ROMANS CHAPTER 6: VICTORY OVER SIN and CONFORMITY TO CHRIST

 

Almighty God,

In Your great love for us You have given us the very life of Your Beloved Son and through our Baptism into the death, burial and Resurrection of Your Son You have given us victory over sin and death and new life through the regenerative power of God the Holy Spirit.  We have died to sin and have been raised to new life, no longer orphans in the family of Adam but true and holy children in Your family, Lord.  Give us the strength and the courage to daily die to self and to live for Christ.  Bless us Lord, as we study the words You gave to St. Paul to strengthen us on our journey toward eternal life.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ + +

 

"As Jesus died in taking away the sins of the world, that, by doing sin to death, he might rise in righteousness, so too, when you go down into the water [of baptism] and are, in a fashion, entombed in the water as he was in the rock, you may rise again to walk in newness of life."  St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 3:12 

 

"In him in bodily form, lives divinity in all its fullness, and in him you too find your own fulfillment, in the one who is the head of every sovereignty and ruling force. In him you have been circumcised, with a circumcision performed, not by human hand, but by the complete stripping of your natural self.  This is circumcision according to Christ.  You have been buried with him by your baptism; by which, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead.   You were dead, because you were sinners and uncircumcised in body: he has brought you to life in him, he has forgiven us every one of our sins.  He has wiped out the record of our debt to the Law, which stood against us; he has destroyed it by nailing it to the cross."  Colossians 2:9-14

 

Chapter 5 ended with the statement: "But however much sin increased, grace was always greater; so that as sin's reign brought death, so grace was to rule through saving justice that leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." 5:21

Question: What is Paul's point and what does this have to do with Adam's sin?  Hint: see Genesis 2:15-17.

Answer: In Genesis 2:15-17, God established Adam's Covenant obligations in which Adam and his bride were forbidden to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil ('eshadda't tob wara): "Yahweh God took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it.  Then Yahweh gave the man this command, 'You are free to eat of all the trees in the garden.  But of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you are not to eat; for the day you eat of that, you are doomed to die (die).'" The literal Hebrew text actually repeats the verb "die".  While it is true that in Hebrew there are no superlatives and that words are emphasized by repeating the word, in this case the disobedience of Adam and Eve did indeed yield a double death.

Question: What was the double death inflicted upon all humanity through the sin of Adam and Eve?

Answer: Spiritual death and physical death.

 

Paul's point is before the sin of Adam there was no physical death, but the fact that everyone physically dies since the time of Adam is the proof that all humanity was affected by the universal dominion or reign of sin: "sin's reign brought death" [5:21].  We have mentioned previously that this first sin committed by our first parents is called "original sin" and is inherited by all children born into the family of Adam [see CCC #215; 404; 412; 390, 97-98].  Vatican II explains the affect of original sin as the cause of death to man in the document Gaudium et spes which states: "The Church, taught by divine Revelation, declares that God has created man in view of a blessed destiny that lies beyond the limits of his sad state on earth. Moreover, the Christian faith teaches that bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned [cf. Wisdom 1:13; 2:23-24; Romans 5:21; 6:23; James 1:15], will be overcome when that wholeness which he lost through his own fault will be given once again to him by the almighty and merciful Savior.  For God has called man, and still calls him, to cleave with all  his being to him in sharing for ever a life that is divine and free from all decay" Gaudium et spes, 18 [The Documents of Vatican II].

 

Paul, however, assures us in this passage [and will continue to assure us in chapter 6] that sin is not the victor over humanity.  At the appointed time God the Father sent the Son so that "grace was to rule through saving justice (righteousness) that leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

 

CHRISTIAN BAPTISM

"At dawn a prayer shall be offered over the water.  Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether as a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available.  Let them remove their clothing.  Baptize first the children; and if they can speak for themselves, let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them.  Next, baptize the men, and last of all the women." St. Hippolytus, Bishop of Rome, Apostolic Tradition: instruction on the sacrament of baptism [written circa AD 215]

 

Please read Romans 6:1-11: The Regeneration of Baptism

"1 What should we say then?  Should we remain in sin so that grace may be given the more fully?  2 Out of the question!  We have died to sin; how could we go on living in it?  3 You cannot have forgotten that all of us, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death.  4 So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glorious power, we too should begin living a new life.  5 If we have been joined to him by dying a death like his, so we shall be by resurrection like his; 6 realizing that our former self was crucified with him, so that the self which belonged to sin should be destroyed and we should be freed from the slavery of sin.  7 Someone who has died, of course, no longer has to answer for sin.  8 But we believe that, if we died with Christ, then we shall love with him too.  9 We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and will never die again.  Death has no power over him any more.  10  For by dying, he is dead to sin once and for all, and now the life that he lives is life with God.  11  In the same way, you must see yourselves as being dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus."

