For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
This verse in the book of Romans is one of the most utilized verses of the Bible by evangelical Christians to convey the truth to those who are not Christians that though their sin brings only eternal destruction they may avoid this destruction (death) by accepting the grace-gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. And although this truth is quite correct, evidenced by other pertinent passages of Scripture, and may indeed be considered a secondary use of the verse, contextually it is not the primary meaning of the passage.
This verse, as well as all other verses within the New Testament, must be interpreted in accordance with its immediate and general context. In all cases this requires a Christian to submit in faith to the primary Teacher of the Word, as he examines the context in which a passage is found and as he compares passages with other passages, often found within the Old Testament, to bring clarity to the issue at hand.
These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:13; cf. John 14:26; 16:13, 14; 1 John 2:27)
The general context in which this verse is found centers upon “all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (Romans 1:7) and must be considered as part of the presentation of “the gospel” (Romans 1:15, 16) to Christians in Rome by the apostle Paul. It is rather unfortunate that whenever the word “gospel” is used, as is the case with several other key scriptural words within Scripture, an error known either as illegitimate totality transfer or illegitimate identity transfer is made.
(The error that arises, when the “meaning” of a word (understood as the total series of relations in which it is used in the literature) is read into a particular case as its sense and implication there, may be called “illegitimate totality transfer.” And “an error related to the so-called illegitimate totality transfer is what Barr calls the illegitimate identity transfer. This occurs when a meaning in one context is made to be the meaning in all contexts.”)
To say it in a simpler fashion, a student of the Word often sees only a single meaning and use of a particularly key word within Scripture, regardless of context. This is frequently the case when one entertains such key words as gospel, salvation, saved, etc. And it is particularly the case in Romans 1:15, 16 with the word gospel.
The gospel that Paul presented to Christians throughout Christendom, and particularly to the Roman Christians, he also called “my gospel” (Romans 2:16); a gospel that involved “the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith” (Romans 16:25b, 26).
Whereas evangelical Christendom primarily understands the gospel and its resident salvation as only eternal in nature, the New Testament principally presents a different gospel and salvation to those who have already placed their faith in Christ and secured their eternal future. As most Christians are aware, the meaning of the word gospel is simply “good news;” and as such, may refer to more than one thing. It is therefore quite significant that for one to understand the particular good news at hand, context must be painstakingly examined.
To understand the differences in God’s comprehensive redemption plan for man, one needs to first understand that man is a tripartite being. This is clearly seen in Scripture in the following passages:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Man is composed of a spirit, a soul, and a body. And although the salvation of all three is rooted in the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, each is saved in a different manner. Yet, this truth is little understood by Christendom today. Still, a few, Chitwood, Whipple, Missler, Herbert, and others boldly endeavor to teach this truth today. In Chitwood’s book, Salvation of the Soul, he has the following (should you already be versed in the three aspects of salvation, you may wish to skip the following and proceed to “Back to Romans 6:23” on page 12):
Salvation — Past, Present, Future
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit [lit. “for the sake of the ones about to inherit”] salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)
Salvation in the Word of God is spoken of in three tenses — past, present, and future: (1) Christians have been saved, (2) Christians are being saved, and (3) Christians are about to be saved. The previously quoted verses provide examples of how Scripture deals with each of these three tenses or aspects of salvation.
In Ephesians 2:8, 9, salvation is a past, completed act; in 1 Corinthians 1:18, salvation is a present, continuous work; and in Hebrews 1:14, salvation is a future, inherited possession. Since the Word of God presents salvation in a framework of this nature, it is vitally important in Scriptural interpretation to first ascertain to which of these three aspects of salvation any given passage pertains.
In the first aspect of salvation, dealt with in Ephesians 2:8, the words, “you have been saved,” which is a correct translation, are a translation of two Greek words that form, what is called in the Greek, a “periphrastic perfect.” The “perfect” tense refers to action completed in past time, with the results of this action extending into the present and existing in a finished state. The “periphrastic” construction places additional emphasis on the present, finished state and refers to the persistent results during present time of the past, completed work.
