I think I’ve commented on it before . . . how some verses lie in the shadow of others. Case in point, this morning, Romans 6:22.
Romans 6:23 is the well known verse . . . “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s the consummate summary of the gospel . . . bad news, followed by the good news. Part of the “Roman Road” . . . inscribed on plaques and wall hangings . . . frequently found in Scripture memorization plans. A “big” verse. As such, it can cast a pretty broad shadow. Causing us, sometimes, to skim over the verses around it. But in that shadow, my attention was drawn to the twenty-second verse of Romans six . . . and the path to our final destination.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. (Romans 6:22 ESV)
Paul’s been making the argument that grace should be no motivator to sin. In fact, the same grace that forgives sin is the grace which gives new life. Moreover, while sin’s power is death, grace conquers because it offers a righteousness that comes by faith. Thus, we are not to sin because it’s covered by grace. Instead, we are to pursue righteousness because it is who we are by grace.
And so, set free from sin, we are now free to yield to a new master . . . we are free to become slaves of God.
To be sure, we are not “there” yet . . . the old man waging war continually with the Spirit within us (Gal. 5:16-18). But, if we walk in the Spirit, we will not have to concede to the flesh. And the fruit of submitting ourselves to the Spirit, of counting ourselves as slaves to God, is sanctification. The manifest impact of yielding ourselves to the things of the kingdom will be an ever-increasing, more and more evident, holiness.
Slaves of God start thinking more and more like His Son. Slaves of God start acting more and more like His Son. Slaves of God become more and more conformed to the nature of His Son.
And this process of sanctification, this realization of holiness, is but the divine preparation for a glorious end.
While being focused on living life well now is important, the ultimate goal of this pursuit is the fullness of salvation. That what is now a “work in progress” will one day be the complete “restoration of the soul to the favor and enjoyment of God forever” (Charles Hodge). That the holy determination to live according to the new nature now, will one day become second nature. Having already been delivered fully from the penalty of sin, holiness will just be who I am when I’m finally and fully delivered from the power and the presence of sin.
Sanctification is but the means towards a glorious end. It’s but the preparation for a future reality. It’s but the incentive towards greater riches. It’s but the evidence that the promise will be fulfilled.
To be sure, I fail and fall way more than I would like. But, in those moments when, by His grace, I recognize myself really living as a “slave of righteousness” through the power of the Spirit of God, far from patting myself on the back and saying, “I’ve arrived,” I should, instead, be reminded that it’s but the path to our final destination. I should look to the sky and know that I’m not home yet . . . but I’m on my way.
All because of grace. All for His eternal glory.