As a result of justification by faith, believers have been reconciled to God by the death of Christ (5:9-10). Because of Adam’s disobedience, all are sinners and are under condemnation (5:18-19). But by the grace of God, Christ’s death for sin, resulted in our justification (5:18). An awareness of our union with Christ, which freed us from the power of sin, should be a motivation to obedience in our Christian life (6:1-23). Although believers are not under the Law, there is a constant struggle in the Christian life due to the warfare between the flesh and the new nature (7:13-25). But believers have been set free from the law of sin and death by the condemnation of sin (8:1-3). Therefore, when believers walk in the Spirit, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them by the indwelling Holy Spirit (8:4-15). As adopted sons of God, believers are heirs of God awaiting their promised future glorification (8:16-39).
Fundamentals of Christian Living
The essentials of the Christian life found in Romans 5–8 are based on the believer’s position in Christ as one who has been justified (declared righteous), reconciled, baptized by the Holy Spirit into union with Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, sanctified, and glorified. The sanctification of the believer is presented by Paul in this passage as the goal of the Christian life. Because believers have been declared righteous they are to manifest that righteousness in everyday life through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. But this is a constant struggle because of the sinful nature which is present within us.
Union with Christ
By the baptism of the Holy Spirit, believers are placed in union with Christ (6:5). Because we are united with Christ positionally in his death, we have been freed from slavery to sin. His resurrection gained mastery over death and is a promise to us of eternal life. Because our old self was crucified with Christ, we are freed positionally from the power of sin in our lives. Just as Christ gained mastery over death and lives to God, so believers have been made spiritually alive to God so we can walk in newness of life.
Believers must acknowledge that we are positionally dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. We must also stop letting sin control our lives and have mastery over us. We must choose whether to allow ourselves to become instruments of unrighteousness or to present ourselves as instruments of righteousness to God, as those who have been declared to be alive from the dead. The struggle between the flesh and the Spirit is obvious from Paul’s description of the conflict within him. Although he desires to do good, he finds that he does evil.
The sinful nature within each believer is in constant opposition to the believer’s new life in Christ (6:12, 16; 7:22-25). The presence of the Holy Spirit produces the tension or conflict in our lives. This struggle in the life of a believer, rather than being proof of the Holy Spirit’s absence, is evidence of His work within us.
The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is given to believers as a sovereign act of God at the point of regeneration (5:5). This is clarified in 8:9-11 where the presence of the Holy Spirit is proof of one’s salvation. Belonging to Christ, or being “in the Spirit” (8:9), is conditional upon the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ. The indwelling Holy Spirit is proof of one’s salvation and a promise of future resurrection (8:11). The security of the believer, like one’s positional union with Christ, must not be a license to sin but a motivation to godliness. The present ministries of the Holy Spirit are: 1) bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God and, 2) interceding for us when we pray (8:16, 26).
Sanctification is presented in this passage in all three aspects. Positional sanctification is the placing of believers at conversion in union with Christ (6:5; 7:4; 8:1) by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (6:4), at which time they are also justified and declared righteous, making them positionally holy before God. This act of God becomes the basis for progressive or experiential sanctification as well as the promise of ultimate sanctification.
Progressive sanctification is the continuing transformation of the moral and spiritual character of the believer (6:19; 8:4-5). It is the dynamic outworking by the Holy Spirit of the believer’s union with Christ, which conforms the believer to the image of Christ producing Christlikeness. The Holy Spirit who indwells the believer at salvation also provides the power for his sanctification.
Walking in the Spirit
However, unlike positional and ultimate sanctification which are total works of God, progressive sanctification is a work of God begun at regeneration which takes place as the believer walks in the Spirit and thereby becomes a vital part of that sanctification.
Believers cannot produce the requirement of the law by their own self-effort. Rather God fulfills the requirements of the Law in those who walk according to the Spirit. The struggle, which was described in 7:15-25, is clarified in 8:4-7 by the distinction between walking according to the flesh and walking according to the Spirit. Progressive sanctification only takes place when a believer is walking in the Spirit. The goal of progressive sanctification is for believers to become experientially, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, what they already are in position.
The final stage in the salvation process is the ultimate sanctification of the believer. It is realized at resurrection when the believer will be transformed into the likeness of Christ and presented to the Lord as holy. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is both the promise and the agency for the believer’s future glorification. This glorification includes the redemption of the body, an inheritance undefiled and eternal, and deliverance from the future wrath of God.