Salvation in this verse is wrought by grace through faith, accomplished completely in past time, and is the present possession of every believer. This present possession, in turn, constitutes an active, continuing, ever-abiding salvation. The eternal security of the believer cannot be expressed in stronger terms than the periphrastic construction of the perfect tense in Ephesians 2:8, for the present results of the past action, in this case, can only continue unchanged forever.
However, in 1 Corinthians 1:18, dealing with the second aspect of salvation, things are presented in an entirely different light than seen in Ephesians 2:8. Rather than the tense in the Greek text referring to a past, completed act, the tense refers to a present, continuous work. The former has already been completed, but the latter has yet to be completed.
Then, in Hebrews 1:14, dealing with the third aspect of salvation, matters are presented yet in a completely different light. The wording in the Greek text of this verse refers to something that is about to occur. Nothing is past or present; the reception of this salvation, in its entirety, is placed in the future.
Further, the salvation referred to in Hebrews 1:14 is not only to be realized in the future, but it is also an inherited salvation. And the thought of inheritance further distinguishes the salvation in this verse from the salvation previously seen in Ephesians 2:8, for the salvation that Christians presently possess is not an inherited salvation.
Rather, our present salvation was obtained as a free gift during the time we were alienated from God. And, as aliens (outside the family of God), we were in no position to inherit salvation, for inheritance in Scripture is always a family matter.
In the Old Testament, “sons” were first in line to receive the inheritance, with “daughters” next. If there were no sons or daughters in the immediate family, the inheritance was passed on to the nearest family member or members, designated by the law of inheritance (Numbers 27:8-11).
Consequently, an individual must first be a family member before he can be considered for the inheritance, which, during the present dispensation, is restricted to “children” or “sons” of the Owner. That’s why the statement is made in Romans 8:17, “If children, then heirs . . . .” And that’s also why in Hebrews 1:14 that an inherited salvation pertains to those who have already been saved, those who are no longer alienated from God but are presently family members.
In this respect, the complete scope of salvation — past, present, and future — has a beginning point, with an end in view. It involves the Spirit of God breathing life into the one having no life and thereby effecting the birth from above. And this has been done with a purpose, with an end in view. This has been done so that the Spirit can take the one who now has spiritual life and perform a work in the life of that individual, with a view to an inheritance that will be realized at a future time.
Thus, one should immediately be able to see the importance of proper distinctions being drawn and observed in the realm of these three aspects of salvation. And depending on how one approaches and deals with the different salvation passages in Scripture, either difficulties can be avoided on the one hand or insurmountable problems can result on the other.
The Tripartite Nature of Man
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Man is a tripartite being comprised of spirit, soul, and body; and the salvation of man within its complete scope (past, present, and future) pertains to the salvation of man with respect to his complete being. In the study of Scripture it is revealed that each of these three parts of man is subject to salvation at different times. Thus, to understand salvation in its complete scope, one must first understand certain things about man’s tripartite nature. Then, salvation in relation to this tripartite nature becomes the issue.
Chapter one of Genesis reveals that man was created in the “image” and “likeness” of God. The word translated “God” in the Hebrew text of this statement is Elohim. This is a plural noun, which, in complete keeping with related Scripture, would include all three members of the Godhead — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (e.g., cf. John 1:1-3).
Since Elohim is a trinity, for man to be created in the “image” and “likeness” of God, he too must be a trinity. Unlike the dichotomous animal kingdom (created apart from the “image” and “likeness” of God) possessing only bodies and souls, trichotomous man (created in the “image” and “likeness” of God) is a triune being. Man not only possesses a body and a soul, but he also possesses a spirit as well.
