It is always useful to recall from where we have come for present context, so a short review is always in order. In chapter 1, after Paul introduces himself, his credentials, and his audience, he begins to speak about the subject that we have now termed in our understanding, RADICAL DEPRAVITY, detailing it in 1:18-32, giving both reasons and examples regarding the terrible and approaching wrath of God.
Chapter 2 becomes a little more specific, addressing a specific target audience – the Jew in their midst – that perhaps had come because of some kind of agreement that Jesus was a man to follow, but still relying on their own Jewish ritual, rite, sign, or even membership of the specific group for their salvation. Paul went on to explain that there is no ritual, rite, sign, place, set of words or actions, or membership of any specific earthly group that has salvific effect. That salvation [soteria] only comes from one source for everyone – from Christ alone, by grace alone through faith alone, as the theologians of the Reformation put it. Romans 3 talks about the straight up gospel, and tells us not only why we need to be saved from that coming wrath, but the hows and the whens and all of that.
Then in Chapter 4. we saw Abraham, the Old Testament example of justification by faith. The chapter discussed in detail that Abraham was not justified by following the Law, which came 430 years after Abraham, or by circumcision, because this covenant was a unilateral covenant that God performed all by Himself before circumcision was ever given as a symbol of the Abrahamic Covenant – and certainly WELL before the Mosaic Covenant. Then in Chapter 5, we saw how that extended to all of us who believe now, and talked about how this “justified” us before God, or “acquitted” us before God of the unrighteousness by our great Substitute that took our place to pay for our sins, having lived a perfect life before God and then knowingly and willingly surrendered it. That’s right, Jesus was no victim – he was an active participant – as was the rest of the Godhead in this plan. However, the chapter briefly spoke about something else that will be the subject of chapter 6.
That topic is not justification, but sanctification – the process by which we are made holy so that we may see the Lord when He returns. It is that process that involves hardship, and feeling pinched into a corner with no escape that the Lord not only shows us His power of deliverance, but also causes us (and I do know how) to patiently endure those hardships that come our way. That’s going to come up in this chapter as well. So let’s get into it.
I broke the chapter down into paragraphs like this:
KV16: Sanctification – the choice of the justified
1-7: Our old self was crucified with Jesus
8-14: Therefore mortify sin in your body
15-19: Choose your master – sin or righteousness
20-23: Earned wrath or free gift? Choose!!!
KV16: Sanctification – the choice of the justified
I’ll read the verse I used as key to understanding the chapter, verse 16: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”
Paul poses two well-chosen questions in this chapter, and they are fair questions (hey, the Apostle Paul himself asked them). The first of those had its basis set in chapter 5, and that is “Are we to continue to sin so that grace may abound?” The answer of Paul to his own question is “me genoito,” which is a strong no, something like what it says in the NASB, “May it never be,” or just shorten that to “not ever.” There were people in Paul’s day that insisted they heard Paul encourage people to sin so that grace would be more evident, because if there is sin, there will always be more grace. They did not understand that our old and sinful nature was crucified and had died on the cross with Christ. Christ had fulfilled the Law and given us eternal life as a free gift f His grace.
The second question is “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” Paul gave the exact same answer – not ever. Because of that crucified old nature, we have a choice to make, and those who are truly regenerate (or born again, or from above, or anew, depending on the terminology you became familiar with when you were saved) will choose to obey our new man in Christ, our new nature, instead of the old. Those who choose to continue in sin are those that love their sin more than Christ, and that has some unpleasant applications that will come out in the chapter. These two questions and answers serve to build up our confidence that not only has Jesus saved us from the wrath of God, but that He is saving us from our present sin nature. He has set us free from sin’s penalty, now from it’s power, and ultimately when he returns to make His people like Himself, from its’ very presence (chapter 8).
