Right With God Right Now (Romans Commentary)
Sanctification is the fruit of justification. So you could call sanctification a reflected brightness or color. Sanctification is a derivative of justification. God gives his gifts with both hands. He does not justify anyone he does not sanctify. You cannot accept the death of Christ without accepting his risen life. The first look at the cross is, "He died for me." The second look is, "I died with him." "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20 NIV)
Romans p. 15
Never think of justification as something that happens solely at the beginning of the Christian life, as
though, once you are justified, you then roll up your sleeves and say, "We'd better get on with this business
of sanctification or we will lose our justification." No! No! Justification is over you all the time, like the
sun. Like the pillar of cloud in the desert that sheltered
Israel from the
Justification and sanctification are like two railroad lines that run side by side all the way, all the days of
your life. They may look as though they merge and join on the horizon. The fact is they run parallel, side by side, all the way. In other words, every minute of your standing before God does not depend on how you are doing, but on how Christ has done. That is the good news of the gospel. Romans p.19
So, it is very important to distinguish but not separate these two things: justification and sanctification. One adheres on the outside, the other inheres on the inside. One is based on what Christ did for me. The other is based on what Christ does in me. The first is perfect, complete and one hundred percent. The second is not, because God is doing it in me, and that is miserable terrain to work in. Ibid. p.20
In Paul's discussion on acceptance and in his discussion on justification, "righteousness" and "faith," "just" and "faith," are linked together thirteen times in thirteen verses. They are never so linked in his discussion on sanctification. It is so important to understand that sanctification, or being made righteous, is the fruit of the gospel. It is not the gospel. It is the result of the gospel. Ibid. p.29
Distinguish but do not separate, otherwise, you will not be able to see the glory of Christ in his finished work on the cross. This work was for us, and gives us a perfect standing with God in a moment. That is justification. The fruit of justification, of being declared righteous in Christ, is the coming of the Holy Spirit into your life. This is sanctification, which always follows justification. Ibid. p.29
Sanctification only begins our being made like our Lord Jesus Christ. It is never complete in this life. There is no perfect Christian, even if he or she has been a Christian for a hundred years and trying to be just like the Master. The nearer we come to Christ, the more we confess our unlikeness to Christ. Inherent perfection is fully accomplished only by the change of glorification when Christ returns.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). Thevery best people on earth can only offer litanies of guilt continuously. At the same time, because of the gospel, they can shout, "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (see Romans 8:1). Ibid. p. 29
Sanctification is always the fruit of the gospel. It is not part of righteousness by faith. It is the result of it. The "righteousness of faith" (which, according to Martin Luther, is the article of a standing or failing church) is justification by faith. Ibid. p.31
Come with me now, please, to chapter 4 of Romans. This chapter is an expansion on how we are restored to God. Christ has done the necessary work, but we must believe. You see, there is "Christ for us" and there is "Christ in us." We appropriate Christ for us by faith alone. When we do that, the Holy Spirit comes into our heart. Then sanctification begins.
The moment you believe, the Spirit comes in. That is because you are declared righteous enough—in Christ —to receive the Holy Spirit. (There is no other way sinners can be holy enough.) Now God is for you, not against you. Now you can say, "I am never left alone. I need never feel inadequate."
Jesus said, "I will come to you" (John 14:18 NIV). The coming of the Holy Spirit is the coming of Christ. Any religion that elevates the Spirit above the Son is not a Christian religion. It has Christians in it, but it is not a Christian religion. That is because the Spirit does not speak of himself (John 16:13).
It is a mistake to have a religion speak all the time about the Spirit over and above the Son. The Spirit is very important, but Jesus said, "He will not speak of himself. He will witness to me. I send him to you." The coming of the Spirit into our life is the coming of Christ, and that is the beginning of sanctification. Ibid. p. 40
Chapter 4 [of Romans] tells us how sanctification begins to work. Sanctification begins when we receive the Holy Spirit. But we cannot receive the Holy Spirit until we are holy. The only way we sinners are counted sufficiently holy to receive the Holy Spirit is through having Christ's perfect righteousness imputed and reckoned to us. We can say then that sanctification begins with justification. In fact, it cannot begin until we are first justified.
