The Necessity of Sanctification (Romans 6)
The Necessity of Sanctification ()
The Necessity of Sanctification ()
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
This sixth chapter of Romans and its proper interpretation is not only imperative for your sanctification, but also for your sanity.
Breaking the chains of bondage of sin.
This sixth chapter of Romans and its proper interpretation is not only imperative for your sanctification, but also for your sanity.
Several years ago I visited a young woman in the psychiatric ward of a Dallas hospital. As we sat at a table behind the locked doors under the scrutiny of professional attendants, I asked this young woman what her problem was.
She acknowledged that she was totally frustrated in her attempt to follow the teaching of .
She had been striving to follow the formula which many have suggested from this chapter: know, reckon, yield.
She said that she knew that she had died in Christ to sin, and she was trying as hard as possible to reckon it to be so and to yield herself to God. But somehow it always resulted in failure. Her frustration had finally led to a complete nervous breakdown.
Much of her problem, I believe, was in failing to understand this chapter in proper relationship to chapters 7 and 8. And so, as we begin to study , urge you to study it carefully, not only for the sake of your sanctification but also for your sanity.
Anyone who interprets chapter 6 as the method for experiencing the normal Christian life is bound for trouble in my opinion, for this sixth chapter is the introduction to Paul’s section on the process of sanctification.
It does not give us the full solution to the problem of sanctification; it merely presents the need for sanctification.
To put this in different words, it does not deal with the method of sanctification (know, reckon, yield), but with the motive for sanctification.
So in this sixth chapter of Romans we turn to the matter of the revelation of God’s righteousness in the life of the Christian, with the spotlight not on the ‘How’ of the spiritual life, but on the ‘Why.’
A Definition of Sanctification
A Definition of Sanctification
Since we are speaking of sanctification in chapters 6, 7, and 8 and will not have a full view of it in chapter 6 alone, it would be wise to pause briefly to define sanctification.
Justification is the Process whereby God declares a person to be righteous on the basis of faith in the Person and work of Christ.
Justification is the activity of God which liberates a person from the guilt of sin.
Sanctification is the activity of God which liberates the Christian from the power of sin.
Justification imputes the righteousness of God to man. Sanctification imparts the righteousness of God through man.
Traditionally, sanctification is categorized into three aspects.
(1) Positional sanctification is that state of holiness imputed to the Christian at the moment of their conversion to Christ. It denotes not so much one’s spiritual condition as his spiritual position. The Corinthian believers could thus be called ‘saints’ even though they were in a carnal state ().
(2) Progressive sanctification refers to the process in our daily lives by which we are being conformed to the image of Christ. It is the process of becoming what we are in Christ. This involves the putting off of the old habits of lying, stealing, backbiting, etc., and putting on the Christ-like qualities of honesty, mercy, and love (cf. .).
(3) Ultimate sanctification is that state of holiness that we will not attain to in this life, but will realize when we are finally in the presence of God: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (). Sanctification, the putting off of the old man, and the putting on of the righteousness of Christ, is three dimensional: positional, progressive, and ultimate. The argument of the apostle Paul in is that we are obligated to experience progressive sanctification because of our positional sanctification accomplished on the cross of Calvary.
The Question Raised
The Question Raised (6:1-2)
The sixth chapter begins with a question: “What shall we say, then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” ().
This question is somewhat prompted by Paul’s statement in chapter 5: “… but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” ().
20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
This question probably is best understood as arising out of the entire preceding section on justification by faith alone. This question would surely occur to the opponents of Paul’s gospel: “If salvation is all of God, all of grace, and appropriated on the basis of faith alone, without any human effort; if all of our sins necessitate and promote the grace of God—then why not continue to live as we always have (in sin), so that God’s grace may continue to abound?”
Paul’s summary answer is contained in verse 2: “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” ().
When the expression “May it never be” occurs in Romans, it is Paul’s vehement response to an improper conclusion based upon a proper premise.
We are not to continue the life characterized by sin at the time prior to our conversion.
The reason is because such a practice would be inconsistent with our position in Christ. In Christ we are dead to sin. How, then, could we continue to live in sin? Such a practice would deny our position.
Once upon a time there was a baby eagle called Eddie. Eddie had entered this world by violently forcing his way out of an eggshell, to discover himself sharing a nest with his brothers and sisters at the top of a very tall tree. One day a strong wind blew up, and the nest was rocked wildly from side to side, at one point rocking so far that poor little Eddie was tipped out. Not yet old enough t fly down he fell, down, down through the branches, and amazingly right down into a rabbit burrow at the base of the tree. When he got to his feet Eddie found himself among a group of bunnies born around the same time as he.