1-7: Our old self was crucified with Jesus
However, we start here, because this is where Paul starts his argument in this first line of reasoning he presents in chapter 6. From the closing verses of chapter 5, the first question is set up. Verses 20 and 21 of chapter 5 read, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
You have to think like someone who is in the audience when this letter is being read aloud in the church gathering in Rome. Paul is telling the Gospel and listing off all of its implications. There are Gentile believers that are drinking in the theology, there are Gentile intellectuals that maybe are giving mental assent to the idea but have not made commitments to this Christ just yet, there are Jewish believers that are drinking in the theology (and in their case having their worldview reset because of the Law of Moses being fulfilled), Intellectually assenting Jews that may be clinging to the idea of following the Law of Moses to project that legal righteousness hearing that those who follow the law are damned because they cannot keep it, and the traditions will help them even less, and then unbelievers from both groups that may or may not have agendas and designs on “fleecing the flock” as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Now introduce this “old self,” “new self,” “crucified” with Christ, “baptized” into Christ, and you can get a lot of people understanding what is being said here being very confused and misunderstanding key elements of Paul’s theology. The best thing to do here is take it one verse at a time and compare it to other places in Paul’s letters where he talks about the same or similar issues. So let’s do that.
1: What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?
- There is Paul’s question. It’s a valid question. Paul had just said something that sounded very much like that is what he was meaning in the last two verses of chapter 5. Paul knows it. So Paul is taking the time right now to deal with the potential implications and possible misunderstandings of what he said. Are we, like grace did when the Law came to continue to sin so that grace may grow even faster?
2: May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
- Paul’s answer is simple – “not ever.” And besides, his answer begins his theological answer to the dilemma – How shall we who died to sin still live in it? What? What could that mean, Paul? Hang on, he’s going to explain.
3: Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
- Here is the beginning of the argument. All of us who have been “baptized into Christ” have been baptized into His death? What does that mean? As you might think, there are two potential answers, and we’ll pause a moment to look at both and then give the right answer, because it is critical to get this right – or you become like my systematic theology professor trying to tell us all that you are not truly saved unless you are water-baptized (he made an exception for the thief on the cross, too).
- The first way of thinking about this is that at our formal baptism, we are baptized into Christ’s death. When we were immersed into the water, we were now also somehow included in the death that Christ died on our behalf, the act or ritual of baptism itself conveying the salvific effect.
- The other way of seeing this verse is that this has nothing to do with being dunked into a body of water of some description, but is a metaphor Paul is using to describe our justification before God as us being “immersed”
[the meaning of the Greek word "baptizo" as it turns
into Christ’s death on the cross. Which meaning you choose tells me a lot about how you understand the Scriptures, too. I’m not going to ask for the show of hands, because I don’t want to shame anyone here who may through no fault of their own have the wrong answer. The right answer is the second option. Baptism, especially for Baptists, is a highly symbolic act, but it is more of a public confession of what for you has already become true in your case. It certainly as a ritual can convey no salvific effect. We talked about this in chapter 4. There is no ritual that can save us of any kind. Jesus saves via His own work on His cross. It is our faith, not our getting dunked in a tank of water, that saves us. No sacrament (or even ordinance) will do. It must be Christ. The sense here is that we are being immersed into Christ, not the baptismal tank. Moving on.
4: Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
- Remembering that this is not speaking of water baptism per se, we were immersed into His death and buried with Him into His death on the cross and the subsequent borrowed tomb symbolically. And that same Christ rose from the dead – and so did we with Him by the power of God the Father according to this verse. God used His death, burial, and resurrection to save us from His own wrath as a result of our sinning so that we could do something new and better – walk in newness of [His] life! He has taken us the way that we are because he loves us and justified or saved us – but loves us far too much to leave us how He found us, and thus will also sanctify us, or make us holy, so that we may fellowship with Him for eternity.
5: For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
- This is just adding certainty. Also note, it is “the likeness of His death.” It is in fact a simile, which one uses when wants to employ specific or precise metaphoric language. We did not physically die with Christ, nor were we physically raised with Him; but we died, were buried, and were raised with Him nonetheless. It is metaphorical and symbolic. So what actually happened?
6: knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
- Is says here that our old self was crucified with Him. Literally, our old man [anthropos] was crucified with Him. The part of us that died with Christ is old, and its death had a purpose – to do away with our body [soma] of sin; that it may be “done away with” or rather literally “made powerless.” The Apostle here is not commending self-harm or suicide as an option, nor is he recommending asceticism, the practice of being merciless to oneself. He is not saying WE need to crucify the flesh. He is saying that God already has, and we now need to learn how to walk as free men in that light.
