The Advantage of Sanctification
Rom. 6:22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.
Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Two sides of life are presented here in great contrast. One is a life of sin and enslavement to evil. The other side of life is freedom which provides the advantage of sanctification (or holiness as some translate the word) that leads to eternal life. The options here are a life of sin, slavery and death; or freedom, holiness and eternal life.
The advantage of holiness or sanctification is the benefit of the life of freedom. Jesus died so that we might be made holy like him and this is something that is offered as a “fruit” or “advantage” right now. The end is eternal life — but the living of life is that it can be lived out in holiness.
The next verse is really just an affirmation of the verse 22. Sin will lead to death. That’s the end of that trajectory. The gift of Jesus Christ leads to eternal life. These are the ends but along the way going each direction there is either slavery to sin or holiness. This is why holiness or sanctification is not an option in the life of a believer. Holiness is transformation into Christlikeness. That’s why the gift is “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The advantage of being freed from sin and this life leads us on a journey that ends with eternal life.
Far too many people are uncomfortable with words like holiness and sanctification. There are many reasons for that including the abuse of those terms, or the use of those terms in a manner which was manipulative or controlling. Sadly, if we see what Paul is trying to say to us here, holiness and sanctification should never be legalistic terms used to control anyone’s behavior. Instead they need to be seen for what they truly are, the advantage that Paul mentions.
The advantage for the follower of Jesus Christ is that we may live holy lives for these lives are free from the sin and guilt of sin. The advantage of sanctification is that it is the opposite of slavery to sin. The advantage of sanctification is the attraction and affinity to Jesus Christ and my on-going relationship with him which sets me free from the things of the world and continually transforms me into his likeness.
Too often we have thought that holiness is an option, sort of a next-step toward sainthood for a select few followers of Jesus Christ who really wanted to commit themselves to being people like Mother Theresa. That’s not what Paul’s saying here and it’s never the intent of what we read in the word. Holiness is the intention for every single follower of Jesus Christ.
What is it that makes the idea of holiness difficult for us to grasp? Why do we feel that this call to holiness is more than we can ever do? Because we seem to think it has something to do with ourselves. We don’t make ourselves holy — Jesus does. That’s where verse 22 comes in — it is a free gift! Our responsibility is that every single day of our lives we are to be seeking the face of Jesus Christ. We are to be turned toward him. The trajectory is the one that leads to eternal life. When that is the direction, then every day leads toward transformation and the advantage is, holiness.
Sanctification is a beautiful thing when we recognize that it is the opposite of a life held captive by sin. Maybe it’s time to let go of some preconceived and possibly negative notions of sanctification and embrace what it is that Jesus has provided for you and for me. The affirmation is that he has paid the price — he has paid the wages — so that we can be set free and not only have eternal life, but a holy life in the here and now until we are united with him forever in eternity.
Lord, thank you for the advantage of holiness. Amen.