Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 6:21 “What fruit had ye then in those things
whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end
of those things is death.”
Paul appeals to the Roman Christians to act as prosecuting attorneys against their own pasts. He wants them to serve as judges of themselves, and to ponder, “What worthwhile results were produced by your past sins, those sins of which you are now ashamed?”
The result of a life ruled by sin is death, everlasting separation from God. That is a heavy price to pay for something. And Paul wants to know, “Now what do you have to show for it?” He wants the secret tribunal of their hearts to pass its own self-condemning verdict.
This verse is a devastating analysis of lives ruled by sin. It is Paul’s expose’ of the life lived by all unbelievers. The end of it is death, and the living of it yields two characteristics:
“What fruit had ye then?” is the question. And the answer is, “Nothing worthwhile.” Nothing worthy of the name “fruit” was gained by their service to sin;. There were no positive contributions from it; it produced nothing of true value. The sinful life is a fruitless life.
Whatever you buy with sin is not worth the price you pay for it. Since it costs so much, sin ought to produce much that is worthwhile. For a man to work hard in sin, and then have nothing to show for it, is foolish! Yet that is exactly the case. The history of wicked nations, families, and individuals is a story of vanity purchased at a very high price. What has the swearer gained by his profanity? What has the drinker gained by his cup? What has the adulterer gained by his uncleanness? What has the angry man gained by his temper?
The doing of these things compromises convictions, contradicts the Bible, displeases God, and annoys others. This is a heavy price to pay. Now what “fruit” do you have to show for it?
I guess the most obvious answer that could be offered is “Pleasure.” No one can deny this. Even the Bible confesses that there is pleasure in sin for a season (HB 11:25).
However, it is momentary. It flees quickly. There is no lasting sense of satisfaction in it. For instance, the enjoyments of beer last very little longer than its foam. The pleasures of evil disperse quickly, as do the bubbles in a carbonated beverage. Once the sin is committed, it is as hard to find its pleasures as it is to trace the path of an arrow. Both disappear quickly.
Sin is always much more fun by contemplation than in consummation. If we could feel the long-range results of sin before we committed it, temptation would lose its appeal. Always, sin’s main product is fruitlessness.
Not only is the sinful life fruitless. It is also shameful. Any born again believer will look with shame upon his former lifestyle in sin. Believers blush to think of former callousness and ingratitude with regard to their crucified Savior.
Former days embarrass the believer. The deeds are in the past, but the same is ever present. Even after sin is forgiven, the same lingers.
God forgives us, but our carnal memories mingle pain with our joyful remembrance of forgiveness. Our old nature wants us to remember our evils to keep us from forgiving ourselves.
Some believers allow their old natures to win this battle. They let the haunting torments of inner regret drive them to despair. They feels o guilty that they consider themselves as castaways, and give up efforts to serve Christ.
But, dear friend, take heart. The fact that you feel ashamed when you remember these things of the past gives evidence that you truly have been converted.
The wicked “glory in their shame” (PH 3:18), but believers glory only “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (GL 6:14). If you are ashamed of your sins, and proud of the cross, Praise God! It gives evidence that a work of grace has been performed in your heart.
This shame, which is conscious and prominent in the believer, is also implanted, in embryo form, within unbelievers. There is a natural shame that arises from sin. It was this that caused Adam and Eve to hide immediately after they sinned. This inherent restraint and shame are a blessing. They are gifts from God to enable men to live in society. Without it, earth would be Hell.
It is no accident that men love to do evil things under the cover of night and darkness. Of all the dances I attended, in the three years I did so, never did I go to one where the participants wanted the lights as bright as possible. Darkness is the natural element of evil. Thereby, even the evildoers themselves confess there is an inherent shamefulness in what they are doing.
They do not want “everyone” to know what they are doing in their looser moments. The fact that they do not want to be “discovered” reveals their own true feelings toward what they are doing. Even evil men want their “best” self to be their most exposed self. “Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.”
Yes, the inherent sense of shame is a problem to the evildoer. This explains why so much evil is connected with beer, whiskey, and wine. The alcohol helps to drown out the inner sense of restraint. The senses have to be dulled before men can enjoy their evil debaucheries. They want to destroy anything that might stop them from doing evil.
Also, they want to avoid anyone that might encourage their natural feelings of restraint. Wicked men enjoy other wicked men. This allows them to serve as rebukers to one another’s inner restraints. It is as if sinners need help in convincing themselves to do evil.
God has placed shame upon evil. Men may laugh at evildoers and “pal” around with them, but they are rarely truly honored. Walter Reed is held in high esteem because his efforts against Yellow Fever saved many lives. But who will ever so honor an abortionist? Imagine being honored for snuffing out thousands of lifetimes in ones own lifetime. Reed has a medical center named for him. But what honorable physician would ever want an abortion clinic named in his honor? A beer magnate may be honored for his philanthropy and civic functions, but who will erect a monument to what he did as his main occupation? Can any sensible person not help but confess that his product damaged more lives than his philanthropy helped? Yes, God places shame on evil, and as long as there is any semblance of shame, there is hope. But beware the loss of natural shame! When men lose their sense of inner restraint and shame, the ultimate depravity is displayed.
Shame is God’s effort to restrain men from evil, but He will cease to plead what He pleads in vain. At length, the sinner is given over to a reprobate mind, and the light within becomes total darkness.
Just before the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah assessed the sinners of his day: “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush” (JR 8:12). There is still hope as long as one can blush. That proves there is still a level of restraint within. But when people no longer feel shame, when evil is actually reckoned as good and vileness is viewed as praiseworthy, then everything decent has died within.
It is better to be a hypocrite than a man with absolutely no shame. The man who has lost all shame is an incarnate devil.
It is sad that some men cannot be happy until they have reduced themselves to the level of animals living according to responses based solely on impulses and desires. When one reaches this point, he has squelched the very capacity that separated men from beasts. I fear that this phenomenon is becoming all too common in our society.
May God bless us with a proper sense of shame.