7: for he who has died is freed from sin.
- See? FREE! We are no longer a slave to our old man, that nature apart from Christ that cannot choose the good and right thing. We no longer have to sing the sad, sad songs of this world or be “The Way We Were” with Barbara Streisand! If we have truly been set free with His blood and made right before God by His atoning sacrifice on our behalf, then we never have to sin again, at least in theory. We still do, but it will begin to decrease, and when we do, we have an advocate with the Father, according to 1 John 2:1 which reads, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…” We are FREE! Hallelujah! What a Saviour, who is blessed forever!
So to summarize, our old self was crucified with Christ on the Cross. This is not talking about water baptism as some would suggest, but rather is speaking of a spiritual reality, something that is not visible to the natural world, and can be invisible in terms of explaining it to people as well. Remember, there is no ritual or spell you can cast, or place you can visit, or deed you can perform to gain this, and that can make it hard for unbelievers to understand and quantify. As such, they will tell you it didn’t happen, they can’t see it, it doesn’t exist, you’re crazy – and you can already see them setting up Christianity as a form of mental illness – but it is true nonetheless, and it means that WE. ARE. FREE!!! And that has an immediate application, according to Paul.
8-14: Therefore mortify sin in your body
That application is this – “mortify sin” in the natural man, our flesh. Don’t give it opportunity to flourish. In his work on this, The Mortification of Sin, John Owen said, “You can be sure that if you are not killing your sin, your sin will be killing you.” For the Christian intent on following Christ, this is no optional, although it is a choice. It is given many names in scripture – separation from evil, fleeing youthful lusts, turning from evil, taking up your cross (Jesus’ version) – and it is always a choice, I suppose – after all, we are choosing to let sin die, which means we are feeling the loss of our old self – but those who will follow the Lord Jesus WILL make that choice. Speaking from my own experience, I have shared this with many people over many years – more than 30 now – and it is frustrating to me that many either cannot, or more likely WILL not participate in this sanctification.
I have to say this. You know what your actual sin is. Maybe you have successfully hidden it from everyone else, and you’ve never showed it to another human being, and nobody knows, and that’s the way you like it. My friend, please listen – GOD knows. Everything “hidden” is wide open to Him. The only one you are fooling is yourself – that is the very sin that God needs you to deal with, and He will in love and mercy keep confronting you with it UNTIL YOU DEAL WITH IT. And if you will not allow yourself to be sanctified, you will miss out on the very best that God has for you on that final coming day. I won’t go into how here, we will see this more in 1 Corinthians 3, but I’ll give you that chapter. I don’t have to know or be involved, but I can be if you really want help. You all know how you can get a hold of me. Let’s move on.
8: Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
- See? We go on about the “finished” work of Christ, and this shows it. Think about the symbol of Baptism. Some of you have heard me joke with baptismal candidates about this when I’m explaining the mechanics of baptism in the water – okay, we’re going to ask you some questions, the answer will always be yes, and then we’re going to lower you backwards into the water. It helps if you sit down. Then we’re going to hold you down until the bubbles stop – that’s how we know the devil is really gone… And then I wait for the look of shock that usually produces and that allows me to laugh and reassure them that we will indeed lift them out of the water immediately. As much of a chuckle as that gives me, and usually them, Christ never leaves a work unfinished, and that’s what that verse is saying. Regardless of what trials you may have to endure here, God WILL complete his work in you right up until our Lord’s return. Paul says to the church at Philippi, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6)
9: knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
- The benefit of conquering sin and death, no doubt! Christ, the anointed God-man, having died as our atonement, was raised from the dead by the Father and will never die again! Death is no longer master over Him because He beat death by submitting to it when He did not have to do that.
10: For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
- Paul explains. He died to deal with sin once for all. What does that mean? It means that all those that believe on Him as Messiah will be reconciled to God, having had their sins dealt with by Him. Yes, that event occurred in time and space, but that singular event comes before any historical order can be imposed. It transcends all history (and for the record any dispensation you might think up). If people believed before (as did Abraham in chapter 4) the event, they looked forward to the promise of Messiah that would save them. If they believed after the event like us, we believe in the certain events of history that are the best established but most hotly contended events known to humanity.
