There are a few scriptures in the bible that are so well known that they have moved into common usage amongst both Christians and non-Christians alike. This verse is one of those which says,
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now like many scriptures that are taken into common usage, it is often not taken fully or correctly. Too many people look at the first seven words and forget the rest. Even more, the meaning of the words is often not fully understood. So let us look at this verse to consider some of the shades of meaning that we can draw from these words and especially the hope that this verse offers.
Wages Of Sin
The first section of this verse tells us that the “wages of sin is death.” There are a few things that we need to recognise about this section, some are blatantly obvious and others less so.
First, understand that all people die. Every person that has lived upon this earth and everyone who is still to come will die. All people are subject to the power of sin and have sinned and so they will all die. (The bible scholars among you will recall two men who were taken by God and did not die being Elijah and Enoch, but everyone else before and since have died).
This is and was the promise of God to Adam when he was in the garden of Eden. He was told in Genesis 2:16-17,
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
And of course when Adam and Eve broke that one law by taking the forbidden fruit, death was their reward, just as God promised. And death has reigned because of sin ever since.
Now the words “the wages of sin” are interesting in their own right also for they tell us much.
Wages are something that you earn. When a person goes to work they do some form of work and as their reward for effort that are paid a wage.
Wages are not a gift given by a boss to an employee, they are the rightful due for services rendered. And if a boss does not pay a wage for work done an employee can seek recourse and restitution through the legal processes because they are entitled to be paid for their efforts.
But in this verse we see those same words applied because Paul writes that death is the wages of sin. What Paul is saying is that we earn the right to die. By sinning we are working and earning an “income” and the payment for that debt of sin is death. We earn death when we live a life of sin and it is our rightful due because we worked for it by committing sin during our lives.
Fortunately in Jesus Christ God has given us a better way and a choice to make that can lead to a better life.
Free Gift Of God
As I showed above, we earn the right to die by working for it through sinning. So death is not a gift, it is our rightful due.
But God has established a method by which we can escape the punishment of death and receive life. If you have read any of my last few posts from Romans 5 & 6 I have covered that process in some detail.
Paul summarises this process in the last few words of this verse saying, “…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There are a few things in these words that we need to think about.
First, we do not work for eternal life…it is a freely given gift from God. You do not earn it, you do not and cannot work for it and you cannot take it of your own accord. It is a gift given by God.
So how do we get this gift? Well the second part of the verse tells us that we receive this gift by being “…in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
To get the free gift of life we must be “in” Jesus Christ our Lord. Some translations read “through” Jesus Christ, and the Greek word from which this is translated could be used both ways but is more correctly rendered as “in” in my opinion. Certainly the word “in” aligns more correctly with the method by which we receive this gift when we understand how this process works.
In the previous few posts I have looked at how we enter the kingdom of God and receive salvation. That process is through baptism. When we are baptised we are baptised “in” Jesus name and baptised “into” His death. We enter the kingdom of God by putting on the death of Jesus as our own and as we put on His earth we enter into Him.
All of this rests upon faith. When we believe we are “in” Christ Jesus, we believe we are no longer alive to sin in this world but have died to sin and are now alive to God.
We see this discussed in Ephesians 2:4-8 where Paul writes,
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Our lives, given as a free gift by God through his grace and received by faith, are now hidden “in” Jesus Christ who is seated at the right hand of God the Father. God makes us alive “in” Christ when we believe in the power of the blood of his sacrifice that was shed so we could be released from sin and be brought into salvation.
And we receive this when we believe and have faith “in” Jesus Christ. It’s not believing “about” Jesus, but believing we are “in” Jesus through the working of faith and grace. There are many people who believe “about” Jesus but they are not “in” Jesus. As an example, consider the words of James 2:19,
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder!
Possibly the greatest opponent and enemies of God are the demons who chose to follow satan and they ALL believe “about” God and Jesus Christ, but they are not “in” Him. It is not until a person understands the processes necessary to come to Jesus according to His will and the will of the Father and follows that pathway that they are accepted. It is not until they believe that they have put on Christ’s death as their own, entering His death through baptism as He said we must and understand they are free from sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus that they are truly “in” Him.
So seek to find the true path and the correct path. There is only one path. There is only one truth and there is only one way and that is by, through and “in” Jesus Christ for He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
Do you want to be rid of the wages of sin that is death? Do you want to receive the free gift of life that comes from God? Then seek out and learn what Jesus had to say and follow His path.
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