Defining the Security of the Believer Romans 6-8
The first eight chapters of the book of Romans are a theological treasure trove. Paul’s description of our fall into sin, our desperate need for deliverance, God’s gracious provision in the gospel, and His offer for us to receive that deliverance through faith alone are marvelously presented in chapters 1 through 5. Chapters 6 through 8 continue to expound on these theological gems as the truths of the gospel are applied to the life of the Christian who has experienced the new birth.
In fact, one could sum up the message of Romans 1 through 8 with the following theological terms: condemnation (1:18—3:20), justification (3:21—5:21), sanctification (6:1—8:11), and glorification (8:12-30). While all of this is true and good, the apostle Paul would probably be surprised that we read him in such exclusively theological terms. No doubt he would want us to see that the doctrinal truths of God’s great redemptive plan are not just abstract, theological insights; they are very much related to life. In none of his letters did Paul ever begin a section by writing, “Now I am going to teach you the doctrines of condemnation and justification. After that I will teach you the doctrines of sanctification and glorification.” Paul viewed the entire plan of God as a whole— and he never separated doctrine from life. That is why he began chapter 6, the section of the book of Romans that deals with sanctification, with an intensely practical question: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” (6:1). Paul always developed great doctrinal truths in a practical context related to the lives of his readers. Romans 6 through 8 are no exception. It is here he related the implications of justification by faith from the condemnation of sin to the practical issues of Christian living.
The word sanctification appears five times in the New Testament (1 Cor. 1:30; 1 Th. 4:3-4; 2 Th. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2). It can be defined as the work God does in believers to bring us into increasingly greater conformity to Jesus Christ. In unfolding the truth of this progressive sanctification, Paul affirmed four aspects of the process: the principle of sanctification (6:1-14), the practice of sanctification (6:15—7:6), the preventive of sanctification (7:7-25), and the power of sanctification (8:1-11).
This truth can also be expressed in another way. Our justification (see, Justification of the Sinner) is in the crucified Savior, and our sanctification is in the risen Savior. Justification by faith in Christ is only the beginning of God’s purpose for us. The continuance of that purpose is a life lived according to the power of Christ, who indwells us by His Spirit.
The principle of sanctification (or holiness) consists in the Christian’s identification with Christ in His death and resurrection (6:1-11). Christians practice holiness by submitting to their new relationship with Christ (6:12—7:6). Such submission, however, will not go unchallenged. So Paul warned us concerning the preventive of holiness in 7:7-25: The activity of sin and self within believers produces a struggle; “for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I….For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do” (7:15, 19).
How do we emerge victorious? Through the power of holiness—the unhindered dominion over us by the Holy Spirit (8:1-17). Believers are to “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (8:4).
In Romans 6, Paul based our identification with Christ’s death and resurrection on the relationship between the first and second “Adams” (5:12-21). Our state of nature is one of sin under the headship of Adam. Our state of grace is one of death to sin under the headship of Christ—the second “Adam.”
To illustrate this truth, Paul used the Greek aorist tense eleven times in the verses of chapter 6. The aorist views the action described as a past, accomplished fact. In other words, Paul said that we died to sin (6:2), were “baptized into his death” (6:3), were “buried with him by baptism into death” (6:4), and were “raised up from the dead” with Him (6:4). Our old self was “crucified with him” (6:6); we died with Christ (6:8); Christ was “raised from the dead” (6:9); and “he died unto sin once” (6:10). (All boldface was added for clarification.)
Therefore, just as Christ by an act, died and, by an act, was raised from the dead, so in His death and resurrection, every believer died to sin and rose to “newness of life.” Our old self was crucified when Christ was crucified. The crucifixion of self is not something that we can accomplish; it was accomplished for us at Calvary. W. Graham Scroggie’s book The Unfolding Drama of Redemption provides excellent insights into these chapters and explains that in Romans 1 through 5, we are told that Christ died for us; in chapter 6, we are told that we died with Him.1
Unfortunately, this fact does not mean that there will be no struggle after salvation. The believer’s battle with the old self is described in detail in 7:11-25. This is not, as some teachers allege, the description of a defeated Christian. It is the biography of a man who knew only too well that the Christian life is not “letting go and letting God,” but rather, “fighting the good fight of faith.” And however fierce was his struggle, Paul still concluded on a positive note in describing the outcome of the battle. “I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So, then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh, the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25).
God’s plan for our salvation does not end in this world. It reaches its consummation in the next world. This is the message of the latter part of Romans chapter 8. The focus of Romans 6 is on our past—we were crucified with Christ. The focus of Romans 7 is on our present—we are struggling with sin while we are trusting Christ. The focus of Romans 8 is on our prospect—we will be glorified with Christ. What grace commences here, glory will consummate there.
Another way of stating the nature of our great salvation is to express it in three tenses. Through justification, we were saved from the penalty for sin. Through sanctification, we are being saved from the power of sin. In glorification, we will be saved from the very presence of sin. Simply defined, glorification is when we will be completely like Jesus, because sin will be forever removed from us in our glorified bodies, which we will receive at the resurrection.
Paul expounded the promise of glorification in 8:12-17; the explanation of glorification in 8:18-27; and the certainty of glorification in 8:28-30. He then concluded this marvelous chapter with a paean of triumphal praise that is without parallel elsewhere in God’s word (8:31-39). His entire argument can be summed up with a simple question and answer: What can separate us from the love of Christ? Absolutely nothing!
If the Bible were a ring and Romans its precious stone, chapter 8 would be the sparkling point of the jewel. One of the most precious promises in Romans 8 is the familiar words of 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” This wonderful verse has supplied inestimable comfort to God’s people during trials and difficulties. We sometimes neglect to understand why we know that all things are for our good. Paul, however, did not want us to miss this valuable point. He told us clearly:
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified (8:29-30).
These two verses describe unbreakable chain that guarantees God will finish the work He began in us (cf. Phil. 1:6). Notice the chain of salvation events: Those (1) whom God lovingly knew in ages past, He (2) marked out ahead of time and (3) called by His word and Spirit. Those He also (4) justified by faith and (5) glorified, making them like Him. So unbreakable is the chain that the last link is viewed as an accomplished fact (aorist past tense) because the first links are just that. He will bring to the final stage of salvation all those on whom He had set His heart before the world began. Thus we can be confident that even the hard experiences of life are part of a process designed by a loving Father; and, ultimately, they will always be for our good.
The chapter that begins with “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” ends with no separation “from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom. 8:1, 39). Our eternal home is secure because of these seven facts concerning our standing in Christ:
- There is no condemnation for those in Christ (8:1-4).
- The Spirit has regenerated, is sanctifying, and will resurrect those in Christ (8:5-11).
- Those in Christ are now the children of God and fellow heirs with Him (8:12-17).
- They are sustained through their afflictions by hope and the help of the Holy Spirit (8:18-28).
- They have been predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (8:29-30).
- God is for them. He gave His Son to die for them. Therefore, who is to condemn them? (8:31-34).
- Nothing can separate them from the infinite and unchangeable love of God in Christ Jesus (8:35-39).
How could anyone doubt the truth of the absolute eternal security of the believer in light of Romans chapter 8! “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (8:31).