For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 ASV

Paul did not say the wages of great sins, or of some sins, but the wages of “sin” is death.

Such unsatisfactory wages of sin, it seems, should make sin a very unprofitable employer, and long ago have resulted in the cessation of all sin; but not so.

True, if the full account of sin’s wages should be posted and paid at the end of every day, there would doubtless be far less sinning.

It is the “buy now, pay later” aspect of the penalty of sin which commends it as an attractive employment for many; but this verse is a warning that payment is certain, and that “death” is the quid pro quo of sin. “This for that!”

Such a word as “wages” also carries the information that the sinner will work for what he gets, that he therefore deserves it, and that the “wages” finally paid are exactly what he undertook to receive by his indulgence of sin.

This conception of sin as the sale of one’s self is found also in the Old Testament, where is recorded the charge of Elijah against Ahab,

Thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord (1 Kings 21:20).

Thus, every man who consents to the practice of sin is selling himself, not for anything valuable or beautiful, but for the rottenness of death.

Illustration: The late Grover Cleveland Brewer often preached from this text and illustrated the wages of sin thus: Some young men were watching the Tennessee river rising above flood stage when their attention was arrested by a little rabbit trapped on a diminishing little island in the raging flood.

They decided to rescue it, but could find no way to do it. The group, all in their early teens, were strong and vigorous, and fully accustomed to outdoor activities.

All knew the danger of the mighty river, especially at flood, and their parents had warned them again that very day to stay out of the river; but there was the problem of that trapped rabbit!

One of the boys, stronger than the others and a powerful swimmer, decided to attempt the rescue.

He made it to the little island, thrust the trembling little creature into the bosom of his overalls, and plunged in for the return swim. The end of a log riding the crest of the flood hit him in the temple; and four days later, they dredged his body up from the flood far downstream.

The boys who had witnesses the tragedy were present for the recovery of the body; and one of them found the remains of the rabbit in his bosom and held it up a moment and then said, “This is what he gave his life for!” What people labor to receive through sin, they get!

“Death” as used here means far more than physical death, though it includes that also. Spiritual death is part of the wages of sin, but even that is not the final payment.

Beyond the present sphere of time, there looms the mystery of the “second death,” described in Scripture with words so dark and dreadful that the mind draws back from contemplating them.

Mortal man is not capable of knowing fully what the ultimate fate of the wicked will be; but every man should heed the warnings of it revealed by the Holy Spirit.

“The free gift of God” comes from the translation of a word CHARISMA, which indicates the type of gift in which there can be no thought of the merit of the recipient.

Thus, it is not merely the gift, but the free gift of God. If God had imposed a million conditions of salvation, and if man fully complied with them all, his obedience could not place God in the position of a debtor regarding the free gift of that salvation.

Still, this glorious truth should never be confused with the error that salvation is unconditional, for it is not. “Free” indeed it is; “unconditional” indeed it is not. How is this true? Jesus explained thus:

When ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do (Luke 17:10).

Macknight saw in the use of the expression “free gift” a reference to such a thing as a donative; because being freely bestowed, it may be compared to the donatives the Roman generals, of their own good will, bestowed on their soldiers, as a mark of their favor.

Such donatives were indeed “free gifts,” but in no wise unconditional, the generals not bestowing such favors upon any except “their soldiers.

Thus, although the soldier did not earn the donative, he qualified as a recipient through his faithful service as a soldier of the general giving the gift

“Eternal life” is so magnificent a conception of so wonderful and comprehensive a gift as to be in its ultimate glorious essence something that lies beyond the perimeter of finite understanding.

So unspeakably beyond all powers of fully knowing it, this is the end of all God’s gracious designs for his beloved human children.

Eternal life will have the quality of possessing all that is best and joyous in the present life, with none of the impediments, and will be the ultimate reality of which the present life is only a type or shadow.

Far more than could be imagined by any intelligence, however, will compose that final existence to which .the saints of God are invited.

“In Christ Jesus our Lord” To miss the significance of these words is to miss everything Paul was teaching.

At the end of each chapter (Romans 5-8), Paul returned to this expression, suggesting the recurrence of the mighty theme of a symphony, the intention of the apostle plainly being that of preventing the Christian’s forgetfulness, either of the source of such blessings, or the personal status of the believer “in Christ” which alone makes him eligible to receive them. Just think of what this being “in Christ” really is.

“In Christ” the Christian is dead to sin, alive unto God, justified, redeemed servant of righteousness, and has the hope of eternal life.

Repeated emphasis on the importance of being in Christ has been due solely to the frequency of Paul’s stressing it in this letter, where the fact is reiterated over and over again in different contexts, suggesting the comparison with a jeweler who turns a beautiful gem over and over to view its luster from many angles.

The apostle John said:

And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son (1 John 5:11).

Supplementing what has already been written concerning how people come into Christ, the following exegesis of Moses E. Lard is pertinent:

It is proper here to add that immersion is not the only means of transition into him.

We believe into Christ, as well as are immersed into him, and the former just as certainly as the latter. “He that believes into the Son has everlasting life” (John 3:36).

To be immersed and to believe are similar verb forms, with identical significations.

Neither excludes the other, and both are alike essential to the end. We do not pass into Christ by immersion alone, nor by belief alone. We pass into him by the two jointly, and by neither separately.

Thus, there should be no marvel that Jesus declared that “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16.

An exegesis has been included here, not from any perfect agreement with it, but for the purpose of showing that even if faith may be so translated, it could not negate the obvious truth that faith and baptism are both prerequisite to justification, or being “in Christ,” which is the equivalent of it.

One certainly cannot believe himself into the Masonic Lodge, or the Democratic Party; and, therefore, it would truly be something marvelous under the sun, if one could believe himself into Christ!

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