- Yes, He died to take care of the sin issue once for all time. The Father was so pleased, that He raised the Son from the dead by the power of His Spirit. Now He will no longer die, and that life that God gave back to Him is the life He now lives to God for all eternity.
11: Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
- Because that is the way it worked for Christ, and He did all this on our behalf, He extends that reality to us – and we should also consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. As sin has no mastery over Him, it has no mastery over us anymore. Yes, it still is bound in our flesh which is dying, and as a result it (sin) is the thing that needs to be mortified, or denied expression in real-world terms.
12: Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,
- And here is where the Christian has a choice. Now – for those of you listening and not for the first time, have you ever heard me describe Christianity, and especially going through difficulties, as on-the-job training? It is, and there is in fact a purpose at work – it is teaching us to stand for God and His interests when it gets difficult. Someday we may be called to stand at the cost of our lives or worse. We develop that ability by facing little things a bit at a time. Think here about Polycarp. He stood when it would cost him being burned alive. (And the really funny part of all this is that when they finally did get the fire lit, Polycarp wouldn’t burn – they had to kill him with the sword and then burn him.
- Sin is to be mortified, as we spoke of at the beginning of this section. If we don’t at least try to do that, our sin will cost us at the judgement (bema) seat of Christ where he will reward His servants. If anyone’s work will remain, he shall be rewarded. If any man’s work is consumed, he will suffer loss. Those are two words that sound very ominous when put together in this context. More on that when we study 1 Corinthians.
13: and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
- Sin is something that when we discover that it is sin, we should stop immediately. The legal authority is there if not the will for it. (More on that in Chapter 7) If you have trouble with stealing, you should stop doing it immediately. If you are having an adulterous relationship with your neighbour, you MUST stop immediately. If you’re looking at gay porn, you need to stop now. All of that is sin, and the good news is that you no longer have to feel cheap about it the next day. You no longer have to be “the way we were,” like Streisand.
- Instead, as redeemed creatures, we can choose differently. Instead of yielding to sin, we can choose instead to be holy and yield to righteousness. I was reading some memes online the other day, and I came across one that I really liked. I says, “the person you are when nobody else is watching is who you really are.” Choose purity and holiness, beloved. And if you find yourself tired of feeling like a $3 prostitute for the garbage you’ve been doing, maybe it’s time YOU TURNED to God and repented and believed the gospel – that Christ died according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures – for YOU – so that YOU don’t have to be like that.
14: For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
- Now – this is speaking exclusively to believers at this point – sin shall NOT be your master like it is for all unbelievers universally – you ae not under the law, but under grace. Now, this is setting up another of those questions that it’s very important we get it right – and Paul is going to ask the question and then explain the answer.
What we have to understand is that believers now have a choice that no unbelieving person has – the choice of to that which we will yield. Will we yield to temptation and sin, or will we yield ourselves instead to God and choose not to sin but to be holy? That, as we are about to see is all up to us as believers.
15-19: Choose your master – sin or righteousness
Here is the question right at the start, let’s jump right in.
15: What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
- There it is – because Jesus completed the law and put it on the shelf, are we okay to start sinning again? I love Paul’s answer – Not ever! No! Nein! Nyet! Eiea! Non! Never! Nuh-uh! Get the idea of the strength of the “no” there?
- This is a valid question as well. Arguments that question the validity of a statement are okay to ask – as long as you are prepared to accept the answer and live by it. The Law is God’s will in writing for us. We are no longer required to keep it – but knowing that our thrice holy God cannot and will not look on sin, do you still feel comfortable offending the Lover of your soul like that? I daresay I do not.
16: Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
- What is this really saying? Well, Jesus gave us an example in Matt 6:24: ““No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Here his example is God and wealth, and it is important to know that this is not a parallel from the Apostle Paul. He is not equating wealth with sin, and people that make that connection are not doing careful exegesis. Paul is talking about Obedience to God and sin, and he does not even mention wealth in this passage.
