Paul's Passing Thoughts

Romans 13:8-10; The Law in Sanctification and Justification

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 11, 2014

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This series began on September 29th 2012, and we are on lesson # 50. The series has been heavily predicated on interpreting the Bible with the Bible, drawing conclusions from the literal grammatical sense, and prayer. This approach has paid off abundantly. More than anything, I hope it inspires Christians to know that they can study and understand the Scriptures for themselves. In fact, that is their calling.

Romans 13:8 should get waaaaay more press than it does. It should truly be one of the John 3:16s of the Bible. This is the love side of the law. Justification takes care of the judgment side of the law, sanctification takes care of the love side of the law. Woe unto us because many Christians in our day do not understand the difference between justification and sanctification. Those are supposedly words that are “50-cent theology terms.” God help us. Not only are those specific Bible words, but the two together define LOVE! Oh my! Where are we as Christians if we don’t understand love? But yet, it is impossible to understand love if you don’t understand the difference between justification and sanctification. Does there seem to be a problem with the church today? By the grace of God it is not much worse!

Let’s begin by reading verses 8:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

In this life, there is one debt that will never be paid between believers: love. The ability to love each other was not free, God sacrificed His only Son to make love between us possible. Also note: Christ died in this realm, and it was no less grievous to the Father accordingly. Christ was not sacrificed in heaven, He was sacrificed on earth. Hence, this realm has spiritual value. Hence, this realm matters. God will dwell with us on earth. This life has value. It will be redeemed by God. Watch out for any man who deems this life as worthless—mark him and be wary of him.

Pivotal to understanding verse 8 is the antonymic James 2:10. Let’s read it now:

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

Stop right there. This is where we plunge the depths of salvation. It encompasses a full understanding of law; i.e., accountability, justification, and sanctification. First, what is “law”? Certainly it includes the Ten Commandments, but when we speak of the law, we are really using a term that describes the full counsel of God encompassed in the Scriptures. We do not live by bread alone, but by EVERY word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). That is not only the Ten Commandments or the law of Moses, that is the whole Bible. Another point here is Matthew 5:17,18;

17  Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Here Christ unites the prophets and the law under “law.” In Luke 24:27, He unites the writings of Moses and the prophets with “all the Scriptures.” Also note that Christ didn’t come to fulfill the law during His earthly ministry as some teach, for nothing of the law will be lost “until all is accomplished.” Obviously, there is prophecy yet to be fulfilled and heaven and earth hasn’t passed away yet. We will yet discuss what Christ meant by “fulfilling” the law.

Back to James 2:10. If one breaks one element of the law of God, he is guilty of breaking all of it, and he is “accountable” to the whole law. In other words, he is under it. He is convicted as a “transgressor,” or a “lawbreaker.” James’ primary point is those who take a lax view of the law show themselves as still under the law. Christ agreed:

Matthew 5:19 – Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Christ came to die on the cross to release us from “accountability” to the law. But, He also came to die on the cross to fulfill the law through us. His death declared us righteous apart from the law and released us from the accountability to it in order to be justified. That’s justification. Believing in Christ’s death on the cross justifies us apart from the law. Christ is the end of the law for justification…

Roman 10:4 – For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

This verse could be well worded in this way: “For Christ is the end of the law for justification to everyone who believes. Be sure of this: interpreting all of Scripture in regard to …for justification and …for sanctification is a key method for understanding the Bible. Be also sure of this: many Christians in our day do not understand their Bibles because they don’t understand the difference between justification and sanctification. The institutional church has deliberately excluded this teaching so that congregants have to depend on men to understand their Bibles. You can quote me on that—it is a deliberate control ploy. Please quote me accordingly. I stand by the statement 200%.

This is justification. It was accomplished by the imputation of all of our law-breaking to Christ. He who knew no sin became sin for us, and bore the penalty for us on the cross so that we would become the righteousness of God (2Corithians 5:21). And by the way, when we believe in Christ, it’s the righteousness of God the Father that is imputed to us, not Christ’s righteousness. Of course, Christ is no less righteous, but to say that it is the righteousness of Christ that was imputed to us, something the Bible NEVER states, is to confound Trinitarian salvation—it is Christ’s death and the imputation of our sins to Him, and the Imputation of the Father’s righteousness to us—this is an important distinction because that is technically how the Bible states it.

This is justification, the epic act of love towards us by God. It is a debt of sin that has been paid in full by Christ. There is no way we can repay it. We come and drink of these living waters for free. It is free to us, but it required the sacrifice of God’s Son. Christ paid the debt of sin for us. We are no longer accountable to the law. The law has been ended by Christ…FOR JUSTIFCATION. Justification is apart from the law.

But the story now continues in regard to sanctification. Something else besides our sin died with Christ when our sins were imputed to Him: us. When we believe in Christ the old us and our accountability to the law dies. But something was also resurrected with Christ when He arose from the dead on the third day: us. The new us finds life and love in the law. Accountability to the law before salvation could only bring death, but now the law is our standard for love. We love God through obedience to the law as an outflow of our new nature, and we are indebted to each other in love. In the same way that breaking the law at one point violated all of the law, one act of love fulfills the whole law. That’s verse 8. I don’t understand it, but it is no less true: every time you love someone—you fulfil the whole law. By DISOBEYING the law at one point before salvation, you were guilty of breaking all of it. Justification saved us from that. By one act of obedience to the law in sanctification, you fulfill the whole law.

