Third, Paul proves in 6:1-8:39 that those justified by faith receive a spiritual life that encompasses not justification only, but also progressive sanctification and glorification. Entrance into the realm of righteousness and the reign of grace makes certain the possession of life in all its justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying fulness (5:21). Indeed, all of life in its future and present aspects proceeds out of or from faith,[i] so that the Christian life is a life of faith. Since salvation in all its aspects arises from faith,[ii] God justifies those who are of faith,[iii] crediting righteousness to them.[iv] The spiritual life of the Christian earthly pilgrimage that proceeds from the reception of life at the moment of regeneration and justification is likewise lived by faith,[v] as the believer by faith eagerly awaits his future inheritance[vi] with a faith that is accompanied by holiness of life,[vii] since “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”[viii] In this manner those justified by faith shall live on earth by faith, and, as God gives to them increasing measures of faith,[ix] their earthly sojourn is a life “from faith to faith,”[x] from one measure of faith to another and greater measure, and from one degree of holiness to the next, in contrast to the ungodly, whose life is a servitude to uncleanness and “to iniquity unto iniquity.”[xi]
Nonetheless, Paul’s focus in 6:1-8:39 is not the progressive growth of Christian faith,[xii] but the sure possession and character of Christian life, specifically, the life “in Christ”[xiii] that is the product of union with Him at the moment of justification and regeneration—the just shall live by faith.[xiv] Eternal life is the present possession of the believer because of the reign of grace through Jesus Christ (5:17-21), and the possession of this life, in conjunction with its corollary, the believer’s judicial death to sin, and progressive death to sin’s practice and growth in practical righteousness, arising out of union with Christ in His death and resurrection and the receipt of judicial righteousness in justification, guarantees that the believer will not continue in sin (6:1-14). The “righteousness of God” is revealed in the salvation through the gospel of Christ in both judicial justifying and inward sanctifying righteousness, for the “just” or righteous are the heirs of both by grace (1:16-17).[xv] The ability to obey is restored by the regenerating and sanctifying power of God, based on the work of Christ, through the application of the Holy Spirit—this is part of what is included in the gospel being “the power of God unto salvation” (1:16).[xvi] Paul asks, “Is it possible for the believer to continue in sin?” “Certainly not,” the Apostle answers, because the Christian is dead to it, and therefore cannot live in it any longer (6:1-2). As pictured in his post-conversion immersion, the believer is identified with Christ’s death and resurrection and will therefore walk in newness of life (6:3-6), since he is judicially free from sin (6:7). He is free from the dominion of sin and lives spiritually to God, for he is alive with Christ (6:8-10). He is to reckon himself dead to sin and alive to God, as one who has risen from spiritual death to life, because sin will not have dominion over him, since he is under the reign of grace (6:11-14; 5:21). So will the believer sin, because he is under God’s grace? No, he will not, because he has been made free from sin when he was converted—he will, therefore, characteristically yield himself more and more to righteousness and holiness instead of to ever greater depths of iniquity (6:15-22). He will not receive the wages of sin in spiritual death, but the gift of God, eternal and spiritual life through Jesus Christ—life in growing measure through the course of his Christian walk, and everlasting life to the highest extent in the coming glory (6:23). He is dead to his old sinful servitude and the spiritual death associated with it and alive to a new master, Christ, in a manner comparable to that of a woman whose old husband has died and who now has a new lord (7:1-6). The law, which should have been the means of life, brought death because of the power of sin, with the result that sin came to be recognized as exceedingly sinful (7:7-13). Indeed, the contrast of the perfect standard of the law and even the believer’s obedience is very great, but Jesus Christ gives the victory and even now the believer no longer sins with his whole being, but serves God with his mind (7:14-25). Therefore believers do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has made them free from the law of sin and death (8:1-2). Christ’s death has brought believers deliverance from the power of sin and death and the presence of the indwelling Spirit[xvii] with the result that the righteous requirements of the law are now partially fulfilled within and by the believer on earth as, by grace, he grows in holiness, and are totally and perfectly filled in the eschaton (8:3-4).[xviii] Christians now have life and peace because of their possession of a spiritual mind, instead of the fleshly and rebellious mind they had before their conversion, which brings spiritual death (8:5-8). They have spiritual life and the indwelling Holy Spirit (8:9-11). They are led by the Spirit of God to mortify their indwelling sin and receive eternal life (8:12-14), being freed from bondage into the glory of the adopted sons of God (8:15-17), a glory that will extend to the redemption of the whole creation—indeed, all things work together for good to them, and blessings from predestination in eternity past, to present justification, to future glorification, are certain to them (8:18-39). Judicial and practical righteousness, spiritual and eternal life, are all included in the life that believers, who are the just, receive by grace alone from their redeeming God.