Please do not confuse what I am saying with the idea that justification merely begins the Christian life or that we do not need justification once we are sanctified enough. This would imply that we sinners could somehow become so skillful at holy living in this world that God would accept us for what we are—not what we are counted in Christ! We need justification all the time, every step of the way, like a rainbow arching over our whole life span. However, justification does begin sanctification. There is no other way to receive the Holy Spirit, the Agent of sanctification, except by being declared as holy as Jesus through faith in the Savior. Ibid. p.40
"We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2). Paul jumps from justification—being justified by faith—to the hope of glorification. When we are transformed and we receive a new, spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44), we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. He does not even mention sanctification. Sanctification is an inevitable and essential part of Christian experience, and a wonderful part.
But Paul says (paraphrase): "if you have begun and you are looking unto Jesus, well, that is it! All I can see is you in Christ now and you in Christ then. Already I see you at the end and completion of your journey with Christ, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God." For Paul, everything is so certain in Christ, that when we are justified by faith, why, that is the same as already being in glory. Ibid. p.49
Our first look at the cross is, "He died for me." Our second look is, "I died with him." He died for me, that is justification. I died with him, that is what brings sanctification.
We all have loads of besetting sins. If you do not think you have, ask your spouse! Your spouse will tell you all about them. We all have besetting sins. To recognize them is step number one. And Romans 6:11 helps us recognize the reality. "Count yourselves dead to sin." It is telling us that in ourselves we are still very much alive to sin— we have many besetting sins. In Christ, we are to count ourselves as though we do not. P. 64
Quoting John Calvin: “Likewise, by the word grace, we understand both parts of redemption, that is, the forgiveness of sins, by which God imputes righteousness to us, and the sanctification of the spirit, by whom he forms us anew to good works .... The apostle is desirous of accompanying us and preventing us from growing weary in striving to do what is right, because we still feel many imperfections in ourselves.
However much the stings of sin may torment us, they cannot subdue us, for we are enabled to
conquer them by the Spirit of God. Since we are under grace, too, we are freed from the strict
demands of the law. We are to understand here, moreover, that the apostle takes it for granted that
all those who are without the grace of God are bound by the yoke of the law, and held under its
condemnation. So, on the other hand, we may argue that as long as men are under the law, they are
subject to the dominion of sin. ( Romans, pp. 130-131) Ibid. p.71
Paul, by this summary in verse 14 of the first section of Chapter 6, has answered the charge of
antinomianism and shown clearly that sanctification is implicit in the inevitable consequences of
Sanctification—a Growth in Love
Having said all that in chapter 5, Paul wants to tell us: "Listen! This is what will happen in your life as a result. These are the changes that will come." This is what we call sanctification. We are not saved by sanctification, but no person is saved without it, because God always gives his gifts with both hands. He justifies no one that he does not sanctify.
What is sanctification? Is it doing great things? No. Sanctification is a growth in faith, hope, love,
prayerfulness, and praise. Sanctification is the flowering and maturing of the fruit of the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and selfcontrol. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV) All the fruits in this list are simply various forms of love. Joy is love in ecstasy. Temperance is love holding the reins. Patience is love under the burden. They are all forms of love.
Sanctification is growth in love. Remember, love is not a passion. The love the Bible talks about is not an emotion. It results in emotion, but it is not an emotion. It is not some emotional high—Hollywood version. It is a principle of unselfish living, whereby we want
the best for all men and all women. That is true love.
The Principle of Sanctification
In this section of chapter 6 and 7 on sanctification, there are three sections on sanctification.
The first section contains the principle of sanctification. We noticed in the first dozen or so verses of
Chapter 6 that Paul says (and I paraphrase), "When you see that you died on
Calvary, sin loses its power." The
principle of sanctification is identification with Christ in his death. You
must reckon that you are dead.
Whether it is pride, or impurity, or selfishness, or tobacco, or alcohol, or sheer meanness, you have to
reckon that you are identified with Christ in his death, and that the old way of life is over. It is so if you believe it. That is the key factor.
Your old nature was brought to nothing by the decree of God when he saw you in your Representative, Christ. When you understand that, sin will no longer have a claim on you. It will try to, but you can say, "You have no claim on me. I am dead."
A young woman was asked to go to a questionable dancing party. She refused. "This institution is under new government," she said. That is true of all Christians. We are under new government.
Now you understand the importance of Romans 8:5. "Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Whatever you set your mind on, ultimately controls you. That is the principle of sanctification.
