Paul develops the terms of sanctification or our being made right toward God by building on Old Covenant principles that the New Covenant has now replaced. This development covers Romans 5:12-8:39.
Central to Paul’s theme in Romans is the concept of sanctification. The work of the Holy Spirit changes the effects of sanctification in the Christian’s life. Sanctification is how our lives and souls are affected by the Spirit. In his pastoral epistles, the apostle Paul details how sanctification shapes and changes our beliefs, words, and deeds, as it also removes the characteristics of sin from our lives.
In Titus 2:11, Paul outlines how grace has the working power in the believer’s life that corrects us in how we ought and ought not to live. As we grow spiritually, we should expect God’s sanctification through the Holy Spirit to play an increasingly positive role in our development as Christian citizens. The individual also has a responsibility to increase the effects of purification in their prayer and service to God’s moral laws. Sanctification comes to us by God’s grace, but improves us only with our intentional devotion. Sanctification requires us to separate from evil and to receive God’s holiness.
Paul rightly states that we are all guilty sinners since we bear the sin of Adam (Rom 5:12-14), and our continued sin, which we cannot control, also makes us sinners. We bear responsibility for our sins.
Since Christ has brought an intervention and saved us from sin, how should we view our status in sin? Paul asks, “Shall we go on sinning?” (Rom 6:1). Since our sins are already forgiven, should we increase grace this way? Certainly not, as this goes to prove the sufficiency of God, who does not need or appreciate any effort through sin to increase his grace on the world. Our primary status in sin remains, for which we must follow Christ to free us. Our purpose is to be sanctified by God.
Paul explained why this was not possible; Christians have now died to sin (at salvation)! How can we live in sin if we have died to it? Paul develops this argument by emphasizing life through the Holy Spirit, which gives the believer sanctification since it has set us free from sin (Rom 6:22). Our new status under Christ makes us slaves to freedom and justification instead of evil. Our new status also is not under any limitation such as death, “since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him (6:9).” So Paul explains we are all now dead to sin but alive in Christ, and since we now share his victory, we have also conquered death. In addition, “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:39)
The basis or foundation of our sanctification is the justification that the Holy Spirit offers to us. The first we hear from Paul in Romans on the Spirit is in 5:1-11. Since we have been justified through faith, allowing God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. The author Joseph Fitzmyer offers this perspective on the complete basis from the message of Romans 5:1-11, “The emphasis is on God’s love, on Christ Jesus as the mediator of that love, and on the reconciliation produced by that love. We single three effects out: justification, salvation, and reconciliation.“
Paul has referred to the Holy Spirit, albeit indirectly previously in Romans 1:4 and Romans 5, to expand on the theme. Once humans have this knowledge and presence of the Spirit, they are no longer disturbed by the anxieties and upsets of daily life. When the Spirit provides us with peace, it is also a message of our sanctification.
To summarize, our sanctification is the product of our justification, as given to us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ has sacrificed himself to bring the Spirit that gives life, freeing us from sin and death (Rom 8:1-2). Justification is for us to be made right by the love of Jesus. Sanctification lives in us as the ongoing process of the Spirit’s continuing effort of our lifelong process of spiritual improvement.
How humans take part in their sanctification is a combination of grace and faith. Through their acceptance of Christ as the messiah, the faithful please God by accepting his reach to our souls. By obeying God and the written laws and those written on our hearts, we experience God’s grace. No act of ours can grant us this grace. Only God’s love can give it. This grace is made possible by the second man, Christ (1 Cor 15:47)
The means to receive God’s sanctification is to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in fear of God. (2 Cor 7:1).” Since sanctification is the process, by which we grow in Christ, we must always take a personal inventory to discern sin within us and remove it accordingly. We find genuine sanctification in our realization of our justification given to us by grace.
In Romans 6:15, Paul tells his early Christian audience how we become sanctified through grace and spirit. By obeying God and becoming slaves to righteousness. Since those who are saved are reborn in Christ, they have died to sin and the law. In Romans 6:22, Jewett offers this summary, “The result of this new status that resulted from the believer’s response to the gospel is that ‘you have your fruit resulting in sanctification.‘” In the accomplishment of the means, God shows once again his love and divine plan for re-establishing his relationship with every believing individual. Christ’s sacrifice in our stead offers the solution to be justified in God’s sight and to live a sanctified life. A life that grows in Christ as we grow along with it.
Grant Osbourne gives an excellent summary of Paul’s means in the book of Romans, “The effects of Adam’s sin have been reversed for those who have experienced salvation; the universal consequences of the cross. overcome the universal consequences of the Fall”
According to Romans 6:17, all believers are sanctified when they become slaves to righteousness. This righteousness is obedience to God by the acceptance of the teaching of Jesus. Sanctification refers to separation; in this case, we are set aside for God’s kingdom in separating our old lives for new ones. This process is manifold in first bringing us to righteousness and justification by redeeming us of sin. Once we repent, we are set aside from the world by God through Christ’s sacrifice, and we stand before God saved.
