Our next stop on the Roman Road is Romans 6:23.
Romans 6:23 (NASB) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Apart from John 3:16, no other text in Scripture better sums up all sixty-six books. This is the ultimate Reader’s Digest version of God’s Word. Notice the way the verse is balanced between its two clauses:
The wages of sin is death.
The gift of God is eternal life.
Wages is a word we understand as the result of work. It’s what we get for what we do. The Bible says that we’re all employed by sin, and the result or payback is physical, spiritual, and eternal death. In contrast to that, God wants to give us a gift, which is everlasting life.
It’s a gift that only comes wrapped in one package—Jesus Christ our Lord! Think of a great canyon. We’re on one side in a state of sin and death; God is on the other side with the gift of eternal life. The cross of Jesus Christ is the only bridge that spans the chasm. As 1 Timothy 2:5 says in The Living Bible: “God is on one side and all the people on the other side, and Christ Jesus, himself a man, is between them to bring them together.”
Verse 23 not only explains the contrasting “outcomes” of death and life, but also brings the chapter to a fitting conclusion. That sin leads to death has been a background motif since 5:12. Only by remembering the dark side of life outside of Christ can we truly appreciate God’s “gift” to us, the gift of his grace that brings “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Sinners earn what they receive. By obeying the impulses of sin, they are storing up the reward for sinning. Their severance check is death—eternal separation from God, who alone is life. By yielding to the impulses of righteousness, believers do not earn anything. They do, however, receive a gift—the gift of eternal life, which comes by faith through Jesus Christ their Lord.
Prior to faith in Christ and baptism, believers were enslaved to sin and suffered its effects. Paul presents salvation as deliverance from spiritual bondage. He illustrates it as a transfer from one master to another—from sin to God.
Paul states that humans were created as “living beings” in the fullest sense of the word, but all “died” in the sin of Adam. This “death” is both spiritual and physical, with temporal and non-temporal aspects. Spiritual death began immediately with the entrance of sin into the race and is not bound to time. With it comes separation from God. Death dominates the physical life in the present (Rom 5:14), renders humans helpless (Eph 2:1), and results in the physical and spiritual destruction of the individual.
Spiritual life is available to humans through faith in the saving act of God by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is synonymous with righteousness through Christ (Rom 1:17; 5:17–18), who is the source, meaning, reality and goal of spiritual life in both the present and future. Spiritual life is characterized by fellowship and union with God in Christ and is unaffected by physical death. In fact, for the believer physical death makes possible a closer union with Christ and so a “more real” life. This new life involves “death” to the old nature and a completely new lifestyle springing from the life of the Spirit within.
Next week we will look at the next stop on the Roman Road.
Romans 3:23 • Romans 6:23 • Romans 5:8 • Romans 10:9-10, 13