Why are you bringing this passage into the topic of conditional security Carl? This verse is obviously in the Bible for the sake of evangelism.
How often have you used Romans 6:23 in presenting the gospel to the lost, or heard someone refer to it in a gospel presentation. Romans 6:23 is a critical verse in the common “Romans Road” method of sharing the gospel.
With that background to the passage, how can the topic of conditional security become associated with it? Am I simply looking for any verse to wrap up into a conditional security teaching? I hope not – You be the judge!
Let’s consider the passage by first reading it.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 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 6:11-23
Take a look at that last verse. Yes – Romans 6:23. I will wager a penny that many of my readers have this verse committed to memory. I know I do, and have had it wobbling around in my head for close to 40 years. But many years ago, a brother by the name of Jim challenged me to consider the passage above. He asked a very pointed question (further below) that I fought against for years. After hearing the question, and when this passage came to mind, I simply ignored Jim’s question, it and referred to passages that seemed to support my “unconditional security” understanding of the Scriptures.
Paul is discussing the servant-hood of the believer in this passage. It is commonly accepted that by this time in the epistle, he has laid the foundation of the gospel and is dealing with the present condition and sanctification of the believer.
What was the question Jim asked?
“Why did Paul mention death in verse 23 of this passage?”
It can not simply refer to physical death, can it? Notice that Paul begins to conclude his thoughts on service to God by defining the fruit of our service (unto holiness) and the end being everlasting life. All through the passage, Paul is referring to believers and suddenly brings the topic of death into the mix.
The thing that really confused me, even as a young believer, was that as evangelicals, we use verse 23 to evangelize the lost, which is in the middle of an extended teaching on the Christians responsibility to serve God.
The question above was put to me over 25 years ago, but God is faithful and in my many wanderings and detours, some things just kept hanging on in my mind. The idea that death is an option by way of choice for the believer is a fearful thought, and yet I sense an authority I welcome and a growing respect that I have lacked far too long towards Him.
As always, your thoughts on this passage are always welcome.
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