Five Minute Devotions: Romans 6
Having made the case for justification in Romans 1-5, Paul now moves onward to sanctification in Romans 6. Now that we have been saved from sin’s penalty, how now shall we live? Should we go on sinning so as to take advantage of God’s grace? Of course not! He who saved us set us free from sin (Romans 6:1-7). He uses the imagery of death, saying that if Christ’s resurrection is to be ours, so must his death. We have died to sin and now live for God (Romans 6:8-11), so we are compelled to live in a fashion that honors the Spirit now within us (Romans 6:11-14). Paul uses slavery as an example, stating that we used to be slaves to sin, but now are slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:15-22). The closing verse reiterates that it was God’s grace that saved us, not our works (Romans 6:23).
Dead to Sin | Alive to Christ
To illustrate his point about how the Christian is literally a new person once he or she is indwelt by the Spirit, Paul uses the analogy of death. When Christ died with your sins on the cross, your sinful self died with him. When he rose again from the grave, your redeemed self rose with him.
Before our death to sin, in our natural state, sin held mastery over us. It was part of our nature. Using another analogy, Paul calls sin our slavemaster. But in death comes our release from the bondage of sin. We’ve died. We’ve paid the penalty through Christ. Sin no longer has any power over us.
So then, Paul says, you have been raised up like Christ has been raised up. And you’ve been raised up with the command to avoid sin. Sin is like an abusive relationship. You know it’s bas for you, and yet you keep returning to it. You keep finding some way of justifying your relationship. It tears you down and eats you up, and you stay—not because it’s good, but because there is familiarity.
Paul implores his readers not to reenter relationship with sin using the justification that God’s grace has already covered it. True, God’s grace has covered the penalty of sin, but it negates the power of sin as well. The Christian should therefore seek to avoid sin and use the power of the Spirit to make his struggle effective.
Wages vs. Gift
The final verse of chapter 6 is one that’s often quoted and memorized. In one sentence, Paul captures the uniqueness of the Christian message:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is a strong contrast.
Wages of sin.
Gift of God.
We have earned those wages of sin. We’ve put in the hours and the paycheck of death that sin gives us is one that we deserve. It’s just like an individual clocking in his daily day of work and getting his check every Friday. He’s getting paid his due. He’s owed this paycheck. In the same, we are owed death because we’ve done the work of sin.
It’s interesting, then, that many try to get out of the consequences of sin by trying to earn their salvation. They think that if they earned their sin, they can turn around and nullify that paycheck by earning a more royal reward. Paul’s second clause stops that thought cold. You can’t earn salvation. It’s God’s gift.
You cannot earn a gift. Therefore, you cannot do anything to be saved. Nothing you do will save you, by its very definition. Death is earned, but salvation is given. Stop trying to earn what cannot be bought. Stop trying to obtain what can only be gifted. Relax. Let God gift you with his Spirit. Then you’ll be equipped for those good works that could not earn you anything.
You are not saved by works. You are saved by grace, for works.