Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Understanding Sanctification (Romans 6:14)

To not understand the gospel is to not understand either Law or grace. When this is the case one will either resort to legalism or license. Legalism never gives victory over sin because the flesh is corrupt and weak and so the Law arouses the sinful passions of the flesh rather than arresting them. The Law is that which gives power to sin (1 Corinthians 15:56) and not that which gives victory over sin.

License never gives victory over sin because it turns God’s grace into an excuse to remain in sin by adding the demonic doctrine that you can be saved and still live in sin; that you can believe but you don’t have to behave; that you can be justified and still not be sanctified. In this case people use grace as a license to live in sin.

Legalism tries to behave without believing; license tries to believe without behaving; Christians behave because they believe and therefore are sanctified because they are justified. God’s grace is that which gives the power to behave (Titus 2:11-14) and never that which gives a license to sin (Jude 4).

The gospel of justification by grace through faith stands in direct opposition to both legalism and license. The gospel always gives victory over sin where legalism and license never do. Being justified by faith in Christ through the gospel always issues in being sanctified in life by living under His Lordship. Justification (having been declared holy) always issues in sanctification (being made holy) and therefore there will be progressive victory over sin in the life of the saved person.

Notice that in legalism and license that there is a reversal or a removal of sanctification in relationship to justification. In legalism (attempting to be justified by works of the Law) sanctification precedes justification and this can never be because the Law does not give the power to live a holy life but is in fact that which gives power to sin. So in legalism there is a reversal of the relationship of justification to sanctification. In license justification stands alone with absolutely no connection whatsoever to sanctification following or flowing from that justification and this can never be because grace is not that which gives a license to sin. So in license there is a removal of the relationship of justification to sanctification.

However, salvation with its various aspects is a seamless garment that cannot be divided, rearranged, or have any one aspect removed and still be biblical salvation. People who distort the gospel by distorting the aspects of salvation do it to their own destruction. Salvation has three aspects: (1) justification (past tense), (2) sanctification (present tense), and (3) glorification (future tense).

In justification we are set free from sin’s penalty; in sanctification we are being set free from sin’s power and pollution; and in glorification we will be set free from sin’s presence. Sanctification – being set free from sin’s power and pollution is something that neither legalism nor license can accomplish. Why not?

The missing element in both legalism and license is love. Jesus said, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Our obedience to Jesus is based on our love for Him which is based on His love for us which was demonstrated to us through the gospel. We love Him because He first loved us and we obey Him because we love Him.

Legalism and license are both perversions of love. Legalism is feigned obedience without love and license is feigned love without obedience. Lordship is true obedience because of true love – love is the power source of sanctification. We read of faith working through love (Galatians 5:6); that love constrains us or controls us – “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15); and that love fulfills the Law (Matthew 22:37-40; Galatians 5:13-14; James 2:8).

Loving loyalty to Jesus as Lord gains victory over the power and pollution of indwelling sin. The Law cannot do this – it gives the command to obey but not the power to obey. The gospel of God’s grace gives the power to love and therefore the power to obey – we are not under Law but under grace – we are under the Lord.

"For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14).


Nick said...

Two issues I have with your comments:

(1) I think you are confusing legalism with Paul's objections against the Law; the two are not the same. Paul was not really focused on legalism.

(2) What makes you think Romans 6 is speaking on sanctification, and how do you know Paul transitions from sanctification to justification in Rom 5-6.

olan strickland said...


(1) Paul didn't have any objections against the Law. Paul was establishing the truth that the gospel he preached of justification by faith was in fulfillment of the Law and not against it (Romans 3:31). Paul was everywhere accused of preaching against the Law (Acts 21:27-28) and so in Romans he established how instead of preaching against the Law his preaching was in fulfillment of it - even the Law testified of man's badness and need for justificatin through faith (Romans 3:21-22).

So Paul was showing his readers that he was not preaching against the Law (Romans 3:31); that faith in Christ ALONE (called penal-substitution) is the ONLY WAY that men can be forgiven and the law fulfilled (Romans 3:21-26); that the Law is that which is good (Romans 7:7, 12) and man is bad (Romans 7:14-18) so the Law cannot justify or sanctify.

