Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) The gift of God.—The natural antithesis would be “wages;” but this would here be inappropriate, and therefore the Apostle substitutes “the free gift.” In spite of your sanctification as Christians, still you will not have earned eternal life; it is the gift of God’s grace.

Romans 6:23. For the wages of sin is death — “The word οψωνια, rendered wages, properly signifies the food and pay which generals give to their soldiers for their service. By using this term, the apostle shows what sort of pay the usurper, sin, gives to those who serve under his banners. Further, as the sin here spoken of is that which men commit personally, and which they continue in, the death which is the wages of this kind of sin must be death eternal. It is observable, that although in Scripture the expression, eternal life, is often to be met with, we nowhere find eternal joined with death. Yet the punishment of the wicked is said to be eternal. Matthew 25:46;” (Macknight;) as also in many other passages. But the gift of God — Greek, χαρισμα, the free gift, or gift of grace; is eternal life — Or, eternal life is the free gift of God. “The apostle does not call everlasting life οψωνια, the wages which God gives to his servants, because they do not merit it by their services, as the slaves of sin merit death by theirs: but he calls it a free gift, or gift of grace; or, as Estius would render the expression, a donative; because, being freely bestowed, it may be compared to the donatives which the Roman generals, of their own good- will, bestowed on their soldiers as a mark of their favour.” We may now see the apostle’s method thus far: — 1st, Bondage to sin, Romans 3:9. 2d, The knowledge of sin by the law, a sense of God’s wrath, inward death, Romans 3:20. 3d, The revelation of the righteousness of God in Christ, through the gospel, Romans 3:21. 4th, The centre of all faith, embracing that righteousness, Romans 3:22. 5th, Justification, whereby God forgives all past sin, and freely accepts the sinner, Romans 3:24. 6th, The gift of the Holy Ghost, a sense of God’s love, new inward life, Romans 5:5; Romans 6:4. 7th, The free service of righteousness, Romans 6:23. 6:21-23 The pleasure and profit of sin do not deserve to be called fruit. Sinners are but ploughing iniquity, sowing vanity, and reaping the same. Shame came into the world with sin, and is still the certain effect of it. The end of sin is death. Though the way may seem pleasant and inviting, yet it will be bitterness in the latter end. From this condemnation the believer is set at liberty, when made free from sin. If the fruit is unto holiness, if there is an active principle of true and growing grace, the end will be everlasting life; a very happy end! Though the way is up-hill, though it is narrow, thorny, and beset, yet everlasting life at the end of it is sure. The gift of God is eternal life. And this gift is through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ purchased it, prepared it, prepares us for it, preserves us to it; he is the All in all in our salvation.For the wages of sin - The word translated here "wages" ὀψώνια opsōnia properly denotes what is purchased to be eaten with bread, as fish, flesh, vegetables, etc. (Schleusner); and thence, it means the pay of the Roman soldier, because formerly it was the custom to pay the soldier in these things. It means hence, what a man earns or deserves; what is his proper pay, or what he merits. As applied to sin, it means that death is what sin deserves; what will be its proper reward. Death is thus called the wages of sin, not because it is an arbitrary, undeserved appointment, but

(1) Because it is its proper desert. Not a pain will be inflicted on the sinner which he does not deserve. Not a sinner will die who ought not to die. Sinners even in hell will be treated just as they deserve to be treated; and there is not to man a more fearful and terrible consideration than this. No man can conceive a more dreadful doom than for himself to be treated forever just as he deserves to be. But,

(2) This is the wages of sin, because, like the pay of the soldier, it is just what was threatened, Ezekiel 18:4, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." God will not inflict anything more than was threatened, and therefore it is just.

Is death - This stands opposed here to eternal life, and proves that one is just as enduring as the other.

But the gift of God - Not the wages of man; not what is due to him; but the mere gift and mercy of God. The apostle is careful to distinguish, and to specify thai this is not what man deserves, but what is gratuitously conferred on him; Note, Romans 6:15.

Eternal life - The same words which in Romans 6:22 are rendered "everlasting life." The phrase is opposed to death; and proves incontestably that that means eternal death. We may remark, therefore,

(1) That the one will be as long as the other.

(2) as there is no doubt about the duration of life, so there can be none about the duration of death. The one will be rich, blessed, everlasting; the other sad, gloomy, lingering, awful, eternal.

(3) if the sinner is lost, he will deserve to die. He will have his reward. He will suffer only what shall be the just due of sin. He will not be a martyr in the cause of injured innocence. He will not have the compassion of the universe in his favor. He will have no one to take his part against God. He will suffer just as much, and just as long, as he ought to suffer. He will suffer as the culprit pines in the dungeon, or as the murderer dies on the gibbet, because this is the proper reward of sin.

