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Battle of the MindThe Role of the Mind in Sanctification, Part 3

Erroneous Views of Sanctification

Unfortunately, there are many erroneous views of sanctification.  The Roman Catholic Church blurs the line between justification and sanctification.[1]  Instead of viewing both aspects of salvation biblically, they view justification as a process, but sanctification is a process (progressive sanctification is a process, not positional sanctification) not justification.[2]  They are both distinct from one another.

The other view would be the “let-go-and-let-God” theology, which perceives the Christian as being passive in his sanctification.[3]  That is in contradiction to God’s imperative to be holy.

Another dangerous view is perfectionalism, which believes that a Christian can become perfectly sanctified.[4]

There is also the “two-step approach” to sanctification.[5]  This view believes that one becomes sanctified after justification; and happens at the second act or occurs in what they call the second blessing.[6]  That is unbiblical.  Sanctification happens simultaneously at regeneration.  The moment one is changed, he is sanctified immediately. 

The Role of the Mind in Sanctification

Much background and other important peripheral details have been given concerning the mind and sanctification.  In light of much that has been revealed, we will move into the area concerning the role of mind in sanctification according to Romans 6:1-14. For the sake of this paper, I will not be giving a full-blown exegetical insight into every verse, but will make an attempt to explain the powerful implications of the hinge verse: Romans 6:11.

The first opening statements from Paul are clear concerning his denunciation and repudiation of a sinful lifestyle.  It is impossible to live a habitual and sinful lifestyle in order to receive more grace (6:1-2).  This is impossible because Paul affirms that we have “died to sin” (v. 2b); and we have been taken out of its tyranny in a manner that is radical; and it allows for a language of death and new life to be used as a paradigm for sanctification.[7]

In vv. 3-4, Paul shows how the transfer from the dominion of tyranny: we “died to sin” in baptism.[8]  Paul uses death to sin in relation to baptism to summarize our conversion to Christ and initiation or entrance into his body.[9]  In regards to the “conversion-initiation,” to join with Christ means to join with Christ’s death; and Paul shows this in vv. 9-10 by pointing out that Christ’s death was in of itself “death to sin.”[10]  The close association with Christ’s death seems to exhibit the reality being buried with Him.[11]  It is important for the believer to note that the concept of burial does two things in this context of Romans 6: sets the seal on death and prepares for what is to come: living a holy life that is patterned after the resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.[12]

In Romans 6:5, it is seems best to connect it with verse 4 since Paul makes the connection that we are in union with Christ’s death and our union with Him in life (4b).[13]

In Romans 6:6-7, Paul resumes and explains more concerning the “death” concept of the believer’s union with Christ (vv. 4a and 5a), while verses 8-10 focuses on the “life” concept of a believer’s union with Christ (vv. 4b and 5b).[14]

When you come across Romans 6:11, it becomes the hinge verse for Romans 6:1-10 because it is a clarion call to believers to “consider” themselves in the manner that Paul described in Romans 6:2-10 concerning the death-life paradox that is inseparable.[15]  By implication, Paul is exhorting them to use their minds (“consider”).  The use of the mind is the heartbeat of sanctification.[16]  Without a Christ-centered mind, there is no sanctification.  When Paul is exhorting the Christians to “consider”—he is not telling them to consider the Gospel one time, but he is telling them to consider the Gospel habitually.  The implications of the Gospel must be on their mind habitually in order to mortify sin effectively.  What is interesting to note is that Paul’s implementation of the forms of “know” and “believe,” is used around four times (vv. 3, 6, 8, 9).[17]  Spiritual exhortation is always built upon knowledge of a doctrine or revelation given.[18]

Those who do not have the mind of Christ or who are unable to consider the blessings of the Gospel is described by Pastor MacArthur in this manner, “By engaging the inner faculties—mind, emotions, desire, memory, and imagination—thought-sins work directly on the soul to bias it toward evil.[19]  Based on Pastor MacArthur’s thoughts, no one falls into sins such as adulteries, lies, etc., but the person who sins has a heart that has been shaped and nourished by lustful thoughts before the deed was conceived.[20]  Another highlight of verse 11 is the use of the word “consider” (λογίζομαι).  He tells them to consider themselves being dead to sin and alive to God (vv. 2-10).  The consideration is made even more clear in  vv. 12-14.

