10. An End to the Reign of Death (Romans 6:1-14)
Chuck, a friend of mine who is an Air Force doctor, was based during his residency in the middle of the Mojave Desert. There in the desert Chuck loved to ride his motorcycle. While riding alone one day, he crashed, breaking his leg. To get the medical attention he needed, Chuck was forced to ride his motorcycle back to the base. But there were problems: his hand brake had broken off in the crash, and his broken leg was on the side of the footbrake. Chuck finally made it back to the base, but he could not and he did not stop at the gate. As he slowly passed by, the sergeant standing guard naturally felt compelled to stop him. Chuck was not in uniform when the guard caught up with him and began to flaunt his authority, rebuking him for not stopping.
In pain, Chuck had finally taken enough, and with his southern drawl he interrupted the Sergeant: “Now, just hold on, Sahgent. Befoe you go on, I think there are three things you ‘otta know. First, Ah’m a Majah. Second, Ah’m a doctah. And, third, Ah’ve got a broken leg.” “Yes, Sir!” the Sergeant responded, “Let me help you to the hospital!”
There are times when knowing a few facts can have great impact on our decisions and our actions. Most of us have “gone off half-cocked,” only to discover later that we acted without some very pertinent information. In our text, Paul is pointing out to his Roman readers some very important facts they must know,140 which will serve as the basis for their lifestyle.
The verses in our lesson (6:1-14), and their context of chapters 5-8, deal with one of the most important aspects of the Christian life—the subject of sanctification.141 Perhaps no other epistle in the New Testament is more thorough on the subject of sanctification than Paul is here.142 An accurate understanding and implementation of these verses is vital. Paul’s own words in our passage indicate that it is not difficult for the Christian to take a biblical truth to a most unbiblical extreme in practice. The doctrine of the spiritual life is not just controversial; it is a doctrine which is often not biblically based. We must make it a matter of diligent in-depth personal study, meditation, and prayer.
I strongly urge you to devote yourself to an intense personal study of Paul’s words here in Romans, as well as in other biblical texts. I also encourage you to read and study chapters 5-8 as a whole and discourage you from the study of any text in isolation. Let us look to the Lord to speak to us in our study, through the ministry of the Word and His Spirit. Let us be eager to learn what He will teach us about the spiritual life.
This lesson will begin with an overview of the Book of Romans, up to our text and on through chapter 8. We will also briefly outline the structure of our text before considering it a section at a time. Finally, we will seek to identify the message of the text and some of the principles and areas of application found here.
Overview of Romans 1-8
The classic structural division of Romans 1-8 is usually as follows:
(1) Romans 1:1-17 — Introduction
(2) Romans 1:18–3:20 — Condemnation
(3) Romans 3:21–5:21 — Justification
(4) Romans 6:1–8:39 — Sanctification
The more I have considered the Book of Romans in our study, I have come to view the division of the chapters a little differently. The major difference centers around the role of Romans 5. While chapter 5 may serve as a conclusion to Paul’s teaching on justification by faith,143 it is clearly the introduction to Paul’s teaching on sanctification.
Several reasons exist for my change of mind regarding the structure of chapters 1-8 in relation to chapter 5:
(1) Romans 5:1-11 introduces the subject matter Paul deals with in chapters 6-8. At the beginning of chapter 5, Paul instructs us that we have an “introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand” and that we “exult in hope of the glory of God” (verse 2). Paul concludes the section in Romans 8 by himself exulting in our standing and in the certainty of the “glory of God” which is to come. In Romans 5:3-10, Paul speaks of exulting in our tribulations, discussed again in greater detail in chapter 8. The ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, introduced in Romans 5:5, becomes a dominant theme in Romans 8. A strong sense of continuity exists between the subject matter of chapters 5 and 8.
