In order to understand man’s misinterpretation of Romans 6:23 we need to look at what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Rome leading up to the focal verse. The key to the entire misunderstanding is found in 5:18 where he reminds the church that death came by one man (Adam), but that the “free gift” was made available for the purpose of JUSTIFICATION which could lead to eternal life. Justification is the forgiveness of all PAST sins (3:25) because of God’s grace (unmerited favor). Note that the “free gift” provided by God was not salvation, but rather GRACE which made JUSTIFICATION possible. Justification is not salvation, but is a necessary step on the path which will lead to salvation IF one remains on it. Paul explained this earlier in 3:23-26 where he noted that though we all “HAVE SINNED” (in the past), that we can, by God’s grace prompted by our faith, receive JUSTIFICATION–the REMISSION OF ALL PAST SINS. This makes God the GRACE PROVIDER and the JUSTIFIER (SIN FORGIVER) of the one who believes in Jesus. At the point of justification God has forgiven our PAST sins; HE HAS NOT SAVED US, BUT WILL SAVE US, PROVIDED THE FOLLOWING PRESCRIBED STEPS ARE TAKEN.
In 4:25 Paul reminds the church (and us) that Jesus was put to death for our PAST SINS and was raised from the dead for our JUSTIFICATION, not our salvation. His death and resurrection was the expression of God’s GRACE which JUSTIFIES (removes the past sins of) those who believe on Jesus. This act of grace does not save our soul. Rather it provides the opportunity for us to receive justification which, if maintained throughout the remainder of our lives, will qualify us for salvation. Another key verse is 5:1 where we are told that, having been justified by our faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ. The word “Lord” in the Greek language is KYRIOS, which means one who holds power, dominion, rulership, control and governance over an entity–a person, people, an area, things, etc. Once justified, we have peace with God (oneness with Him) IF, AND ONLY IF we make Him our LORD–OUR MASTER WHO HOLDS ABSOLUTE POWER, DOMINION, RULERSHIP AND CONTROL OVER US, WHO GOVERNS OUR THOUGHTS, WORDS AND DEEDS. The example God places in front of us is Jesus of Nazareth Who, as a man, made God His Lord and lived accordingly. He did nothing on His own. Even the words He spoke were given to Him by His Lord/Father. HE IS OUR EXAMPLE WHICH WE MUST FOLLOW–we must live as He lived.
We are told by the entirety of professing Christendom that living a holy life as did Jesus is impossible, that holiness to any degree is impossible. If this is so, why did the Almighty, speaking through John and Jesus, tell us that if we claim to be Christ’s brethren we must “walk (live) as He (Jesus) walked” while on earth as a man (1 Jn. 2:6)? Why did Jesus identify His brethren as “they who do the will of My Father in heaven” (Mat. 12:46-50)? Why did He ask people why they called Him their Lord and refuse to do what He told them to do (Lk. 6:46)? Why did He command His people to “purify ourselves as He is pure?” (1 Jn. 3:3) by the “washing of the water by the Word” by which He “sanctifies us– sets us aside for holy work– (Eph. 5:25,26)? Why did He say that in order to join Him on His throne in the Kingdom of God we must “overcome (sin) as I (Jesus) overcame” (Rev. 3:21)? Why did He tell the disciples that He would die only for His friends, and that they were His friends only “… if you do whatsoever I command you” (Jn. 15:13,14)?
God was the Lord–master, ruler, etc.–of Jesus of Nazareth. In order to be with Him throughout eternity we must have the same Lord-servant, Father-son relationship He had with God while on earth as a man. He maintained that relationship with the Father only by obeying Him. Are church members better than the Messiah? Believing God’s Word concerning His rules of engagement and obeying them is what separates sheep from goats, wheat from tares, good fruit trees from bad fruit trees. Jesus warned in Matthew 7:13,14 that “few” would “find” His strait gate (church), enter it and walk His “way” that leads to eternal life. In order to enter His “strait” (narrow, difficult) gate (church) one must first be justified (have past sins removed). One must then walk His narrow way by remaining justified. How do we remain justified? He tells us in Romans 2:13: “For not the hearers of the Law are justified before God, but the DOERS OF THE LAW shall be (remain) justified.” Sin is the breaking of the Law (1 Jn. 3:4). Sin separates us from God (Isa. 59:2). The Law is the Holy Bible from Genesis to Revelation, which God condensed into the Ten Commandments. In order to inherit salvation we must OBEY GOD’S LAW, thereby keeping sin out of our lives–remaining justified. God offers no alternative. The church, however, does. It is called Scripture interpretation by which the Scriptures are manipulated to suit man’s religious desires.
The question is: How can we obey God’s Law/Word/Truth? which we are told is impossible. Jesus answered this question while talking to His disciples following His resurrection. The episode is recorded in Acts 1:4,5,8. Here He tells the 120 or so to go to Jerusalem and wait for “… the PROMISE OF THE FATHER. ” And what was that promise? “… you will be BAPTIZED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.” And what would be the result of receiving the Holy Spirit? “… you will RECEIVE POWER AFTER THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS COME UPON YOU ….” And what was the purpose of having Holy Spirit power residing within them? They could “… overcome as I (Jesus) overcame” (sin/Satan) and thereby qualify to sit with Him on His throne in the Kingdom of God (Rev. 3:21). Impossible, we are told by one and all. As one local preacher said to his followers, “Don’t try to be righteous; you’ll just make yourself sick. After all, you’re nothing more than a society of sinners.” To which the entire church world shouts “AMEN.” And Satan smiles.
“The gift” of God is GRACE by which He forgives all of one’s PAST SINS, which results in JUSTIFICATION which, if maintained, leads to CONVERSION and the receiving of “… the promise of the Father” which is the HOLY SPIRIT–God’s power (Lk. 1:35). God’s Spirit dwelling within the believer gives him “power over all the power of the enemy” (Lk. 10:19). Those who OVERCOME SATAN by the POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, who WALK AS JESUS WALKED IN THE PURITY IN WHICH HE WALKED UNTIL THE END WILL THEN (upon Christ’s return) BE SAVED (Mat. 10:22). The power of the Holy Spirit enables us to keep sin out of our lives, resulting in holiness. “THE END RESULT OF HOLINESS IS ETERNAL LIFE” (Rom. 6:22). Neither grace, nor faith, nor justification, nor conversion, nor receiving the Holy Spirit, nor the combination of all of the above will produce eternal life. ONE MUST USE ALL OF THOSE VIRTUES TO OBEY GOD’S WORD. OBEDIENCE TO HIS WORD CREATES HOLINESS, THE END RESULT OF WHICH IS ETERNAL LIFE.
No amount of Bible-interpreting, Scripture-twisting, Truth-spinning, religiosity, etc. will change the Lord’s rules for inheriting eternal life. This is a lesson billions of people will learn in the near future. Let us learn it now and respond appropriately. L.J.