The Gift Is Holiness

"Praise God for making it all possible through Jesus Christ our Lord!" by Glenn Welch
Man Thinking

We’ve quoted the verse a thousand times:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is holiness, leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

What’s that you say? I misquoted scripture? Technically true, but I would suggest we misquote Romans 6:23 when we read the verse alone and out of context. The thrust of chapter 6 is not the idea that sinners are doomed unless they simply accept a gift of eternal life. Who wouldn’t? Paul is actually addressing believers, warning them that if they continue to lead a sinful life, this will lead to death. “The gift of God is eternal life” seems to be included only to clarify that, unlike sin which earns wages, our obedience doesn’t make God owe us anything. True, eternal life is a gift obtainable only through Christ’s sacrifice, but Paul’s real point of emphasis for the chapter is that since we are saved, sin is no longer our master. We are now slaves to righteousness which leads to holiness (verse 19) and ultimately to an eternity with God.

We are concerned when people show no interest in making a commitment to God but are instead just looking for a ticket to heaven. But actually, we might contribute to their shallow notion of religion when we imply from Romans 6:23 that the options we face are either to sin and die, or to sin and receive life by simply allowing the gift to land in our lap. Paul makes it clear; we who claim to be Christian have the choice to either continue to sin and die, or to obey and live (verse 16). The obedience isn’t the saving instrument. It is the logical result of being saved. If we continue to sin, we can’t say we’re saved from sin – that’s a contradiction. We’re in effect refusing God’s salvation from sin by continuing to sin, that is, to be willfully living contrary to how we know God wants us to live. Salvation can’t coexist with rebellion.

The bottom line is, we need to come under God’s authority and declare Him Lord, not only of the universe, but also of us personally as we echo Jesus’ words, “Not my will but yours be done.” We need a surrendered heart to put us in a position to accept His gift. Surrender walks hand in hand with repentance, and then follows the true joy of salvation – forgiveness and cleansing!

As 1 John 1:9 declares, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Although we look forward to eternal life, the cleansing is the real gift, for the cleansing ushers us into a relationship with God, and this relationship continues as long as we remain under his authority. Perhaps we should make the habit of quoting the verse just prior to Romans 6:23, which more accurately summarizes the chapter and gives a truer picture of what God is trying to teach us here:

Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.


It cannot be stated any clearer. Accept God’s salvation, then live as one who is saved, and the ensuing cleansed, holy life sets in motion eternal life. Praise God for making it all possible through Jesus Christ our Lord!

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