The Practice of Sanctification
Paul then talks about the practice of sanctification. He likens the practice of sanctification to a subject serving a king, a servant working for a master, and a wife caring for her husband. Paul climaxes the practice of holiness in sanctification by saying (and I paraphrase), "Look, when you are united with Jesus in his death, when you are one with him in your life, then the fruit of holiness appears spontaneously. It cannot be otherwise."
You all know the many jokes made about human love. The man courting his sweetheart says, "I will climb the highest mountain. I will swim the widest ocean." Then we usually have a few lines on the other side about his being too lazy to drive to her house and pick her up. These stories show that humanity is not as good as it sounds. But the principle is right: Love leads you to lavish everything on your beloved. You cannot be captured by the love of Christ and be unresponsive to that love. When we are married to Christ, we bring forth the fruit of holiness.
The Preventive of Sanctification
Paul's third section on sanctification is the preventive of holiness. Here we come to the obstacle, the
barrier. I always think of a great man called George Romaines, who said, "Blessed be God for the seventh of Romans." I have echoed that same beatitude many times—and you will too as we begin our next study. This whole seventh chapter tells us that the law is as helpless to sanctify us as it is to justify us. It is Jesus we need: First, Last, and Always! Ibid pp. 73,74
I want you to see the picture Paul is painting with words. (And we need to remember this is still in the section on sanctification.) Here is a person who delights in the law of God. This person's will is always in harmony with the will of God. This person speaks using the present tense, first person. Yet still, after years of being an experienced and mature Christian, he struggles with sinful human nature. That is because sin remains, though it does not reign.
Surely Paul is painting a picture of himself—now! That is why our peace is ever, only, always, found in the imputed righteousness of Christ. As sinful beggars we can accept and take that righteousness only with empty hands!
For the righteousness of justification is one hundred percent—but not inside us. The righteousness of
sanctification is inside us—but not one hundred percent. At glorification, and then only, will righteousness
be one hundred percent and inside us! Ibid. p.79
I feel sad for people who think that justification happens only at the beginning of the Christian life to get us
started—but after that it is all sanctification. The idea that God does a mighty work for you and forgives you at the start, but then—you had better not make any more mistakes or you will be done in. That is not the teaching of the Bible. We stand in justification, according to Romans 5:1:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus
Christ; through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we
rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NIV, emphasis supplied) Being justified by faith, we stand; we have access. In other words, justification is over us all the time, until we die, until Jesus comes.Ibid. p.94
God always gives his gifts with both hands. There is no such thing as justification without sanctification, or
true sanctification without justification. Now, this is important: The evidence to the world and to the universe that you have been justified—though not to God because he knows your heart already—is whether you are sanctified. Now, "sanctified" does not mean perfect. Thank God for that. "Sanctified" means that you are aware you have been set apart for God.
Remember the prince who went to public school. The other boys tried to lead him into all kinds of
mischief, but he always said, "No, I cannot do that. I am a prince, of royal blood." That is what the
Christian life is. "I belong to God. I am separated from the world, to God. I cannot do the things I once did. I belong to a holy God.” Ibid.97
Justification and Sanctification
The righteousness of faith is mine in a moment—by a look of trust to Jesus.
Having given me the righteousness of faith because of his work for me, Christ now begins a work in me. God does not forgive the rebel and let the rebel still carry a gun. God cannot declare the leper clean and then let him die in his degradation. So, having declared me righteous (which is what "justify" means), God sets about making me righteous.
Here is where most of us Christians err—we keep looking at our progress. And if we are honest, there is not a lot to see. Other people may see more than we do, but other people do not know our hearts.
Justification depends on what Christ did for me, and that is a perfect, one hundred percent righteousness. It is mine by faith. Sanctification is what Christ does in me by the Holy Spirit.
Sanctification and Glorification
About the first righteousness, Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30 KJV). The second righteousness is never finished in this life. If I live to be as old as Methuselah, the Holy Spirit and the angels will still be wringing their hands, saying, "Oh dear, we are still having a lot of trouble with Des. We have been trying for a thousand years, and look at him!" Sanctification is never complete in this life.
Sanctification is completed in what we call Glorification. At the second coming of Christ, every cell of body and mind is changed and transformed in the twinkling of an eye (see 1 Corinthians 15:52) and all the impact of sin in our lives is taken away.
