If we read the book of Romans carefully, we will observe that the section on justification ends with Romans 5:11. This means that in the first part of Romans we mainly have two sections, condemnation and justification. The section on condemnation begins at 1:18 and ends with 3:20. The portion on justification begins with 3:21 and concludes at 5:11.
In the section on justification, Paul is concerned with our outward position before God. Originally, we were full of sin and needed the redemption of Christ as a base upon which God can justify us. God’s justification has changed our position. Formerly, our position was under God’s condemnation; now our position is under God’s justification. As a result of justification, we have love, grace, peace, hope, life, glory, God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Although we may enjoy these six significant items and three wonderful Persons, they are mainly outward and objective. Nevertheless, in the section on justification Paul does give some hints to indicate that he will proceed to deal with our inward disposition.
The first hint is found in Romans 4:24-25, where Paul speaks of the resurrected Christ. The crucified Christ can never enter our being, but the resurrected Christ is able to come into us. Our Christ is not only the Christ who was crucified for our redemption; He is also the Christ who was resurrected that He may impart life into us. Therefore, Romans 4:24-25 intimates that Christ will come into the justified ones and live in them a life of justification.
We see another hint in Romans 5:10, which says that we shall be saved in His life. The words “shall be” imply experiences in the future. Prior to Romans 5:10 we were told that we have already been saved, because we have been redeemed, justified, and reconciled. Why does this verse suddenly say that we shall be saved? Although we have been saved by Christ’s death for redemption, justification, and reconciliation, we have not yet been saved for sanctification, transformation, and conformation. Redemption, justification, and reconciliation all require the death of Christ in which His blood was shed, while sanctification, transformation, and conformation require the inward working of His life. Christ’s death on the cross saved us in an objective way, and His life will save us in a subjective way. The crucified Christ saved us objectively on the cross; the resurrected Christ within us saves us subjectively. His life must enter into us. Eventually, in Romans 8, the conclusion of the section that deals with our disposition, we see that Christ is in us (8:10). Before chapter five Christ was crucified on the cross, but was not yet in us. In chapter eight Christ is no longer on the cross—He is in us. This indwelling Christ is the life that will save us subjectively after we have been saved objectively. We need to be saved more and more. We have been saved from hell and from God’s condemnation: this is positional salvation. Now we need to be saved from our disposition, such as our old man, our self, our natural life, etc.: this is dispositional salvation.
Another hint that Romans shifts from a positional aspect to a dispositional aspect after 5:11 is found in the occurrence of the words sin and sins. Before Romans 5:12 the word sin is always found in the plural number. However, in Romans 5:12 this word suddenly appears in the singular. Why is there this change? Sins are outward and concern our position; sin is inward and concerns our disposition. The outward sins in our position, our sinful deeds, have been fully dealt with by the death of Christ, but the sin in our disposition, our sinful nature, has not yet been dealt with. Starting with Romans 5:12, Paul begins to concentrate upon the dispositional sin within us.
Furthermore, although we are in God and Christ at the time of Romans 5:11, we have not had much experience of God and Christ living within us. Although we are in God, boast and joy in God, and stand in the realm of grace, we have not fully experienced God and Christ dwelling within us. To be in Christ is a positional matter; to have Christ in us, especially living and dwelling in us, is a dispositional and experiential matter. We must be in Christ, and then Christ can be in us and live within us. We find both aspects of this in John 15:4, which says, “Abide in me, and I in you.” “Abide in me” means to be in Christ; “I abide in you” means that Christ lives in us. Firstly, we are in Christ, then Christ lives in us. The dispositional matter of Christ living in us is covered in Romans 5:12 through 8:30, the section on sanctification and glorification. Both sanctification and glorification deal with our disposition and nature, not with our outward behavior. Paul treated our outward behavior in the preceding sections. In 5:12-8:30 he is occupied with our nature, our self. If we are not clear about these distinctions, we will be unable to understand Romans 5:12-8:30 adequately.
As we approach the section on sanctification, we must realize that the gift in Christ surpasses the heritage in Adam. Since we were all born of Adam and in Adam, we have inherited all that he is and has. What are the items of our inheritance in Adam? Two dreadful things—sin and death. Regardless of whether we are good or bad, as long as we were born of Adam’s race we have sin and death as our heritage. Praise God for the gift in Christ! The gift in Christ surpasses the heritage in Adam. There is no comparison.
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