Setting the Stage for Change - Romans 6-7

In order to adequately grasp the teaching of Romans 6-7 we must first understand their place in the larger argument of the book. The Apostle Paul’s great passion in the opening five chapters of Romans is to establish that God has placed certain rebellious and undeserving humans into a new and special relationship with himself wherein they are shielded forever from his awful wrath. This astonishing feat is accomplished by means of Christ’s cross and encompasses personal faith. In fact, the overarching theme of the entire book is the gospel with a targeted emphasis on justification by faith. Let’s see how this plays out.

1. The human condition is so desperate that only the power of the gospel can produce deliverance. 1:16-17.

2. All men understand by creation and conscience that there is a God to whom they must give an account. 1:18-21; 2:15-16.

3. There are no exceptions to the rule that all men stand under the curse of the holy God and can not remedy their situation by doing good works or anything else.  3:9-11, 19-20.

4. Our only hope is justification by faith alone. 3:21-28. 

And in fact that is precisely how God has solved our dilemma. Here is what we know. He who has faith in the cross of Christ has been legally declared righteous by God even though he is not. Abraham is an historical example of this 4:3. So this is true for all who believe 4:23-25.

5. All those who have been justified are at peace with God and exempt from his eternal wrath. 5:9.

6. Every person participates in the sin of Adam and some also participate in the righteousness of Christ. 5:18-19. This huge principle, called the representative principle, is basic to everything in chapters 5-8..

7. Grace flows abundantly to those sinners who participate in the righteousness of Christ. Grace is everything! 5: 20-21.

What we have then is a great statement regarding the believer’s status with God – he has been and is presently declared righteous. Paul labors to drive this point home. We must not miss this.

However, one reality is clearly evident - in spite of this justification believers still openly and stubbornly rebel against God. We all know this! So, here is the operating assumption: When we are justified we do not become sinless. We still live as sinners in a sinful world. Even though we have been “set apart” to God (the basic meaning of the word sanctify), we still struggle with pleasing self rather than pleasing God. None-the-less, the process of maturing in Christ begins at justification.

So the concept of sanctification recognizes the difference between our standing before God and our state in the world.  They are not the same. Thus sanctification is all about CHANGE. Growing in Christ is all about change. Maturing spiritually is all about changing. Romans 6-7 is about change. The tension in Romans 6-7 is driven by this difference between our position and practice. This is vividly framed by the contrast between the indicative and the imperative. 

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.