(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 8/4/02 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's read Romans 6, verses 19 through 23:
Romans 6: (19) I speak as a man on account of the weakness of your flesh. For as you presented your members [as] slaves to uncleanness and to lawless act unto lawless act, so now yield your members as slaves to righteousness unto sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free as to righteousness. (21) Therefore what fruit did you have then [in the things] over which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things [is] death. (22) But now having been set free from sin, and having been enslaved to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end everlasting life. (23) For the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Last week, we saw that we who are Christians WERE slaves of sin, but we obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine to which we were delivered, and having been SET FREE from sin, we became slaves to righteousness. When God regenerated us and gave us a new heart, we immediately were caused to believe gospel doctrine. We were set free from being slaves to sin, obedient to sin, and were caused to be slaves to righteousness, to walk in newness of life as opposed to walking in sin.
Paul continues the analogy to slavery in verse 19. The first thing we see that he says is "I speak as a man on account of the weakness of your flesh." What is Paul saying here? He is saying that he is employing a common, every-day occurrence in his illustration in order that it be more easily understood. He continues to use the common occurrence of slavery here to illustrate how we are to walk. In using this illustration, he compares slavery to sin and slavery to righteousness, saying "just as you presented yourself as slaves to unrighteousness, now present yourselves as slaves to righteousness," realizing that one's slavery to righteousness exceeds slavery to sin in every way, so it's not an exact parallel. But slavery is the best way to humanly describe our obedience to, our dedication to, our attachment to righteousness. Also, because of the weakness of our flesh and thus our tendency to let things go in one ear and out the other, he is repeating things he just said a few sentences earlier. Back in verse 13, he said:
Romans 6: (13) Neither present your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as [one] living from [the] dead, and your members instruments of righteousness to God.
And in verse 16, he said:
Romans 6: (16) Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves to whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or obedience to righteousness?
And so he repeats this in verse 19. Let's briefly go into this again. First, he talks about the way we Christians USED to be before we believed right doctrine and were set free from sin. We USED to present our members as slaves to uncleanness and lawless act unto lawless act. We presented our bodies, gave our bodies up to, uncleanness and lawlessness, from one sin to another. We couldn't get enough of sin. We obeyed it wherever it took us. Now the first thing we think of is outward immorality. And for those who were outwardly immoral before they were saved, it is certainly true that they lived from one immoral act to another and gave the members of their bodies up to outward immorality. But this also applies to those who used to be self-righteous religionists who were outwardly moral. They, too, went from one sinful thing to another. They attended church services, they witnessed, they did good deeds, they went back to church services, they gave to missions work, they stood up for the unborn, they helped the needy, they went back to church services, they prayed, they sang, they witnessed some more, and on and on. They went from one self-righteous act to the next. They poured their whole heart and soul into it. They were zealous for their false gospel.
Now, as we look at its counterpart, which is slavery to righteousness, how much more zealous should we be to do righteousness than when we were doing unrighteousness? If we zealously lived for immorality, how much more, now that God has saved us, should we live for righteousness? If we zealously lived for communing with our false god and promoting our false gospel, how much more, now that God has saved us, should we live for righteousness? There should be no comparison! We should be a hundred times more zealous and committed in our true religion than we were in our false religion! And we should be so ashamed of what we used to be and what we used to do that we do our best to show others the truth in hopes that they will be rescued from what we were once walking in! If you were an Arminian, go out and tell the Arminians how God saved you out of Arminianism! Tell them that they are lost and their deeds are evil, just as you were before God saved you! If you were immoral, go out and tell the immoral how God saved you out of immorality! Tell them that they are lost and their deeds are evil, just as you were before God saved you! Walk in purity and righteousness! Cling to righteousness! Be enslaved to righteousness! If you are a believer, righteousness is what defines you! You are declared righteous by the imputed righteousness of Christ, and you have also been given a new heart to WALK in righteousness! And part of that walking in righteousness is knowing that your own righteousness has nothing to do with your acceptance before God, because your own righteousness is not perfect righteousness and because CHRIST'S righteousness is the ONLY ground of acceptance before God.