So you see Nick, Paul didn't have any objections against the Law; he had objections against those who were legalistic and thought that a man could be justified by the Law and sanctified by the Law - an utter impossibility!

(2) What makes you think Romans 6 is speaking on sanctification...? Well for starters Romans 6:1-2 is speaking of those who have died to sin (justification) not living in sin (sanctification). And twice in this chapter we are told that our justification results in sanctification (Romans 6:19 and Romans 6:22).

Nick said...

(1) I agree Paul spoke in fulfillment of it, but my point was that he 'opposed' the Law (in favor of faith) in that (a) it was abolished in Christ, and (b) it brings wrath, not promise. It wasn't about 'legalism' as much as it was about 'function'. In Gal 3B, Paul says the Law came 450 years after Abraham and "was added" until Christ came. It wasn't so much people were trying to 'work their way into Heaven' as it was about taking Road 2 (the Law, a dead end) over Road 1 (living by faith, saves).

(2) The phrase "dying to sin" sounds like an inner change to me, but I wouldn't say that's a transition from justification to sanctification.
You quote Romans 6:19 ("now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification")
and 6:22 ("you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life"),
but I see it as all the same topic. This isn't saying "justification results in sanctification," but rather we now do acts of righteousness leading to sanctification, and sanctification is what leads to eternal life. He is speaking of an inner righteousness here.

olan strickland said...

Nick, Paul did not oppose the Law! If Paul opposed the Law then the accusation that he preached against the Law would have been true. The problem the Jews had with Paul's Gospel was that they perceived it to be that which "abolished" or "nullified" the Law. It was not! It was that which established the Law (see Romans 3:31).

So your (1a) is in direct contradiction to the Word of God. The Law was not abolished in Christ it was fulfilled in Him and there is a huge difference. Christ Himself said that He didn't come to abolish the Law or the Prophets - but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17). Faith establishes the Law!

Paul deals with the function of the Law in Romans 7 - I have several posts coming soon on that. He deals with the intent of the Law (defining transgressions) and the inability of the Law (it cannot give the power to obey and therefore it cannot justify or sanctify). Deliverance then is found in Jesus Christ alone who fulfilled the Law in its entirety.

Your (2) shows your confusion. Justification does result in sanctification!

Nick said...

Paul 'opposed' the Law in a certain sense, but not in another. Paul believed the Law was "good and holy," but that it was being misused beyond it's intent. That's why Paul warned strongly against Gentiles subjecting themselves to the Law, and even called all his accomplishments under the Law "rubbish" (Phil 3:3-11) when contrasted to the Gospel message.

You are correct, the Jews saw Paul as mangling the Torah and treating it as dirt, when he was doing the opposite. However, that didn't change the fact Paul clearly showed the Mosaic Law was abolished in Christ, the Old Covenant now over with. Deny that, and you deny there is a New Covenant that replaced the Old.

As for (2), I don't see my 'confusion' when I see nothing stating "justification leads to sanctification" in Romans 6.

olan strickland said...

Nick, you just don't get it! I would suggest that you begin at the very beginning of these posts dealing with Romans and read each one up to this point, including the one just posted on Romans 7:1-6. I'll be posting more in this series in the days ahead. Read those also.

But so you don't think that I am avoiding you let me ask you a question: If the Law was "abolished" in Christ then why does Paul say that faith "establishes" the Law in Romans 3:31 and that the Law is fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit in Romans 8:4?

If you get the answer to that right then you will abandon the Roman Catholic heresy that you are holding to for genuine and biblical saving faith. Penal-substitution will be a glorious doctrine of grace and an amazing demonstration of the love of God!

Nick said...

I didn't realize you had a series, I will read them and try to catch up.

You asked me: If the Law was "abolished" in Christ then why does Paul say that faith "establishes" the Law in Romans 3:31 and that the Law is fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit in Romans 8:4?

Because the true understanding of the Law is what is being 'established', the true understanding is that God's plan of salvation was in place (e.g. Abraham) long before the Mosaic Law came around. The Law was abolished (as Paul plainly teaches) in that the Old Covenant is overwith and no longer binding. The Jews today following the Mosaic Law are following an expired code.