A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
Sanctification: The Right Way of Union with Christ
While the actual word "sanctification" does not occur in the KJV, it is in the ASV at verse 19. The Greek word means sanctification and has been rendered by the word "holiness." It appears again in verse 22: "you have your fruit unto holiness." Perhaps it may properly be said that the word in the Greek is more correctly translated by the word "sanctification". At any rate, this word occurs for the first time in the book of Romans, appearing twice in the sixth chapter.
What shall be done with the sinner in relation to the penalty for sin is the first problem God faced in saving men. The next problem concerned the power and pollution of sin that dominates his life. First of all, how does God deal with the sinner and his sin? Justification is the answer. God declares him to be righteous, and treats him as such. Second, after a man is justified, he discovers that he has a sin nature which gives rise to sinful acts, that aspect of the work of God which deals with the power and pollution of sin.
Justification deals with the guilt of sin. When a man sins, he is guilty and therefore he deserves to be punished. In justification, God declares that man righteous, by virtue of the death of Christ in his behalf. By that act He removed the guilt forever. Because Christ died in his stead, the sinner goes free. Thus justification is the declarative act of God. Justification does not make man righteous. It never means that. It means that God declares him to be righteous. God weighs the guilt, gets rid of it, and the sinner gets immunity from punishment.
What does sanctification do? In sanctification, God takes that same man (still a sinner, but also a justified man) and makes him holy. In sanctification, God deals with something that is actual, the power of sin. Whereas justification deals with the guilt of sin, sanctification deals with the power of sin.
Justification cannot be separated from sanctification, except for the purpose of study. No man can experience sanctification unless he has first been justified in the sight of God. Our human minds can only deal with one aspect at a time, but God never works that way. Justification and sanctification are two aspects of the one work of God in saving men.
"Moreover, the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (5:20). No matter how great the sin was, grace was greater than the sin. The worst sinner in the world can find grace sufficient.
That is Paul's conclusion to the section on justification, that wherever sin appears, grace came to the rescue in an even greater measure an covered it. "Grace did much more abound." It superabounded! Someone will say, "then if that is the case, it does not matter how much we sin. If our sin, no matter how great it is, only causes us to see that the grace of God is greater than our sin, let us go on and sin in order that we may see more of the grace of God." On the other hand, there are those who say, "The doctrine of justification is a dangerous doctrine. If you teach that, you will have a sinning people. People will say, 'Then sin does not matter,' and they will go on in their sin."
Paul met this first charge that was brought against the doctrine of gratuitous justification. "They will rejoice in sin because it only magnifies the grace of God." Paul does not hedge the slightest bit. He does not say, "Well, I know that I said a man is justified apart from works and character, and after all, that is not quite it. He has to be good, or he will go to hell." Paul will not retreat one inch from what he said in chapters 4 and 5. He has insisted that believers are "justified freely," that 'by grace ye are saved." But now he shows that once justification has been received, sanctification follows logically and naturally.
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" (6:1). Paul anticipates the very thing that men will protest. If, no matter how great sin is, grace is greater, if that is the case, what shall be our response? Shall we say that we shall continue in sin? That is the first question.
In verse 15 there is another question which must be faced: "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace?" There is the other question.
Those two questions indicate the contents of this chapter and give the divisions. We might paraphrase them like this, "Shall we continue in sin in order that grace may abound, or shall we sin because grace does abound?"
Everything between the first verse and the fifteenth verse is in answer to the first question; everything from the fifteenth verse to the end answers the second question. There are two distinct phases - two aspects of sin: 1. one is continuance in sin - "Shall we continue in sin?"; 2. the other is committing single acts of sin - "Shall we commit sin?"
Here is a comprehensive view of the chapter before the actual exposition of it.
In considering verses 1-14, the first question is "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" What, in two words, is Paul's answer to that? "God forbid!" The very thought of it is abhorrent to him.
Then he asks a question to show how impossible it is to do it. It is impossible for a Christian to continue in sin, which is implied in this question: "God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?" (6:2). And, of course, if we died, we are dead. How shall we continue in sin if we died to sin? There is no answer to that. Paul does not attempt to answer it. It is an impossibility.
There are two views that fall short of the truth in dealing with sanctification. One view is that there is nothing at all in the Cross of Christ that sanctifies, so when dealing with the question of the Christian sinning, an attempt is made to place the Christian back under the law. But this is contrary to the Word of God.
The other view admits that believers come short and do not live the high type of Christian life they should. So mysticism is advocated. The proponents of this view are earnest and sincere, and they talk about "dying to self." But the Bible does not teach this either. They say, "We must die to sin." But the Bible does not teach this. What does the Bible teach? The Bible teaches that we have died to sin.
This is not a quibble over words. The death of the believer is a thing that is in the past. It is a transaction that is complete, and what God wants us to do is to believe it and not try to do again something that has already been done Of course, there is a sense in which we must appropriate what has been done and make it practical in our lives. But if we did not learn anything else in this study, let us remember that the Christian has died to sin.
Confirming the teaching of this verse is 1 John 3:9: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." The verb "sin" means to continue in a course of sin. it does not mean committing an act of sin: It is an utter impossibility. God will break it off sometime.
How can a dead man sin? There is not a Christian who does not face this problem. You know you do things that are wrong. You know you do not have victory over the sin in your life. This is a serious problem: as we have been released from the guilt of sin, how can we be released from the power of sin? There is a way. Here are three key words: 1. know, or knowing (vv. 3, 6, 9); 2. reckon (v. 11); yield (v. 13).
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 47)