“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 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. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:20–23, ESV)
Slaves to Sin – They are “Free” to Sin (Romans 6:20-21)
“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.” (Romans 6:20)
The natural person apart from God’s grace is free to sin. Understand what he means. The only nature an unbeliever has is a sin nature. They don’t have the Holy Spirit; they are not born again. Sin is their “freedom.” That is not to say they don’t do good things, many do, and do so for many reasons. Societal expectations. Fear of negative consequences. It feels good to an image bearer to be philanthropic, help in causes, look out for the little guy, etc.
They may make moral choices, but they are “free” to not do so. They are free from the internal struggle to obey God or his moral law. While they are free from righteousness, they are not free from sin’s consequences. “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” (Romans 6:21)
Paul points out two devastating realities for slavery to sin: its fruit and its finality. “What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?” It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is, nothing good. Part of the problem with sin is that it always looks better before you sin then after you sin. The untouchable fruit in the garden of Eden looks good before you sin. Bathsheba looks good before you sin. 30 pieces of silver sounds good before you betray the Son of God. Sin spends a lot on makeup. But after you sin it doesn’t feel like you expect.
2 Samuel 13 tells the story of Amnon who is sick with lust for his beautiful half-sister Tamar. He is literally sick that he cannot have her. One day, he violates her. And the moment after he does, the text says, “he hated her more than he had loved her.” (2 Samuel 13:15) That is the universal experience of sin. What have I done? Why did I do that? Beer commercials are always rave parties with gorgeous people drinking like fish. You’ll never see a beer commercial showing people puking in toilets or dying in car wrecks.
Sin has to hide its consequences, or we would never rationally choose to sin. Sin hides its fruit. Paul says, where was sin taking you in your life? We might say, how was that working out for you? Badly. Painfully.
The second fruit is death. “For the end of those things is death.” (Romans 6:21) The path of sin always leads somewhere. We try to convince young people of this. That little decision to be sneaky, to shade the truth, whatever. It is the first step on a path. The path seems popular or pleasurable, but it leads to other steps, descending steps toward death. Death is not just physical death, although it includes that. Death is a present reality in the sense that sin hollows us out. It dehumanizes us. It empties our life of just a little more meaning. It creates more unsatisfiable cravings.
Let me give you an example. Our country is battling a heroin epidemic and someone’s financing billboards and social media posts showing people before heroin and after. It’s startling to see its effect. The addicts before looked normal, even good. After, they look terrible, and in their eyes, you see desperation. The end of sin is death.
I remember an overnight basketball trip I took as a teenager. I attended a Christian high school. I remember one of my teammates that I shared the overnight room with telling me that he was hoping to have sex with his girlfriend. I remember him justifying it by saying, the Bible does say, “Stolen water is sweet.” If I had been more mature, I could have finished the verse for him, “…But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” (Proverbs 9:17-18).
There is always this dimension of sin that it is a small step toward hell. Final hell someday and hellish, death-like results today. This is the folly of sin. All the heartache, despair, depression, loss, emptiness in the world are dying steps on the downward slope to eternal death.
The word for death in the Greek is Thanatos. You may not know that, but if you are into The Avengers, you know that the ultimate bad guy in The Avengers universe is a guy named Thanos. Now I have the Comic-Con crowd with me. Do you know who Thanos is? Wherever Thanos goes, what happens? Everyone dies. The comic strip borrowed his name from the Greek. Thanos is essentially the same word here. Death. Everywhere Thanos goes, everybody dies. Wherever sin goes, death is there too.
We need to think deeply about the path we are on today. Where are these choices leading me? What will be the consequence? Sin is a destroyer. Sin is anarchy in our lives. How we need to see that in our ministries as entire families are destroyed because one member of the family chooses to bow to Thanos.
Which Fruit? Which Finality?
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:20–23, ESV)
Romans 6:23 clearly spells out two ways to live. Two paths to follow. Two destinies to experience. I must ask you, which path are you on? One seems more immediately gratifying but leads to hell. The other seems less attainable but leads to heaven. It is only attained by repentance from the life of sin and personal trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. That’s not a popular truth in our current society but I assure you, it’s a very popular truth in heaven.
Which fruit are you living? Toward which finality are you walking?
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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