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The Inevitability of your Sanctification

May 24, 2006

I’ve been studying Romans 6 lately in preparation for the fall.

ESV Romans 6:2 How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

What does it mean that we are dead to sin? It means we are justified. It means that in Christ his death is our death, his righteousness is our righteousness, and so we are not condemned. We are free from the guilt of sin, we are free from the power of sin to condemn us. That’s what “dead to sin” means and that’s all it means. It doesn’t mean that we are dead to the influence of sin.

ASV Romans 6:7 for he that hath died is justified from sin.

Sadly, almost all the English versions translate the word “justified” in verse 7 “freed”. This prevents us from seeing that justification itself is the key to no longer living in sin.

How does this work? Is it that now that I am justified, I am free from the guilty feelings that keep me in bondage to sin? That’s true to a point, but that’s not Paul’s argument. And if it were Paul’s argument, it wouldn’t be a very strong one. The mere fact that justification puts new motives in the hearts of Christians is no guarantee of their sanctification.

Is it that when I am justified and come to understand that Jesus died for my sins, I will now hate my sins because their evil is seen in the suffering Christ had to endure for them? That’s true and is a good reason to repent, but that’s not Paul’s argument here either.

The reason why your justification guarantees your sanctification is that both your justification and your sanctification come from your union with Christ.

Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

I’ve been saying throughout the sermon series on Romans that we are too obsessed with our sanctification and need to focus more on justification and glorification. I’ve been saying that exultation in your justification is the key to sanctification. Now it occurs to me that even that statement is a little too man-centered. I really could just say, “justification is the key to sanctification” or “union with Christ is the key to justification and sanctification”

And if today’s meditation is for you a flash of insight that gives new understanding of Romans 6 and union with Christ, that itself is not the magic bullet that will kill your besetting sin and sanctify you. Union with Christ is what will sanctify you. Guaranteed. It’s not dependent on your exultation or understanding.

Of course, exultation and understanding are good things. They are even means through which sanctifying grace keeps coming. But they are not the ultimate ground and guarantee of your inevitable sanctification and glorification. Union with Christ is.

So we do nothing? No, we still do things. We fight to think of ourselves dead to sin and alive to God and we offer the parts of our bodies no more as instruments of unrighteousness but as instruments of righteousness. We do these things. But we do them, and we will inevitably do them, because of our union with Christ. We work out our salvation because it is God who works in us. It’s not our work plus God’s work. It’s not God works when we work. It’s we work because God works. His work is the cause of our work.

Have you ever heard the cliche’ “Pray as if it all depends on God. Work as if it all depends on you?” I’ve always thought that was ridiculous. Knowing our own hearts as we do in the mirror of the word, “working as if it all depends on you” leads to wallowing in despair. No, we are called to work as if it all depends on God, which it does. Does this lead to laziness? No, it leads to happiness. It leads to our getting up off the floor and rising to fulfill our glorious destiny.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2006 8:06 am

    This post has been removed by the author.

  2. May 28, 2006 3:50 pm

    That first comment went a little too far off topic…

    Let me just say that trusting God to bring about everything He has promised has freed me up to seek after love and good deeds in a way that guilt and shame never could.

    And I am happy to boot!

  3. May 28, 2006 5:24 pm

    I liked your first post fine. It did take me two reads to understand its topicality, but then I got it! :-)

  4. May 30, 2006 9:16 am

    Well, thanks!

    I put it up on my blog instead, so it has not been completely lost…

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