“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This one verse is a perfect summary of what the Gospel is all about. When properly understood, this is one of the most transformational verses in all of the Word of God. It provides assurance to believers. It also provides encouragement to the unbeliever to come to faith in Jesus.
The immediate context in which the verse is found is in the section of the book of Romans dealing with the great doctrine of sanctification. Paul has been describing what it means to live a life of grace. As believers, we are free from the bondage of sin; therefore, we should live in that freedom. It is within that context that Paul reminds us that nothing good comes from sin. As a matter of fact, sin brings death. However, the good news is that through Jesus, we are given the wonderful gift of eternal life. We are given a life that is free of sin and death!
This verse, though written in the context of Paul’s encouragement to believers to live the grace (sanctified) life, is also very evangelistic. Let us break this verse down and look at each of the key words in greater detail.
Wages. The Greek word for ‘wages’ is opsonion. It refers to a soldier’s rations. It is a payment, a price. There is a price that must be paid. There is debt that is owed. ‘Wages’ can also refer to a penalty. A penalty must be paid. I, for one, have paid much in penalties due to traffic violations over the years. I know what it is like to pay for what I did wrong. Paul tells us here that a penalty must be paid.
Sin. There is a price that must be paid for sin. The question to consider then is; what exactly is sin? Sin is missing the mark. It is falling short of God’s glory and His purposes for your life. I like to picture it as playing darts. You have a dart board with a target. Your target is the ‘bull’s eye.’ When you miss the target, you have missed the mark. God’s Word is our ‘bull’s eye.’ Therefore, when we miss the target of God’s Word, we have sinned. Basically, anytime we do something that the Bible tells us not to do, we have sinned. Anytime we do not do something that the Bible tells us to do, we have sinned. We have also inherited a sin nature. We are sinful inside and out. This is why Romans 3:23 tells, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We have all missed the mark. We are all sinners. This of course creates a major problem in light of the next key word.
Death. The price of sin is death. The result of sin is death. This is both a physical death and a spiritual death. Notice the physical death that sin brings. We die physically because our bodies have been cursed by sin. We are also separated from God and doomed to an eternity separated from God in hell, because of sin. Death is the product of sin. Before sin entered into the world, there was no death. Notice what Romans 5:12 says. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” This verse alone causes major problems for those who believe in an old earth. Sin came from one man, Adam. The Bible clearly shows that Adam lived on this earth just over 6,000 years ago. Those who believe in an old earth will say that there are fossils that are billions of years old. However, sin came by Adam and death by sin. Therefore, if there were animals that died before Adam sinned, then the entire Gospel is wrong. The whole world, including the animal kingdom was cursed because of sin. Since the sin of Adam, this earth has been cursed with sickness, evil, violence, death, etc.
Sin not only brings physical death, but also, spiritual death. This spiritual death is a separation from God. We cannot have a relationship with God, because of sin. Ultimately, sin leads to eternal separation from God in hell. God is holy and perfect and just and righteous. He cannot have anything to do with sin. Therefore, sin must be paid for. The only price for sin is death.
Gift. If Paul ended his statement with the ‘wages of sin is death’, we would be most miserable. There would be no hope. But, there is good news. The good news is that God has given us a gift. The gift of God brings us eternal life. The gift of God reconciles us to Him so that we are no longer separated from God. This gift is a free gift. There is nothing that you can do to earn the gift of God. I like to think of it as a Christmas present. When someone gives you a gift at Christmas time, it is free. You do not have to pay for it. You do not have to earn it. However, there is something that you must do. In order for that gift to become yours, you must receive it. You must open it. You must accept it. God has given you a gift. That gift is already paid for. It was paid for on the cross of Calvary, all you must do is accept it and receive it.
Jesus Christ. This gift of God is given to us through Jesus Christ. The sacrifice He made on the cross satisfied God’s righteous demands in regards to sin. If it were not for Jesus, there would be no gift. Jesus made it possible for all of mankind to receive the gift of God. Jesus Christ is the only way. Doing good deeds or practicing a certain religion will not get you anywhere. It is only through Jesus that we can have the gift of God.
You may ask then, how do I actually receive this gift? Well, there is nothing that you can do to earn the gift, but there is something that you must do. We know that we are not saved by works. However, doing something is not necessarily working. To work for something is to do something in order to earn favor or payment. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation. It is all by the grace of God. However, there are some things that you must do in order to receive God’s gift for you. The first thing you must do is repent. Repentance is a necessary step in order to receive God’s gift of salvation. Repentance is basically making a U-turn. Again, it is not a work. It is not doing something you do in order to earn God’s favor. It is just simply turning around and turning toward Jesus. To be saved, you must come to a point in your life where you make the choice to turn away from yourself and the road of sin that you are on, and turn to Jesus. It is a conscience decision that you must make to say no to yourself and yes to Jesus. If you have never repented, then you are not really saved. It’s just like receiving that Christmas gift. You cannot know what the gift is if your back is turned toward it. You must turn around in order to see the gift. You cannot have your back toward the gift and try to reach behind you and open it. Instead, you must turn around and look and see the gift in order to open it. Therefore, in order to be saved, you must turn around or ‘repent’ and look to Jesus in order to see and open the gift that God has for you. As you repent and turn Jesus, you must then believe on the Lord Jesus. To believe on the Lord Jesus is not to just simply believe that He died for you. You must believe in Him. You must believe everything concerning Jesus. Therefore, if you do not believe in the virgin birth, then you cannot believe in Jesus and you cannot truly be saved. If you do not believe that He is God, you cannot be saved. If you do not believe in the cross, you cannot be saved. If you do not believe in the resurrection, you cannot be saved. You must believe on the Lord Jesus completely in order to receive God’s gift of salvation for you. Repent and Believe is the key to receiving the gift of eternal life.
This gift of God is available to everyone. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, not just a select group of people. He died for you and He died for me. The gift has been paid for. The penalty of sin has been satisfied. It’s already done. Now, God is handing you the gift. It’s here. You can have it. All you must do is reach out and receive it by repenting and believing. Have you ever done that? Has there ever been a time in your life when you repented of your life of sin and you turned to Jesus and believed on Him? It’s up to you. The ball is in your court. The price of sin is paid. The gift is given. Now you must make the choice to receive it.