(4) they who are saved will be raised to heaven, not because they merit it, but by the rich and sovereign grace of God. All their salvation will be ascribed to him; and they will celebrate his mercy and grace forever.

(5) it becomes us, therefore, to flee from the wrath to come. No man is so foolish and so wicked as he who is willing to reap the proper wages of sin. None so blessed as he who has part in the mercy of God, and who lays hold on eternal life.

23. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through—"in"

Jesus Christ our Lord—This concluding verse—as pointed as it is brief—contains the marrow, the most fine gold, of the Gospel. As the laborer is worthy of his hire, and feels it to be his due—his own of right—so is death the due of sin, the wages the sinner has well wrought for, his own. But "eternal life" is in no sense or degree the wages of our righteousness; we do nothing whatever to earn or become entitled to it, and never can: it is therefore, in the most absolute sense, "THE GIFT OF God." Grace reigns in the bestowal of it in every case, and that "in Jesus Christ our Lord," as the righteous Channel of it. In view of this, who that hath tasted that the Lord is gracious can refrain from saying, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen!" (Re 1:5, 6).

Note, (1) As the most effectual refutation of the oft-repeated calumny, that the doctrine of Salvation by grace encourages to continue in sin, is the holy life of those who profess it, let such ever feel that the highest service they can render to that Grace which is all their hope, is to "yield themselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and their members instruments of righteousness unto God" (Ro 6:12, 13). By so doing they will "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men," secure their own peace, carry out the end of their calling, and give substantial glory to Him that loved them. (2) The fundamental principle of Gospel obedience is as original as it is divinely rational; that "we are set free from the law in order to keep it, and are brought graciously under servitude to the law in order to be free" (Ro 6:14, 15, 18). So long as we know no principle of obedience but the terrors of the law, which condemns all the breakers of it, and knows nothing whatever of grace, either to pardon the guilty or to purify the stained, we are shut up under a moral impossibility of genuine and acceptable obedience: whereas when Grace lifts us out of this state, and through union to a righteous Surety, brings us into a state of conscious reconciliation, and loving surrender of heart to a God of salvation, we immediately feel the glorious liberty to be holy, and the assurance that "Sin shall not have dominion over us" is as sweet to our renewed tastes and aspirations as the ground of it is felt to be firm, "because we are not under the Law, but under Grace." (3) As this most momentous of all transitions in the history of a man is wholly of God's free grace, the change should never be thought, spoken, or written of but with lively thanksgiving to Him who so loved us (Ro 6:17). (4) Christians, in the service of God, should emulate their former selves in the zeal and steadiness with which they served sin, and the length to which they went in it (Ro 6:19). (5) To stimulate this holy rivalry, let us often "look back to the rock whence we were hewn, the hole of the pit whence we were digged," in search of the enduring advantages and permanent satisfactions which the service of Sin yielded; and when we find to our "shame" only gall and wormwood, let us follow a godless life to its proper "end," until, finding ourselves in the territories of "death," we are fain to hasten back to survey the service of Righteousness, that new Master of all believers, and find Him leading us sweetly into abiding "holiness," and landing us at length in "everlasting life" (Ro 6:20-22). (6) Death and life are before all men who hear the Gospel: the one, the natural issue and proper reward of sin; the other, the absolutely free "GIFT OF God" to sinners, "in Jesus Christ our Lord." And as the one is the conscious sense of the hopeless loss of all blissful existence, so the other is the conscious possession and enjoyment of all that constitutes a rational creature's highest "life" for evermore (Ro 6:23). Ye that read or hear these words, "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live!" (De 30:19).

q.d. Now therefore compare the office of both these services together, and you shall easily see which master is best to serve and obey; the wages that sin will pay you, in the end is death; but the reward that God will freely bestow upon you (if you be his servants)

is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wages; the word properly signifies victuals. The Romans of old paid their soldiers with provision and victuals in recompence of their service; afterward they gave them money, but still the old term was retained, and now it is used to signify any reward or stipend whatsoever.

Is death: by death here we must understand not only temporal, but also and more especially eternal death, as appears by the opposition it hath to eternal life: this is the just and true hire of sin.