You see, we are the product of everything we have ever seen, everything we have ever heard, everything we have ever read, everything we have ever done, everything that has been done to us—we are the product of all that. And we do not get rid of those scars until the Second Advent.
Never Trust Sanctification
It is because of those scars, and because sin brings incapacity as well as guilt, that I can never depend on my sanctification. I have already squandered part of the talent given to me at birth by my years outside of Christ. The devil would direct our attention to navel-watching. The devil directs our attention at ourselves. "How am I doing?" we ask.
The answer, if you are honest, is, "Pathetic." Pathetic compared with what we should be doing. The law can be summed up in one word: Love. Love God wholly, love your neighbor as much as yourself. How do we stand on that? Not very well. What sort of a steward am I of moments, of money, of talent, of opportunity? I try to be a good steward, but in God's sight I have more failures than successes. Even my best is still not good enough. Ibid. pp. 146, 147
Faith and Striving
Does not it take faith to be sanctified? Yes. Then why are they never linked? Because faith linked with justification is always faith alone. And we cannot be sanctified by faith alone.
The New Testament uses twenty-seven verbs that have to do with effort, such as "fight", "struggle", "run." Sanctification takes effort. There is no such thing as an undisciplined, mature Christian. It takes a lot of discipline to walk the path of sanctification. A lot of saying "No" to self.
Paul writes, "I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I
myself should become disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:27 NKJV). We must fight the good fight of faith
(1 Timothy 6:12). We must run the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1). We must strive to enter
through the narrow gate (Luke 13:24).
Justification by faith alone—that is just receiving a gift. Now we have eternal life. God has made. That is why the New Testament never joins sanctification with faith in the same breath. It is important to understand that. Romans p.148
Kaleidoscope of Diamonds, vols. 1,2
The Scriptures declare, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1, RSV). We are not under the law as a means of salvation, and the knowledge of such marvelous grace delivers us from the dominion of sin (Romans 3:20; 6:14). The fruit of our new relationship with God must ever be distinguished from its root. We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone. We are not saved by a mixture of faith and works, but by that true faith which inevitably works. God justifies no man whom he does not proceed to sanctify.
I would not work my soul to save,
For that the Lord hath done.
But I would work like any slave
For love of God's dear Son. Kaleidoscope of Diamonds vol.1, p 64
Quoting W. H. Griffith Thomas:
“Justification is also different from making righteous, which ... is Sanctification. The two are always inseparable in fact, but they are assuredly distinguishable in thought, and must ever be distinguished if we would have peace and blessing. Justification concerns our standing, Sanctification our state. The former affects our position, the latter our condition. The first deals with judicial relationship, the second with spiritual fellowship. We must ever remember that they are bestowed together, that is, a complete Justification and a commencing Sanctification; "where the righteousness of Christ adheres, the grace of Christ inheres", where the one is imputed, the other is imparted; where the one is reckoned, the other is received. But they must never be confused. The first is the foundation of our peace – "Christ for us." The second is the basis of our purity – "Christ in us." Justification is concerned with acceptance; Sanctification with attainment. Sanctification admits of degrees; we may be more or less sanctified. Justification has no degrees, but is complete, perfect, final – "Justified from all things" (Acts 13:39).1
In this petition we find the clue to our primary need. Noble ideals and lofty resolutions are powerless unless the sin question is settled. Forgiveness is the door into the "
of the Christian life. As glasses are of no value if we are blind, or shoes if
we are para-lyzed, so only when sin's guilt is removed is the power of sin also
broken (Rom 6:14). Sin ceases to have dominion over us when our hearts are
broken by the forgiving grace of God. Heaven's mercy is a healing mercy,
and justification (being declared righteous) is always accompanied by the
beginning of sanctification (righteous living). Ibid. p.-34 Temple Beautiful
The Cross and the Law
Theology has always found its touchstone in the manner it relates grace and law, God's part and ours, faith and works, justification and sanctification. All true theology has learned to distinguish without separating those things that God has joined together from the beginning. Unless a Christian learns to distinguish justification from sanctification, he may lose his assurance because of his weaknesses and failures. He dare not look to his sanctification as evidence that he is right with God. But if a Christian, on the other hand, separates rather than distinguishes law from grace, he may become an antinomian and disgrace his Lord.
