“What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Romans 6:21-23
“Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death” (Romans 6:21, NASB). Good works and righteous deeds do not precede salvation. It is written,
“The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.” —Proverbs 10:16
All the unsaved, reprobate, and unredeemed person can do is sin. It is written,
“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” —Titus 1:15
“But now, having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life” (Romans 6:22). “But now,” that is, now that we are saved, “being made free from sin, and [having] become [slaves] to God,” the evidence that our salvation was truly the blessed and miraculous resurrection of our souls from the dead by the Holy Spirit is that there is fruit, which He brings forth through us.
Does this mean that the soul saved by grace will not commit sin? No, we’ll see that struggle and that warfare a bit more when we get to Romans 7; yet, because there is a struggle, we need to recognize that there is a submission unto God, an obedient surrender unto Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). To paraphrase some of our older confessions of faith, concerning “Free Will” we read this:
“When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin, and by His grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good. Yet, because of his remaining corruptions, he does not only or perfectly will that which is good, but also will that which is evil.”
—A Puritan Family Devotional, 1689 London Baptist Confession (edited in modern English), pg.56, para.3
To abide in Christ, the true Vine, to bear good fruit, is to be reminded of God’s blessed grace in becoming and being a bond slave unto Christ: Deuteronomy 15:16, “…if he say unto Thee, I will not go away from Thee; because he loveth Thee and Thine house…” In other words, we say, “I love my Master’s house…” We have a desire to abide with Him (to use the language of Deuteronomy 15), or “abide in” Him (to use the language of John 15).
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). All sin deserves death; it matters not what kind: original sin, actual sin, small sins, and enormous sins. Every sin must be condemned, as all sin deserves death because it opposes a holy God. The natural outcome of sin, apart from the grace of God in Christ and the intervention of the Holy Spirit, is pain, and ultimately death. Sins wages are death, as opposed to life, receiving every bit of payment for its transgression against an infinitely holy God.
A saved man receives eternal life as a free gift from God. Eternal life through Jesus Christ is not a thing which man deserves; for sinful man deserves death. Eternal life through Christ is not something man has earned; for this gift from God comes as a result of God’s love, mercy and free and sovereign grace alone. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
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Read the previous article in this series, “The Reality of Godly Slavery” (Romans 6:19-20).