The gift of God is eternal life; he doth not say that eternal life is the wages of righteousness, but that it is the gracious or free gift of God. He varies the phrase on purpose, to show that we attain not eternal life by our own merits, our own works or worthiness, but by the gift or grace of God; for which cause he also addeth,

through Jesus Christ our Lord. See Aug. lib. de Gratia et Libero Arbitrio, c. 9. Let the papists (if they can) reconcile this text to their distinction of mortal and venial sins, and to their doctrine of the meritoriousness of good works. For the wages of sin is death,.... By sin, is meant every sin, original sin, actual sin, every kind of sin, lesser and greater: the "death" which sin deserves, is a corporeal death; which is not owing to the original nature and constitution of men; nor merely to the divine appointment; but to sin, and the decree of God, on account of it; which is inflicted on Christless sinners, as a punishment for sin, though not on believers as such, because Christ has took away the sting and curse of it: a death of diseases and afflictions also follows upon sin, as its proper demerit; which are properly punishments to wicked men, and are occasioned by sin in believers: there is a death of the soul, which comes by sin, which lies in an alienation from God, in a loss of the image of God, and in a servitude to sin; and there is an eternal death, the just wages of sin, which lies in a separation of soul and body from God, and in a sense of divine wrath to all eternity; and which is here meant, as is clear from its antithesis, "eternal life", in the next clause. Now this is "the wages" of sin; sin does in its own nature produce it, and excludes from life; it is the natural issue of it; sin is committed against an infinite God, and righteously deserves such a death; it is its just wages by law. The Greek word signifies soldiers' wages; see Luke 3:14 and in

"At which time Simon rose up, and fought for his nation, and spent much of his own substance, and armed the valiant men of his nation and gave them wages,'' (1 Maccabees 14:32)

Sin is represented as a king, a mighty monarch, a tyrannical prince; sinners are his subjects and vassals, his servants and soldiers, who fight under him, and for him, and all the wages they must expect from him is death. So the word is interpreted in the Glossary, , "soldiers' wages"; and so it is used by the Jewish writers, being adopted into their language; of a king, they say (a), that he should not multiply to himself gold and silver more than to pay which they (b) interpret by , "the hire of armies", or the wages of soldiers for a whole year, who go in and out with him all the year; so that it denotes wages due, and paid after a campaign is ended, and service is over; and, as here used, suggests, that when men have been all their days in the service of sin, and have fought under the banners of it, the wages they will earn, and the reward that will be given them, will be death: and it is frequently observed by the Jewish doctors (c), that , "there is no death without sin": sin is the cause of death, and death the fruit and effect of sin:

but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. These words, at first sight, look as if the sense of them was, that eternal life is the gift of God through Christ, which is a great and glorious truth of the Gospel; but their standing in opposition to the preceding words require another sense, namely, that God's gift of grace issues in eternal life, through Christ: wherefore by "the gift of God" is not meant eternal life, but either the gift of a justifying righteousness, or the grace of God in regeneration and sanctification, or both, which issue in eternal life; the one is the saints' right and title, the other their meetness for it: so that as death is the wages of sin, and is what that issues in, and brings unto, eternal life is the effect of grace, or what the grace of God in justifying and sanctifying his people issues in; even a life free from all sorrow and imperfection; a life of the utmost perfection and pleasure, and which will last for ever: and as the grace of God, which justifies and sanctifies them, is "through Christ", so is the eternal life itself which it brings unto: this is in Christ, comes through his righteousness, sufferings, and death; is bestowed by him, and will greatly consist in the enjoyment of him. All grace is the gift of God, and is freely given, or otherwise it would not be grace; particularly the justifying righteousness of Christ is the gift of God; and the rather this may be meant here, since the apostle had been treating of it so largely before, and had so often, in the preceding chapter, called it the gift of righteousness, the free gift, and gift by grace, and justification by it, the justification of life, because it entitles to eternal life, as here: it may be said to issue in it; for between justification and glorification there is a sure and close connection; they that are justified by the righteousness of Christ, are certainly glorified, or enjoy eternal life; and though this may be principally intended here, yet is not to be understood to the exclusion of other gifts of grace, which have the same connection and issue: thus, for instance, faith is the gift of God, and not of a man's self, and he that has it, has eternal life, and shall, Or ever possess it; repentance is a free grace gift, it is a grant from the Lord, and it is unto life and salvation; and on whomsoever the grace of God is bestowed, so as to believe in Christ for righteousness, and truly repent of sin, these shall partake of eternal glory. It may be observed, that there is a just proportion between sin, and the wages of it, yet there is none between eternal life, and the obedience of men; and therefore though the apostle had been pressing so much obedience to God, and to righteousness, he does not make eternal life to be the fruit and effect of obedience, but of the gift of the grace of God.

(a) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 2. sect. 4. (b) Jarchi & Bartenora in ib. Vid. Cohen de Lara, Ir. David, p. 17. (c) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 55. 1. Vajikra Rabba, parash. 37. fol. 176. 3. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 70. 4. Zohar in Gen. fol. 44. 4. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 115. 1.

