Reaping the Benefit of Holiness
Rom. 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
This entire passage in Romans is called "Slaves to Righteousness." Here we find a contrast between being slaves to sin vs. being slaves to righteousness. For the follower of Jesus Christ everything has changed, they have been set free from sin. The pull of sin is exchanged by the pull of righteousness. The pull of righteousness effects the way in which we live our lives, and the result is a life full of the fruits of holiness. This is the benefit of being a slave to God -- a holy life. By being a slave to God we may once again become the holy people of God that he intended us to be. And the telos of it all is eternal life. This is the goal or the end game -- the result of the life of holiness is eternal life.
This verse makes me reconsider the way in which we have so often presented the gospel to people. We ask them if they were to die would they know for sure that they are going to heaven. Of course this can be valid in light of the fact that this becomes the "end game" but it leaves out so much along the way. Somehow we jump from being a slave to God and a benefit of holiness to the final result. Isn't the true gift, the benefit which is mentioned here, the life of holiness? The central focus of this verse is truly on the transformed life. We are invited into the new kingdom to live as the holy people of God. This is the true joy and benefit of being a slave to God. We can already live an abundant life within his kingdom here and now. The problem with focusing on eternal life is that we make it about a gift of going to heaven. No, the point is that we reap the benefit of holiness in this life and that holy life will then continue throughout eternity. What begins now is eternal. We are not waiting for that moment to leave the earth, but instead we are engaged in the holy transformed life while here on earth.
The "normal" state for every believer should be holiness. We have tried to make that terminology about some special people and yet it truly is the desire of God for every one of his followers. Sadly it is those who have adopted the term "holiness" about themselves that have tended to give the word a bad reputation. Unfortunately some people who call themselves "holiness" people are some of the most unhappy and downright mean people I have ever met. And this is what the world sees and says that they don't want anything to do with that -- and can we blame them? But maybe we have allowed the true concept of holiness to be misconstrued. There are times we have basically turned this verse around and put it in a different order. We have made being a slave to God mean that we are going to heaven with the end goal of holiness. When that happens our focus and energy is in the wrong place. Instead the energy and focus is supposed to be on living life in obedience to God and being blessed with the fruits of holiness. God knows that if we are made holy, if we are sanctified, that we will experience transformation which will allow us to live life as a reflection of Jesus Christ in this world. The emphasis should be on how we live our life! It is possible to live a life that is not enslaved to the world or to sin. Instead, it is possible to live a life focused on God in which we are transformed in the here and now.
Can you imagine what would happen if the world saw followers of Jesus Christ in this way? A true follower of Jesus Christ who is reaping the benefit of holiness should never need to declare that they are holy; it should be visible in who they are. This is what it means to reap the benefit of holiness. Focus on being a slave to God and the benefit will be holiness.
Lord, may I simply focus on serving you this day. Amen.