Romans 9-11 unfolds some of what is involved in the gospel being “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (1:16).[xix] Israel received tremendous privileges (9:1-5, cf. 3:1-2), from the Scriptures to the covenants to the eternally blessed God over all, the Messiah. Nevertheless, only a Jewish remnant believed the gospel as Paul preached it in the dispensation of grace. This fact, however, was by no means a failure of the Word or promises of God, for under the old covenant also only a remnant was saved—despite Israel’s national election, only those who were and are of faith constituted the true seed of Abraham who received everlasting salvation (9:6-29). In fact, the Old Testament indicated that not Jews only, but all, including Gentiles, who would believe would be saved (9:24, 30-33), and that salvation by faith, which was universally and indiscriminately offered to all men, would indeed by received by many Gentiles but rejected by many of the physical seed of Israel (10:1-21). However, God had not cast Israel away, nor had His promises and Word failed, for a remnant would continue to come to faith throughout the dispensation of grace, and the entire Jewish nation will be converted in the future at the end of the Tribulation period as the Millenial kingdom is ushered in (11:1-36). Whether Jews or Gentiles, those who are of faith are the just who shall live.
Romans 12:1-15:13 exhorts the Roman church to a myriad of practical duties that should adorn the life of those who by faith are just. In light of the “mercies of God”[xx] set forth in Romans 1-11, Paul “therefore” exhorts the “brethren,” the just who live by faith, to serve God as living sacrifices (12:1ff.). Romans 15:13, which concludes the main body of Romans that began with the thesis statement of 1:16-17, indicates, as does the “from faith to faith” of 1:16-17, that God fills the saints with all joy and peace as they believe and by means of their faith;[xxi] faith is the human response through which God makes the believer holy, filling him with the holy attributes of hope, peace, and joy. The increase of the saint’s inward holiness consequently results in holy actions (15:14; cf. 12:1-15:13). The gospel of God, through the power[xxii] of the Holy Ghost, provides all the saints a judicial righteousness, practical righteousness, and a perfect ultimate righteousness, and, indeed, all spritual blessings, as necessary concomittants of union with the Son (8:32). Paul’s preaching of the gospel was a priestly service[xxiii] that led to formerly wicked Gentiles becoming an acceptable[xxiv] sacrifice, “sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (15:16), obedient in word and deed because of the sanctifying efficacy of the Almighty Spirit of God (15:18-19).[xxvi] Sanctification is an absolutely certain consequence of justification—Gentiles encorporated into the people of God become living and holy sacrifices[xxvii] to the God whose mercy delivered them from the penalty and power of sin (12:1-2). Receipt of the gospel in faith leads both to justification and to the saints being established in holiness by the power of God, resulting in the “obedience of faith” (16:25-27).[xxviii] Paul’s use of Habakkuk 2:4 in the thesis statement of his epistle to the Romans in 1:16-17 is exactly in line with the meaning of the Lord through the Old Testament prophet. Since the just shall live by faith, justification is a free gift received by grace alone through faith alone. Since the just shall live by faith, progressive sanctification and growth in spiritual life, faith, faithfulness, and holiness is certain for all the justified, for all those who possess faith, while faithfulness is impossible without saving faith. Since the just shall live by faith, ultimate glorification is also certain for all the justified (cf. 8:28-39)—every one of God’s precious just ones shall receive the consummation of eternal life in a blessed eternity. All believers continue to rely on Christ alone for the entirety of their justifying righteousness, and all believers live—they have spiritual life now, characteristically trust in Jehovah and grow in faith and other fruits of the Spirit, and will receive the consummation of the life they now enjoy in a blessed life in the eschaton.