 

In Romans 6:1 St. Paul takes us back to the question he raised in Romans 3:5-8, "But if our injustice serves to bring God's saving justice into view, can we say that God is unjust when'to use human terms'he brings his retribution down on us? Out of the question!  It would mean that God could not be the judge of the world.  You might as well say that if my untruthfulness makes God demonstrate his truthfulness, to his greater glory then I should not be judged to be a sinner at all.  In this case, the slanderous report some people are spreading would be true, that we teach that one should do evil that good may come of it."  In other words Paul was asking in Romans 3:5-8 and again here in 6:1-2, "Should we sin more so that God's grace can come to us in greater abundance?"  The rhetorical question suggests, "How can sin be a problem if it leads us to greater forgiveness?" 

Question: How does Paul address this notion in Romans 6:11?  Does the gift of grace give us freedom to sin?

Answer: Paul vehemently rejects this notion in 6:11. Grace does not mean freedom to sin!  If one has died to sin through the Baptism of Jesus Christ, and if one is in union with the life of Christ then one is "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus," and, therefore, reasons Paul, sin becomes foreign to the life of the re-born believer. 

 

Question: How is it that Paul tells us God's abundant grace reaches us?  What is the effect of this infusion of grace?  See Romans 6:3-4.

Answer:  Through the Sacrament of Baptism we receive God's grace which frees us from the control of and slavery to sin.  The entomological meaning of the word "baptize" is "dip" or "immerse".  Immersion was a common practice in the Old Covenant for ritual purification and for conversion [i.e John the Baptizer's immersion for repentance] but our immersion in the Baptism of Christ goes far beyond ritual symbolism.
Question: When one receives the Sacrament of Baptism what supernatural sequence of events takes place which images the life of Christ? See Colossians 2:9-14 and John 3:3-8; CCC# 628; 977-978

Answer:

  1. The believer dies to sin and therefore blameworthiness dies'we die to sin by renouncing sin and its power over us and being freed of its hold on our lives.  We image Christ in this death to sin just as He died to free us from sin on the Cross.

 

  1. We are born "again" or "from above"; the Hebrew word onothan can mean either "again" or "from above" [see John chapter 3].  Our hearts are supernaturally "circumcised" and we are resurrection out of the waters of Baptism to a new life'no longer a child of Adam we become children in the family of God, imaging Christ's Resurrection from the tomb and fulfilling God's promise to make all things new through the New Covenant in Christ: Revelation 21:5-7, "Then the One sitting on the throne spoke.  'Look, I am making the whole of creation new.  Write this, 'What I am saying is trustworthy and will come true.'  Then he said to me, 'It has already happened.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  I will give water from the well of life free to anybody who is thirsty' and I will be his God and he will be my son."

 

  1. Baptism imparts the life of Christ's grace and, therefore, original sin and all personal sins are forgiven through the cleansing waters of Baptism in the regeneration and infusion of divine life by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

[However, concupiscence, the tendency to sin remained, see CCC# 978]

 

St. Ambrose, in his instruction to the newly baptized on the Sacrament of Baptism, taught, "The Lord who wanted his benefactions to endure, the serpent's plans to be turned to naught, and the harm done to be put right, delivered a sentence on mankind: 'You are dust, and to dust you shall return' (Genesis 3:19), and made man subject to death."  Then, as St. Ambrose continues, God in His mercy provided a remedy: "The remedy was given him: man would die and rise again.... You ask me how? Answering his own question St. Ambrose informed the newly Baptized, "Pay attention!  So that in this world too the devil's snare would be broken, a rite was instituted whereby man would die, being alive, and rise again, being alive....Through immersion in water the sentence is blotted out: 'You are dust and to dust you shall return.'"  St. Ambrose writing on the Sacrament of Baptism, De Sacramentis, II,6

 

Question: What else does Paul teach concerning being baptized into Christ's death in his other letters?  What role did the old Law of Moses play in anticipation of our baptism?  Is baptism only a symbolic death?  Hint: see Galatians 3:27-28; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Colossians 2:9-14; Ephesians 4:4-6.