- Paul’s point here is that you will indicate whom you serve with your actions. It is possible to pay lip service to the ideals of Christ and do completely the opposite. We have all known someone like that, or maybe even been someone like that. Here’s a present day example – I know a believer who has a relative with cancer, but they came to me one day just before I was to preach, and she started talking about their parent “dying with dignity,” or essentially committing suicide rather than allowing God to work in their life right until the end. I pointed out the contradiction with Christianity and then patiently waded through the objections and questions – and won a convert to Christ over from a worldly and demonic opinion. Later, I was telling a so-called pastor about the conversation, and he had the audacity to chide me for offering contradictory counsel!
- My point here is that one chose to obey – and the “educated” “pastor” (and there were two of them there, both objected, one recanted his objection later) chose to display an attitude that is clearly against the will of God as expressed in the Holy Writ of Scripture. Paul is actually not telling us that we must choose between these two masters, God and sin; Paul is saying that our choice of whom we obey reveals who we really serve. Jesus said we could “know them by their fruits,” and He wasn’t just talking about false converts. He was naming them wolves. “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” That’s Matthew 7:15-16, and that question is one that He immediately answers even though it is clearly rhetorical. He wanted no fogginess or lack of clarity on His answer.
17: But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,
- In fact, so does Paul here – he is reminding the Christians of Rome that they HAD turned from sin (at least in their heart) and became obedient to “that form of teaching to which you were committed,” which I think the King James in this case makes more clear, and it is correct to the Greek that I compared it to: “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” I felt the need to explain that they were not committed to a method of learning, but rather codified doctrine, the Greek word being “didaches,” or teachings, specific and plural, indicating that it was the teachings to which they were conformed, not a method of learning.
- Why am I making a big deal out of this? Because “form of teaching” in English lacks clarity to me and leaves room for someone to say, “well, I follow this method of learning,” and that “method of learning” is anointed of God before all others. This in turn leaves room for the false doctrine like it’s okay to kill yourself if you get a terminal cancer diagnosis to creep in. Paul is not leaving that room, the Greek here is very precise.
- These Roman Christians were servants of sin before they believed, but when they placed their faith in Christ, they became obedient to solid doctrine (the Gospel at least), not to a Gnostic method of gaining secret knowledge or something. Mystics and Gnostics are both shut out here.
18: and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
- These Roman Christians had in fact been set free from the mastery of sin over them. The very normal response to being set free from a hard master is to serve the one that set you free, and so they became slaves (doulos) of Christ! Of Righteousness! Of everything that is good! Because Christ, in his propitiation, or sin-absorbing sacrifice, had killed sin for them.
19: I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
- HERE is where Paul indicates to us that we have a choice to participate in our own sanctification. On the one hand, we have our sin, which in many cases we have learned to love. On the other, we have Christ who has set us free and His will to do. Wow. That’s a choice at times. Joshua put it this way in his address to God’s people: “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Jos. 25:14-15)
- You see, the principle that God has in motion works like this: When you participate in sin, knowingly or unknowingly, sin gets a better hold on you and grows in the world to make an even bigger mess. However, when you choose to obey God, YOU are making a separation between you and the world system – you are being made holy (sanctification). That might not unravel sin at all, but for you, you are being made more like the Lord Jesus – and how is that ever a bad thing?
The apostle here is making the point that we now have been set free from sin. On that basis alone, we no longer need to sin – but we probably will because even though we have been set free, our cure is a spiritual one first. We have been set free from the rule of sin, but we are still physical beings, and that part of us is still unregenerate, to choose a word to use. It will be that way and subject to the laws of sin and decay until the Lord changes our bodies into heavenly ones that do not have the taint and stink of sin.
20-23: Earned wrath or free gift? Choose!!!
The question here is which set of rules we want to live under. Will we in fact continue to live by the rule of sin in our lives and continue to store up wrath for ourselves, or will we accept the free gift of grace that God offers through the death of His own Son? Both have powerful and awesome endings, but the awe for the former quickly gives way to fear, while the other is crowned in love. Paul makes the point here – we must choose. And if you find yourself in a place of not wanting to choose, that is the same as making a negative choice, because we are under wrath by default. Let’s have a look.