Jesus is Elohim manifested in the flesh; and having been made in the “likeness” of man (but apart from man’s fallen nature), He, as man, must also be a trinity (John 1:14; Philippians 2:7). This tripartite nature of Christ, in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9), was clearly revealed at the time of His death. At this time Jesus yielded up His spirit, which went back into the presence of His Father in heaven (Luke 23:46; cf. Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59); His soul went into Hades, the place of the dead, housed inside the earth at that time (Acts 2:27); and His body was removed from the cross and placed in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb (Matthew 27:57-61). This threefold separation persisted until the soul and spirit re-entered the body at the time Christ was raised from the dead.
Thus, God, Elohim, is a trinity; Jesus, Elohim, manifested in the flesh, is likewise a trinity; and man, created in the “image” and “likeness” of Elohim, can only be a trinity as well. Accordingly, a complete redemption provided by the triune God must, of necessity, pertain to man as a complete being. Man’s complete redemption must encompass spirit, soul, and body.
1. Past, Present, Future . . . Spirit, Soul, Body
When man sinned in the garden in Eden, the complete being of man — spirit, soul, and body — became in a fallen state. God had commanded Adam concerning the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). After Satan had deceived Eve into eating of the fruit of this tree, she then “gave to her husband with her; and he ate.” Immediately following this, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:1-7).
At the time of the fall, Adam and Eve lost something; and it is clearly stated in Scripture that both immediately recognized this fact. That which they lost could only have been a covering of pristine glory that had previously clothed their bodies; for they, following the fall, found that they were in a twofold condition: (1) naked and (2) separated from God.
God is arrayed in a covering of “light,” connected with “honor and majesty.” And man, created in the “image” and “likeness” of God, could only have been arrayed in a similar manner prior to the fall.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great: You are clothed with [You have put on] honor and majesty,
who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.” (Psalm 104:1, 2)
Recognizing the loss of this covering, realizing that they were naked, explains why Adam and Eve immediately sought to clothe themselves following the fall. They tried to replace the covering that had been lost with a work of their own hands, with fig leaf aprons. And then, apparently realizing the utter inadequacy of this covering, they, in their fallen state, sought to hide from God.
God, finding Adam and Eve in this condition, completely rejected the works of their hands. God completely rejected their feeble efforts to atone for their own sin by seeking to replace the covering of pristine glory with fig leaves. Then, to bring His fallen creature back into a right relationship (although not in complete keeping with their previously unfallen state — something still future even today), God provided a covering consisting of animal skins (Genesis 3:21). This necessitated death and the shedding of blood; and herein lays basic, unchangeable truths concerning the state of fallen man and the means that are necessary to effect his redemption.
Unredeemed man is a fallen creature, alienated from God; and two things are necessary to effect his redemption: (1) divine intervention, and (2) death and shed blood. These truths have forever been set forth in the opening chapters of Genesis and can never change.
(Two different words are used for “naked” in the Hebrew text of Genesis 2:25 [before the fall] and Genesis 3:7 [after the fall]. In the latter [3:7], the word has to do with absolute nakedness, but not so in the former [2:25].
Remaining within the way a person dressed in the East at the time Moses wrote Genesis, and at later times as well, the word used relative to nakedness pertaining to Adam and Eve preceding the fall [2:25] could be used to describe a person clothed in a tunic [inner garment] but lacking the mantle or cloak [outer garment]. In the preceding respect, prior to the fall, Adam and Eve were clothed in the Glory of God but had yet to possess the regal outer garments worn by kings [fulfilling the reason for man’s creation — to rule the earth (Genesis 1:26-28)].
Then, following the fall, no longer clothed in the Glory of God, Adam and Eve were no longer in a position to be further clothed in regal garments, realizing the purpose for their creation. They, apart from the inner garment [the Glory] could not wear the outer garments [royal apparel]. Adam, prior to the fall, never wore regal garments or held the scepter. In this respect, he never moved beyond the description given in Genesis 2:25 — a “naked” condition, “naked” in relation to the reason for his creation [lacking the outer regal garments].