Answer:  The old Law served as a tutor or a guardian [ see CCC# 1963] so that God's covenant people would be prepared to be reborn into the family of God as the true spiritual heirs of Abraham and members of the One Body in Christ, the New Covenant Church:

Baptism is not merely a symbolic death and rebirth but is a genuine participation in Christ's saving mission'death, burial, and Resurrection as figured in water immersion [death and burial], and coming "up" out of the water [Resurrection].

 

Question: What promise does Paul make that affects our future in 6:5?  Also see 1 Peter 1:3-5

Answer: Paul promises in Romans 6:5 that if we have been united to Christ in a death like His, through our Baptism, and raised to a new life like His Resurrection, then we will also be united with Him in the final Resurrection of the righteous dead at the end of time. 

Question: What is the result of our Baptismal Resurrection that looks forward to the final Resurrection?  Hint: see Romans 6:4-11; the literal translation of 6:4 is that "we in newness of life might walk."

Answer: The result is that we should "walk" or live in "newness of life" and that the "self" that belonged to sin should be destroyed and we should be freed from sin. 

Question: In Biblical terms "walking with God" refers to righteous behavior in the sight of God [see Genesis 17:1; 48:15; Deuteronomy 5:33; 8:6; 1 Kings 3:14; Psalms 86:11; 119:1; etc.].  What does "newness" point toward?  See 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:14-16; Colossians 3:10-11.  How does this "newness" image what was lost to humanity in the Fall?

 

Answer:  the Baptized believer as a new creation in Christ.  Col 3:10: "You have stripped off  your old behavior with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its Creator."  The human race was created in the image and likeness of God [Genesis 1:26-27].  But the family of Adam became lost in trying to see knowledge and wisdom apart from the will of God [Genesis 2:17] and became slaves of sin.  This is the "old self" [Romans 6:6] that must die.  It is the "new self" that is reborn through the waters of baptism into Christ who is the true image of God and who has come to restore fallen humanity to the splendor of that image that had been stained and distorted by sin.

 

In Romans 6:5-10 Paul focuses on Christian conformity to the life of Christ.  He makes an argument in two steps, beginning each step with a conditional statement in verse 5 and again in verse 8.  Each statement expresses a hope that we believe will become a reality through the promises of Jesus Christ.  The argument is centered on the Christian's conformity to the ethical pattern of Christ's death, burial, and Resurrection which brought about a release from slavery to sin and God's wrath and His glorious Resurrection to new life: 

·        Conditional statement #1, verse 5: "If we have been joined to him by a death like his...à "so we shall be by a resurrection like his.."

·        Conditional statement #2, verse 8: "if we died with Christ..."à "then we shall live with him too."

 

Question: According to Paul what happens to our former life when we are baptized?  What is freedom to the Christian? See Romans 6:5-6?

Answer: Our old self is crucified with Christ. The new life the believer is called to live is not only a freedom from sin but a freedom from "self".  See verse 6: "..our former self is crucified with him, so that the self which belonged to sin should be destroyed and we should be freed from the slavery of sin."

Question: Is our new life merely symbolic?  See 2 Peter 1:3-4

Answer: No, the regenerative waters of baptism yield a transformation and rebirth.  The sinner is immersed in water and is thus "buried" with Christ [Colossians 2:12], with whom the Christian is also raised up through the water to resurrection [Romans 8:11] as a "new creation'infused with "divine life"[2 Peter 1:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17], and as a member of God's family and at one with the Body of Christ animated by the one Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:4ff].  However, the Christian's resurrection will not be complete or final until the End of Time [1 Corinthians 15:12].  Paul assures us that Christians having been freed from sin are literally freed from the power of sin over their lives because God's grace is more powerful that the power of sin. 

 

The Regenerative Power of Christian Baptism which images Christ:

Christ's crucifixion and death à

Christ's Resurrection à

Christ's glorified new life

Our crucifixion with Christ and our death to sin & self into the waters of baptismà

Our resurrection to new life through the power of the Holy Spirit ="born again" or "born from above" in the image of Christ raised up through the water of baptism à

Our final Resurrection and glorification

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

In his commentary of Romans 6:1-14 St. John Chrysostom writes about what it means to be dead to sin in baptism: "Being dead to sin means not obeying it any more.  Baptism has made us dead to sin once and for all, but we must strive to maintain this state of affairs, so that however many commands sins may give us, we no longer obey it but remain unmoved by it, as a corpse does.  Elsewhere, Paul even says that sin itself is dead...in order to show that virtue is easy.  But here, since he is trying to rouse his hearers to action, he says that they are the ones who are dead."