(2) Romans 5 lays the foundation for what is taught in chapters 6-8. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ does much more than to forgive individuals of their sins and to assure them of eternity in heaven. The work of our Lord at Calvary is the basis for the restoration of the whole world and for the establishment of God’s promised kingdom on earth. Romans 5:1-11 looks primarily at the believer’s present exultation in tribulation and at his hope of the glory of God in the future. Romans 5:12-21 establishes the future restoration of God’s creation on the relationship between Adam and Christ. As Adam’s act brought sin, death, and chaos into the world, infecting every human being, so Christ’s act at Calvary is the basis for the solution. Apart from the foundation laid in Romans 5, nothing spoken of in Romans 6-8 would be possible. Thus, Romans 5 is closely linked with Romans 6-8.
(3) The major transitions from chapters 1-4 and 6-8 occur in chapter 5. The specter which hangs over men’s heads in Romans 1-4 is the righteous wrath of God. Man need not dread the specter which hangs over men’s heads in the wrath of God because His wrath was satisfied at Calvary, in the death of Jesus Christ. All who believe in Jesus Christ by faith are justified by faith and saved from the wrath of God. The specter found in chapters 5-8 is the reign of sin and death, brought upon the world by Adam. The righteous act of our Lord Jesus Christ has overthrown the reign of sin and death. The death of Christ for sin in Romans 1-4 changes to the death of Christ to sin in Romans 5-8. The “we/they” distinction between Jews and Gentiles found in Romans 1-4 disappears in the light of the cross in chapters 5-8. The salvation of individual men and women from their sins in chapters 1-4 becomes the salvation of men and of creation in chapters 5-8. Deliverance from the penalty of sin in chapters 1-4 becomes deliverance from the power, and eventually the presence, of sin in chapters 5-8.
All of this leads me to view Romans 5 as the introduction to chapters 6-8 even more than as a conclusion to chapters 1-4. Chapters 1-8 would thus be summarized:
- Romans 1b-3a — Condemnation
- Romans 3b-4 — Justification
- Romans 5-8 — Restoration
Chapters 5-8 would then be outlined as follows:
- Romans 5:1-11 — Through present tribulation to eternal triumph
- Romans 5:12-21 — From Adam’s devastation to Christ’s deliverance
- Romans 6:1–7:6 — The Christian’s basis for godly conduct
- Romans 7:7-25 — The loveliness of the Law and the weakness of the flesh
- Romans 8:1-27 — God’s provision for godly living in an ungodly world
- Romans 8:28-30 — Solace in the sovereignty of God
- Romans 8:31-39 — More than conquerors—victory is certain!
In Romans 6:1–7:6, Paul establishes the basis for Christian behavior. He demonstrates why the Christian must no longer continue to live as he once did, in servitude to sin. Consider the imagery Paul’s uses to demonstrate this:
- Romans 6:1-14 — Imagery of baptism - Our identification with Christ prohibits living in sin as a Christian
- Romans 6:15-23 — Imagery of slavery - How foolish it is to serve sin
- Romans 7:1-6 — Imagery of marriage - We have been freed from the Law and thus from the dominion of sin
In Romans 7:7-25 Paul defends the Law, showing that it is “holy,” “righteous,” and “good” (7:12). The Law is not the cause of our defeat by sin but the weakness of our flesh. The solution to this problem is the Spirit of God who empowers us for godly living (8:1-11). Paul then shows how the Spirit ministers to Christians who live in this fallen world, giving them hope and power so that they may be faithful and obedient until He returns. The sovereignty of God and the work of His Spirit give the Christian confidence that God’s purposes and promises will be fulfilled and that we shall be “more than conquerors” in Christ (7:28-39).
The Structure of Our Text
Romans 6:1-14 divides into three main segments. Verses 1 and 2 contain Paul’s question and a very concise answer. Verses 3-11 establish the basis for his answer. Verses 12-14 lay out the application to Paul’s teaching.
A Preposterous Possibility:
Should a Saint Live in Sin?
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Paul’s question in verse 1 suggests that there should be a response to what he has just taught in chapter 5. God gave the Law, not to defeat sin, and not even to reduce it, but to cause it to increase. The Law made sin more evident, and it increased the problem faced by mankind. But it also meant that the grace by which sin was to be dealt a death blow was also to increase. Since grace always surpasses and exceeds sin, the greater sin is, the greater grace must be. Increasing sin through the giving of the Law served to increase the grace bestowed to rid God’s creation of sin.
