Romans 6:1-7:6 can be outlined as follows:
I. Romans 6:1-7:6 Two Key Ideas: To be dead to sin (justification), to be alive in Christ (sanctification).
1. Romans 6:1-11 The new life of a Christian, symbolism of our baptism
a. Romans 6:1-3 Baptism as a symbol
b. Romans 6:4-7 Become dead to sin= justification
c. Romans 6:8-11 Our new life in Christ = becoming converted= sanctification
2. Romans 6:12-7:6 Living under the New Covenant as compared to the Old Covenant
a. Romans 6:12-14 We are free to choose liberty or death
b. Romans 6:15-23 You are the servant of whom you choose to obey
c. Romans 7:1-6 The Law of Moses is fulfilled in Jesus Christ
To understand this block of scripture as well as much of what Paul is teaching in Romans, it is good to have an understanding of grace, justification and sanctification. The following helps us to come to a greater understanding of the idea of sanctification:
Sanctification is a process, not an event. Church members are in a covenant relationship with God. Justification and sanctification are gifts from God because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is important that we don’t get the idea that justification and sanctification are a reward we earn when we change our behavior by exercising our will power. That would be like a man thinking that by disciplined eating and exercising he could earn the resurrection. We’re not justified or sanctified through exercising will power. We’re justified and sanctified by “yielding [our] hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35).
I liken the idea of sanctification to the process our bodies make when we begin to work out for the first time. The changes we desire take time, but once we begin, the processes that are necessary for these changes to take place are taking effect. The results we want may be months or even years away, but we have begun the process. A friend of mine once shared a conversation he had with a Christian of another faith who asked him if he was saved by grace. His response was, “Yes! I have been saved by grace! Have you been changed by grace?”
What a great question! We are saved by grace when we accept Jesus’ atonement, and we are changed by grace (sanctification) as we follow in his ways, emulating his perfect example. It is not enough that we are cleansed from sin. We must be cleansed for a purpose (see Elder Oaks, The Challenge to Become, Ensign, October 2000). We must become more than we currently are! There are a few verses in Romans 6 where Paul illustrates both justification and sanctification. In verse 8 and 11 we read the following:
“Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him… Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In other words, being dead to sin (justification) puts us in a position whereby the grace of Jesus Christ can change us (sanctification) where we live with him, or are “alive unto God through Christ our Lord”. Paul is illustrating both concepts in Romans 6:8 & 11.
What if I am repeatedly struggling?
Sometimes in our repentance, in our daily efforts to become more Christlike, we find ourselves repeatedly struggling with the same difficulties. As if we were climbing a tree-covered mountain, at times we don’t see our progress until we get closer to the top and look back from the high ridges. Don’t be discouraged. If you are striving and working to repent, you are in the process of repenting. As we improve, we see life more clearly and feel the Holy Ghost working more strongly within us. 1
As we move along the gospel path, we will continue to find that we are changing. This changing of our natures, this process, is sanctification. As we experience justification events in our lives- reading the scriptures, receiving revelation, taking the sacrament, experiencing the guidance of the Holy Ghost in our lives, we become more holy, losing our disposition to do evil. This is what it means to be sanctified. Our hearts change, and we find that we are more and more like our Savior because we have experienced what it means to listen to His voice and follow in His ways.
The Parable of the Canning Jars
The way that sanctification and justification work in our lives is illustrated in the following parable by Bob George:
The process of canning is an excellent illustration of the two parts of the gospel. Let’s say that you are going to preserve some peaches. What is first thing you have to do? Sterilize the jars. Why the process of sterilization? So that the contents of the jars (the peaches) will be preserved from spoiling.
Imagine a husband coming home and finding his wife boiling jars in the kitchen.
“What are you doing, honey?”
“Why are you doing that?” the husband asks.
“I just like clean jars,” she answers.
The husband is clearly at a loss. “What are you going to do next?” he asks.
“Keep them clean!”
This story doesn’t make much sense, does it? You have never seen anyone decorate his kitchen with a sterile jar collection. No, the only reason to sterilize jars is because you intend to put something in them. We would never expect to find a person involved in only half the process of canning, just cleansing jars. But we have done this exact thing with the gospel! We have separated God’s sterilization process… from His filling process- Christ coming to live in us…
The Christian world, to a large extent, has been guilty of teaching half a gospel- that is, the cross of Christ which brought us forgiveness of sins. But by separating forgiveness of sins from the message of receiving the life of Christ, we have not only missed out on experiencing life, but we have lost sight of the purpose of forgiveness in the first place…
As a matter of fact, there is one final part of the canning process. After sterilizing the jars and filling them with fruit, the jars are sealed. Sealing keeps the good things inside and the bad things that would spoil the contents outside. 2
The story of Brittany on Mormon Messages (see God will lift us up) teaches us the idea that as we come to focus more on others, we become more like Jesus. Paul states that “to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness…” In other words, as we come to live the life Jesus has in store for us, we become his servants. We yield our hearts to him. It is interesting to go through Romans 6 to see how many times Paul emphasizes this concept of yielding ourselves to the Lord and of being his servants. This yielding of our hearts to God changes us in significant ways.
“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Romans 6:17). Brittany is a great example of a teenager, who though struggling with adversity, took the bitterness of mortality head on without being bitter. She chose to serve the light rather than the darkness. May we strengthen each other in this resolve, ever looking to Christ for direction, love and strength to carry on!
1. Elder Neil L. Andersen from “Repent . . . That I May Heal You” General Conference October 2009.
2. Classic Christianity: Life’s Too Short to Miss the Real Thing, Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1989, 59-60.