[i] e˙k pi÷stewß. Note that this important Pauline expression (Romans 1:17; 3:26, 30; 4:16; 5:1; 9:30, 32; 10:6; 14:23; Galatians 2:16; 3:7–9, 11–12, 22, 24; 5:5; Hebrews 10:38) occurs only in Habakkuk 2:4 in the LXX. It is also rare in the writings of early post-apostolic Christiandom (but cf. Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho 135: “[T]here are two seeds of Judah, and two races, as there are two houses of Jacob: the one begotten by blood and flesh, the other by faith and the Spirit” (du/o spe÷rmata ∆Iou/da, kai« du/o ge÷nh, wJß du/o oi¶kouß ∆Iakw¿b: to\n me«n e˙x aiºmatoß kai« sarko/ß: to\n de« e˙k pi÷stewß kai« pneu/matoß gegennhme÷non).
[ii] The believer is one who has the quality of being oJ e˙k pi÷stewß, Romans 4:16.
[iii] oJ e˙k pi÷stewß, Romans 3:26, 30; 4:16; Galatians 3:7-9; also Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:16; 3:22-24; contrast 3:12.
[iv] Romans 9:30-32; 10:6.
[v] In addition to Romans 12:3; 14:23; 15:13, note also 1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 4:13; 5:7, for evidence that the entire Christian life from justification to glory is a life of faith.
[vi] Galatians 5:5, e˙k pi÷stewß . . . aÓpekdeco/meqa.
[vii] James 2:24.
[viii] pa◊n de« o§ oujk e˙k pi÷stewß, aJmarti÷a e˙sti÷, Romans 14:23b.
[ix] Romans 12:3, oJ Qeo\ß e˙me÷rise me÷tron pi÷stewß.
[x] e˙k pi÷stewß ei˙ß pi÷stin—followed by kaqw»ß ge÷graptai, ÔO de« di÷kaioß e˙k pi÷stewß zh/setai. The significance of the “from faith to faith” (e˙k pi÷stewß ei˙ß pi÷stin) is illuminated by “they shall go from strength to strength” (poreu/sontai e˙k duna¿mewß ei˙ß du/namin, Psalm 84:7 (83:8, LXX)); “they have gone on from evil to evil” (e˙k kakw◊n ei˙ß kaka» e˙xh/lqosan, Jeremiah 9:2 (9:3, LXX)); “To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life” (oi–ß me«n ojsmh\ qana¿tou ei˙ß qa¿naton, oi–ß de« ojsmh\ zwhvß ei˙ß zwh/n, 2 Corinthians 2:16); “But we all . . . are changed into the same image from glory to glory” (hJmei√ß de« pa¿nteß . . . th\n aujth/n ei˙ko/na metamorfou/meqa aÓpo\ do/xhß ei˙ß do/xan, 2 Corinthians 3:18); classical parallels include Suetonius, Galba 14.1, where in abandoning one imperial choice after the next after the death of Nero, “some demon” drove the soldiers “from treachery to treachery” (e˙k prodosi/aß ei˙ß prodosi/an).
[xi] Romans 6:19; note the contrast: w‚sper ga»r paresth/sate ta» me÷lh uJmw◊n douvla thØv aÓkaqarsi÷aˆ kai« thØv aÓnomi÷aˆ ei˙ß th\n aÓnomi÷an, ou¢tw nuvn parasth/sate ta» me÷lh uJmw◊n douvla thØv dikaiosu/nhØ ei˙ß aJgiasmo/n, the latter being a description of the same process of progressive sanctification as 1:17’s e˙k pi÷stewß ei˙ß pi÷stin.
[xii] Thus, pi÷stiß appears in Rom 1:5, 8, 12, 17; 3:3, 22, 25–28, 30–31; 4:5, 9, 11–14, 16, 19–20; 5:1–2, but then disappears until 9:30, after which it appears again in 9:32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20; 12:3, 6; 14:1, 22–23; 16:26. The pisteu/w word group appears only in 6:8 between 5:2 and 9:30. The gap is unmistakable when the entire group in Romans is examined: Romans 1:5, 8, 12, 16–17; 3:2–3, 22, 25–28, 30–31; 4:3, 5, 9, 11–14, 16–20, 24; 5:1–2; 6:8; 9:30, 32–33; 10:4, 6, 8–11, 14, 16–17; 11:20, 23; 12:3, 6; 13:11; 14:1–2, 22–23; 15:13; 16:22, 26.
[xiii] e˙n Cristwˆ◊ˆ◊ appears once in Romans 1-5 (3:24), but becomes more frequent after the idea involved in union with Adam and with Christ is set forth, although without the specific use of e˙n Cristwˆ◊ˆ◊, in 5:12-21; thus, in the section 6:1-8:39 (where e˙n Cristwˆ◊ˆ◊ concludes the section in 8:39), and in the subsequent portions of Romans, the phraseology grows very notably in abundance (Romans 3:24; 6:11, 23; 8:1–2, 39–9:1; 12:5; 15:17; 16:3, 7, 9–10).