Thus, if man, now separated from the Glory, is to ever fulfill the purpose for his creation, God must act. Redemption has to occur; and this, of necessity, has to include the complete man — spirit, soul, and body — with a view to not only a restoration of the Glory but to regality beyond this restoration.)
Man’s sin in the garden in Eden produced death. Man died the day he ate of the forbidden fruit. Since his body continued to live, revealing that his soul — the life-giving principle in the blood (Leviticus 17:11; cf. Genesis 9:4) — remained unchanged with respect to life (natural life), it is evident that it was his spirit that died.
The spiritual nature is that part of man that links him directly with God. “God is Spirit,” and man’s worship of God must be “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The death of Adam’s spirit separated him from God (establishing the primary meaning of “death” in Scripture — separation from God), and this death (this separation from God) “passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12).
Scripture speaks of an unsaved person as being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). With an unredeemed, inanimate spirit (spiritually dead), he is alienated from God, separated from God (Ephesians 2:12).
But once the person has been born from above, he is then spoken of as having passed “from death to life,” as having been “quickened” (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:5). Possessing an animate spirit, possessing spiritual life (having been made alive spiritually), he is no longer separated from the One who Himself is “Spirit” (John 4:24).
This aspect of salvation is brought to pass through the Spirit of God breathing life into the one having no life, based on Christ’s finished work at Calvary; and once this has been accomplished, everything surrounding the work effecting this aspect of salvation has been completed, with this work existing in a finished state (as previously seen through the use of the perfect tense in Ephesians 2:8). Thus, the salvation experience that man enters into at the time of the birth from above is a work of the Spirit, based on a previous work of the Son. It is a spiritual birth and has to do with man’s spirit alone: “. . . that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6b).
The salvation of the soul, on the other hand, should never be associated with the past aspect of salvation. Scripture carefully distinguishes between the soul and the spirit, never using the words interchangeably in this respect (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12). And Scripture also carefully distinguishes between salvation in relation to the spirit and salvation in relation to the soul. Salvation in relation to the spirit is always dealt with in a past sense, but not so with the salvation of the soul. Rather, the salvation of the soul is always dealt with in a future sense:
Receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe [are faithful] to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
The statements and exhortations in these verses pertain to Christians alone — those whose spirits have already been saved and whose souls are in the process of being saved, with the salvation of the soul being realized only at a future time.
The salvation of the body presents very few problems for the majority of Christians. Very few Christians contend, contrary to Scripture, that the body has either already been redeemed or is in the process of being redeemed. Scripture places the redemption of man’s body entirely in the future (Romans 8:23).
The Christian’s body is presently in a continuous state of deterioration. The body grows old and weakens with time; and the body is subject to sickness, disease, and eventually death. This must ever remain the case as long as the body remains unredeemed. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and the unredeemed body must pay the price that sin requires.
Within this unredeemed body are two opposing entities, each seeking dominion — a redeemed spirit, and an unredeemed soul. The unredeemed soul is housed in an unredeemed body, and the two are mutually compatible. But the redeemed spirit housed alongside an unredeemed soul in an unredeemed body experiences no compatibility with either of the other two at all. Compatibility is not possible, for “what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness, and what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). This heterogeneous union is what produced the cry of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24:
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
. . . .
Redeemed man, through a past and finished work of the Spirit, based on a past and finished work of Christ, has been brought from a dead to a living state spiritually. He has passed “from death to life.” And in this living state, he is now in a position to realize the purpose for his salvation — the salvation of his soul.
One aspect of salvation is past. The individual presently possesses eternal life, and nothing can ever change or nullify this fact. But the individual has been saved for a purpose, which will be brought to pass only within the framework of his realizing present and future aspects of salvation.
And this complete panorama of the salvation message, with a purpose in view, must be recognized. Redeemed man must recognize that there is not only a past aspect to salvation but present and future aspects as well.
