Ever struggle with sin, with temptation? Are you bombarded with thoughts, desires and cravings? Do you ask yourself, is there a life of victory? This section of Romans is for you.
Sanctification; The Logical Outcome of Justification
(a) Dead to Sin
A person who is justified has a desire to pursue holiness in his life. This pursuit of holiness is known as sanctification. This is a process where the believer dies to sin and becomes more righteous through the means of grace; the word of God, prayer and the sacraments. It is this subject which Paul now addresses in chapters 6,7 and 8.
There are important statements here relating to the Christian’s relationship to holiness and its antithesis; sin. We have already learned that the Christian has been delivered from the penalty of sin in justification. What becomes apparent in chapter 7 particularly is that we have not been delivered from the presence and the pollution of sin.
Chapter 6 is particularly encouraging, however, as we are here taught that the Christian has been emancipated from the power and dominion of sin.
1: A Formidable Question
“Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”
If a man or a woman is justified solely by grace and if that fact makes them righteous in God’s sight even though they are morally impure, then there may be a danger that such a person may have no desire to practice holiness. After all, if sanctification has no bearing upon our final salvation the justified person may believe himself to have a license to sin. Paul was aware that there were those who objected to his teaching on grace on these grounds. It is also true that some professing believers incur the criticism of the world in that they live as if their testimony before men was irrelevant (Jude v4). Therefore this is an important question that we must address.
2: An Astonishing Description
“…we, that are dead to sin…”
Paul’s chief argument against those who claimed that justification supplied the Christian with a license to sin was that the justified person is now dead to sin. This statement is an introduction to the predominant theme of this chapter, v6,7,8,11. It is therefore a vital phrase to to understand. sinless perfection, that a person may die to the presence of sin. Paul here, however, teaches that this death is common to every believer. Others have taught that this death to sin has come about a about as a result of our repentance, but this lays over much weight upon our works in turning from sin. Others have taught that this death relates to the believer’s relationship to the guilt and penalty of sin. This is true but Paul is here dealing with the moral position of the Christian to sin in this life.
Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones supplies us with by far the most satisfying exposition of this phrase. He calls his readers to look back at v21 where the Christian is depicted as living under the reign of grace and not under the reign of sin. This is as a result of the union that we enjoy with Christ. The unbeliever is chained to sin and death because he is in Adam. The Christian is delivered from that bondage because he is in Christ.
Grace also changes us morally. The sinner is motivated by sin which is a moral principle governing his actions and his lifestyle. The Christian however is governed by grace, sin is no longer his governing principle. The justified man is regenerated by virtue of the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart. Therefore we are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) and we have been delivered from the power of darkness (Colossians 1:13). An amazing change has taken place in our lives, we are now dead to sin.
3: A Vital Testimony
“How shall we…live any longer therein?”
The word live means to continue and abide. If we have indeed died to the power and dominion to sin then it is entirely consistent to argue that it is impossible for the justified person to habitually sin with impunity and without conscience or repentance. Our Lord spoke of this in John 8:34-36 when he described his disciples as being free from sin as they were in Christ. John even went as far as to teach that “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9). These are wonderful teachings for a people who struggle with indwelling sin and the plague of the old man who lives within. There is a life of victory far beyond anything we have experienced and the principle of that victory already lives in our hearts because we are dead to sin.