Fulfilling the law by loving God and others, that’s sanctification. Our attitude towards Scripture indicates whether we are under law or under grace. We are learners in regard to discovering new ways in the Bible to love God and others—that’s discipleship. Obedience to the law reflected on justification will hinder love—it is not the perfect law of liberty that James wrote of. The law is different in sanctification. We love the law because it teaches us to love God and others. It puts deeds of darkness to death and fulfills the law through us, hence:

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Before salvation, the law is the “law of sin and death” that condemns. After salvation, it is the “law of the Spirit of life” and the “perfect law of liberty.” It is a law that gives life—it is the Spirit’s law. It is a law that informs our love and can no longer condemn us. It is a law that judges our love in sanctification, but not for justification.

It reverses our life direction because it reverses our slavery. Before salvation, we were enslaved to sin while able to do good or enslaved to sin and free in regard to righteousness (Rom 6:20). With those under law, perfect righteousness is a demand; with those under grace, perfect righteousness is the goal because love is the goal. No person sins perfectly before salvation, and no person loves perfectly after salvation; change of overall direction and attitudes towards the law is the issue. A lax attitude towards the law is not indicative of the new birth. We now love the law that we are no longer accountable to for justification.

So, in justification: we are no longer accountable to the law; we have the righteousness of God imputed to us; our sins are imputed to Christ, and He paid the penalty for them, and we died with Him; we are quickened—made alive by the Holy Spirit, and regenerated with the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Eph 1:19, 20, Jn 3: 4-8). We are declared righteous by the Father, our sins are imputed to Christ, and we are born again by the Spirit. This is not only a positional righteousness, we are in fact righteous. Being yet in a mortal body harassed by sinful desires does not negate the fact that we are born of God:

1John 3:7 – Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

“Seed” in verse 9 is the following word:

g4690. σπέρμα sperma; from 4687; something sown, i. e. seed (including the male “sperm”); by implication, offspring; specially, a remnant (figuratively, as if kept over for planting):— issue, seed.

We are God’s offspring in the truest sense though in mortal bodies. This life in us cannot help but to bring about the different direction. The “flesh” no longer enslaves us because the former self died with Christ. In regard to justification, we no longer live, and therefore are not under the law:

Romans 7:1 – Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

As we learned earlier in the book of Romans, being under the law provokes us to sin against the law. The flesh, which was alive, provoked us to sin against the law leading up to the day when we would be judged by the law. This is what Paul is talking about in one of the most abused portions of Scripture in our day:

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

“See, see, we live by faith alone in the Christian life. We are still spiritually dead in our Christian life, and it is only Christ who lives in us.” That notion needs to be answered with Romans 7:1-6. Dying with Christ made us dead to the law, but alive to the law of the Spirit which is the same law that formally brought forth fruits of death. Let’s look at Galatians 2:20 in the larger context:

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness [earlier ESV “justification”] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

What do you notice in context regarding the underlined words? The context is clearly justification. Galatians 2:20 is just another way of stating Romans 7:1-6. Paul is saying that it is impossible to be justified by the law because when we died with Christ, we died to the law which made us alive to God and the law of the Spirit. The law was letters of death while we were under it. Hence, Paul concludes his thought in Gal 2:21 by saying that if we are still under the law, Christ died for nothing. We were made dead to the law and alive to God by faith alone in Christ. That’s what that verse is stating. Again, it’s another way of stating Romans 7:1-6.

In regard to justification, it is not us who live, but Christ. That doesn’t mean we are also dead to the law in sanctification.

When someone using Gal 2:20 to teach a sanctification by faith alone, you need to correct them with Rom 7:1-6. You should also inform them that they do not know the difference between justification and sanctification. We are justified by faith alone, but sanctification (discipleship) is not by faith alone. James wrote to the 12 tribes of Israel to refute that very idea.

Now, in sanctification, we love God by obeying the law, and the Holy Spirit is our Helper in doing so. This is sanctification, not justification:

John 14:12 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Notice that Christ did not come to fulfill the law on His own. Notice that the exact works of Christ are not imputed to us for justification; in fact, He states that we will do greater works than He did! And know what the Spirit of truth uses to sanctify us:

John 17:16 – They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Learning and obeying truth is the only way to love God and His people. What we have today is a lot of discussion about loving each other without the knowledge to do so. Love among the doctrinally illiterate is an oxymoron. Replacing the hard work of discipleship in the church with love bombing is an epidemic. Undoubtedly, the main point of this message focuses on the paramount importance of the law in sanctification for effectively loving each other. Devaluing the law in sanctification is the very essence of antinomianism, and Christ said that the hearts of many will wax cold in the last days “because of anomia.” And we are in those days.

Potter H. 1

One Response

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on February 11, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.


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