Read Romans 6:15-23
Romans 6:15-23 answers a very common objection to Christianity. Maybe you’ve had this same question about God’s grace: Now that God has saved me by His grace, freeing me from the eternal consequences of my sin, why should I stop sinning and obey God? Won’t God just save me and I can do whatever I want?
To answer this question, Paul uses slavery as an analogy to illustrate the reality of our human condition—that every human is either a slave to sin or a slave to God. There is no middle ground; we are going to serve one or the other. When we were slaves to sin (and we all were at one point according to Romans 3:23), we earned the “fruit” (v.21) or the “wages” (v.23) of our actions—death. But when we are made slaves to God, we receive eternal life, not by earning it, but as a free gift! (v.17, 23)
Paul ends verse 19 with a command: “present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” While our status with God has been changed from enemies of God to children of God through justification, our allegiance has been transferred from an allegiance to sin to an allegiance to God. This is the beginning of a process called sanctification. Wayne Grudem defines it this way, “Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.” Sanctification is unlike justification in two key ways: First, it is “progressive”, which means, unlike our justification, it doesn’t happen all at once when we become a Christian. It happens slowly over time, and we will never fully attain complete sanctification until heaven. Second, it is also unlike our justification because it is the work of both “God and man”, while justification is done by God alone.
Sanctification’s aim is that each Christian would continually grow in love and devotion to the Lord. Obedience to the Lord is borne out of that love. But the origin of the love we have for the Lord can only come from God, who by His mercy has rescued us from our devotion to sin. Every day, we can praise God because He has claimed us as His own children, devoted us for His purposes, and empowered us by the Holy Spirit to live for Him.
Questions for study and discussion:
1) Have you ever wondered why you should be obedient to God if you’re saved by grace? In your own words, explain Paul’s answer to this question from Romans 6:15-23.
2) At conversion, we are justified (declared righteous), but we also begin the sanctification process (being made righteous). However, our progress in sanctification cannot affect our justification (our status of righteousness before God). What dangers or heresies arise when we confuse or blend together justification and sanctification?
3) According to Wayne Grudem, our sanctification is “progressive”. What growth have you seen in your love and devotion to God since you’ve become a Christian?
4) Pray. Spend some time in prayer asking the Lord for help in taking another step in your growth toward Christ-likeness.