Romans 6:22 (ESV) … “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.”
In the last four verses of this chapter, Paul asks the believers in Rome to think about the quality and direction of their lives before coming to know Christ and their lives since. Compare, if you will, the benefits of each. Never one to sugarcoat or beat around the proverbial bush, Paul asks them (and us) directly: What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? The “benefit” of being slaves to sin … free from the control of righteousness, was death! Because “no one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24), when they were slaves to sin, they could not be controlled by righteousness—and sin results in death (v. 23).
Conversely, when they died to sin and became slaves to God, they would be free from the control of sin—and righteousness leads to eternal life. Because sin is deceptive, and because it is the “old self” (the former way of life; v. 6) that has died, not the “body of sin” (the capacity to sin; v. 6), the Christian has to be exhorted to remember to what he or she has died (sin) and to what he or she now lives (righteousness).
In today’s modern world of materialism, even mature believers can be tempted to think there are benefits in the life of slavery to sin. Asaph, the ancient psalmist, warned the faithful of Israel about the deception of sin and wickedness, and its ultimate end—destruction (death; Ps. 73:18–19). But at any given moment, the wicked appear prosperous, to have no struggles, to be healthy and strong, and to be “free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills” (Ps. 73:5). So what if they are a tad prideful and arrogant? They are carefree and continue to increase in wealth (see Ps. 73:3–12).
It was not until the psalmist “entered the sanctuary of God” that he “understood their final destiny” (Ps. 73:17). Whereas their end was destruction, the psalmist realized in God’s presence that his end was to be with God forever—eternal life: “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory … God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:23–26).
It would be difficult to find a better passage of Scripture to illustrate the truth of Paul’s concluding verse to the first six chapters of Romans: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We have earned death as our wages as Adam’s children; we have received as a gift of God’s grace the privilege of being rescued from solidarity with the first Adam to solidarity with the second Adam. He died; we died. He was raised; we were raised. He lives to God; we live to God. He will live forever; we will live forever with him.