Experiential Sanctification

Know ye not, 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?” —Romans 6:16

Preaching Christ CrucifiedIn examining the text of Romans 6:1-11 in the past few weeks, it has allowed us to look at the NEWNESS OF LIFE that a Christian possesses through IDENTIFICATION with Christ, specifically identifying with His death, burial and resurrection as the certain reality of the miracle that made possible a believer’s REGENERATION and REPENTANCE through faith. Another way we might define this is by calling it POSITIONAL SANCTIFICATION: that moment, when justified by grace through faith, we are made new creatures in Christ.

At this point, we will begin approaching portions of scripture that speak to the continued reality of sanctification. We might define our portion today by calling it EXPERIMENTAL or EXPERIENTIAL SANCTIFICATION. Experiential sanctification is the change a sinner experiences at initial salvation, as well as the process of increasing holiness a saved soul experiences in his being conformed to the image of Christ throughout his life until either the Lord returns or the Lord takes him home. A simple outline for these following portions may be expressed in this way:

Romans 6:12-23 Surrender as a Bondslave
Romans 7:1-25 Struggle of the Bondslave
Romans 8:1-39 Spiritual Victory for the Bondslave

Just as we defined certain terms and concepts in articles past, we will define them again, I pray for a better understanding unto the reality of a true and blessed spiritual salvation for God’s greatest glory:

Number 1 - Sanctification DefinedSANCTIFICATION means to be made holy. It is initially immediate by the declaration of God’s justification and the miracle of regeneration. The soul that has faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ is made new by regeneration. That soul is born-again. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That person is holy by virtue of being miraculously changed into a new creation in Christ.

There is also an ongoing work of sanctification that grows as a person matures in Christ. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). It is this second aspect of sanctification that we are dealing with from this point on.

For the following definitions I will attempt to give, as plainly as I can from my own understanding, terms that define the doctrine of REGENERATION. To me, these definitions make sense of what is truly going on in the process of our sanctification as we are being made holier by God; and therefore, I believe these terms help us to understand the struggles that we face with sin, as well as the conflict the flesh wages against our spirits; and in understanding this struggle, we can more effectively call upon the graces God has give so that we may have victory through the truth by the power of the Spirit of Christ.

Number 2SOUL— the soul is who we are. A human being is what I am, but my soul is who I am. Like the late Dr. E.W. Johnson, I like to say that man is essentially singular. There is a controversy among scholars whether man is soul and spirit (dichotomy, two parts) or whether man is body, soul, and spirit (tri-chotomy, three parts). Though the dichotomy and tri-chotomy are both true and Biblical within the context and framework by which they are used, we will look at the idea of calling the essence of man a mono-chotomy or uni-chotomy (one part), and that is defined as the soul. It was the breath of life that made Adam Adam when he was formed from the dust of the ground: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). As Dr. Johnson put it: “If I were asked, ‘Do you believe that man has a soul?’ I would reply, No I don’t believe man has a soul. I believe man has a body and he has a nature, but man is a living soul.”

Number 3BODY— this one is fairly simple. Just as in Genesis 2:7, man was formed from the dust of the ground and so he has a body. The body that we have now is not eternal; therefore, I would say that it does not define who I am, who you are. A body is what I possess; that is, my body is what I have.

Number 4NATURE—a nature is also something that I possess, which is governed or influenced by forces that are either physical or spiritual; temporal or eternal. Some references to man’s nature may pertain to the body in certain applications and implications. Some references to man’s nature may pertain to his holy and regenerated creature, who is a new creation in Christ. Frankly, in the past, I have had a great deal of trouble with the term nature as my previous Bible teachers have taught me. It didn’t make sense because all of them expressed it in such a way as the new and old natures as being the very same thing as the soul; that’s because they believed that man has a soul rather than believing that man is a soul! This will be important to our understanding as we continue through the rest of Romans 6 and examine the texts all the way through Romans 7. Let’s examine clearly and plainly, by God’s grace, what the scriptures present about the old nature we once possessed and the new nature with which we, as Christians, are now endowed.

LEAVE YOUR COMMENT. Let us know your thoughts.

Listen to the sermon preached on this text, Romans 6:12-23,Being Made Free from Sin,” on November 15, 2009 at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.

Read the previous article in this series,Alive Unto God” (Romans 6:7-11).

Scottish Psalter

About Jon J. Cardwell

"The Spirited Speaker" - Pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Anniston, Alabama. Nationally recognized speaker and publisher. Author of several books, including the bestseller, Christ and Him Crucified.


  1. When Paul says in Romans 6:14 that the believer is not “under law but under grace” he is referring to sanctification (the believer’s progress in holiness) not to justification (the believer’s right standing before God in Christ). Paul earlier in his epistle made it clear that no person is justified by the works of the law (Romans 3:20; 3:28). In chapter 6 the subject is that of sanctification (holiness–verses 19,22) not justification (which was dealt with in chapters 3-5). It is clear from Romans 6:14 that Paul is talking about being free from sin’s dominion and power and authority, and this is what sanctification is all about.

  2. Pingback: The Gospel of the Bondslave - Romans 6:12 Commentary | Preaching Christ Crucified

  3. This information is helping me prepare for ordination. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *