“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Romans 6:23

As discussed, even one sin causes us to fall short of the perfection required to dwell eternally with God. The glorification that we need demands perfection that we don’t have. So let’s turn our attention to “sin” now; and in particular, what Romans 6:23 call its “wages.”

In using the term “wages,” Scripture is suggesting that death is what is “owed” or “deserved” as a result of sin. Again, this is not sin in the “plural form”… for even a single transgression of God’s law must result in death. Now, for people unfamiliar with Scripture, death may seem kind of excessive. Why would a single aberrant thought, or a fleeting look, bring about everlasting punishment? Or, to the mind of the sinner, “Shouldn’t the punishment better fit the crime?”

Well, the reality is that the punishment does fit the crime. However, because we have such a diminished understanding of God’s holiness and our sinfulness, we can be slow to recognize this.

Let’s stop for a moment to consider this issue of punishment further. I am persuaded that not only is death the appropriate punishment for sin, but it is the only possible result of sin. By way of analogy, I’ll ask you to imagine a man standing high above the ground on a tightrope. Now, if a man who is carefully balanced upon a tightrope were to take even a single step off of it, perhaps trusting in something else to support him (or neglecting his need for support at all), he will surely pay the consequences for this decision through the death that is bound to follow.

In this same sense, mankind is sustained and supported through God as our life-giving “tightrope.” It is God who upholds us above the abyss; it is God in whom we live and move and have our being . Now, like the tightrope, what would happen if we were to take one step away from the source that is sustaining us? Well, just like the tightrope walker, we will pay the consequences for this decision through the resultant physical (and spiritual) death.

The moment that Adam departed from God, even through a single sin, he willfully took a step off of the tightrope, separating himself from the source and the origin of his very life. And this spiritual separation brought death, which is the only possible outcome of being separated from that which is providing one’s life. And that is why even a single sin is no small matter.

So “the wages of sin are death,” is the assertion at the beginning of Romans 6:23. But fortunately for us, the verse doesn’t end there… for in the second part we discover that God has a plan to save us:  

“The wages of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The moment that sin entered the world, death entered with it. And that’s why Romans 6:23 links sin and death together using the relational word of “wages.” But look again at what this verse promises to those who believe: “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

What hope there is in these words! Though we have sinned, though we deserve death, we’ve been set free and granted eternal life. In His love and wisdom, God was not content to leave us in a state of spiritual separation from Himself, but has given us new life through His Son.

Now, one needs to recognize that this phrasing of a “gift” is directly opposed to the notion of “wages,” because while “wages” intimates something that is deserved, the word “gift” suggests something that is obtained through grace alone. We deserve to die. But instead, we have been given the gift of life. With that said, Romans 6:23 focuses our attention on the source of this gift…

...it is found solely via faith “in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

In pointing to Christ, this passage reminds us that eternal life does not emanate from ourselves, it does not usher forth from the cosmos, it is not granted by some pagan idol. Rather, eternal life is found in Christ Jesus alone, the very Son of God.

Let us turn our attention now to Romans 5:8.

Gospel To Gillette. Copyright 2014