 

From the earliest years of the Church the sacramental graces of baptism were considered so important that even infants were not to be denied this special grace.  It was argued that in the Old Covenant Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day of His life and entered into the life of the community in the Sinai Covenant and therefore children should be baptized. Origen, theologian and director of the School of Theology in Alexandria wrote circa the first quarter of the 200s the necessity of baptism for infants in order to remove the stain of original sin: "The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving Baptism even to infants.  For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit."  Origen, Commentary on Romans, 5.8

 

 

Writing of the Christian's "new freedom" in Romans 6:6, Paul vigorous warns the community that  sinful conduct must be excluded from the life of the Christian who now "walks" with God.  Freedom is not license'for the Christian freedom is found in a life that conforms to the image of Jesus Christ.  Paul is explaining the relationship between the Christian's new life and his righteous conduct which should be a result of his justification and reconciliation with God.

 

Let's review the role justification plays in the Sacrament of Baptism:

Justification begins the life of the re-born child of God on the path of Christian life.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies baptism as the Sacrament of justification because in it all our previous sins, including original sin, are forgiven:

 

However, acts of justification and forgiveness may occur at many points in one's journey of faith.  These continual acts of justification are necessary for Christian growth in holiness and sanctification.  When, for example, a priest declares a sinner forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, this is an act of justification which brings the Christian back into a "rightness" in his relationship or "walk" with God the Father.

 

Please read Romans 6:12-19: The Christian freed from sin to live a life of holiness:

"12  That is why you must not allow sin to reign over your mortal bodies and make you obey their desires; 13 or give any parts of your bodies over to sin to be used as instruments of evil.  Instead, give yourselves to God, as people brought to life from the dead, and give every part of your bodies to God to be instruments of uprightness; 14 and then sin will no longer have any power over you'you are living not under law, but under grace.  15 What is the implication?  That we are free to sin, now that we are not under law but under grace?  Out of the question!  16 You know well that if you undertake to be somebody's slave and obey him, you are the slave of him you obey:  you can be the slave either of sin which leads to death, or of obedience which leads to saving justice (justification)17 Once you were slaves of sin, but thank God you have given whole-hearted obedience to the pattern of teaching to which you were introduced; 18 and so, being freed from serving sin. You took uprightness as your master.  19 I am putting it in human terms because you are still weak human beings: as once you surrendered yourselves as servants to immorality and to a lawlessness which results in more lawlessness, now you have to surrender yourselves to uprightness which is to result in sanctification."

 

St. John Chrysostom wrote in his commentary on Romans chapter 6 that grace both remits and protects against sin: "Paul says that unless we sink very low, sin will not get the better of us.  For it is not just the law which exhorts us but also grace which has remitted our former sins and protects us against future ones.

 

Question: Why is it that we must not allow sin to have control over our bodies?  See Romans 6:10-11.

Answer: Because like Christ we have died to sin and we have been be resurrection to a new life of Christ living in us.  Sin no longer rules over us [verse 14].  If Christ lives in us how can we allow sin to control our bodies?

Question: In Romans 6:15 Paul asks the rhetorical question "What is the implication to be living under God's grace?  What is Paul's answer to his own question?

Answer: He repeats his theme that grace is greater than sin.

 

In Romans 6:16-23 Paul is contrasting the parallels between two dominations or "slaveries"'one form of domination is under the Old Covenant Law and the other under the New Covenant in Christ. 

Old Covenant

Dominion of sin à

Law = Judgment à

Death & the grave

New Covenant

Dominion of

grace       à

Holiness =  Sanctification à

Salvation /Eternal life

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

Paul is demonstrating necessity of obedience to the interior law of a circumcised heart and living a life of holiness. 

Question: In Romans 6:19 St. Paul writes, "... now you have to surrender yourselves to uprightness which is to result in sanctification."

What does the word "sanctification" mean?  How is it that we are sanctified?  Is sanctification necessary for our salvation?

Answer: Sanctification simply means to be "made holy."  The Catholic Dictionary [page 393] defines "sanctification" in three stages:

  1. "The first sanctification takes place at baptism, by which the love of God is infused by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  Newly baptized persons are holy because the Holy Trinity begins to dwell in their souls and they are pleasing to God." 
  2. "The second sanctification is a lifelong process in which a person already in the state of grace grows in the possession of grace and in likeness to God by faithfully corresponding with divine inspirations."
  3. "The third sanctification takes place when a person enters heaven and becomes totally and irrevocably united with God in the beatific vision."

