July 23, 2023

The Sanctification of Justification (Romans 6:1-2)

The Sanctification of Justification (Romans 6:1-2)


For the past several months, we have seen Paul explain the universal jurisdiction of the Law, the condemnation of man, and ultimately, the need to be found righteous before God.

We also learned that the only means of being found righteous and being justified (or found not guilty) before God is to receive the righteousness of Christ by faith. That is, we no longer trust in ourselves to be found good but see our sin and rely upon the goodness of Christ alone.

In chapter 4, we saw Paul defend this doctrine of justification by faith alone by the evidence of redemption in the Old Testament. He used the example of Abraham—the father of the faith—in Genesis 15:6, which says, “And Abraham believed the Lord, and God counted it to him as righteousness.”

In chapter five, we saw the blessings, benefits, and results of justification by faith, with the primary blessing being eternal peace with God. But Paul anticipated the questions regarding how humanity came in need of peace with God and gave an exposition of the fall of humanity in Adam and the redemption of humanity in Christ.

Today, in chapter six, Paul transitions from the blessings received through justification to work accomplished through justification. Namely, the work of sanctification. That is, not only does God justify you by faith, but that justification will manifest itself in sanctification.

Now the word sanctification means: To cleanse or clean.

  1. Lewis Johnson once made a helpful distinction between justification and sanctification. He said, “Justification is restoration to life, while sanctification is restoration to health.”

Herman Bavinck’s axiom was “Grace restores nature.” I believe that is exactly what we see in sanctification. A restoration of our being. It is the process of making us holy and pure as we were prior to the fall.

And that’s the point that Paul is making in this chapter. A saving (or justifying) relationship with Christ will change your relationship with sin. Christ will not leave you as you are, but by the conviction of the Holy Spirit and by the power of His word, He will clean you.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

There is an immediate and ongoing form of sanctification. The immediate has to do with our identity—we are no longer sinners but saints. The ongoing form of sanctification has to do with our hearts and our affections.

There’s a common saying, “Christ doesn’t just change what you do but what you want to do.” I would alter that by saying, “Christ doesn’t just change who you are but who you want to be.” Namely, He changes the actions and the affections. He changes the identity and the aspirations of the heart.

Let’s read Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Vs. 1-2: What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 

  • Coming off the heels of chapter five, where Paul presents the superiority of Christ over the fallenness of Adam and the eternal peace we receive through the forgiveness of sins and the imputed righteousness of Christ, he asks a rhetorical question (that is, a question with an obvious answer).
  • Mind you, the previous two verses said, “The Law came in so that the offense would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more21 so that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
  • “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”
  • In other words, in light of this great doctrine of justification by faith alone and the grace of God in Christ that exceeds the power of sin, should we, as Christians, just take advantage of the fact that sin no longer has a condemning power over us and sin freely?
  • The answer is verse 2 is an emphatic “No way!” or your translation may say, “Certainly not!”
  • Paul is confronting a particular heresy called Antinomianism.
  • You see, there are two ditches on the Gospel Road: Legalism and Licentiousness.
    • Legalism is bringing people back under the Law by demanding that obedience contributes in some way to their justification.
    • Licentiousness is abusing grace by disregarding the Law and walking freely in sin because our justification has eliminated our condemnation.
    • That is the definition of antinomianism. It’s to be opposed to the Law. Anti = opposed / nomos = Law.
    • C. Sproul once said, “The Antinomian heresy is the view that the law of God revealed in the Old Testament has nothing to do with the New Testament church; that the New Testament church is a church without law, a church that lives and breathes exclusively on the basis of grace… But the New Testament is far from abolishing God’s moral law. Jesus calls His disciples to obedience regularly. He says, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15).”
    • What Paul wants us to understand is that while the Law no longer has a condemning power over the person who has been justified by their faith in Christ, the Law still serves as the standard of righteousness that we are to order our lives.
    • In fact, while obedience to the Law does not justify you, it does please God.
    • This is the aim of sanctification. God is making us more like Christ. Namely, He’s making us better law followers. Not because the law can save us but because the moral law of God is good for us and for the world.
      • We cannot forget what Psalm 1 says of the blessed man, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night.”
    • Paul then asks another important question:

Vs.2: How can we who died to sin still live in it?

  • As I taught in chapter five, in Scripture, death is separation, and life is union.
  • So, when Paul asks, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” he’s really asking, “How can we who have been separated from the power of sin still live as if it is our ruler?”
  • You see, we were alive to sin and dead to God.
    • Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.”
    • Colossians 2:13 “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…”
    • Romans 6:11 says, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
    • 1 Corinthians 15:22 sums this up by saying, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
  • Now, this doesn’t mean that Christians do not sin. No, we are saints who sin.
  • I believe it was Thomas Watson who said, “While sin remains in the Christian, sin does not reign in the Christian.”
  • I believe this gets to the heart of this passage. Paul is saying that those who have truly been taken out of Adam and been made alive in Christ will not live lives ruled by sin.
  • Furthermore, take note that Paul does not command us to “die to sin,” he asks us, “how can we who have already died to sin live in it?”
  • He’s demonstrating incompatibility.
  • He’s showing that if you’re dead to sin, your relationship with sin will be one of conflict, not cooperation.
    • 1 John 3:6-9 talks about this incompatibility between the reign of sin and the born-again believer, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
  • What John is teaching here is that if a person professes Christ but relates to sin in such a way that it rules them or reigns over them, then they are alive to sin and dead to Christ.
  • When you have been transferred from the realm of sin to the realm of righteousness, your highest desire is no longer dominated by sin but by Christ.
  • That is, your will is no longer enslaved to the flesh but to the Spirit of God.
  • This is why I often tell people we never have a “free” will. You have a will, but it’s never free. It’s either a slave to sin or a slave to Christ.
  • Namely, prior to Christ, our will, or our highest desire, was to sin. After Christ, our will or our highest desire is to submit to the will of God.
  • As we all know, Christians do not always obey their desires, and we still choose sin in the flesh. But this is the action that Paul so adamantly questions:
    • As a person who has experienced regeneration and understood the cost of your sin, how can you turn back to the very thing that crucified your Lord?
    • The born-again believer hates sin. He may fall to sin here and there or be ignorant of it because of his own self-love, but when faced with the clarity of sin, the truly converted man hates it.
    • The question becomes: Do you hate sin? Do you hate what sin has done to your life? Children, do you hate sin? Do you feel the sting of guilt and shame after you sin?
    • If you do not feel fault of sin, every one of us should be afraid and turn to prayer. Ask that God would give you a hatred of sin.
    • Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.”
    • Sin is our enemy. It is the very thing that hurts our relationships and bodies.
    • Therefore, act as one who is dead to sin—one who is separated from its dominating power—one who has no inclination or interest in disobeying God—run from it—pray against it—and ask God to sanctify you of any lingering desire for it.
    • This is the will of God.

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