Every once in a while, as you become more familiar with Scripture, you notice connections and parallels you hadn’t picked up on before. This has happened with me with Romans 8, which I have been spending a lot of time thinking about as I endeavour to commit it to memory. There is lots of talk in the chapter about the battle between the flesh and Spirit, but what really struck me in particular about that was how Paul describes what the Spirit does for us. And in speaking about this, he uses the same phrase (“that very Spirit…”) in two separate places. The repetition is what first made me notice this.
First, Paul writes: οὐ γὰρ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα δουλείας πάλιν εἰς φόβον, ἀλλὰ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας, ἐν ᾧ κράζομεν, Αββα ὁ πατήρ:αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα συμμαρτυρεῖ τῷ πνεύματι ἡμῶν ὅτι ἐσμὲν τέκνα θεοῦ (For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God) Romans 8.15-16, NRSV.
So Paul talks about the Spirit as one who reminds us that we have been adopted by the heavenly Father, and therefore that very Spirit, by way of discharging that duty, reminds us that we are God’s adopted offspring. He never ceases to whisper this to us, that we may live in the freedom that comes with being part of God’s family.
Next, Paul writes: Ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα συναντιλαμβάνεται τῇ ἀσθενείᾳ ἡμῶν: τὸ γὰρ τί προσευξώμεθα καθὸ δεῖ οὐκ οἴδαμεν, ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα ὑπερεντυγχάνει στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις (Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedeswith sighs too deep for words) Romans 8.26, NRSV.
So Paul speaks about the Spirit as assisting us, His children, in our weakness, and therefore that very Spirit, by way of discharging that duty, speaks to the Father emotions that words cannot express. He prays on our behalf so that we need not be worried about how to express ourselves. Prayers are being offered even when we are unawares or too warn out to find the right words.
The Spirit does both these things for us, as well as many others mentioned in Romans and elsewhere, but these two pieces of his job description jumped out at me due to the repetition.