 

Holiness/Sanctification in its three dimensions:  Past, present (on-going) and future.

Past

Present      à     On-going

Future

1 Corinthians 6:11

Hebrews 10:10

Colossians 1:22

1 Thessalonians 4:1, 3

Colossians 1:23

Philippians 2:15

Hebrews 2:11; 10:14

1 Thessalonians 5:23

Jude verses 23-24

 

 

Revelation 19:5-10

1 Corinthians 1:8 Ephesians 1:4 Philippians 1:10

1 Thessalonians 3:13

 

CCC# 767; 824; 827; 1999; 2001; 2427

 

It is in baptism that the first sanctification, called sanctifying or deifying grace, takes place in the believer when the love of God is infused by the Holy Spirit [Romans 5:5] permanently into the soul of the believer [CCC#1999].  But the sanctification Christ gained for us on the Cross which we received first in our baptism must be continually applied to our personal holiness'this is necessary for our salvation.

 

One objection some Protestant churches make to this Catholic teaching that personal holiness is necessary to our salvation is that this takes away from our trust in the acts of Christ and puts it in ourselves'it is the old claim that Catholics think they can "work" their way into heaven.  The striving for personal holiness through acts of charity is necessary for sanctification and for our salvation and does not erode the work of Christ on the Cross.  We do not seek to do good deeds in order to be saved but we seek out acts of charity because of the faith in us which is a gift of God's grace. The Catholic Church teaches that good works or deeds are evidence of holiness and true faith but that this is not the only role of "good deeds" in the life of the Christian.  Just as our sin affects the sin in the world so does our holiness impact and counter the damage of sin in the world. 

 

The works of God working through us also plays a role in our final justification as St. Paul taught in Romans 2:5-7, "Your stubborn refusal to repent is only storing up retribution for yourself on that Day of Retribution when God's just verdicts will be made known.  He will repay everyone as their deeds deserve.  For those who aimed for glory and honor and immortality by persevering in doing good, there will be eternal life.."  This teaching on the necessity of good works in the life of the Christian is also affirmed by St. James in 2:14-26 where he writes that our response to God gift of grace is through "living faith" evidenced by works of holy obedience by which we will be justified; closing with the statement: "As a body without a spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds."

 

 

Please read Romans 6:20-23: The Christian's promised reward

"20 When you were the servants of sin, you felt no obligation to uprightness, 21 and what did you gain from living like that? Experiences of which you are now ashamed, for that sort of behavior ends in death.  22 But, now you are set free from sin and bound to the service of God, your gain will be sanctification and the end will be eternal life.  23 For the wage paid by sin is death; the gift freely given by God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

 

Question: How do the sinful deeds of our old life affect us now that we have renounced sin and taken on the mantle of holiness in Christ?

Answer: We should be ashamed of that past life and determined never to return to it.

Question: What is our promised reward for casting off the old life and living a life of obedience and holiness?  See 1 Peter 1:3-5

Answer: The promised reward for a life of holiness/ sanctification is eternal life. As Christians reborn into the family of God, we are justified and sanctified by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  But in belonging to the holy people of God we still have to live out holiness in practice in a life journey of continual sanctification. 

 

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul tells us that "God wills you all to be holy." [Read the complete passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8].  The Book of Hebrews makes it very clear that without personal holiness we cannot expect to come to share in the life of the Most Holy Trinity: "Seek peace with all people, and the holiness without which no one can ever see the Lord. Be careful that no one is deprived of the grace of God..." [Hebrews 12:14-15a].  We cannot escape the fact that God is all holiness and is complete just'if we desire to be united with Him forever we must also be holy and therefore, our entire journey through this earthly exodus to heaven must be a pursuit of the holiness that Jesus Christ gained for us by His sacrificial death on the Cross.  It is Jesus' desire that the holiness He won for us be within us'just as the inspired writer of Hebrews wrote concerning our perseverance in holiness, "so that we might share in his own holiness" [Hebrews 12:10c], and continues urging us to persevere in the struggle to live a life of holiness, "Of course, any discipline is at the time a matter of grief, not joy; but later, in those who have undergone it, it bears fruit in peace and uprightness.  So steady all weary hands and trembling knees and make your crooked paths straight; then the injured limb will not be maimed, it will get better instead.  Seek peace with all people, and the holiness without which no one can ever see the Lord." Hebrews 12:11-14 The inspired writer [most likely Paul] urges us to persevere in holiness because like any discipline, the more we practice lives of holiness the easier it is to live up to the standard of holiness Jesus established for us in His Sermon on the Mount and in His other teachings. 

