Romans 8:26 Speaking in Tongues, Or Not, and Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

For our Midweek Bible study at Banquo Christian Church we are going through “Who is the Holy Spirit?” by Sinclair Ferguson. This week we will be looking at session 11- The Inward Groan. As one might guess, the focus of the lesson is Romans 8:18-27.

In preparing for the lesson I consulted I consulted Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. As I further studied the words “groan” (8:22, 23, 26) and “helps” (8:26) I was reminded once again about the “risk” in using resources such as TDNT.

In discussing “groanings” in Romans 8:26, J. Schneider writes, “Since the reference is not to something which takes place in us, the apostle cannot be thinking of the sighing of Christians in prayer. He is referring rather to times when we are unable to pray, when because of our “weakness” we do not know what we ought to pray for. This means that he cannot have in view speaking in tongues, or the inarticulate stammering of ecstatic in worship.” (TDNT, 7.602)

Turning then to the word “helps” in the very same verse, G. Delling writes, “This pneumatic prayer is a charismatic dealing with God like speaking with tongues, whether with or without the corresponding forms.” (TDNT 1.376)

In other words, someone studying certain key words of Romans 8:26 could come away radically different interpretations of the verse if they only looked up either “groan” or “help.”

Schneider’s interpretation is obviously the correct one.

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