[xiv] Thus, zwh/ and za¿w are central in 6-8, being found in 6:2, 4, 10–11, 13, 22–7:3; 7:9–10; 8:2, 6, 10, 12–13, 38—ÔO de« di÷kaioß e˙k pi÷stewß zh/setai. Note the identification of Christ and His life with the believer and his life through the suza¿w of 6:8. aÓnaza¿w is also found in 7:9. The complete list of zwh/ texts in Romans is: 2:7; 5:10, 17–18, 21; 6:4, 22–23; 7:10; 8:2, 6, 10, 38; 11:15. za¿w appears in 1:17; 6:2, 10–11, 13; 7:1–3, 9; 8:12–13; 9:26; 10:5; 12:1; 14:7–9, 11.
[xv] Note the transition from judicial righteousness to practical righteousness in progressive sanctification in the use of the di÷kaioß word group; contrast the uses in Romans 3:20–22, 24–26, 28, 30; 4:2–3, 5–6, 9, 11, 13, 22; 5:1, 7, 9, 17, 19, 21 with those in Romans 6:7, 13, 16, 18–20.
[xvi] That is, the du/namiß . . . Qeouv . . . ei˙ß swthri÷an of 1:16 includes a restoration by the Holy Spirit (8:9ff.) of the du/namiß to obey God lost in the Fall (8:7-8, du/namai), and God’s exercise of du/namiß is absolutely and unstoppably effectual in its purpose (cf. 8:38-39); see 15:13, 14, 19; 16:25.
[xvii] Note the plentitude of references to the pneuvma in Romans 8 (8:1–2, 4–6, 9–11, 13–16, 23, 26); the Holy Spirit is mentioned earlier in Romans only in 1:4 and 5:5 (though the word pneuvma also appears in 1:9; 2:29; 7:6. After Romans 8, the Holy Spirit is mentioned also in 9:1; 14:17; 15:13, 16, 19, 30; pneuvma appears also in 11:8; 12:11). The Holy Spirit as a Product and Gift of the “in Christ” relationship, and as Producer of spiritual life, comes to the fore in Romans 8. It should be noted that His presence and work are a blessing possessed by all those in union with Christ in Romans 8—nothing in the chapter limits His work to a minority of Christians or to, say, those who affirm that they have entered into a post-conversion second blessing or Higher Life experience.
[xviii] The passive plhrwqhØv in to\ dikai÷wma touv no/mou plhrwqhØv e˙n hJmi√n indicates that God is the source of the fulfillment of the law—grace is the source of all in the believer’s salvation and new covenant obedience. However, there is nothing in Romans 8:4 that indicates that the believer’s progressive sanctification is vicarious or that the believer does not himself act in the fulfillment of the law. In the similar syntax in John 17:13 (iºna e¶cwsi th\n cara»n th\n e˙mh\n peplhrwme÷nhn e˙n aujtoi√ß), God is certainly the One who produces the fulillment, but the believers are actively joyful. Indeed, the syntax of the passive of plhro/w + e˙n + pronoun can even be instrumental; cf. “this was Jesus, and that the Scripture was fulfilled in/by Him,” Touvton ei•nai ∆Ihsouvn, kai« peplhrw◊sqai e˙n aujtwˆ◊ th\n Grafh/n, (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:12:8).