 

St Peter, in his letter of encouragement to the universal, Catholic Church urged the faithful in 1 Peter 1:13-16, "Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, 'Be holy because I [am] holy." [New American translation].  "That we may share His own holiness" [Hebrews 12:10c] is the ultimate Catholic view of salvation'to share for eternity in the holiness of God'a goal we long for and continually reach toward in this temporary earthly existence.

 

Questions for group discussion:

In addition to the different dimensions of justification and sanctification in our salvation, sacred Scripture also addresses the other individual aspects of salvation: redemption and forgiveness.  We have already looked at the past, present, and future dimensions of justification and sanctification, but these other aspects of salvation also share the same past, present and future dimensions.  See the definition of these terms in the Appendix.

 

Question: We have discussed justification and sanctification as a state and a process.  Is salvation a single act accomplished by Christ on the Cross, or is salvation a life long process?

Answer:  The answer is not an either/or'the answer is both.  As Catholics we do believe that that salvation is a gift of grace coming from God through faith in Jesus Christ's sacrificial death and Resurrection; however, as Catholics we do not believe that salvation was only accomplished by Christ on the Cross as a one time event.  Instead, just as His perfect sacrifice is complete but on-going we also believe that salvation is on-going as a process with past, present and future dimensions, through which we strive to conform to the life of Christ and grow closer to God throughout our entire lives as we participate in the Sacraments of our faith and the graces that come to us through them:

  1. God the Father planned the means of our salvation;
  2. God the Son gained our salvation by His death and Resurrection; and
  3. God the Holy Spirit poured out the love of God into our hearts in our baptism [see Romans 5:5] transforming and renewing our lives

 

However, as Christians we must continue, through the exercise of our own free will, to cooperate with God's grace'first by coming to faith, next through repentance and baptism and throughout the span of our lives we must, in faith, continually turn back to God when sin takes us away from Him.  Faith and verbal confession  of sin resulting in forgiveness and reconciliation [Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penitential Rite] in returning to a state of grace in Christ is necessary throughout the Christian's lifetime [see James 5:16; Matthew 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23]. 

 

The Catholic Church also does not teach that one can achieve salvation by a profession of faith as a one time event and in claiming salvation through Christ's sacrifice that one's salvation is eternally secure. This is the doctrine of "eternal security" –a doctrine which is without Biblical foundation.  In sacred Scripture we are warned that a person can reject or lose salvation and that one's name can be removed from the Book of Life.  No where in sacred Scripture is our salvation ever promised to be eternally secure: [i.e. Revelation 3:5; a name removed from the Book of Life is the loss of salvation].  The Protestant doctrine of eternal security'"once saved always saved"'denies the action of "free will", man's freedom given by God to make decisions for himself.  The argument that with our sins forgiven through Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and in the gift of immortality through rebirth into the family of God that sin can no longer separate us from God and, therefore, our salvation is eternally secure, cannot be supported by Scripture which continually warns the Christian to be vigilant, to persevere, and to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" Philippians 2:12 [also see Paul's statement about his own salvation in 1 Corinthians 9:27, and see Romans 2:6; 11:22; 1 Corinthians 5:10 and Jesus' teaching in Matthew chapter 7 and in His parables].  After all wasn't Adam a sinless and immortal being in perfect communion with God and didn't he, of his own free-will, enter into sin rejecting God's fellowship? 

 

While it is true that sacred Scripture is full of assurances of the promise of salvation such as in 1 John 5:13: "I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life", we must examine these verses in their proper context'"remember a text without a context is only a pretext!"  When you read chapters 4 and 5 of St. John's first Epistle it becomes evident that John is speaking of the assurance of salvation in the context of acts of love of neighbor and love of God and of perseverance in holding to true doctrine.  John is not speaking of a blanket assurance of eternal life but he is instead giving a conclusion after a list of acts of holiness by which a Christian can have confidence that he/she has the assurance of being saved.  St. John clearly agrees with St. James that works of charity that are the works of God working through the believer give a relative assurance that a Christian is in good standing with God the Father and is living the necessary life of holiness that a holy God and Father expects from His holy children.

