Monday, September 11, 2017

True Faith Yields Holiness

"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:4).

During the Reformation, the great fear of the Roman Catholic Church was that Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone would lead people into gross acts of misconduct. After all, if all we have to do to be saved is believe, then perhaps it does not matter how we live. Not so, said Luther and the other Reformers. They maintained that any authentic justification and any true faith must yield a changed life.

This is Paul’s theme in Romans 6. In this chapter, Paul shifts his attention from justification to sanctification. Justification is God’s legal declaration that our sins are forgiven and we are righteous in His sight. Sanctification describes the process that follows justification, by which our lives are daily changed and brought into conformity with Christ’s righteousness. Paul’s focus in Romans 6 is that true justification leads to sanctification.

In verse 4, Paul argues from analogy. Jesus died; He was buried; He was raised again. Thus, says Paul, our old corrupt lives are dead and buried when we embrace Christ. Just as Christ came out of the tomb with a new power of resurrected life, so also the Christian is to show a new life.

Paul goes on in verse 5 to say, “If we have been united with Him in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.” It is impossible, says Paul, to be identified with Christ’s death without also being identified with His resurrection. Further, says Paul, the whole point of crucifying our old self with Christ was so that we would no longer be slaves to sin (v. 6), but instead would be freed from its power (v. 7). For this reason, we can and must live new and godly lives.

It would be an unwarranted conclusion to think Paul is saying Christians no longer sin. That we are free from the dominion of sin, Paul will make very clear in Romans 7. While Christians still have to fight against indwelling sin, here he insists that the essential domination of sin has been broken. We are exhorted to live as people who are personally assured of the final outcome, as those who have read the book of Revelation. Until Christ returns, however, our lives must grow into increasing conformity with Christ’s.