And the present and future aspects of salvation are inseparably connected with man one day being brought into a realization of the purpose for which he was created in the beginning — “. . . let them have dominion” (Genesis 1:26-28).
Present and future aspects of salvation have to do with man occupying regal positions following the time when he, in that coming day, is brought into a realization of the salvation of his soul.
1. The Complete Salvation Issue
In order to effect man’s eternal redemption, the Spirit of God deals with unsaved man on one basis alone. The Spirit deals with unsaved man solely on the basis of Christ’s finished work at Calvary.
But once an individual has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and has been dealt with on the basis of Christ’s finished work, realizing the birth from above — the salvation of his spirit — the salvation issue then shifts from the salvation of his spirit to the salvation of his soul. The salvation of the spirit becomes a past, completed work and is never dealt with as an issue beyond this point. The Spirit of God, from this point forward, deals with the individual solely on the basis of present and future aspects of salvation. The individual, from this point forward, is dealt with in relation to the salvation of his soul.
Thus, all scriptures dealing with carnality or unfaithfulness of Christians, resulting in forfeiture or loss, must pertain to issues surrounding the salvation of the soul and NEVER to issues surrounding the salvation of the spirit.
Once the salvation of the spirit has been effected, making it possible for the indwelling Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and to control an individual’s life through his own spirit, then man’s unredeemed soul occupies the center of attention. The salvation of the soul, unlike the salvation of the spirit, is conditional. The salvation of the soul is dependent on the life one lives after his spirit has been saved. It is dependent on the individual allowing the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and to control his life through his own spirit.
An individual allowing the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and to control his life through his own spirit progressively grows from immaturity to maturity. He progressively grows into a spiritually mature Christian. Growing in this manner, he exerts control over his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious (soulical) existence. And, through this means, he will ultimately come into a realization of the salvation of his soul (life).
On the other hand, an individual who refuses to allow the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and to control his life in the preceding manner can only remain as a carnally immature Christian. Apart from the assimilation of spiritual truth, resulting in spiritual growth, he cannot help but be controlled by his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious (soulical) existence. And, accordingly, such a person will ultimately suffer the loss of his soul (life), which can have no bearing whatsoever on his eternal salvation (for that is a past, finished matter that has already been dealt with).
2. The Complete Salvation Message
The shift of the salvation issue from the spirit to the soul at the time of the birth from above necessitates a corresponding shift from the salvation message that is to be proclaimed to the unsaved (which concerns the salvation of the spirit) to the salvation message that is to be proclaimed to the saved (which concerns the salvation of the soul). This must ever be the case, for that which is past ceases to be the issue, and that which is present and future becomes the issue.
The only message to be carried to the unsaved is the gospel of grace. This is the good news that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” This message alone forms the basis upon which the Spirit can breathe life into the one having no life (1 Corinthians 15:3; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1, 2).
But once the unsaved individual has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, experiencing the birth from above, the message must then change, for the goal of the message will have been realized. The Spirit must then deal with the individual on an entirely different plane, with the issue at the forefront no longer being the salvation of the spirit, but the salvation of the soul.
Thus, a minister with a congregation placed under his care has been charged with a tremendous responsibility. His central ministry is among the saved, among those capable of grasping spiritual truth; and he is to disseminate spiritual truth to these individuals as it relates to things surrounding present and future aspects of salvation, not to things surrounding the past aspect of salvation. He, in this manner, is to “feed the flock of God,” looking ahead to Christ’s appearance in all His glory (1 Peter 5:2-4).
This individual is responsible, under the leadership of the Spirit of God, to provide proper spiritual nourishment to and for those Christians placed under his care. And the only thing that God has provided for him to use as he feeds the flock of God is the Word of God.