{11} For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(11) Death is the punishment due to sin, but we are sanctified freely, to everlasting life.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 6:23. Τὰ ὀψώνια] the wages. Comp 1 Corinthians 9:7; Luke 3:14. ὈΨΏΝΙΟΝ ΚΥΡΊΩς ΛΈΓΕΤΑΙ ΤῸ ΤΟῖς ΣΤΡΑΤΙΏΤΑΙς ΠΑΡᾺ ΤΟῦ ΒΑΣΙΛΈΩς ΔΕΔΟΜΈΝΟΝ ΣΙΤΗΡΈΣΙΟΝ, Theophylact. Comp Photius, 367. See Lobeck, a[1500] Phryn. p. 420. The plural, more usual than the singular, is explained by the various elements that constituted the original natural payments, and by the coins used in the later money wages.

The wages which sin gives stands in reference to Romans 6:13, where the ἁμαρτία is presented as a ruler, to whom the subjects tender their members as weapons, for which they receive their allowance!

θάνατος] as in Romans 6:22.

ΤῸ ΔῈ ΧΆΡΙΣΜΑ Τ. ΘΕΟῦ] Paul does not say ΤᾺ ὈΨΏΝΙΑ here also (“vile verbum,” Erasmus), but characterizes what God gives for wages as what it is in its specific nature—a gift of grace, which is no ἀντιταλαντεύεσθαι (Theodoret). To the Apostle, in the connection of his system of faith and doctrine, this was very natural, even without the supposition of any special design (in order—it has been suggested—to afford no encouragement to pride of virtue or to confiding in one’s own merit).

ἘΝ ΧΡΙΣΤῷ Κ.Τ.Λ[1501]] In Christ is the causal basis, that the χάρισμα τ. Θεοῦ is eternal life; a triumphant conclusion as in Romans 5:21; comp Romans 8:39.

[1500] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1501] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.Romans 6:23. The γὰρ introduces the general truth of which what has been said of the Romans in Romans 6:21 f. is an illustration. “All this is normal and natural, for the wages of sin is death,” etc. ὀψώνια 1Ma 3:28; 1Ma 14:32. The idea of a warfare (see ὅπλα, Romans 6:13) is continued. The soldier’s pay who enlists in the service of sin is death. τὸ δὲ χάρισμα: but the free gift, etc. The end in God’s service is not of debt, but of grace. Tertullian (quoted in S. and H.) renders χάρισμα here donativum (the largess given by the emperor to soldiers on a New Year’s Day or birthday), keeping on the military association; but Paul could hardly use what is almost a technical expression with himself in a technical sense quite remote from his own. On ζωὴ αἰώνιος ἐν Χ. . τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, see on Romans 5:21.23. For] The “for” refers to the last statement. The verse may be paraphrased, “For whereas the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is, as we have now said, eternal life.”

wages] The Gr. is same word as Luke 3:14; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 11:8. It strictly denotes pay for military service; and the metaphor here therefore points not to slavery so much as to the warfare of Romans 6:13 (where see note on weapons). The word is full of pregnant truth. Death, in its most awful sense, is no more than the reward and result of sin; and sin is nothing less than a conflict against God.

gift] The Gr. is same word as free gift, ch. Romans 5:15.—This word here is, so to speak, a paradox. We should have expected one which would have represented life eternal as the issue of holiness, to balance the truth that death is the issue of sin. And in respect of holiness being the necessary preliminary to the future bliss, this would have been entirely true. But St Paul here all the more forcibly presses the thought that salvation is a gift wholly apart from human merit. The eternal Design, the meritorious Sacrifice, the life-giving and love-imparting Spirit, all alike are a Gift absolutely free. The works of sin are the procuring cause of Death; the course of sanctification is not the procuring cause of Life Eternal, but only the training for the enjoyment of what is essentially a Divine gift “in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

through] Lit., and better, in. The “life eternal” is to be found only “in Him,” by those who “come to Him.” His work is the one meritorious cause; and in His hands also is the actual gift. (John 17:2-3).Romans 6:23. Τὰ, τὸ) The mark of the subject.—ὀψώνιαχάρισμα, wages—gift) Bad works earn their own proper pay; not so, good works; for the former obtain wages, the latter a gift: ὀψώνια, wages, in the plural: χάρισμα, a gift, in the singular, with a stronger force.Wages (ὀψώνια)

From ὄψον cooked meat, and later, generally, provisions. At Athens especially fish. Hence ὀψώνιον is primarily provision-money, and is used of supplies for an army, see 1 Corinthians 9:7. The figure of Romans 6:13 is carried out: Sin, as a Lord to whom they tender weapons and who pays wages.

Death

"Sin pays its serfs by punishing them. Its wages is death, and the death for which its counters are available is the destruction of the weal of the soul" (Morison).

Gift (χάρισμα)

Rev., rightly, free gift (compare Romans 5:15). In sharp contrast with wages.

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