 

If we take Paul's statements about Abraham being justified by faith in Romans 4:3-4 [and also in Galatians 3:6] and read these passages along with St. James' statements about Abraham being justified by his work of obedience in offering up for sacrifice at God's command his only son Isaac [see James 2:21] it becomes clear that salvation is a process with many points of justification along each individual's faith journey to the gates of heaven and eternal salvation.  In the chart are some Bible verses which support salvation as a process that spans past, present, and future events in the life of the Christian:

The Past, Present, and Future Dimensions of Salvation:

Past

Present

Future

Ephesians 2:5,8

1 Peter 1:8-9

Romans 13:11

2 Timothy 1:9

1 Corinthians  1:18

1 Corinthians 5:5

Titus 3:5-7

Philippians 2:12

1 Peter 1:5

CCC# 588; 1256-57; 1277; 1739-42; 1889      Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

Question: Are there different dimensions to our redemption through the sacrifice of Christ?  Redemption is defined in the Catholic dictionary as: "The salvation of humanity by Jesus Christ. Literally, to redeem means to free or buy back.  Humanity was held captive in that it was enslaved by sin.  Since the devil overcame human beings by inducing them to sin, they were said to be in bondage to the devil.  Moreover, the human race was held captive as to a debt of punishment, to the payment of which it was bound by divine justice.  On all these counts, the Passion of Christ was sufficient and superabundant satisfaction for human guilt and the consequent debt of punishment.  His Passion was a kind of price or ransom that paid the cost of freeing humanity from both obligations.  [..]."  (Etymology, Latin = redemption, a buying back, ransoming, redemption.)  The New Catholic Dictionary page 361.

Answer: Yes, there are different dimensions of redemption: We were redeemed by Jesus saving work on the Cross and redemption was given to the believer at the beginning of his life with God when he first entered into the life of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism.  But there is also a future aspect of our redemption which awaits us at the end of the ages. There are no Scripture references to redemption as a continuing process, but there are past and future dimensions of redemption which are noted in Scripture in association with the life of believers.  If there is a past and a future aspect to Christ's redemption of man it follows that redemption can also be viewed, like salvation, as a continuing process in the life of the Christian.

                           Past, and Future Dimensions of Redemption

Past and Present

 

Future

Ephesians 1:7

Romans 8:23

Colossians 1:13-14

Ephesians 1:14

Galatians 3:13

Ephesians 4:30

CCC# 573; 613; 616; 776; 634      Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

Question: What about the forgiveness that Christ won for us by His sacrificial death?  Are there past, present, and future dimensions to Christ's forgiveness?

Answer: In Scripture forgiveness is expressed as a past event won for humanity by Jesus' sacrificial death on the Cross: "Father, forgive them..." Luke 23:34.  However, other passages speak of forgiveness as something that we must continue to appropriate as an on-going process and as something that has as yet to be fully realized.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the source of the Church's forgiveness in the name of Christ for the repentant baptized Christian along with the Penitential Rite of the Mass for the forgiveness of venial sins through the power of the Eucharist:

Past, Present, and Future Dimensions of Forgiveness (Reconciliation)

Past

Present

Future

Romans 5:11

Matthew 6:12

2 Timothy 1:18

Ephesians 1:7; 4:32

James 5:15

Matthew 6:14-15

Colossians 3:13

1 John 1:9

James 2:13

For additional references see CCC# 277; 536; 545; 610-13; 615; 981; 987; 1393; 1846;2010; 2018; 1441

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

Throughout our salvation journey we must cooperate with God's grace.  We must live lives of holiness and charity, we must forgive our neighbors as Christ forgave us, and we must continually seek to receive through the Sacraments the grace we need to persevere in holiness on our journey to eternal life.   "When we receive the forgiveness of sins we become imitators of good deeds, we shall acquire holiness and we shall obtain eternal life at the end, for we shall pass from death, which Paul said was the end, to life, which is without end." Ambrosiaster: Commentary on Paul's Epistles

 

APPENDIX: Defining salvation and its 4 individual aspects: sanctification, redemption, forgiveness, and justification

Salvation: "In biblical language the deliverance from straitened circumstances or oppression by some evil to a state of freedom and security.  As sin is the greatest evil' salvation is mainly liberation from sin and its consequences.  This can be deliverance by way of preservation, or by offering the means for being delivered, or by removing the oppressive evil or difficulty, or by rewarding the effort spent in co-operating with grace in order to be delivered.  All four aspects of salvation are found in the Scriptures and are taught by the Church. [Etym. Latin salvare, 'to save']."  Catholic Dictionary p. 391-2