As a minister in charge of a flock, he is to expound this Word under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And Christians placed under his care are to receive this proclaimed Word into their saved human spirits. Then the Spirit of God can take this “implanted Word” and effect spiritual growth to maturity, with the end result being the salvation of their souls (James 1:21).
The tragedy in Christian circles today is the light regard that pastors of churches have for fulfilling the very purpose of their ministry. And, the end result of pastors failing to properly “feed the flock” entrusted to their care will be the entrance of innumerable carnal, immature Christians into the Lord’s presence at the end of the present dispensation with redeemed spirits, changed bodies, but wasted and thus unredeemed souls — forfeited lives. Their eternal salvation will remain unaffected; but, with the forfeiture or loss of their souls, they will be unable to realize the inheritance presently “reserved in heaven” for the faithful (1 Peter 1:4). Consequently, they will occupy no position among the “many sons” who will be brought to glory (Hebrews 2:10).
(The subject surrounding pastor-teachers and their having been entrusted with a flock, with a view to the salvation of not only the souls of the pastor-teachers but the souls of those in the flock, is developed more fully in chapter 8.)
Failure to understand and distinguish between the salvation that we presently possess and the salvation, to be revealed when our Lord returns, has wrought untold confusion in Christian circles.
Many Christians take scriptures dealing with the salvation to be revealed and seek to apply them to the salvation that we presently possess. And misapplying scriptures in this manner, these individuals arrive at the erroneous conclusion that it is possible for a saved person to be lost, which not only casts reproach upon the sufficiency of the finished work of Christ at Calvary, but also does violence to numerous portions of the Word of God.
Then, on the other hand, there are those Christians who recognize that the loss of one’s eternal salvation is not possible, but still fail to understand distinctions between the salvation of the spirit and the salvation of the soul. Most from this group take many of these same verses and seek to either apply them to the nation of Israel or to unregenerate individuals, whether Jew or Gentile. And applications of this nature not only remove the Spirit’s exhortations and warnings to redeemed individuals, but erroneous interpretations in one area of Scripture will often, for the sake of consistency, lead to erroneous interpretations in other areas.
Thus, the importance of understanding distinctions between the salvation of the spirit and the salvation of the soul becomes self-evident.
Let it be forever stated: Redeemed man has come into a position from which he can never be removed. But this same redeemed man, in this position, is directly responsible to his Creator; and, at a future date, he will either inherit as a joint-heir with his Lord or suffer loss in the presence of his Lord. The former will be realized through the salvation of his soul, or the latter will, instead, be realized through the loss of his soul.
_______________________ End of quote from Chitwood’s book.
And it is the salvation of one’s soul that should dominate the interest and focus of the Christian throughout this life; not the salvation of the spirit, which has been apprehended by a past decision of faith in Christ. Additionally, the importance of one’s soul salvation must never be minimized; for if so, it will lead to a future shame and regret of immense proportion (1 John 2:28).
Whereas spirit-salvation is eternal in scope and rests entirely upon Christ’s work on Calvary and which can never be rescinded by man or God; soul-salvation is millennial in scope and rests entirely upon one’s faith-based works as a Christian, which will be determined by issues and determination made at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It will be at the Judgment Seat where the life of each child of God will be meticulously examined (2 Corinthians 5:10, 11; Romans 14:10; Revelation 22:12), where each work performed by the child will be tested by God’s judgment fire. Those works that endure will result in reward, but those that do not endure will be consumed by the fire, to result in the suffering of loss (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
To those Christians who are shown to be overcomers at Christ’s Judgment Seat (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21), they will then be part of the “out-resurrection” (mistranslated as “resurrection” in Philippians 3:11) that will determine their placement as the Bride of Christ, taken from His Body, to be married to Him (Revelation 19:7, 8) and will rule and reign with Christ as His consort queen during the Messianic Era — His 1,000 year kingdom upon earth (2 Timothy 2:12).
