The wages of sin is death
Driving across my wife’s home town of Belfast, it’s difficult not to come across this verse emblazoned on some billboard or other:
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
And it’s usually in the King James Version too!
It serves as a succinct summary of the gospel as it outlines three contrasting pairs. There is wages versus gift; sin versus God and death versus eternal life.
On one side of the divide we have sin as a slave-master. This is how Paul has been portraying sin throughout Romans 6. It is not so much an action that we choose but a power that masters us. We’re not in charge of sin, sin is in charge of us. But it’s a law-abiding slave-master – it pays a wage. The whole realm in which sin operates is the realm of working and earning. This pay-master always gives his workers what’s coming to them. And what is the payment? Death.
There’s something very organic here. Sin is anti-life. It is shutting down from the life-giving Lord and trying to work things out from our own resources. When we serve this master we get what’s coming to us – death.
But there’s another way. What’s the other way? Should we just choose not to sin? Impossible. We are like Israel in Egypt – we’re in slavery to a dark power that we can’t overthrow. We need another Master to redeem us. But thankfully the second half of the verse gives us one: God! He is a very different Master. You see in contrast to how we naturally think, sin is the kill-joy, God is the life-giver. Sin is the legalist, God is the gracious One. Sin demands that I work for a wage. God offers a gift by His grace – the Lord Jesus Christ. Sin is death-dealing. God is life-giving.
And again the outcome of serving this Master is organically related to who this master is. Since God is a Life-giving Fountain, pouring forth Himself in His Son and Spirit, therefore receiving His gift means receiving eternal life. It’s just natural that His realm means receiving. And receiving God’s kind of life is receiving eternal life.
So next time you are tempted to sin, remember it’s bigger than you. Remember it’s a master you have no power to overthrow. It’s not your servant, it’s a slave-master. It’s not offering anything, it’s taking. It’s not bringing you into a realm of grace but only into the realm of works. And no matter what it promises, it’s not giving you life but only death. On the other hand, God is offering you redemption, freedom, grace and eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Today spend a moment to re-orient your thinking according to the gospel. Take a moment to see yourself, to see sin and to see God again in light of Jesus Christ.
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