Now rabbits may be good breeders, but they’re not exceptionally smart, so no one realised Eddie was in fact a baby eagle. They all assume dhe was just an odd-looking rabbit. So Eddie was adopted into the family and grew up learning to live as a rabbit. He hopped and jumped, lived in the family burrow and lived on a diet of grass and lettuce.
Of course, all his life Eddie struggled with a sense of terrible inferiority. He didn’t look like the other rabbits, he was always the last one chosen when it came to hopping games, and he was often sick from eating grass.
Then one day his life changed. Eddie and his rabbit siblings were out in a field playing, when a dark shadow spread across the ground. The rabbits looked up and there hurtling towards them was a mighty eagle. With squeals of fear the rabbits ran as fast as they could for the undergrowth. Eddie knew he was a goner. He couldn’t run as fast as the others and saw them all reach safety while he was still hopping like crazy out in the open. The mighty eagle drew closer and closer, until Eddie could feel its shadow right above him. Eddie braced himself for the inevitable when he heard the eagle cry, “What are you doing hopping around on the ground like a rabbit?! You’re an eagle. Spread your wings and fly!”
Startled by the shock of what had happened, confused by the eagles words, Eddie started to move those useless things at his side. He stretched them out and began flapping until he found himself lifting up from the ground, then soaring effortlessly through the heavens. That day Eddie discovered he wasn’t made to hop along the ground but to soar through the skies.
The same is true of us. God created us with enormous dignity and honour, to be his image on earth. We grow up in societies that tell us that we are something other than magnificent creatures made to image God, but when we discover our true nature, we are able to soar through the skies, becoming everything we were created to be.
Living in Sin—A Positional Prohibition
Living in Sin—A Positional Prohibition (6:3-14)
If you have come to looking for water, you will be disappointed, for Paul appeals to the position of the Christian as it is achieved by Spirit baptism as a reason why the Christian cannot live in sin as he formerly did.
Paul begins, “or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” (). We should not expect to find water every time the word baptism occurs, for there are numerous examples of ‘waterless baptism.’
John the Baptist declared, “As for me, I baptize you in water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not even fit to remove His sandals; He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” ().
Paul wrote, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” ().
In secular Greek, the verb ‘ baptizo’ meant not only ‘to immerse’ or ‘to dip’ but also to “cause to perish (as by drowning a man or sinking a ship).”23 The baptizing work of the Holy Spirit joins us to the Person and work of Christ in such a way that we participate in His work on the cross. We died with Him.
So far as our justification is concerned we were joined to the Person and work of Christ so that we participated in the death of Christ for our sins. He died in our place as our substitute. But with reference to our sanctification, Christ died to sin. In Christ’s work of justification, He delivered us from the penalty of sin; but in the death of Christ was also accomplished our sanctification whereby He delivered us from the power of sin.
This is the point Paul is making in verses 3-11.
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Water baptism does not secure either justification or sanctification, but it does symbolize it. When we are submerged into the baptismal water, we symbolize the fact that we died and were buried with Christ. Just as we participated in the sin of Adam and its consequences many years ago, so by the baptism of the Holy Spirit we have participated in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Our old self, what we were as a son of Adam, died to sin.
That is, sin no longer has any claim or authority over us. Just as the Law has no authority over a dead man, just as collection agencies do not harass a corpse, so sin no longer has a claim on the one who has died.
As the sin-bearer of the world, sin had a just claim on Jesus Christ. Sin had a debt to collect. But when our Lord was crucified, He died to sin. Since sin has no claim on Christ, sin has no claim on those of us who have died to sin in Christ.
Thus, our participation in the death of Christ to sin abolishes all claim sin once had on us.
But our identification with Christ does not end in death to sin; it extends to our participation in His resurrection to a new kind of life.
Not only does sin have no claim on us, but in our union with Christ we have been raised to a newness of life. Sin no longer has dominion over us and we now have a new kind of life, a life which is capable of manifesting the righteousness of Christ. Positionally, we are dead to sin and alive to God.
Practically we dare not fall back under the dominion of sin, but must manifest a newness of life (cf. ).
1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. 5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Sanctification is closing the gap between your identity and your behavior.
When our behavior lines up with our identity, we look more and more like Jesus. In many churches, the sermons usually lean to one end, resulting in a spiritual crash for people in pursuit of becoming more like Jesus.
On the basis of our position in Christ, Paul can not only cast aside any talk of continuing in sin, but can exhort us to demonstrate our position by the practice of personal righteousness:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God ().
As Paul will illustrate in the first verses of chapter 7 sin shall not rule over us, because we are no longer under the Law, but under grace (v. 14).
Living in Sin—A Practical Prohibition
Living in Sin—A Practical Prohibition (6:15-23)
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Not only are there theological or positional reasons why the Christian cannot continue to live in sin—there are practical reasons as well.
why are you ashamed of what you used to do?
why go back?