There is a corollary to the principle that grace always outruns and exceeds sin, and it is this: SIN ALWAYS SEEKS TO USE THAT WHICH IS GOOD TO PROMOTE EVIL.
The question Paul raises in verse 1 is an illustration of this. Paul’s answer makes it clear this is not something he would suggest or promote, but that some do. Even Christians use grace as a pretext for practicing sin. And so Paul asks the question, “Are we to continue in sin, that grace might increase?” If God caused sin to increase by the giving of the Law, with the result that grace abounded all the more, why should His children not do likewise? What’s good enough for God should be good enough for His children, should it not?
“May it never be!” is Paul’s response, and as always, it is an expression of shock, horror, and disappointment. It is an expression of his dismay that someone could take a valid truth—grace always outruns sin—and make it an excuse for doing evil. How could anyone who has become one with Christ, by faith, possibly suggest a lifestyle that is a continuation of the sins of the past? Would not anyone who is united with Christ not find this totally inconsistent with the work of Christ at Calvary? What an utterly preposterous suggestion! For a Christian to continue in sin, because his sins are forgiven and because grace will abound, is an abominable thought to Paul—and it should be to us.
Paul spends more time spelling out the reasons for his answer because he wants his readers to be very clear about his response. Justification was not intended as a license to sin, but as liberation from sin. It is God’s provision not only to be declared righteous but to live righteously. In verses 3-11, Paul employs the rite of Christian baptism as the basis for his negative response to the question raised in verse 1.
Our Union With Christ
Requires a Break With Sin
3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master 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 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
In preparation for further study of the passage in greater detail, some general observations of this text should be made:
(1) Paul is speaking to Christians. Paul is assuming that those reading his words here are genuine Christians who have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ. He makes no distinction between Jewish and Gentile Christians. He seeks, however, to strongly contrast the Christian’s lifestyle with his conduct in the past as an unbeliever.
(2) In verses 3-11 Paul seeks to amplify and document his statement in verse 2 that we have “died to sin.” Paul’s answer, in verse 2 to the question of verse 1 is predicated on the fact that those to whom he is speaking have “died to sin.” Verses 3-11 expound on the origin of our death to sin.
(3) The lifestyle of the Christian is the issue addressed. Paul teaches that conversion should change the conduct of one who has come to faith in Christ.
(4) The basis for Paul’s teaching is the gospel, specifically the cross of Christ. Paul does not leave the gospel behind, once he has taught justification by faith. He now seeks to apply the gospel, as it relates to Christian living. Christian conduct must be consistent with Christian conversion.144
(5) Paul assumes that a knowledge of the gospel is the basis for the Christian’s belief and behavior. There is a strong emphasis on knowledge145 in these verses. Ignorance of biblical knowledge is deplorable to Paul, just as the neglect of this knowledge is deplorable. What we do should be consistent with what we know to be true.
(6) Paul bases his teaching on the fact that every believer in Christ has been united with Christ and His work on the cross.
(7) The imagery used by Paul is that of baptism.
(8) The emphasis here falls on the death of Christ and its implications for the believer.
In Romans 5, Paul spoke of the identification of all mankind with Adam, with his sin, and with the penalty of death which God pronounced as the penalty for his sin. He also spoke of Jesus, the “last Adam” (see 1 Corinthians 15:45), and the salvation which He accomplished for all whose identity is found in Him, by faith. Paul now plays out the implications of the Christian’s union with Christ, which is initiated by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, publicly professed in water baptism, and which is to be lived out in a radically different lifestyle.
Fundamental to understanding Paul’s teaching in verses 3-11 is knowing what he means by baptism in these verses. By and large, the New Testament writers speak of baptism in two ways. First, there is the physical rite of water baptism. John the Baptist required men and women to be baptized as an outward evidence of their repentance (see Matthew 3:5-6). Jesus’ disciples likewise baptized men, those who repented of their sins, in preparation for the coming kingdom of God (John 3:22). Those who came to faith in Jesus as the Messiah were baptized as a testimony to their repentance and faith in Jesus (see Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 19:5; 1 Corinthians 1:13-16).