 

1. Sanctification: "Being made holy.  The first sanctification takes place at baptism, by which the love of God is infused by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  Newly baptized persons are holy because the Holy Trinity begins to dwell in their souls and they are pleasing to God.  The second sanctification is a lifelong process in which a person already in the state of grace grows in the possession of grace and in likeness to God by faithfully corresponding with divine inspirations.  The third sanctification takes place when a person enters heaven and becomes totally and irrevocably united with God in the beautific vision. (Etym. Latin sanctificare, 'to make holy'.)" Catholic Dictionary p. 393

 

2. Redemption: "The salvation of humanity by Jesus Christ.  Literally, to redeem means to free or buy back.  Humanity was held captive in that it was enslaved by sin.  Since the devil overcame human beings by inducing them to sin, they were said to be in bondage to the devil. Moreover, the human race was held captive as to a debt of punishment, to the payment of which it was bound by divine justice.  On all these counts, the Passion of Christ was sufficient and superabundant satisfaction for human guilt and the consequent debt of punishment.  His Passion was a kind of price or ransom that paid the cost of freeing humanity from both obligations.  Christ rendered satisfaction, not by giving money, but by spending what was of the highest value.  He gave himself, and therefore his Passion is called humanity's Redemption. (Etym. Latin redemption, 'a buying back, ransoming, redemption.') Catholic Dictionary p. 361

 

3. Forgiveness: "Pardon or remission of an offense.  The Catholic Church believes that sins forgiven are actually removed from the soul (John 20) and not merely covered over by the merits of Christ. Only God can forgive sins, since he alone can restore sanctifying grace to a person who has sinned gravely and thereby lost the state of grace.  God forgives sins to the truly repentant either immediately through an act of perfect contrition or mediately through a sacrament.  The sacraments primarily directed to the forgiveness of sins are baptism and penance, and secondarily, under certain conditions, also the sacrament of anointing."  Catholic Dictionary p. 152

 

4. Justification: "The process of a sinner becoming justified or made right with God.  As defined by the Council of Trent, 'Justification is the change from the condition in which a person is born as a child of the first Adam into a state of grace and adoption among the children of God through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ our Savior' (Denzinger 1524).  On the negative side, justification is a true removal of sin, and not merely having one's sins ignored or no longer held against the sinner by God.  On the positive side it is the supernatural sanctification and renewal of a person who thus becomes holy and pleasing to God and an heir of heaven.  The Catholic Church identified five elements of justification, which collectively define its full meaning.  The primary purpose of justification is the horror of God and of Christ; its secondary purpose is the eternal life of mankind.  The main efficient cause or agent is the mercy of God; the main instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is called the 'sacrament of faith' to spell out the necessity of faith for salvation.  And that which constitutes justification or its essence is the justice of God, 'not by which He is just Himself, but by which He makes us just,' namely sanctifying grace.  Depending on the sins from which a person is to be delivered, there are different kinds of justification. An infant is justified by baptism and the faith of the one who requests for confers the sacrament.  Adults are justified for the first time either by personal faith, sorrow for sin and baptism, or by the perfect love of God, which is at least an implicit baptism of desire.  Adults who have sinned gravely after being justified can receive justification by sacramental absolution or perfect contrition for their sins.

Justifying grace: "The grace by which a person is restored to God's friendship, either for the first time, as in baptism, or after baptism, as in the sacrament of penance.  (Etym. Latin justus, 'just' + facere, ' to make', ' do': justification.)  Catholic Dictionary p. 214-15

 

Catechism references to Romans 6 [* indicates passage quoted in citation]

6:3-9

1006*

6:11

1694

6:3-4

1214*; 1227; 1987*

6:12

2819

6:4-5

790*

6:17

197; 1237*; 1733*

6:4

537; 628; 648*; 654; 658*; 730; 977;6:23 1696

6:19

1995

6:5

1694*; 2565*

6:22

1995

6:8-11

1987

6:23

1006; 1008*

6:10

1085

 

 

 

Resources:

The Teachings of the Church Fathers, Ignatius Press

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Dogmatic Canons and Decrees: The Council of Trent; Vatican Council I; etc.

The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II

Jerome's Commentary on Romans

The Salvation Controversy

Romans, Joseph Fitzmyer

Romans, Brendan Byrne

Navarre Commentary'Romans

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture'Romans

Strong's Concordance

Modern Catholic Dictionary

Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians", Karl Keating 

Catholic Dictionary