Back to Romans 6:23
Just as the topic of salvation must be contextually determined, the same would be true regarding the topic of Paul’s “gospel,” which he states that he is “ready to preach [to those (‘beloved of God, called to be saints’ [1:7a])] who are in Rome” (1:15); and which he defines accordingly:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16, 17)
And although an understanding of the gospel may include one’s introduction into the Christian faith by one’s decision of faith in Christ (Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8, 9), Paul’s emphasis here appears to be on “The just shall live by faith,” which is specifically applicable to those who have been born from above and which would be consistent with that which he has expressed as “the gospel” that he was ready to preach to the Christians in Rome (Romans 1:15).
The expression, “the just shall live by faith,” is used several times throughout Scripture, e.g., Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38, an expression that has application to more than one aspect of the Christian life. And although it appears that Paul definitely includes the passing from “death to life” (John 5:24) in his gospel, he most certainly goes beyond this when in chapter 6 he speaks of the correct manner in which a Christian is to live for Christ. No longer is he speaking about how one enters into a relationship with Christ; rather, he speaks very specifically how one is to continue to live the Christ-life.
In the last verse (v. 21) of chapter five of the book of Romans the apostle Paul states that “as sin reigned in death even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And this grace-means of living is further analyzed in chapter six.
Paul states in the opening verse of Romans 6 that the grace-life for a Christian is one that is not dominated by sin. And he explains this using the basis that Christians who have been immersed (1 Corinthians 12:13) into Christ have also been immersed into and united with His death and resurrection (vv. 1-5). The result (v. 6) of which is that “our old man” (sin-nature) might be “done away with” (i.e., rendered inoperative) and that “we should no longer be slaves of sin [i.e., the sin-nature].”
But he clearly states that a life of grace, one in which the sin-nature does not dominate, is optional for the Christian. For although Christians may know that they have “died with Christ,” and may believe that they “shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ having been raised from the dead, dies no more” (vv. 8b, 9); they must “reckon [themselves] to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 11); and they are not to “let sin reign in [their] mortal body, that [they] should obey it in its lusts” (v. 12).
In other words, they are by faith to count themselves dead to the sin-nature; meaning that just as they accepted Christ by faith, they are to accept the fact that the sin-nature no longer has unalterable control over their life and that they, by the power of the Spirit of God, may now take that control and live a life of holiness in Christ. And as such, not only their spirit-salvation but also their soul-salvation, is a result of pure grace. Paul put it in similar words in the book of Colossians:
As [by faith] you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so [in the same manner, by faith] walk in Him. (Colossians 2:6)
Paul continues to affirm this position of grace within chapter 6 in verses 13 through 16, stating that since Christians are no longer “under law but under grace,” we have the option of being slaves to the sin-nature, which leads to death; or, to obedience to the faith, which leads to righteousness.
And Paul continues on in this regard in verses 17ff, being thankful that those to whom he is writing who were once slaves of the sin-nature have been “set free” from it, having obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which they were delivered and becoming slaves to righteousness. And it is within this context that Romans 6:23 is used, which establishes its meaning and to what type of individuals are being addressed.
Specifically, Paul is addressing Christians and in verse 19 he affirms that just as they previously presented their members as slaves of uncleanness and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, they should now present their members as slaves of righteousness leading to holiness (sanctification). For when they were slaves of the sin-nature, they were apart (acting independently) from righteousness, producing fruit of which they were now ashamed and which led to death (vv. 20, 21). But now, having been set free from the sin-nature and having become slaves to God, they are to have their fruit to holiness (i.e., leading to sanctification), which leads to “everlasting” (age-lasting) life in the coming millennial kingdom of Christ.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
This is to say “to Christians” that the wages of sin in their lives can only lead to death (separation) in the age to come; but the gift of God, which is to abide in Christ (John 15:1-8; Mark 8:34-38), should they choose to avail themselves of it, will lead to age-lasting life. And in this Paul is referring to soul-salvation, which is the result of issues and determinations at the Judgment Seat of Christ for Christian’s only; and, furthermore, involves only the coming one thousand year kingdom age, not eternity.