Water baptism was much more than an outward rite of washing (see 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5-6). Baptism is an act of identification (see 1 Corinthians 10:2). Water baptism is but a symbol of the baptism of the Holy Spirit by which one is joined with Christ, by faith, in His death, burial, and resurrection. Spirit baptism is a fundamental work of the Spirit of God in one’s salvation (see 1 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 3:27). When Paul refers to baptism here, in Romans 6, I believe he is referring to both water baptism and Spirit baptism, but his emphasis is on the latter.
Baptism, according to Paul here, brings about identification or union with Jesus Christ, in His death, burial, and resurrection. To be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into His death. The “old man”—the person we once were in Adam—died in Christ. Our body, in bondage to sin, was rendered ineffective by our death in Christ. Our Lord’s death at Calvary was not only a death for sin, but a death to sin. His death for our sins accomplished propitiation and the forgiveness of our sins. His death to sin achieved a separation from sin. Sin has no power over one who has died. We died to sin in Christ, and thus sin has no claim on us.
Death could not hold our Lord in its grip, and so He was raised from the dead. He was raised to newness of life. Since we have been united with Him, we were raised to newness of life in Him as well. Christ’s resurrection was accomplished, Paul tells us, “through the glory of the Father” (verse 4). Surely His resurrection was likewise to the glory of the Father. To continue to live as we once did, in sin, would not in any way be consistent with our death and resurrection in Christ. A godless lifestyle is therefore incompatible with our union with Christ in His death and resurrection.
The death of Christ ended an era in our lives. It closed that ugly chapter of our lives marked by sin and destined for death. It was but one event, ending the death-grip of sin on our lives. But the resurrection of Christ commenced a whole new and eternal life. The death of Christ was one event in history, a death to sin “once for all.” The life of our Lord is for all time, an endless succession of living toward God.
Living in sin is entirely inconsistent with the work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. It is entirely inconsistent with who we are and what happened to us, in Christ. Our death to sin and aliveness toward God is a fact which we must reckon as true. Just as we must receive the atoning work of our Lord as His act accomplished for us, personally, so we must also accept His death to sin, resurrection, and life toward God personally. We must regard ourselves as dead to sin and alive toward God. To do so is to agree with Paul that to continue to live in sin is inconceivable, in the light of our death to sin and resurrection to life, in Christ.
of Our Union With Christ
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.
Up to this point, Paul was willing to grant the possibility of ignorance. Perhaps the Roman saints did not fully grasp all that had happened to them at the time of their conversion. But now they did know. Now, mere mental assent to this knowledge is not enough. Paul challenges his readers as to what this knowledge requires of them, in action. Since sin’s grip on us has been broken by our death in Christ, we must no longer allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies. If some would dare to advocate “going with the flow” of sin, so that grace might abound, Paul would teach just the opposite. The sin which once controlled us must be brought under control. We dare not hand the keys over to our bodily lusts, to serve and obey them.
Instead of continuing to present the members of our bodies to sin, as instruments of unrighteousness, we must present our bodies to God, as those who have been raised from the dead. Now that we are Christians we must present our bodily members to God as the instruments which He may use to produce righteousness, in and through us. It is not enough to forsake sin; we must aggressively pursue righteousness.
The final verse of our passage, verse 14, serves as a conclusion to the section, as well as the introduction to the next section. Paul changes the imagery from baptism to slavery. If we are no longer under the bondage of sin, we are no longer the slaves of sin. Sin is not our master any longer. This, Paul writes, is because we are “not under law, but under grace.” The meaning of this statement will be explained in the next verses.
Several important truths are brought into focus by Paul’s words in our passage. Let us conclude by considering some of these truths.
(1) Man’s sin corrupts that which God has created, turning what is pure into that which is profane. God created a world of wonder and beauty, a world at peace and harmony. As we read frequently in the first two chapters of Genesis, “… it was good.” But then Adam and Eve sinned. From that point on in time, ugliness, chaos, and devastation have been the rule of the day. No longer does the description “good” seem to fit in our fallen world.