Paul says that when we were slaves of sin, we were FREE as to righteousness. Think about that. Before God saved us, we were FREE as to righteousness. And someone who is FREE of something is not SERVING that something, right? So we were as far away from righteousness as we could be. We were held in the chains of sin, willingly obeying our lusts, thinking and speaking and acting according to the sin principle that reigned in us. Everything we did was sin. Even our acts of kindness were wicked in the sight of God. Even our religious zeal was wicked in the sight of God. Our beliefs, our actions, our words, EVERYTHING was wicked. Do you look back at your wicked past with glee? Do you speak fondly of the times you had in your immorality or self-righteousness? Do you laugh at the sin you committed? Do you treat it as a light thing? Well, let's look at verse 21:
Romans 6: (21) Therefore what fruit did you have then [in the things] over which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things [is] death.
What kind of fruit did you have in your living in sin? Was there anything good in what you believed, what you did, what you said? Was there any redeeming quality about you? No. It was all things over which we are now ashamed. We are ashamed of the way we believed, the way we acted, and the way we spoke. Now if we are ashamed of the way we were back then, if we considered ourselves to be slaves to sin back then, how can it be that we would consider others to be saved who are now like the way we were back then? Think about it! If someone looks back on an immoral lifestyle and says, "I was lost back then," how can he then call someone who is currently caught up in the exact same lifestyle a brother in Christ? And the same goes for DOCTRINE! How can someone who says, "My belief in universal atonement showed that I was lost," then turn around and say, "but not all who believe in universal atonement are lost?" Whatever you judge YOURSELF by, you'll judge others by. It's like when I was preaching on Gospel Repentance and Judgment in the last sermon in the series on the gospel. If you've truly REPENTED of a false gospel, you're NOT going to turn around and call those who believe in a false gospel your brothers in Christ! If you were truly ASHAMED of your self-righteous religion, then you're NOT going to turn around and tell self-righteous religionists that everything's okay! REPENTANCE, and the ASHAMEDNESS that goes along with repentance, goes hand-in-hand with RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT. If you call some Arminians saved and you were once an Arminian, then you have not truly REPENTED of your Arminianism. You were not truly ASHAMED of your former Arminian beliefs, no matter how much you say that Arminianism is a false gospel. You still CLING to your Arminianism by saying that OTHER Arminians are your brothers in Christ, thus saying that the Arminian gospel is compatible with the true gospel. But we who have been saved, who have believed FROM THE HEART the form of doctrine to which we were given over, will say with Paul, "For the end of THOSE THINGS is death." We are ashamed of our former wickedness and acknowledge that these things were, in fact, wickedness, to the point of saying that the end of this wickedness is death. If any of you listening to this haven't come to that point - haven't come to the point of saying that the end of those things is death - then you have not truly repented. If you do not say that the end of the belief that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception is death - then you are not ashamed of your former belief that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception. If you do not say that the end of speaking peace to Arminians is death, then you are not ashamed of your former belief that Arminians are saved. And it even applies to walking in immorality. If you do not say that the end of an immoral lifestyle is death, then you are not ashamed of your former immoral lifestyle. Remember - living in open sin IS INDICATIVE of lostness, just as confessing a false gospel IS INDICATIVE of lostness. You can tell very quickly when someone who has gone from believing universal atonement to believing particular redemption has not really repented of his belief in universal atonement. The way to tell is this: Does he believe that his belief in universal atonement showed that he was LOST? Does he believe that ALL who believe in universal atonement are lost? Does he believe that the end of this belief is DEATH? If any of the answers to these questions are "no," then he has not truly repented. He has not been truly made ashamed. He still thinks there was some fruit in it. But when someone has TRULY been saved, IMMEDIATELY upon regeneration he will see his former self and his former way of life and his former beliefs in a new light. Whereas before he lived in it, he now counts it as dung. Paul, in Philippians 3, said he counted all of his self-righteous religion and morality as LOSS and TRASH because of the excellency of what? Because of the excellency of the KNOWLEDGE of Christ Jesus his Lord. He had been given KNOWLEDGE. He had obeyed from the heart the form of DOCTRINE to which he was delivered. And you can't obey what you don't know. When God regenerated Paul, He gave him DOCTRINAL KNOWLEDGE by which he KNEW that his former religion was nothing but dung. When God saves one who believed in universal atonement, He gives that person DOCTRINAL KNOWLEDGE by which he KNOWS that his former religion of universal atonement was dung. How can it be any other way? When God gives someone knowledge of the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ, that person KNOWS that it is the work of Christ alone that makes the ONLY difference between salvation and damnation. That person glories in the cross of Christ ALONE. That person counts all of his former God-hating religious notions as LOSS in light of the excellency of the KNOWLEDGE of Christ Jesus his Lord, for whose sake he has suffered the loss of ALL THINGS and count them to be GARBAGE that he might gain Christ. What fruit did you have then in the things over which you are now ashamed? None. No true fruit, just fruit unto death.
