The wages of sin vs. the gift of life

I have been thinking some about a verse from Romans chapter 6. It’s verse 23, and it goes like this:

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

Typically this verse is used in an evangelism context where Christians talk to non-Christians about the fact that if you choose to stay in your sin you’re going to end your life in Hell (‘death’ in the verse). The fact is, however, that this verse is not spoken to non-Christians, but to Christians. It’s a part of Paul’s letter to the Roman church, and it talks about realities that we as Christians experience today as well. The verse talks about clear choices with clear consequences.

If I choose sin and choose to live according to who I used to be (a sinful person with a sinful nature), and not according to the truth of who I am now (a new creation, 2. Corinthians 5:17, who wants to do what God wants to do, Ezekiel 36:26-27), I experience death. What does ‘death’ mean? Death in a biblical understanding often means ‘lack of life’. And in this verse it’s talking about how a believer, when he or she chooses to sin, chooses to live as a hypocrite (hypocrite=not living according to who you really are), you experience death in your relationships to God, to yourself and to other people.

How does this look like? It’s very practical stuff. If I choose to ignore what the Holy Spirit is telling me is the best thing to do, and I choose to sin, the results are simply worse relationships with God, myself and other people. I can’t be as open, vulnerable, honest and safe as I am when I don’t choose to sin. I don’t have to sin. Sin is not my master anymore (Romans 6:14). I don’t have to obey sin’s temptations (1. Corinthians 10:13). I recently heard an illustration where a speaker said that living as a believer is much like playing in a basketball or football match. Unless the referees blows the whistle and tells you that you’ve done something wrong, you can assume you’re doing right. As a believer filled with the Holy Spirit and his guidance in my life, I can be convinced that he’ll blow the whistle if I’m sinning. If he doesn’t blow the whistle, I can safely assume that I’m living according to God’s will and that I’m walking in the Spirit (Romans 8). As a Christian, and as a brand new creation in Christ (2. Corinthians 5:17) I have been given a new set of ‘default settings’. When you cut to the chase inside of me you find perfection, because you find Christ and what he has done in me. I am forever perfect in Jesus (Hebrews 10:14), and nothing I will ever say, do, think or feel or will not say, do think or feel will ever change that. But that doesn’t mean that I will necessarily get to experience the fullness of Jesus’ life here on planet earth. If I choose to sin, I will receive the wages of a sinful lifestyle. And the paycheck is death. It’s a lack of life. It’s a lack of intimacy with God. It’s a lifestyle of lying to my spouse and my friends and myself. It’s a masquerade where I have to cover up what I do and what I really think about myself. It’s a road of pretending, minimizing, exaggerating, hiding, lusting, or whatever your particular brand of flesh may be. It’s a reality of mediocrity, whining and pouting, because you don’t get to experience the fullness of relationships with God, with yourself and with other people that we desire. But God didn’t promise that we would ‘feel good and close to him’ when we choose to sin. He never said that we would have great relationships with other people, when we choose to sin. He said that choices towards sin will lead to death. Pure and simple. And then he was kind enough to leave us with another choice in the other half of the verse in Romans 6:23. I’ve seen the principle of death when I choose sin at work in my life many times. Most of my life I have been living in dishonest relationships with other people and trying to pretend that everything was okay when really that wasn’t the case. I’m so happy that Christ has shown me more and more of the life that’s available when we abide in him. 

A wonderful gift to receive


The other half of Romans 6:23 again: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord“. It’s important to understand that ‘eternal life’ is not something we enter into the day we die and go to Heaven. Eternal life is the very person of Jesus Christ as shown here in a couple of different verses: “we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1. John 5:20), “and the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son” (1. John 5:11), “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). 

Jesus is the eternal life, and he is given to us as a gift. And all that he is is given to us as a gift. It’s the gift of himself. Romans 5:17 calls it the gift of righteousness. Galatians 5:22-23 talks about Jesus when it talks about the fruit (singular, not plural!) of the Spirit. Jesus is the one who possesses all wisdom (1. Corinthians 1:24). 

I want to learn more about who Christ is. I am tired of learning from other people and hearing other peoples’ wisdom. We don’t possess all wisdom, only Christ does. Just yesterday I was talking to somebody about what humility is, and it struck me that the best person to ask, but often the last one that we end up asking (…) is Jesus himself who gave us the invitation to learn from him in Matthew 11:28-29:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”

Christ invites us to learn from him. I am beginning to ask him more to teach me who he is and what eternal life really looks like. I don’t want other people to teach me. Other peoples’ experiences with Christ can be interesting to hear about, but I need to encounter Christ by myself and experience him heal, touch, direct, bless, challenge, encourage, strengthen, speak through me to really experience him and for it to really make a difference in my life. How I long for Christ to be more visible through me. 

I love the line from this song called You Be Lifted High: “and I fall to my knees, so it’s You that they see, not I, Jesus, You be lifted high“:

Blessings, Torben

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