, at maximum, a screaming, shouting, good-ole-throw-down-holy-ghost-honky-tonk, and at MINIMUM, a personal interaction. I think Acts 19 is a good indicator of this but you can check that out on your own.

We can also conclude a few more things. The usual pentecostal experience (which is what I typically call speaking in tongues, plus all the other fun stuff), doesn’t “go wrong”. We can assume that because we only have one epistle correcting misuse of the gifts in one church. We can also conclude that there’s a lack of Biblical text because it was an “in-person experiential occurrence,” meaning Paul, James, and Peter wouldn’t have written letters to churches to instruct them in receiving the gift, they would have done that in person.

So, what about Romans? Well, everything I just told you explains why Paul wouldn’t directly mention “speaking in tongues” but rather uses a vague phrase like “groanings too deep for words.” Why? Because Romans is the only epistle we have in the new testament written to a location that Paul has yet to visit. Paul hasn’t gone to Rome yet so he’s not gonna put the cart before the horse and start talking about something that really only works through experience.

Lastly, we do learn something about tongues from Romans that isn’t indicted as clearly elsewhere. Typically, we view tongues as a public gift. While public use of tongues is totally a thing, in it’s primacy, tongues is a tool intended for prayer. I think we would all agree that the hardest thing about prayer is knowing what to pray. Well, by grace (in the greek these supernatural gifts are literally called grace-gifts) Jesus gives us the appropriate tool to make sure we’re praying right. If you’ve ever prayed, then had the prayer answered and thought “did I pray for the right thing?!?” I have good news. The Holy Spirit, through us, always prays the right thing!

Alright, in the next blog we’re gonna take all of this information and do something with it!

Video, Podcast, BlogJason Mayfield