Our passage reminds me of the great impact which Adam’s sin has had on our world and on mankind in particular. Everything which man touches, man corrupts, including the splendor of the salvation which God has provided in Jesus Christ. Our righteous God cannot tolerate sin, and so, in His holiness, He condemned sin and sinners. In His mercy and righteousness, He provided for man’s salvation, by pouring out His holy indignation on His Son, Jesus Christ. God provided unrighteous men with His own righteousness, and what does man immediately do? He seeks to turn God’s grace into a license for sin. God’s salvation is distorted, so that salvation now becomes an excuse, even a mandate, for sin. The questions Paul has raised in Romans 6 only remind us of how desperately evil our hearts are, that we would seek to excuse sin as though we were serving God.
Sin blinds the unbeliever, but it also distorts the vision and the perspective of the believer. Paul’s words in our text serve as a strong caution, reminding us of the effects of sin which remain, in us. Paul informs us that even the truth can be distorted and perverted so that sound doctrine is twisted to excuse and to advocate sin. Let us beware of the danger here. How easily we can deceive ourselves and excuse sin in our lives. How easily doing what is wrong can be justified as serving the purposes of God. We must constantly be on the alert to this danger.
(2) The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the basis for our conduct. The Christian conduct which Paul advocates and requires in our text is that which stems from a genuine conversion. In previous chapters, Paul was speaking of the fallenness of mankind. He was demonstrating to all men that all are lost and worthy of divine wrath. All men must come to faith in Jesus Christ to avoid the wrath of God they deserve. Paul’s words of condemnation apply to all men.
But Paul’s words here are addressed to believers. The “we” of our text refers to those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ. All those to whom he speaks here Paul understands to have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection. The conduct which the gospel requires is required of those who are saved. Sanctification is a subject appropriate for those who have already been justified. As we move into the subject of Christian conduct, let us not forget that Paul is assuming a Christian conversion. The lifestyle which Paul advocates is a Christian lifestyle, possible only for those who have been justified by faith.
(3) The cross of Jesus Christ is the standard for our conduct. Paul teaches that the gospel is not only the basis for our conduct, it is the standard. When the possibility of continuing to live in sin is raised, Paul refutes it by taking us back to the cross. Christ died to sin and was raised to newness of life. When we were saved, we were united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. How then can those who died to sin live in sin? The cross is the standard for our conduct. God saved unrighteous men, not in order that they could continue to live in sin, but to enable them to live in righteousness. We must live in conformity to God’s purposes and provisions and not in conformity to our former lusts.
I believe Paul views the gospel as the core of truth by which all other doctrine and practice must be judged. There is a contemporary song with words something like: “God didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown.” The point is that God prepares and provides for us to fulfill His purposes. Perhaps we should add these words to the song: “God didn’t save us to let us sin.” The purposes and provisions of the gospel set a standard. When this standard is violated by some teaching or practice, we must adhere to the standard and reject the practice or teaching.
(4) Those who would advocate turning back to previous practices are strongly warned in the Bible. The Bible does talk about those who would turn back to their former sins. Such people are called “dogs” and “hogs” and are spoken of as those who are lost and who were never saved (see 2 Peter 2:22). Let us beware of turning back to those sins which once bound us.
(5) Paul teaches “positional thinking,” not “positive thinking.” A great deal of positive thinking is being peddled today, much of it in Christian circles as though it were a Christian practice. Paul is not teaching “possibility thinking.” This kind of thinking seeks to envision what could be. If we but capture the thought, the reality will be created. Paul’s “thinking” is entirely different. The thinking Paul advocates is that which is rooted in the cross of Christ. It is not based upon what might be, or even upon what we presently perceive, but on what God has already done, according to His Word. Positional thinking is that thinking which reasons and which behaves on the basis of who we really are, in Christ. Compared to “positional thinking,” “positive thinking” is what Paul would call a “myth” and “speculation” (see 1 and 2 Timothy).
