For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
This is one of the first Bible verses I remember having to memorize as a kid. It’s up there as one of the most famous and well-known verses in the Bible. And rightfully so, there’s a lot of life-changing and life-giving truth in this passage.
Yet, we often oversimplify the Romans 6:23 meaning to stop sinning or you will die. But there’s SO much more to this verse that we miss out on when we reduce it to this. Further, that’s an overly negative interpretation that ignores the overwhelming positive message Paul is giving.
I think if you take a few minutes to look at this verse with a fresh perspective, you will come away encouraged by what God has done for you.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
The Context Of Romans 6:23
To help us better understand the meaning of Romans 6:23 we need to understand the context first. We need to know what the verses surrounding it say. If we ignore the context we will miss the full picture of what’s happening and can even end up misinterpreting the passage.
The book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Rome. In Romans 6 Paul is addressing the seriousness of sin and the gift of grace.
Throughout this chapter we see Paul tell his readers that they are now dead to sin, dead to their old way of doing life. Sin used to be our master, it used to control us, but now we have found freedom in Christ.
In essence this chapter is a contrast between two masters, God and sin. When sin is our master, death is the outcome. But when God is our master, we receive the free gift of life.
When Paul says, “for the wages of sin is death,” he’s drawing his thoughts on this to a summary and conclusion. So, let’s dive into the Romans 6:23 meaning and see what it holds for us.
The Romans 6:23 Meaning
Though this verse is short, there’s a lot packed into it. To help us better understand the meaning of Romans 6:23 I’m going to break it down into three sections so we can understand what God’s Word is saying to us.
For The Wages Of Sin Is Death Meaning
Wages are something that you earn, good or bad. To get a wage you put in some form of work.
Think of a job. An employee shows up and does work that benefits the company. In doing so they earn a wage. Periodically the employer will pay out what the employee has earned. The money that they get is the wage they earned from their work. That is their right, they earned it and deserve it.
Similarly, when we sin we are also “earning a wage”… but this one is not positive. Sin earns the wage of death.
Now, death comes to the sinner throughout their lifetime, not just when they die. You can see these wages being paid out all around us.
Families are blow up as a result of selfish desires. Greed and consumerism forces people further into misery. Lives are taken over disputes. People are more self-consumed than ever. And pain and hopelessness run rampant.
These are the wages that we have earned. But don’t just look at culture, look in the mirror. You and I have earned these wages personally. Your sin has brought death to your life.
Yes, our physical death is the ultimate wage of our sin. But the wages of our sin brings death throughout our life.
But The Gift Of God Is Eternal Life Meaning
But… thankfully there’s a but. All hope is not lost. The wages of sin are death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life.
While we were stuck in our sin on our way toward death, God stepped in and offered us life.
Paul here is contrasting these two things. On one hand, you have obedience to sin which yields death. On the other hand, you have obedience to God which brings life.
The point here is the contrast between what we DESERVE and what we are GIVEN. What we have earned is death, but what God has given us is life.
Not only is death and life contrasted here, but so is wage and gift. A wage is something you earn, it’s your right to receive your wage. A gift is something you are given because the giver cares about you.
God has given us life, not because we earned it but because he loves us. He did for us what we are incapable of doing for ourselves.
In Christ Jesus Our Lord Meaning
So, how is all this possible? How can we receive life when we’ve earned death? In short, Jesus.
When a wage is earned it needs to be paid out.
Imagine I rack up a debt of $1 million and I can’t pay it back. Suppose the creditor to whom I owed was feeling generous and decided to forgive me of that debt. I’m now debt free. However, while I didn’t have to pay the creditor, they did. The million dollars doesn’t just disappear, someone had to pay the price.
Similarly with our sin, we’ve racked up a debt. And the price of that sin is death. But Jesus paid the price for that debt. Now that debt doesn’t disappear. He didn’t wave a magic wand to make it go away. Rather he took the price on himself. He paid our debt.
This life that we have been given is because Jesus paid the price for what we earned. Apart from Jesus there is no other way to receive eternal life.
For more check out: What “I Am The Way The Truth And The Life REALLY Means (3 powerful truths)
3 Lessons From The Meaning Of Romans 6:23
So, what do we do with this? Now that we know the Romans 6:23 meaning I want to end with 3 practical lessons that can we apply to our life.
1. Recognize The Wages Of Sin
We tend to downplay and excuse the effects of sin. It’s not really that big of a deal. I’m not hurting anyone. I’ll stop tomorrow. We’ve got all the excuses.
But we are ignoring the reality of what sin does. We trade the life, the joy, and the peace that God has for us for a fleeting few moments of pleasure. Sin brings death. It might satisfy for a moment, but it’s like drinking salt water. It can never quench your thirst, and the more you drink the thirstier you get.
Followers of Jesus need to recognize the wages of sin, the results it brings. It promises us joy, happiness, and fun, but instead it robs us.
When we are tempted with sin we need to remember what the wages of sin truly are.
2. Put To Death Your Old Ways
Once we recognize the wages of sin, we need to put to death our old habits and ways of thinking that brought sin. After all, why would we want to keep around something that brings death to our lives?
This is why Paul uses such strong language when it comes to handling sin. Put it to death. Cut it out. Nail it to a cross. It’s a cancer that’s not good for anything so get rid of it.
Now, this isn’t something that happens over night. The process of dealing with the sin in our lives is a lifelong journey of removing the dead parts of our life. You won’t wake up tomorrow and never sin again. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, next year you will be experiencing life more than you are now.
I want to be clear on this…. this isn’t tied to our salvation. You don’t need to do this to earn God’s salvation. Rather we do this because this is our response to the free gift God has given us.
God wants to help you deal with the sin and brokenness in your life so that you can experience the full life he has for you.
3. Follow The Path To Life
Many people look at the Bible as a set of rules to follow. And there’s many things wrong with that view, but maybe mostly is the view that God only cares about our obedience.
Here’s the reality, God doesn’t give us rules to keep us from having fun. But rather to protect us so that we can fully experience life. The rules he gives don’t always make sense to us. But God can see things we can’t.
For example, I don’t let my son play in the middle of the street… even though he wants to sometimes. He thinks it’s a great place to ride his bike. But I know the dangers of doing so. I have rules that I give him not because I want to kill his fun, but rather to protect him so that he can experience life more fully.
We can trust God’s rules even when they don’t make sense to us because he’s proven his love for us. His rules are a path to life. His rules keep us from death. He wants what’s best for you, so listen to what God says is best.
Thank you for reading this blog post! I hope it helped you better understand the wages of sin is death meaning. If it did would you share it with a friend?
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