God in the N.T. Scriptures offers to the lost, salvation; and for the faithful service of the saved, He offers rewards. The passages are easily distinguished by remembering that salvation is invariably spoken of as a free gift (e.g. Jn. 4:10; Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9), whereas rewards are earned by works (Mt. 10:42; Lk. 19:17; 1 Cor. 9:24-25; 2 Tim 4:7-8; Rev. 2:10; 22:12). A further distinction is that salvation is a present possession (Lk. 7:50; Jn. 3:36; 5:24; 6:47), whereas rewards are a future attainment, to be given at the rapture (2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 22:12).
Do not be deceive; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith (emphasis added).
Nothing is plainer than that the “everlasting life” of which Paul speaks is not free, but based on the moral merits of those who reap it. . . . Naturally Paul knew that eternal life was freely given (Rom. 6:23; see also Rom. 5:15-18), just as the Apostle John knew this. But Paul is not speaking about what the Galatians already have, but about what they may yet receive. Herein lies the key to this text.
Here it should be stated clearly that in the New Testament eternal life is presented both as a free gift and as a reward merited by those who earn it. But one important distinction always holds true. Wherever eternal life is viewed as a reward, it is obtained in the future. But wherever eternal life is presented as a gift, it is obtained in the present.
Hodges does not recognize that his appeal to Romans 6:23 actually contradicts his argument that "eternal life" as future "reward" is earned and not a "gift." He fails to realize that everywhere Paul speaks of “eternal life,” including in Romans 6:22-23, he invariably portrays “eternal life” with orientation to the future, as the life God will give for the age to come. Roman 6:22 makes this explicit when Paul states, “you have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Then, Paul explains that this coming eternal life in Christ Jesus is God’s gift (6:23). In other words, when Paul speaks of "eternal life" in Romans 6:22-23, he is portraying eternal life as that aspect of eternal life believers will receive in the future, not as the aspect of eternal life believers already possess. Therefore, the passage Hodges uses to establish his separation between “eternal life” as a present possessed gift from “eternal life” as a future earned reward nullifies his claim. Paul identifies “eternal life,” which believers will receive in the day of resurrection, both as “God’s gift” and as something we will “reap.” Eternal life as future "reward" is not earned; it is God's "gift."