When the reformers asserted that only those who rightly related law and gospel were true teachers of the latter, they were in every sense correct. This principle of distinction, but not separation, applies not only to the manner of describing the nature and work of the members of the Trinity and the various biblical covenants, but also to the elements of soteriology. Ibid. p. 42
Sometimes we talk about the objective and subjective sides of Christianity. Objectively Christ is all, but subjectively faith is all. Objectively all was done for me by Christ on the cross, subjectively all is done in me by the Holy Spirit. Justification is the objective reality appropriated, but sanctification is a continuous subjective experience as God works in me to will and to do that which is right. Ibid. p.56
Calvary, A Love Story
Notice that blood and water flowed from Jesus’ side. Usually, blood becomes thick and will not flow from a dead body, but it flowed miraculously from Jesus’ side. To John, and to Christians ever after, the streams of blood and water represent the two great blessings of salvation: Jesus’ power to ‘justify’ (make right with God) and to ‘sanctify’ (help us to live according to God’s will)
A Love Story p56
Here is the Answer
God’s gifts to the unworthy are without comparison or competitor: God is offering us forgiveness. That’s what true religion is about. Romans 4:8 says: As far as the east is from the west he removes our sins from us. This is called justification, which means the bestowal of a perfect status despite our very imperfect state.
After justification begins the path of sanctification, our ever-increasing likeness to Christ. One day there will be glorification, when our evil nature is fully removed at the return of Christ.
The righteousness of justification is 100%, but it is not inside us. It is in Christ. The righteousness of sanctification is inside us but it is never 100%. The righteousness of glorification will be both 100% and within us. That is the glorious gospel. Here is the Answer pp.21, 22
To get into heaven, we need to be justified by God. The righteousness of justification, which Jesus wants to credit to us as a free gift, is 100 per cent. The righteousness of sanctification, which is the result of our good works, is never 100 per cent. Because we need 100 per cent righteousness to get eternal life, we must accept, by faith, the free gift of God’s righteousness from Jesus. Those who put their faith in their own righteousness will miss out because anything less that 100 per cent is a fail mark. It’s not a matter of what we have, but who we have. Jesus Only p 22
When Jesus comes into our hearts with his perfect righteousness, he will endeavour to live his life through us, making us more and more righteous every day. This righteousness won’t save us, but it shows that we have been saved. We don’t have to be good to be saved, but we do have to be saved to be good. The Lord’s Supper teaches us that Christ’s crucifixion was not a tragedy, rather it was God’s way of saving the world. The broken bread pointed to Jesus’ body that would be broken for us on the Cross, and the wine pointed to his blood that he would shed for us on the Cross. To accept the bread and wine is to signify our acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus for us. Jesus Only, p.22
Jesus’ blood represented our justification; it is the blood of Jesus that makes us right with God (1 John 1:7). The water, on the other hand, represents our sanctification by the Spirit of Jesus living in us; he cleanses us by washing us with the water of his word (Ephesians 5:25).
Justification is the work of a moment. The instant we put our faith in Jesus, we are made right with God (Romans 3:21–24, 28). That very instant, we receive the gift of eternal life (John 5:24). Also, at that same moment, the righteousness of God is credited to our accounts (2 Corinthians 5:21). Like the lost son who had lived a sinful life, but repented and returned home, so the Lord accepts us repentant sinners back into his family and puts his own pure robe on our shoulders (Luke 15:11–24). We don’t have to earn our place in God’s family; it is given to us as a free gift.
All who are justified are given 100 per cent righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). But that righteousness is not inside us; it is in Jesus. If we have Jesus, we have God’s free gift of perfect righteousness.
Sanctification—what the Spirit of God does in us—is never 100 per cent. And it never will be 100 per cent until we are given new spiritual bodies in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:42–44). Because our sanctification in this life will always fall short of what is required for eternal life, we cannot put our faith in what we ourselves do. The faith that gives us eternal life is faith that is in Jesus and his free gift of 100 per cent righteousness. Jesus Only, p. 85
When I accept Jesus by faith, he comes into my life with his gift of salvation. If I have Jesus, I have eternal life (1 John 5:11–12). And the life that he lives within me, after I have been saved, is called sanctification (Philippians 2:13). However, I am only saved by what he did for me on the Cross two thousand years ago and not by what he is doing within me today. What he did for me on the Cross is 100 per cent; what he is doing within me is never 100 per cent in this life because of the damage that sin has done to our minds. Ibid. p 86