Romans 12:1–2 and the Doctrine of Sanctification -- By: William W. Combs

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 011:1 (Fall 2006)
Article: Romans 12:1–2 and the Doctrine of Sanctification
Author: William W. Combs


Romans 12:1–2 and the Doctrine of Sanctification

William W. Combs1

Romans 12:1–2 is one of the most well-known texts of Scripture. Its familiarity stems, I believe, from its perceived theological importance. This text is commonly viewed as having great import for the Christian’s spiritual life, and thus it is one of the passages most often memorized by children in Sunday School and teenagers in the youth group.

Our text is seen by many as being foundational to the doctrine of sanctification because it calls for the believer’s dedication or consecration. It has been argued that progressive sanctification cannot commence in the believer’s life until he has experienced a crisis act of dedication or consecration. For instance Ryrie says, “There is perhaps no more important matter in relation to the spiritual life than dedication.”2 “Before any lasting progress can be made on the road of spiritual living, the believer must be a dedicated person…. It is the basic foundation for sanctification.”3 Stanford concurs, “God asks us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to Him (Rom 12:1). Until we have done this, there is nothing else we can do.”4 Thiessen agrees, “Where the initial surrender has not been adhered to, there is need first of a definite presentation of the life to God before practical holiness is possible (Rom 6:13; 12:1f.).”5

This teaching of a crisis act of dedication has become gospel when it comes to the doctrine of sanctification in many churches and Christian schools. In just one sermon, pastors and evangelists are able to cure what is wrong with many Christians and most every teenager, by

simply persuading them to come forward and dedicate their lives to Christ and thus begin the life of victory over sin, making Christ Lord of their lives.

I will argue in this essay that while Romans 12:1–2 is a significant text for the doctrine of sanctification, it has often been misused and its true emphasis has frequently been misunderstood. First, I will give a historical overview of the interpretation of our text, showing how it came to occupy such a prominent place in many presentations of sanctification. Then I will move on to an ex...

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