Positional Sanctification - Page 1 of 5 (series: Lessons on Romans)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Introduction to Chapter 6

“In Christ unto God.”

Verses 1-11. Being a Christian is a matter of life or death. Persons who do not understand the grace of God argue, “If God is gracious, then we should sin more so we receive more grace.” Those who trust Christ are identified with Him by the Holy Spirit in His death, burial, and resurrection, as pictured in baptism. The old life is buried! We can consider it dead (v. 11) and walk in newness of resurrection life.
Verses 12–22. Being a Christian is a matter of bondage or freedom. Who is your master, Jesus Christ or the old life? You are not under the authority of Moses (v. 15), but that does not mean you have freedom to break God’s moral law (8:1–5). Yield yourself to the Lord; He is the most wonderful Master, and the “salary” He pays lasts forever.
Verse 23. Being a Christian is a matter of rewards or wages. We quote this verse as we witness to the lost, and rightly so; but Paul wrote it originally to believers. Although God forgives the sins of His children, He may not stop the painful consequences of sin. The pleasures of sin are never compensated for by the wages of sin. Sinning is not worth it!

“Alive to God.” The most vivid illustration of Romans 6 is Lazarus (John 11). Jesus raised him from the dead and then said, “Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44). Lazarus left the grave, got rid of the graveclothes, and began a new life (Col. 3:1ff.). God’s people are both “dead” and “alive” (v. 11) and by faith must live accordingly.

Positional Sanctification
Romans 6:1-12

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

What Paul had said at the close of chapter 5—that grace superabounded over all man’s sin—raises another question, and a very important one. Does the teaching of the gospel (salvation by grace through faith) permit or even encourage sinful living? The answer, an emphatic denial, extends over chapters 6–8. Here in chapter 6 the answer centers around three key words: know (vv. 3, 6), reckon or consider (v. 11), and present (v. 13).
It will help us to follow Paul’s argument in this chapter, if we understand the difference between the believer’s position and his practice. His position is his standing in Christ. His practice is what he is or should be in everyday life. Grace puts us into the position, and then teaches us to walk worthy of it. Our position is absolutely perfect because we are in Christ. Our practice should increasingly correspond to our position. It never will correspond perfectly until we see the Savior in heaven, but we should be becoming more and more conformed to His image in the meantime.

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?

What shall we say then? After you experience God’s wonderful salvation, what can you say about it? Our only fitting response is hallelujah!

Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? In every age there have been those who have denounced the doctrine of justification by faith on the incorrect supposition that this doctrine logically leads to sin. Paul had such objectors, but because of his past experience as a Pharisee, Paul was able to anticipate this particular objection of his critics. They asked, “If the gospel of grace teaches that man’s sin provides for an even greater display of God’s grace, then doesn’t it suggest that we should continue in sin that grace may be all the more abundant? Why should he be concerned about his sin or attempt to live a godly life?” A modern version of this argument is as follows: “You say that men are saved by grace through faith, apart from the law. But if all you have to do to be saved is believe, then you could go out and live in sin.” According to this argument, grace is not a sufficient motivation for holy living. You must put people under the restraints of the law. Paul anticipated this very attitude. Theologically, this belief is known as antinomianism. Paul’s answer is crystal clear. Just because where sin abounded grace super-abounded, the believer is not automatically drawn to immorality in his life-style. On the contrary, a mature understanding of justification by faith leads the believer to appreciate God’s grace, so that the end result is obedience to God out of a heart filled with gratitude.
2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Paul’s characteristic expression, “Certainly not” (God forbid in the KJV), shows how appalled he is at the mere suggestion of continuing in sin once we have experienced the grace of God.
We who died to sin refers to a definite occasion in our past, namely, when through faith in Christ we passed from death unto life.

Death to sin liberates a person from sin’s control, it brings him (or her) a new life, and it involves separation from sin and a desire to please God and to stop sinning. By asking this question, Paul makes it obvious that he understood justification to mean a declaration of righteousness; that it did not mean to make a person good, but to declare a person good. Justification means that the guilt and the penalty of sin is removed, not the power of sin in this life. However, we cannot continue in sin, that is, to continue to commit the same sin over and over again, because through our identification with Jesus Christ we are dead to sin. To die unto sin, means that we are dead to the guilt of sin. Sin can no longer make any legal claim on the believer because his sins have been covered by the blood of Christ.

When Jesus died to sin, He died as our Representative. He died not only as our Substitute—that is, for us or in our place—but He also died as our Representative—that is, as us. Therefore, when He died, we died. He died to the whole question of sin, settling it once and for all. All those who are in Christ are seen by God as having died to sin. This does not mean that the believer is sinless. It means that he is identified with Christ in His death, and in all that His death means.

The proper response to God’s grace is gratitude. Such an attitude, which would lead a person to ask, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (v. 1) trifled with God’s grace and reflected a total lack of understanding of the New Birth. When an individual accepts Christ in faith, the sinful desires of the old nature are put to death and the believer receives a new nature through Christ’s resurrected life. God does not need more sins to reveal His grace; He desires more lives to reflect His righteousness and goodness.

Death, whether physical or spiritual, means separation, not extinction. Death to sin is a separation from sin’s power, not the extinction of sin. Being dead to sin means being set free from sin—“And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18).

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