In verse 11, the phrase ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (in Christ Jesus) means the believer’s union in Christ.[21]  The believer’s reality of being dead to sin and alive in Christ is grounded in Christ’s death and resurrection.[22]  A believer’s death to sin does not mean that a Christian is unable to sin, but it means that the mastery and dominion of sin being the master and ruler of one’s life  has ended for those in Christ.[23]  The word ζῶντας (zōntas, alive) does mean that believers are already resurrected (cf. vv. 5, 8), but it means that the power of Christ’s resurrection affects the believer’s life at present (cf. v. 4).[24]

Verses 12-13 resumes the notion by further drawing out the implications of Christ death and resurrection.[25]  In verse 12, Paul gives a prohibition by saying, “…do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts.”  Paul is not saying that sin is reigning in their life (cf. 15:14-15).  The word “body” (σῶμα) is limited not only to the physical body, but also refers to whole person, which includes the body and desires such as envy, jealousy, rage, anger, etc.[26]

In verse 13 when Paul says, “body to sin,” he is not saying that the body is sinful or evil, which is an ancient heresy that can be reached back to Gnosticism, but what Paul is saying is that sin’s pleasure operates in the body because without the body, sin can’t corrupt the mind.[27]  Sin uses the body as the vehicle to bring about transgression in one’s life.  That happens when one caves into temptations.

In verse 14, as Paul continues his discussion of sin not being our masters no longer.  Paul then dives into the discussion of the law by saying, “…for you are not under the law but under grace.”  First of all, I do not think that Paul is saying that the moral law is no longer applicable or no longer to be obeyed, because the problem is not with living under the moral law that is a problem, because the commands are good and holy (Rom. 7:12).[28]  Instead, what it means is that we are no longer under its condemnation; nor does it mean that we use the law to work for our salvation, for salvation is by grace alone (Eph. 2:8).  Instead, the moral law is a moral compass for sanctification and for ethics in society, but it could only be kept by the Holy Spirit’s power.[29]  Also the law, which is impossible to be kept perfectly, is designed to show man’s sinfulness, futility, and his helpless state.[30]


[1]Michael A. Vlach, “Theology III” (Unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2012), 220.

[2]Ibid., 220.

[3]Ibid., 221.

[4]Ibid., 221.

[5]Ibid., 221.

[6]Ibid., 221.

[7]Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary of the New Testament, eds. Ned B. Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 354; Anthony A. Hoekema, Five Views on Sanctification, ed. Stanley N. Grundry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 73.  Romans 6, gives the clearest expression of the conclusive aspect of expression of sanctification that is expressed (ibid., 72).  For example, in Romans 6:2, Paul says, “We died to sin,” which is an expression of an unambiguous language concerning the truth, that the Christian has made a radical and “irreversible breach” in the domain and realm where sin reigns (Ibid., 73).  Hoekema underscores the decisive and irreversible breach from the enslavement to sin by indicating that believers who are in Christ, reveals that their old self has been crucified with God in v. 6 (Ibid., 73).  What is fascinating is Paul’s usage of the aorist tense which suggests the definitive action in tbe sense that sin is no longer lord or master over them because believers are under rule of grace (v. 14) (Ibid., 73).  Not only does Paul underscores the essential truth of Christians dying to sin, which is tied to Jesus’ baptism unto death, but Paul underscores that believers have been decisively raised with Christ which is tied to Jesus resurrection (ibid., 73).