20: For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
- See? Under the old system, you didn’t have to do the right thing if you didn’t want to – you could steal whatever you wanted as long as you could get away with it; you were free to “pair” with anyone you chose to get intimate with, no holds barred as long as they consented; you were free to be as cutting and scathing with your words as you chose as long as it was true (false ones would get you sued). I could go on. The point is, you could do that before you placed your faith in Jesus Christ.
21: Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.
- But what really were you getting from that as a benefit that was enduring? This is why the writer of Hebrews called it “the passing pleasures of sin.” (Heb. 11:25) All of these so-called benefits from my previous examples, the perceived profit and gain, the sexual or emotional release and comfort, the feeling of superiority and pride, are not permanent, and actually leave you accountable to God. You (and I) did some or all of those things and more besides. And as Paul says, I am ashamed of myself for participating in those deeds of darkness. I mean REAL DARKNESS, not that silly legalistic, nonsensical stuff like whether a Christian should dance or play cards or light scented candles. Theft. Murder. Adultery. Lying. Idolatry. Stuff like that. The outcome of that stuff is death, says Paul.
22: But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.
- But now. What a phrase. It indicates that at some point in the past, some nearer than others to that point, we were set free from sin as our master. We’ve already been over how, but since it really doesn’t get old, it was by the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of this, He now holds claim over our lives. Our response should be to obey Him as our master in gratitude for setting us free from those things that were destroying us anyway. The outcome of those things was death, remember?
- Now, as slaves (doulos) to God, we actually do derive a benefit – we begin to separate from the world – sometimes by a little at a time, sometimes by a whole lot at a time – and the outcome of that separation, or HOLINESS, is in fact “eternal life.” Aonion zoe. The life of the ages. The very life that Jesus has within Himself – he had it from eternity past, he had it while he was here in some measure, and has it now restored to Him by the Father for all ages to come – and he gives it to all those that will believe in Him to become His doulos – slave – that will carry out His will. All this is the free gift, as paul immediately makes plain.
23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Two masters. Two systems of rewards from said masters. Two words to describe the results of following each of those masters.
- Wages (what we earn for ourselves) or God’s gracious free gift that gives the life of the ages.
- Death forever or Life forevermore.
Beloved, that is the choice before us all, unbeliever included. Remember that you used to be one too. We can choose to wallow in our sin and crawl away and die in whatever stinking hole we choose, or we can give it all up for a glorious all-ages-long eternal life. Jesus Christ was buried according to the Scriptures, was buried, and was raised again to New Life according to the Scriptures, and He has in that death, burial, and resurrection a gracious free gift of faith for you to believe if you will. Put your faith in Him – believe.
Now, in this chapter we looked at two questions. The first of those was whether to continue to sin so that grace could continue to abound and increase. Paul answered “NOT EVER.” Those of us who are following in the footsteps of Abraham from chapter 4 are bought with a price and fully immersed into Christ as a new creation. We are given a new nature, a new center, a new meaning for living. How can we continue to do that which would displease the One that gave that to us, Christ? The second of those was whether to sin because we were no longer under the law but under grace. We quickly discovered that we dare not – “NOT EVER,” says Paul. The master that we obey tells the universe that is looking on who we serve in no uncertain terms. If we sin, then sin is our master, and we earn our wages for ourselves – death and wrath. If we choose instead to not sin but instead put to death sin in our mortal bodies (those of us who are doing this will tell you it is difficult), we are being made holy or sanctified – and this means that we are serving the one who freed us from sin. In joy, we willingly submit to His will for us, which is to believe Him. (John 6:28-29)
It all comes down to what we choose to do with the freedom we have been given by Christ. Will we choose to love our sin more than Jesus? Or will we choose Christ and His will for us in this world? This is the choice of every man, and especially of believers. To those who will make Jesus their Saviour but not Lord, you will find that He will be neither. He gave all for you – and you will not give everything for Him? This is a concept that is referred to by theologians as “Lordship Salvation,” in case I ever use the term again. I believe that this is the very model of salvation that the Scriptures bear out. I say again: If you believe that Jesus is your Saviour but you will not allow Him to be your Lord, He will be neither. But when you yield to Him as your Lord, He will be both Saviour and Lord.
That’s Romans 6. Next time, we will see that even Paul didn’t get it completely perfect while he lived in chapter 7.