Romans 6:20-23

Have you ever picked up an entertainment magazine in the checkout line or watched an interview with someone who is rich and famous? Broken marriages, repeated rehab, estranged children, living without reference to God. No desire for him. No delight in him. Sin and self reign. With all the designer clothes, magnificent homes and extravagant vacations, there is still no lasting joy. It seems that the more of the world a person has, the more miserable he or she seems to be. One famous actor said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

This is because no matter how much money you have or how well known you are there is no remedy for shame apart from Christ. A life lived without reference to God is a life of ever-increasing shame and bears the fruit of death. Death of relationships, death of satisfaction, death of joy, and ultimately eternal death away from the Lord. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The unrepentant sinner earns death as a deserved wage.

“[B]ut the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23). The one who has been set free from sin and has become a slave of God through trusting in the work of Christ bears fruit that “leads to sanctification” (6:22). Living for the glory of God makes us more like Jesus, the Son. We are united to him and become like him as the grace of God trains us to renounce worldly passions and live godly lives (Titus 2:12). This is where true satisfaction and joy is found and its end is eternal life (Romans 6:22).

The law of Moses isn’t what enables us to fight sin. Yes, it surely shows us our sin. It shows us God’s holiness and righteousness and goodness, and it shows us how far short we fall. But the law can’t bridge the chasm between us and God. Only Christ can. Grace is how we fight sin—knowing that this holy, righteous, good God loves us and sent his Son to pay the wages of our sin. He died in our place, gave us a new nature and sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Our unity with Christ enables us to follow the law of Christ and fight sin (Romans 8:4, 13). We died with him and will be raised with him. This is what changes our hearts.

All of chapter 6 of Romans is an argument for extravagant grace being the change agent in the Christian’s heart. Good fruit can’t be stapled onto a tree. It will eventually shrivel and rot, showing the tree to be dead. Good fruit must grow from living roots planted down into good soil. The soil feeds the sap of the tree, which flows through the branches. Blossoms break forth and slowly turn to fruit, which becomes ripe and luscious. Grace—God’s undeserved love for sinners in Christ—feeds the soil of our souls. God pours love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit and that love produces ripe fruit that leads to sanctification and eternal life. Christopher Ash has written, “Don’t rely even 1 per cent on the law to change you: cry daily for the gracious work of the indwelling Spirit of God.” The fruit we earn is sour and rotten but the free gift of God wells up into eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This eternal life begins now. It’s not just life continuing after death but a full life of ever-increasing joy in God, seeing his glories more clearly and knowing him better on this earth and then in the new heavens and earth forevermore. And it is a gift—a super-abundance of grace that is much more than all of our sin. Riches and fame are nothing compared to God’s grace in Jesus.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Do you want to earn your wages or receive the free gift? Marvelous, matchless, infinite grace! Let the abundant love of God in Christ motivate your fight against sin; indeed, let it motivate your whole life. In Christ, God’s greatest gift, believers have been set free!

  • Bible study questions for Romans 6:20-23 are here. You can find the beginning of the Romans 6 Bible study here.

Order Keri’s book The Good Portion: Scripture. See her Delighting in the Word Bible Studies.

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