A friend and very astute follower of the Word, Susan Cochran, has the following to say regarding this issue:
So on to Romans 6:23. My research in the Greek has turned up exactly what Arlen has already written. That the Greek word in 6:23 translated “gift” is actually “charisma” and represents that which God has graciously given. What I see being concluded in Romans 6:23 is this: A believer’s recompense will be determined by which force he allows to reign over him in this life. Sin can reign over us like a king and lead us to death (the Law adding strength to sin [1 Corinthians 15:56]). Or grace can reign over us through righteousness and lead us to life for the age. And it is my belief, that just because “aionios” life is used in 6:23 in connection with “grace,” it would be wrong to assume that eternal life must be in view on the assumption that where grace is involved, works and reward must be excluded.
Let me explain: If I back up to 6:17-18, I find something interesting. My New King James says: “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered, and having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
But when I look at the Greek text I see that the word translated “be thanked” is actually the word “charis” or grace. So rather than saying, “But God be thanked . . . ,” I believe Paul is actually making a statement about the working of God’s grace — something like this:
“But it is God’s grace, that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered, and having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
The idea clearly being that it takes the grace of God to free us from sin and enslave us to righteousness, which then produces the fruit of holiness and ends in age-lasting life.
I also find it interesting that the word translated “obeyed” is “hypakouo,” which means to listen attentively or submissively. In the context of the verse, I see this referring to a submissive heart toward God that listens attentively to God when He speaks through the doctrine (or teaching) that is delivered. And I believe it is in this submissive listening that God’s grace then sets us free from sin so that we can be enslaved to the righteousness that leads to “life.”
I find John 8:31-36 very helpful here:
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free . . . . Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
I see here that freedom from slavery to sin comes from abiding in God’s Word and knowing the truth — also described as the Son making you free — obviously because the Son is the Word.
And I see a connection between this abiding in God’s Word in John 8 and the attentive, listening to teaching in Romans 6:17. Both point to a continuing presence in the Word of God that results in freedom from sin, and ultimately, “life” (or as it is put in John 8 — the position of a son who abides in the house for the age).
And I believe it is God’s grace resident in His Word that produces this freedom from sin and enslavement to righteousness so that we can reap the end result of age-life. I believe this is what Paul is saying in Romans 6:17-18 and I think John 8 confirms this. As Paul said in Acts 20, it is the Word of His grace that is able to build us up (mature us) and give us an inheritance. And (as Paul states in his opening of Romans) it is God’s Word (the gospel) that he is not ashamed to preach because it is that Word of God that is the power of God that leads to salvation (soul).
So based on what I see in Romans 6:17-18 and extending down to verse 22 of the chapter, I would think it perfectly fitting for Paul to acknowledge the role of God’s grace in our service to righteousness that will eventually lead to age-life. And that just as the death we inherited from Adam enslaves us to sin (and produces sins) that will result in more death at the Judgment Seat of Christ — the grace that we obtain through Jesus (who is the Word) will break that bondage to sin so that we can produce the righteousness that results in age-life (at the Judgment Seat of Christ).
So I see Paul's conclusion in 6:23: While enslavement to sin will earn you death at the Judgment Seat of Christ, God's grace brings us life for the age. Will we choose to serve under the master which is sin? Or will we choose to serve righteousness under the master, grace? Both masters have their ultimate recompense for the believer. And the ability to serve righteousness under the power of grace comes by abiding in God's Word. I believe that who you attentively listen to is the key.
And I think it can be no better stated.
 James barr, The Semantics of Biblical Languages (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 218.
 Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings (Schoettle Publishing Co., 1993), p. 37
 Arlen L. Chitwood, Salvation of the Soul (The Lamp Broadcast, Inc., 2003), pp. 1-8, 12-16