There are two distinct parts of our sanctification, and the first is positional sanctification as we are chosen to be set aside for continued use by God. At this point no inward change has taken place. It’s crucial to note that not all believers will abide by positional sanctification as this mainly reflects a belief in the reformed church.
The second phase of sanctification is dispositional, in which we are made to change inwardly where our old selves die to the ways of Adam and the law. Our new life in Christ begins. The process of dispositional sanctification continues throughout our lives. In our prayer and efforts to live like Christ, we grow into a more holy natural state. After the second phase, we have satisfied the law not by the fulfillment of its details but by living according to the Holy Spirit.
Once we are sanctified, we continue to stand with Christ in God’s sight until we reach the point of glorification. As W. Sanday offers, “The Law of Moses could not get rid of sin. The weak place in its action was that our poor human nature was constantly tempted and fell.
The overall narrative of Romans is for God to re-establish his relationship with humanity. This relationship finds its basis as liberty from the law and sin. Paul wants to communicate to the church that by believing in Jesus, we are justified then sanctified. Just as we receive our baptism from Christ in a new life, we are also baptized by his death (Rom 6:3).
Previously, believers had been dead in sin; now, they are dead to sin. Leon Morris opines that “There is, of course, a sense in which Christians die to sin every day; they constantly commit themselves to God and become dead to all evil.” There is also an eschatological sense; sin will be over; believers will be raised to live without sin in God’s presence.
Our liberty from sin and death is conditional. To be free from the death of Adam’s sin and by dying with Christ, we must be slaves to God. God’s slavery is a metaphor for our continuing faith and obedience. Faith in Christ and moral obedience to God’s moral commands influence our hearts via the Holy Spirit.
The author F. Bruce offers a perspective on Moses as an inaugurated age between Adam and Christ. Paul doesn’t consider the law of Moses as having a permanent significance in the history of redemption. The law of Moses is given as a quick guide to hold the people of Israel accountable until Christ’s arrival.
Death in Romans is “to set the mind on the flesh” (Rom 8:6). In the body and we find temptations to sin only the end. To live in Christ in the spirit is to live eternally in communion with God. It is crucial to note that this death is not a mere mortal death of the flesh, but an ultimate death of the believer’s spirit.
Despite the afflictions of sin and the death of the physical body, Paul offers the eschatological point of the glory to come. Our condition in sin is only temporary when compared to eternal life. The book of Romans encourages the church in Rome to see God’s overall plan in sending his son to defeat the limitations of the flesh. We are set apart from the outside world when we are sanctified. We are separate from the world’s fallen nature and humanity in our new nature of possessing inward sanctification.
We are to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Pet 2-9).
We can find assurance in the promise of liberation from death in the words of Christ and the Holy Spirit that lives in us. The Bible is the story of God and his divine plan to live in love and communion with his creation. As creatures, we share some divine attributes, including our sense of morality and our need to seek God. Through Jesus the son who is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), we receive the person of the Holy Spirit, which gives us the pathway to commune with the almighty.
Scripture goes further to provide a guarantee for God’s promise. “For through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of Life has set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:2). W Hendrickson observes that “How wonderful is the Word of God! I cannot lead a sinless life, yet I am a free person. Satan cannot stop me from invoking God in prayer or trusting in him for my salvation.” The words of scripture define what it means to be Christian. The Christian God is personal, trinary, and eternally loving. God is always showing believers the magnificence of his constancy. A constancy observed at the price of God’s only son.
By living in faith, we grow in our development and receipt of sanctification. Our lives, when lived well, bring glory to God, which manifests through our good actions. The Christian finds assurance through lifelong freedom from the original burden of sin, and a life lived, giving all glory to God.
Bruce, F. F. Romans: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 6. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985.
Caneday, Ardel. B. “Already Reigning in Life through One Man: Recovery of Adam’s Abandoned Dominion (Romans 5:12–21).” In Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo, edited by Matthew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smith, 27–43. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.
Dominion (Romans 5:12–21).” In Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo, edited by Matthew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smith, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 27-43
Fitzmyer, Joseph A., S.J. Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 33. Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008.
Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Vol. 12–13. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001.
Jewett, Robert, and Roy David Kotansky. Romans: A Commentary. Edited by Eldon Jay Epp. Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006.
Morris, Leon The Epistle to the Romans, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 245
Osborne, Grant R. Romans. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Sanday, W., and Arthur C. Headlam. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of the Romans. 3d ed. International Critical Commentary. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1897.
Witmer, John A. “Romans.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.
 Caneday, Ardel. B. “Already Reigning in Life through One Man: Recovery of Adam’s Abandoned Dominion (Romans 5:12–21).” In Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo, edited by Matthew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smith, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 27-43