On to verse 22:
Romans 6: (22) But now having been set free from sin, and having been enslaved to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end everlasting life.
In contrast with fruit unto death in the former things, we who have been given the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord have become enslaved to God. We are now servants of the Most High God. We follow Jesus Christ. We NEVER follow a stranger, as Jesus Christ said in John 10:5. We have become lovers of God and lovers of His revealed will. We say with David in Psalm 119:97, "Oh how I love Your Law!" Do you say that? Do you love God's Law? All who have been enslaved to God will love God's Law. They will love to meditate in God's Law and will love to be obedient to God's Law. When we were slaves to sin, we loved to be obedient to sin. Now that we are slaves to obedience to righteousness, we love to be obedient to God's commandments. Having been enslaved to God, WE have OUR fruit unto HOLINESS. The LITV says "sanctification," but I believe that the word "holiness," as the King James translates it, is better here. Our FRUIT is what comes from a new heart. It is our obedience. HOLINESS is what describes our way of life. It's just like the phrase "obedience to righteousness" in verse 16. The end of verse 22 says that the end of our having been set free from sin and enslaved to God is everlasting life. Now there are self-righteous religionists out there who would say that this verse says that it is our HOLINESS that is the basis of our everlasting life. Well, if it is, then we would have room to boast. We would have a boast, but not with God. If this were true, then when we got to judgment day, we would plead our holiness before God, and God would accept our holiness. This, of course, is blasphemy. Nothing that we do or are enabled to do forms any ground of our entitlement to heaven. Our holiness in character and conduct does not even MAKE US MORE FIT or PREPARED for heaven, as some God-haters like to boast. The only thing that makes us fit and entitled to heaven is the imputed righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, TOTALLY APART from our works of righteousness. And we also know that those who have been DECLARED righteous will seek to do WORKS of righteousness and will seek to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. We won't ever reach perfection on this earth, and we're not even getting more and more perfect as we go along, but when we die, we will enter into a sinless existence with Jesus Christ and live forever with Him, singing Worthy Is The Lamb.
Lastly, verse 23:
Romans 6: (23) For the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul concludes by saying two things. First, he says that the wages of sin is death. It is another way of saying what he said in verse 21, which is "For the end of those things is death." He also said in verse 16 that when one is a slave to sin, he is a slave of sin to death. In verse 23, he adds a word not found anywhere else in this epistle, which is "wages." Remember when we talked about this before, we saw that "wages" are what someone EARNS. When I work, I earn WAGES, which is a PAYMENT. It is something that I am OWED. Thus, sin's wages, what sin earns, what sin deserves, is death. Sin deserves everlasting death in hell, because sin is an offense to the eternal God. As we saw in chapter 5, when sin came into the world, death came into the world. When sin reigns, death reigns. Everyone who does not have a righteousness that answers the demands of God's law and justice deserves everlasting death. And if anyone dies who does not have a righteousness that answers the demands of God's law and justice, he will burn in the torments of hell forever and ever, where the fire is not quenched and their smoke rises up for eternity. So sin earns death. But now let's look at the second half of the sentence. Once again, as we saw in verse 16, there is a conspicuous non-parallel. If our own obedience gained us heaven, this would have been the time for Paul to say it. If it were a direct parallel, it would say, "For the wages of sin is death, but the wages of obedience is life." Now wouldn't that make sense to the people who say that verse 22 is saying that obedience is what leads to everlasting life? But Paul makes sure to let the readers know that, after all this talk about obedience and living unto God and living holy lives and presenting our members as instruments of righteousness, everlasting life is NOT BASED ON ANY OF THESE THINGS! Our own obedience, although it is a fruit of every believer, DOES NOT EARN LIFE. There is NO WAY to earn life in our own character and conduct. So, although sin earns everlasting death, obedience DOES NOT earn everlasting life. Instead, everlasting life is a FREE GIFT OF GOD! That means that it is a TOTALLY UNMERITED thing that is BESTOWED upon whomever God wills. As Romans 5:15-21 says:
Romans 5: (15) But the free gift [is] not also like the deviation. For if by the deviation of the one the many died, much more the grace of God, and the gift in grace, which [is] of the one Man, Jesus Christ, did abound to the many. (16) And the gift [is] not as by one having sinned; for indeed the judgment [was] of one to condemnation, but the free gift [is] of many deviations to justification. (17) For if by the deviation of the one death reigned through the one, much more those who are receiving the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness shall rule in life by the One, Jesus Christ. (18) So then, as through one deviation [it was] toward all men to condemnation, so also through one righteous act toward all men to justification of life. (19) For as through the one man's disobedience the many were constituted sinners, so also through the obedience of the One the many shall be constituted righteous. (20) But Law came in besides, that the deviation might abound. But where sin abounded, grace much more abounded, (21) that as sin ruled in death, so also grace might rule through righteousness to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Grace rules through righteousness to everlasting life. And THIS righteousness is not OUR OWN righteousness - it is the obedience by which the many shall be constituted righteous. It is the perfect obedience of Christ on behalf of His sheep that is imputed to them and by which God judges us as having perfect righteousness. The gift of God is everlasting life in whom? In CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD. There is no everlasting life if there is no person and work of Christ. Jesus Christ worked out a righteousness, was obedient unto death, took all the sins of all his people upon himself, and paid the price IN FULL for all of their sins, so that ALL of them - EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM - is GUARANTEED everlasting life. Whomever God chose before the foundation of the world, Jesus died for. Whomever Jesus died for will have everlasting life. There's no room for even ONE work of man in this equation. It is a sovereignly-bestowed GIFT that all God's people RECEIVE, that NONE of God's people can refuse, that results in EVERLASTING LIFE. I didn't earn it, you didn't earn it. The only thing that humans can earn is death. The only way that humans can have eternal life is if it is FREELY GIVEN to them through the work of Jesus Christ.
Which side are you on? Are you on the everlasting death side, or are you on the everlasting life side? If you believe that your works or your faith or anything that proceeds from you forms any part of the ground of your salvation, your acceptance before God, or your entitlement to heaven, you are dwelling in death. And if God doesn't save you, you will spend your afterlife in eternal torment in hell. The wages of sin is death. Your sin earns death. You might say, "But I try my best to obey God, and I go to church as much as I can, and I witness to others, and I thank God for everything He's given to me. And I used to not do these things when I wasn't saved." And my response is: What is your DOCTRINE? Have you obeyed from the heart gospel doctrine? You might respond, "I believe that the good news is that Jesus died for all sinners, and since I'm a sinner, Jesus died for me, and when I heard Jesus knock at the door of my heart, I let him in, and now he's here to stay." And my response is, You are bringing forth fruit unto death. You do not believe the gospel. The gospel is the doctrine of the accomplished work of Christ whereby He paid in full the ransom price for everyone whom He represented so that everyone for whom He died would have everlasting life, guaranteed. It is the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ whereby His people are accepted before God based on Christ's righteousness alone. It is the doctrine that Christ's work makes the ONLY difference between salvation and damnation. Repent of conditioning salvation on yourself and believe the gospel.
If you're a believer, you know that everlasting life is merited by the work of Christ alone. You believe God's promise to save His people based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, your works totally excluded. You know that the work of Christ alone ensured the salvation of all whom He represented. You have repented of dead works and former idolatry and have turned from worshiping an idol to worshiping the true and living God. You believe that you were lost when you believed in salvation conditioned on the sinner and consider all your former works as but loss and garbage and dung. You realize that the accomplished work of Christ is so essential that without it you do not have the true gospel. You value the gospel to the point of judging all who do not believe this gospel as lost. You do not boast in yourself, for you know that you had nothing to do with your salvation. And you no longer walk in sin but walk in obedience, because your old man has been crucified with Christ and you are a new creation in Christ, created to do good works. Glory to God in the highest for giving us, His people, everlasting life, for giving us a knowledge of Him through His doctrine, and for causing us to show our love for Him by walking in His statutes. Amen.