Illustration of freedom----
When a person becomes a Christian, he usually undergoes some radical life changes, especially if he has had an immoral background. Through the first steps of spiritual growth and self-denial, he gets rid of the large, obvious sins. But sad to say, many believers stop there. They don't go on to eliminate the little sins that clutter the landscape of their lives.
Gordon MacDonald, in his book Ordering Your Private World, told of an experience in his own life that illustrates this truth. "Some years ago, when Gail and I bought the old abandoned New Hampshire farm we now call Peace Ledge, we found the site where we wished to build our country home strewn with rocks and boulders. It was going to take a lot of hard work to clear it all out....The first phase of the clearing process was easy. The big boulders went fast. And when they were gone, we began to see that there were a lot of smaller rocks that had to go too. But when we had cleared the site of the boulders and the rocks, we noticed all of the stones and pebbles we had not seen before. This was much harder, more tedious work. But we stuck to it, and there came the day when the soil was ready for planting grass."
you now see the rocks you cant go back ----
One such reason is discussed in verses 15-23. The question is essentially the same as that in verse 1: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under Law but under grace? May it never be!” ().
Paul lays down a very significant principle in verse 16, and that is that we become the slaves of whatever we choose to obey. If we give in to sin and submit to it, we are the slaves of sin. If we submit to God and serve Him, we become His slaves.
21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
While we were unsaved we had no choice, but were by our very nature the slaves of sin. The fruit of such service was hardly praiseworthy, for of the things we once did we are now deeply ashamed (v. 21). When we turned to God by faith in Christ and accepted the gospel, we were freed from servitude to sin and made servants of God.
We should not deceive ourselves by supposing that these two alternatives—slavery to sin, or slavery to God—are only two of many options for the Christian. In reality, we must be one or the other. We are never truly free, but are only free to choose whether we will be the slaves of sin or the slaves of God.
Lest we should give even a moment’s thought about serving sin, Paul contrasts the two kinds of servitude. There is the servitude of God and there is service to sin. While servitude to sin produces unrighteousness and that which causes shame, servitude to God produces the fruit of righteousness and sanctification. The end result of sin is death, while the outcome of righteousness is eternal life.
So not only does continuing to live in sin contradict our position in Christ as dead to sin and alive to God, and our profession of this at baptism, it violates every principle of common sense, since it constitutes us as slaves of sin, accomplishing shameful unrighteousness, and following the path which leads to death.
What we see in chapter 6 is not so much the method of sanctification as the motive for it.
We must leave the life of sin behind and seek to offer our bodies to God so that His righteousness may be lived out in us.
We do learn from chapter 6 that the basis for our sanctification is to be found at the same place as we found the provision for our justification—at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Just as our Lord died for sin and was raised for our justification, so our Lord died to sin and was raised to live His life to God.
There is no work which you or I can perform which can earn our salvation. That work has been accomplished on the cross of Calvary.
There is no work which you or I can perform to attain to sanctification. Our sanctification is accomplished only by our identification with Christ in His death to sin and in His resurrection to newness of life.
What troubles me is the interpretation of this chapter that sees it as the method of attaining sanctification, rather than as our motivation for sanctification.
What we shall learn from chapter 7 is that although sanctification is absolutely necessary, so it is also absolutely impossible to accomplish through human striving and effort.
Sanctification cannot be produced through revivals, consecrations and dedications. The beautiful message of is that what we cannot do in and of ourselves, God has already accomplished through the work of His Son, and this is appropriated through the Holy Spirit by faith.
Surely we must recognize first of all the necessity of sanctification for the Christian. All too often we present the gospel as though it were some insignificant modification or addition to the life of an individual. It is like another investment we add to our portfolio, or additional insurance in case our other policies fail.
The message of the gospel calls for a radical transformation of life.
The call of the gospel is the call to repentance—to change. Acceptance of God’s provision of righteousness in Christ demands the outworking of righteousness in our lives and the putting away of sin. The great blemish on the testimony of Christianity has been the lives of those who have failed to realize that the gospel calls for radical change. Not a change which we initiate, but a change with which we co-operate.
Second, we should recognize the error of those who understand this chapter to teach that once a person has been united with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, he or she is incapable of sinning. Not only does chapter 7 and much of the Scriptures refute this, but so does our experience. The consistent challenge of the New Testament is that our practice should conform to our position.
Finally, let us not seek some kind of formula—know, reckon, yield,—which all too easily is perverted into a kind of work which we perform in order to be sanctified. This chapter does not focus our attention on the how of sanctification so much as it does the why. Herein, we find not the method of sanctification, but the motive for it.