Wages For Sin Are Paid

In Romans 6, Paul answers the question of whether Christians should continue to sin. When we came to God by faith in Jesus, we died to sin and are not slaves to it anymore.

The righteousness given to us, for free, by God in Christ Jesus leads to becoming like Jesus and to eternal life. We should serve righteousness instead of sin.

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Romans 6:23 – Wages Paid

When we serve God we get no pay – but He freely gives us the best benefit package imaginable.

“Every sinner earns this by long, sore, and painful service. O! What pains do men take to get to hell! Early and late they toil at sin; and would not Divine justice be in their debt if it did not pay them their due wages?”1

In Christian theology, spiritual death is separation from God caused by sin. “Your sins have separated you and God” (Isaiah 59:2). This spiritual death is alternatively regarded as the death of the soul: “soul who sins will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4).

The Scriptures teach of two sources of spiritual death. The first source is the Fall, and the second is our own disobedience. Spiritual death can be overcome through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and by obedience to His gospel.

Life, unlike death, is not wages. Life is rather “the free gift of God.” Moreover, this is not simply life in terms of daily earthly existence. Rather, Paul speaks of “eternal life.” This implies duration: a life that never ends. But it also implies quality. Eternal life means living in God’s presence, enjoying fellowship with Christ, bearing the fruit of his Spirit, worshiping and serving in his name. 2

Answering his question from Romans 6:15, Paul makes it clear that the Christian must fight against even occasional sin because we need to work for and work under our new Master. It isn’t appropriate for us to work for our old master.

Paul sums up, in this section of his letter, and the entire gospel, with this one famous verse (verse 23).

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NASB)

Paul compares the two types of lives he has been describing. Those without Christ are slaves to sin. Their work of sinfulness earns a paycheck of death.

No matter how good a person may think they are, their work can never be good enough (Isaiah 64:6), and ultimately, they have only themselves to blame for sinning against God (Romans 1:18–20; 3:10, 23).

Paul describes eternal life as God’s free gift in Christ Jesus our Lord. When we trust in Christ, God gives us credit for Christ’s perfect, sinless life and accepts the payment of Christ’s death for our sins.

The Atonement of Christ redeems us from spiritual death through repentance and obedience. The Lord designed, in the beginning, to place before man the knowledge of good and evil and gave him a commandment to cleave to good and abstain from evil.

That is when we labor for God with faith, what we get is indeed more than wages for we cannot measure it with earthly standards but it is far more beyond us.

Paul stresses free gift because in his day as in ours, people believe they can bargain with God. We can’t do enough to earn His favor. We can be better than most other people and are certainly not as bad as lawbreakers and criminals.

Romans 3:23

Paul anticipated such wishful thinking in Roman 3. He quotes the Old Testament to remind us that no one measures up to God’s perfection and holiness. To appreciate Romans 6:23, we must recall Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” As Paul writes elsewhere, in ourselves we are without “hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

Romans 6:23 means Jesus Christ delivers those who trust him from the treadmill of sin and condemnation (death), as he grants us the free gift of fellowship, hope, and purpose right now and in the age to come (eternal life).

The result, eternal life with Him, sharing in His glory, is given to us as a gift.

In Conclusion, consider the Daily Bread email message sent on 5/1722024 which says

DB Romans 6:23

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NASB)

Rereading Romans 6, I found myself contemplating God’s intended tenant on “sin.” So much preaching, even in Scripture, is devoted to our life-long battle with the innumerable sins we commit and the consequences of those sins.

Chapter 6 ends by stating the greatest punishment for those sins we seem to not be able to avoid. But after the comma, that verse reminds us of the love God has graced us through His Son.
I believe that the main sin Scripture is trying to illuminate is the original sin of Adam and Eve and that is our movement away from, our putting of distance between us and God. And the definition of the consequence, “death,” is the penalty of eternal separation from God’s grace.
But the good news is – the message in verse 23 – that all those sins are nothing compared to the sin of our lack of faith; and God’s forgiveness has already been procured by our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
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Cited References:

  1. William Newton Clark, An Outline of Christian Theology (New York, NY: Scribner, 1901) https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/romans-6.html
  2. Bob Yarbrough  https://Bob Yarbrough  https://www.crossway.org/articles/what-does-romans-623-mean/

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