[8]Ibid., 354; C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1975), 304.  Cranfield points out this concerning baptism into Christ’s death, “Not that it actually relates the person concerned to Christ’s death, since this relationship is already an objective reality before baptism takes place, having been brought into being by God’s gracious decision, which is implied by…in 5:8, but that it points to, and is a pledge of, that death which the person concerned has already died—in God’s sight” (Ibid., 303).

[9]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 354.

[10]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 354.

[11]Ibid., 354.

[12]Ibid., 354.

[13]Ibid., 354.

[14]Ibid., 354.

[15]Ibid., 354.

[16]Amatuccio, “The Role of the Mind in Christian Sanctification According to Romans 6:1-14.”

[17]John F. MacArthur, Romans 1-8, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), 332.

[18]Ibid., 332.

[19]MacArthur, The Vanishing Conscience, 183.

[20]Ibid., 183; cf. also in James 1:15, which says, “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

[21]Thomas Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 322.

[22]Ibid., 322.

[23]Ibid., 322.

[24]Ibid., 322.

[25]Ibid., 322,

[26]Ibid., 383.

[27]Morris,  The Epistle to the Romans, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, 257.

[28]Amatuccio, “The Role of of the Mind in Christian Sanctification According to Romans 6:1-14,” 128.

[29]Ibid., 132.

[30]Ibid., 132.

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Without revealing any spoilers, I’d like to point out some biblical parallels with episode 110 of Naruto Shippuuden. I am not saying Shippuuden teaches biblical principles because Naruto has its own religious principles that conflict with Christianity.  However, its my hope that this episode can be used as an illustration, contrasting a godly grief with a worldly grief.

Guren on the right and Yuukimaru on the left.

Guren on the right and Yuukimaru on the left.

In Naruto Shippuuden 110,  Guren says, “I fully realize that no matter how much I may regret it, no matter how many times I say I’m sorry, nothing will ever erase what I did.”

Firstly, Guren acknowledges that feeling sorrow, or grief will not erase her sins. Guren’s quote follows after a biblical principal: Although the believer and non-believer both have sorrow,  sorrow in of itself does not erase wrong-doing.

Biblical Principle: All Grief is Not Created Equal

Paul writes in 2nd Corinthians 7:10, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas world grief produces death.”

The difference between the two types of grief are what the grief produces: One produces death, the other produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret.

What Repentance Isn’t (Keeping the Law)

Worldly grief lacks repentance that leads to salvation, not just stopping sin. Paul is not simply saying to stop sinning. Paul says that the repentance must lead to salvation with no regret. In other words, a non-believer cannot repent by obeying the law! Why? Because keeping the law is impossible.

Jesus says:

“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 5:20

There was no one that tried harder than the Pharisees to keep the whole law.

However, keeping the whole law is impossible! James writes:

“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery’, also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.”
– James 2:10-11

James argues that if your want to keep the law than you must keep the whole law. Therefore, if a person already has failed in one point, he has failed in keeping all of them!

Based on what both Jesus and James said, we know that a repentance leading to salvation is not just keeping the law since failing one means we’ve failed them all.

Repentance Leading to Salvation

In order to repent with a repentance leading to salvation we first must confess our sins:

“If we we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
– 1 John 1:9

Second, we must do it by faith in Jesus Christ:

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe…and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
– Romans 3:21-25

A Salvation with No Regrets

Lastly, Paul specifies that godly grief produces a repentance that leads to Salvation with no regrets. There is only one reason why we can have no regrets: Being justified by faith. Paul writes:

“Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
– Romans 5:1

A righteousness by faith produces peace with God. The righteousness by faith reconciles us to God (Romans 5:11), producing peace.

To receive salvation from God, Guren must have faith in Christ propitiation for her sins (propitiation means satisfying of God’s wrath or judgment for our sins). Do you have a faith leading to salvation and forgiveness of your sins? Guren took the first step, confessing her sins, and admitting the uselessness of only feeling sorry for her sins. Can you?

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