Sanctification is the triumph of grace over the power of sin

by Mike Ratliff

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2 (NASB) 

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? Romans 6:15-16 (NASB) 

As I stated in yesterday’s post, if the Gospel is preached correctly, that is, with justification by faith alone being central with absolutely no merit or work by the believer having any bearing on it, then the two rhetorical questions Paul raised in the two passages above should be on the forefront of the minds of all hearing it. Justification by faith as a gift from God, not by our doing in any part (Ephesians 2:8,9) leaves us open bare before God. We have no religiosity to hide behind. We have no steps to perform. We have no decisional thing we can perform that we can point back to that is our lynchpin that we can claim as “our decision for Christ.” No, Justification as Paul preached it is foreign to all of that. So, from where does all that come? It comes from people confusing justification with sanctification.

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4 (NASB) 

Some of you may be saying right now, “Wait a minute Ratliff! Here you have been saying all through this study that our salvation is by faith alone and we earn nothing by doing works.” That’s right! Our justification is exactly that, but not our sanctification. Our justification is God’s work alone. On the other hand, our sanctification is one in which we cooperate with Him in His plan of refining work of making us holy and Christlike. No matter what our past has been prior to our justification, all in Christ will experience personal holiness (1 Corinthians 6:9-11a; 1 Timothy 1:12,13). In v1 we see that the proper preaching of the Gospel, justification by faith based solely on the free grace of God, will garner criticism from some who see that as in invitation for people to be converted and then live as they please, sinning as much as they wanted. I have actually “communicated” with some Roman Catholics on this very thing who have told me flat out that the doctrine of Justification by Faith lets people sin freely. What is Paul’s answer? Μὴ γένοιτο or “Not may it become!” The NASB translated that as, “May it never be!” The doctrine of Justification by Faith based solely on the free grace of God does not lead to more sin. Why? Paul gives us the answer in v2. All truly in Christ have died to sin. This is explained more fully in v3, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” Who did the baptizing? It was God. God buries each believer with Christ 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. What is this newness of life?

Here is v4 from the NA28 Greek text “συνετάφημεν οὖν αὐτῷ διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος εἰς τὸν θάνατον, ἵνα ὥσπερ ἠγέρθη Χριστὸς ἐκ νεκρῶν διὰ τῆς δόξης τοῦ πατρός, οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς περιπατήσωμεν.” Here is my translation, “We were buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so we too may walk in newness of life.” The word καινότητι the dative, singular form of καινότης or kainotēs, means “renewal,” but not simply an experience similar to the past, but a qualitatively different one. “Newness” is a good translation here for, in the context of those who have died to sin and are alive to God, life or “ζωή” is very much going to be marked with a καινότητι. Of course, what is our sanctification, but our working with God in cooperation to become more holy as we walk in this newness of life for the rest of our lives until we go home to be with our Lord for eternity.

5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:5-11 (NASB) 

The key to this passage in context to vv1-4 is, of course, v11, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Those who are dead to sin no longer have the pervasive love for it nor are they controlled by the ruling power of it. Yes, I know that we all struggle with sin at times. I know that there are times when we must go through some tough battles of sin mortification in order to “get the victory.” Yes, I am fully aware of that. I am convinced that God allows us to go through these battles in order to humble and mold us further in our sanctification for we must realize that the mastery of sin has been broken in our lives, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 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. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:12-14 (NASB) 

Here we have the “tension” between what God has already accomplished for His people and what is still their responsibility to obey. We are all tempted by the fleshly desires to sin, but we have the ability, since we are in Christ, to not let those desires gain control, hence the battle to mortify sin each day by giving ourselves afresh to God. We cannot battle the flesh through will power alone nor can we simply “let go and let God.” No, both will lead to disaster. Paul wisely says in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. Romans 6:15-19 (NASB) 

The word “sanctification” in v19 is the Greek word αγιασμον the accusative, singular form of ἁγιασμός or hagiasmos, which is a separation unto God through the process of sanctification or making one holy. So, think through this passage carefully. Before we were justified by faith we were ruled by our flesh and were slaves to sin. However, when God had mercy on us and, by His grace, justified us by faith as a free gift, we were also changed. We were baptized with Christ unto His death and resurrection to walk in this newness of life. We are changed forever. This is talking about our regeneration here my brethren. We now have the ability to not present our members to sin, but to God for sanctification. Of course, we can only do this by His grace that is why we give ourselves to Him daily in the process of mortifying the sin that clings so close, et cetera. We are now capable, by God’s grace, to present our member as slaves to righteousness leading to this αγιασμον. Well, I can’t speak for you or anyone else, but I certainly want this. I deeply desire to walk blameless before my Lord. I deeply desire to be with Him. I am still here in this life though so I must continue to fight these battles with the flesh just as you do. This is how our sanctification works.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:20-23 (NASB)

I am sure that if any of you were ever trained in Evangelism Explosion or some other Christian witnessing “program” you memorized that passage or at least part of it. Doesn’t it read differently when taken in context with the rest of what we have been studying though?

We will pick up in the very controversial Romans chapter 7 in our next post, God willing.

Soli Deo Gloria!

4 thoughts on “Sanctification is the triumph of grace over the power of sin

  1. I have come to the conclusion that while justification (salvation, redemption) is monergistic, sanctification (perseverance, preservation) is not. But it’s not synergistic, either. That term conveys the notion that both elements or parties are required for the process to function. Even a casual read through the Bible will reveal the fact that God bids us to obey (Galatians 6:9) and enables to do so (Hebrews 13:20 & 21), He commands us to press on for the prize that will not tarnish and sustains us in the doing (Hebrews 12:1 & 2), and reminds us that apart from Him we do nothing (John 15:5). This is the essence of Augustine’s famous prayer that ignited the controversy with Pelagius: “God, command what you will, grant what you command.” The Christian will want to obey God and trust Him to bring it to completion. Yet He also works to conform us to His Son when we rebel and are not careful to walk as children of the light (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Hebrews 12:3-11; James 1:2-4 & 12). Brothers, this should not be the case, we should not kick the goads; but it is comforting (and convicting) to embrace a God Who is not dependent on us!

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