[xix] ∆Ioudai÷wˆ te prw◊ton kai« ›Ellhni. ›Ellhn appears in 10:12 after being absent since early in Romans (1:14, 16; 2:9–10; 3:9), and ∆Ioudai√oß reappears also in 9:24, 10:12 after being absent since 1-3 (1:16; 2:9–10, 17, 28–3:1; 3:9, 29), while ∆Israh/l appears only in 9-11, but there very frequently (9:6, 27, 31; 10:1, 19, 21; 11:2, 7, 25–26; note also e¶qnoß in 9:24, 30; 10:19; 11:11–13, 25, which had been absent since 1-4; e¶qnoß also reappears in 15-16 in light of the content of those chapters, after being absent in 12-14). Since the receipt, or rejection, of salvation (swthri÷a/sw¿ˆzw, 9:27; 10:1, 9–10, 13; 11:11, 14, 26) in its juridicial, renewing, and eschatological fullness is under consideration in the chapters, the development from emphasis upon righteousness and consequently life found in the progression from 3:20-5:21 and 6:1-8:39 is no longer maintained. Thus, pi÷stiß reappears (Romans 9:30, 32; 10:6, 8, 17; 11:20) along with pisteu/w (9:33; 10:4, 9–11, 14, 16) frequently in the company of dikaiosu/nh (9:28, 30–31; 10:3–6, 10), while the fact that receipt of righteousness brings life is assumed rather than receiving continued emphasis (hence za¿w appears only in 9:26; 10:5, in neither case of the life of the justified by faith). Note also the reappearance of eujagge÷lion/eujaggeli÷zw in 10:15–16; 11:28, appearing earlier only in 1:1, 9, 15–16; 2:16.
[xx] dia» tw◊n oi˙kti÷rmwn touv Qeouv in 12:1 refers back to 9:15, ∆Eleh/sw o§n a·n e˙lew◊, kai« oi˙kteirh/sw o§n a·n oi˙ktei÷rw.
[xxi] In Romans 15:13, oJ de« Qeo\ß thvß e˙lpi÷doß plhrw◊sai uJma◊ß pa¿shß cara◊ß kai« ei˙rh/nhß e˙n twˆ◊ pisteu/ein, ei˙ß to\ perisseu/ein uJma◊ß e˙n thØv e˙lpi÷di, e˙n duna¿mei Pneu/matoß ÔAgi÷ou, the e˙n twˆ◊ pisteu/ein of Romans 15:13 indicates the means (cf. pg. 145, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. 3, Nigel Turner) by which the saints are filled with joy and peace, just as the e˙n duna¿mei Pneu/matoß ÔAgi÷ou indicates means. Both the Divine power and the human responsibility in sanctification are seen in the parallel e˙n phrases, while Paul does not affirm that they have equal ultimacy. While e˙n twˆ◊ + infinitive is more commonly used for contemporaneous time than for means, the parallelism with e˙n duna¿mei Pneu/matoß ÔAgi÷ou supports means (cf. also 15:19, e˙n duna¿mei Pneu/matoß Qeouv). Furthermore, even if one wished to affirm that e˙n twˆ◊ pisteu/ein indicates contemporaneous time, the fact that the filling takes place at the time of the believing would support that belief is in some sense a condition of being filled with joy and peace. The spiritual life of Divinely produced joy and peace received by means of faith is part of what is involved in the life that the just have by faith (Romans 1:16-17), as Romans 15:13 is the logical conclusion to the main body of the letter that began in 1:16. Compare 1 Peter 1:8.
[xxii] The e˙n duna¿mei Pneu/matoß ÔAgi÷ou of 15:13 also ties back to the “power of God,” the du/namiß . . . Qeouv, of 1:16; note the references to du/namai at 15:14 and the end of the epistle in 16:25.
[xxiii] A i˚erourge÷w of to\ eujagge÷lion touv Qeouv; note also leitourgo/ß; cf. Hebrews 8:2; Ezra 7:24; Nehemiah 10:39; Isaiah 61:6 (LXX).
[xxiv] eujpro/sdektoß; cf. 1 Peter 2:5, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, kai« aujtoi« wJß li÷qoi zw◊nteß oi˙kodomei√sqe oi•koß pneumatiko/ß, i˚era¿teuma a‚gion, aÓnene÷gkai pneumatika»ß qusi÷aß eujprosde÷ktouß twˆ◊ Qewˆ◊ dia» ∆Ihsouv Cristouv.
[xxvi] Romans 15:18-19 indicates that the uJpakoh/ e˙qnw◊n, lo/gwˆ kai« e¶rgwˆ, was a product of the mediate agency of Paul’s apostolic ministry e˙n duna¿mei shmei÷wn kai« tera¿twn and the ultimate agency of the Spirit, e˙n duna¿mei Pneu/matoß Qeouv.
[xxvii] The offering of 15:25-33 and the holy actions mentioned in the people listed in 16:1-24 are examples of the holy sacrifices that the almighty grace of God produces in those justified and regenerated; they are specific manifestations of what the renewed life of those who have become just by faith looks like.
[xxviii] The continuity and development from 1:16-17 to 15:13-16 (cf. 17-20) and 16:25-27 is clear.