(6) The gospel of Jesus Christ does not offer forgiveness for those who would continue in sin, but salvation for those who would be delivered from their sins. When you read through the Bible, you will discover that God never proclaimed the gospel as a means by which sinners could continue to sin, but the means to have the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life. The gospel begins with a condemnation of sin and sinners, by a righteous and holy God. It offers men the solution for sin in Jesus Christ, a solution which includes both forgiveness of sin and freedom from sin. The gospel which the apostles preached did not make it easy for men to advocate living in sin as saints. Even so, some sought to pervert the gospel, even in Paul’s day.
Conversion is a radical change. It is not a man-made decision to “put God on our agenda,” but a divinely energized birth which tears up “our agenda,” and rearranges our lives to conform to God’s agenda.
In our own day and time, our presentation of the gospel has become so “soft sell” that it is very easy for people to believe that God sent His Son to Calvary so that sinners could sin and be forgiven, rather than knowing that God sent His Son so that sin could be remedied and removed from this earth. Christ did not come to sanction sin, but to defeat and dethrone it. When we seek to “merchandize” the gospel, to make it marketable and appealing to men, we will always play down those things which do not appeal to men and to their flesh. And when we preach this kind of gospel, we make it easy for the kinds of error which Paul abhors in our text to be advocated and accepted, even among the saints. A diluted gospel is a polluted gospel. The gospel offers deliverance from sin. Let us preach it this way.
(7) God turned the curse into the cure. I was preparing this week for a funeral service which I had been asked to conduct. The man had asked me before he died to come and visit him to talk about his funeral service. During my visit with him, I read these familiar first verses of John 14:
“Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:1-6).
Jesus was celebrating the Passover with His disciples, just before His death. In this “upper room discourse,” found only in John’s Gospel, Jesus gives us, along with His disciples, a whole new outlook on death. He had just told His disciples in chapter 13 that He would be betrayed by one of them and that He would die. He further told them that where He was going, they would not be able to come for a while.
The disciples were greatly distressed. To them, the death of our Lord was the end, not the beginning. His death was the cause for their separation from Him. No wonder they had always struggled with His words about His coming death. No wonder Peter would rebuke our Lord for talking of death. To them, death was the curse, the cause of a separation they did not want.
What they did not yet understand was that in the wisdom of God, the curse was also to be the cure. Jesus comforted His disciples in this discourse by telling them these two things (among others): (1) Though physically absent from them, He would be present with and in them through His Spirit. They would, in His absence, enjoy an even greater intimacy and union with Him. He would not be with them, but He would be in them. This was even better! (2) His death, though the cause of a temporary separation, was the cure for a permanent separation.
Allow me to expand on this second truth. Death was the curse, the penalty for sin. Death is separation from God. But when our Lord died, He endured that separation. When He died, He died to sin as well as for sin. Our Lord’s death was the means whereby sinners could live in eternal fellowship with God. Our Lord’s going was not to “build a place” for His disciples in heaven but to prepare a way for them to get to heaven. He was the way, and His death and resurrection were the means. What a glorious truth!
These disciples, who resisted hearing of our Lord’s death before His crucifixion and resurrection, were the same men who celebrated His death afterwards. We celebrate the death of our Lord every week in our church because God took the curse and made it the cure. No wonder Paul could speak of death in terms of hope and joy. For those who are in Christ, death does not separate us from God; it joins us with Him.
For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:19-21).
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him (2 Corinthians 5:6-9).
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-39).
140 The word “know” appears in verse 3; “knowing” is found in verses 6 and 9.
141 I understand sanctification to be the process by which God increasingly manifests Himself in and through the saints to His glory.
142 There are many other important Old and New Testament texts dealing with the sanctification of the believer. Some of the important parallel passages in the epistles, written by Paul, are Galatians 2-5, Ephesians 1-5, and Colossians 1-3.
143 We can thus entitle the chapter “the fruits of justification.”
145 For further texts which emphasize the importance of knowledge as the basis for belief and behavior, see Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 2:7; 1 Peter 1:3ff.; 2 Peter 1:2-3, 12-21.