For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I. DEATH IS THE WAGES OF SIN.
1. Death is the natural result of all sin. When man acts according to God's order he lives; but when he breaks his Maker's laws he does that which causes death.
(1) The further a man goes in iniquity, the more dead he becomes to holiness: he loses power to appreciate the beauties of virtue, or to be disgusted with the abominations of vice. You can sin yourself into an utter deadness of conscience, and that is the first wage of your sin.
(2) Death is the separation of the soul from God. Can two walk together except they be agreed? Man may continue to believe in the existence of God, but for all practical purposes God to him is really non-existent.
(3) As there is through sin a death to God, so is there a death to all spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14).
(4) Inasmuch as in holy things dwells our highest happiness, the sinner becomes an unhappy being; at first by deprivation of the joy which spiritual life brings with it, and afterwards by suffering the misery of spiritual death (Romans 2:9).
2. The killing power of some sins is manifest to all observers.
(1) See how by many diseases and deliriums the drunkard destroys himself; he has only to drink hard enough, and his grave will be digged. The horrors which attend upon the filthy lusts of the flesh I will not dare to mention; but many a body rotting above ground shall be my silent witness.
(2) We have all known that sins of the flesh kill the flesh; and therefore we may infer that sins of the mind kill the mind. Death in any part of our manhood breeds death to the whole.
3. This tendency is in every case the same. Even the Christian cannot fall into sin without its being poison to him. If you sin it destroys your joy, your power in prayer, your confidence towards God. If you have spent evenings in frivolity with worldlings, you have felt the deadening influence of their society.
4. Death is sin's due reward, and it must be paid. A master employs a man, and it is due to that man that he should receive his wages. Now, if sin did not entail death and misery, it would be an injustice. It is necessary for the very standing of the universe that sin should be punished. They that sow must reap. The sin which hires you must pay you.
5. This wage of sin is in part received by men now as soldiers receive their rations, day by day. "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die" — such a life is a continued dying. "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." The wrath of God abideth on him that believeth not on the Son of God; it is there already.
6. But then a Roman soldier did not enlist merely for his rations; his chief pay often lay in the share of the booty which he received at the end of the war. Death is the ultimate wage of sin. Sin will perpetuate itself, and so forever kill the soul to God, and goodness, and joy and hope. Being under the ever-growing power of sin, it will become more and more a hopeless thing that you should escape from death which thus settles down upon you.
7. The misery of the misery of sin is that it is earned. If men in the world to come could say, "This misery has come upon us arbitrarily, quite apart from its just results," then they would derive some comfort. But when they will be obliged to own that it was their own choice in choosing sin, this will scourge them indeed. Their sin is their bell.
8. It will be the folly of follies to go on working for such a wage. Hitherto they that have worked for sin have found no profit in it (ver. 21). Why, then, will you go further in sin?
9. It ought to be the grief of griefs to each of us that we have sinned. Oh, misery, to have wrought so long in a service which brings such terrible wages!
10. It must certainly be a miracle of miracles if any sinner here does not remain forever beneath the power of sin. Sin has this mischief about it, that it strikes a man with spiritual paralysis, and how can such a palsied one ward off a further blow? It makes the man dead; and to what purpose do we appeal to him that is dead? What a miracle, then, when the Divine life comes streaming down into the dead heart I What a blessedness when God interposes and finds a way by which the wage most justly due shall not be paid!
II. ETERNAL LIFE IS THE GIFT OF GOD.
1. Eternal life is imparted by grace through faith.
(1) The dead cannot earn life. Both good works and good feelings are the fruit of the heavenly life which enters the heart, and make us conscious of its entrance by working in us repentance and faith in Christ.
(2) Since we received eternal life we have gone on to grow. Whence has this growth come? Is it not still a free gift?
(3) Yes, and when we get to heaven, and the eternal life shall there be developed as a bud opens into a full-blown rose; then we shall confess that our life was all the free gift of God in Christ.
2. Observe what a wonderful gift this is, "the gift of God."(1) It is called "life" par excellence, emphatically "life," true life, real life, essential life. This does not mean mere existence, but the existence of man as he ought to exist — in union with God, and consequently in holiness, health, and happiness. Man, as God intended him to be, is man enjoying life; man, as sin makes him, is man abiding in death.
(2) Moreover, we have life eternal, too, never ending.
3. It is life in Jesus. We are in everlasting union with the blessed person of the Son of God, and therefore we live.Conclusion:
1. Let us come and receive this Divine life as a gift in Christ Jesus. If any of you have been working for it, end the foolish labour. Believe and live. Receive it as freely as your lungs take in the air you breathe.
2. If we have accepted it let us abide in it. Let us never be tempted to try the law of merit.
3. If we are now abiding in it, then let us live to its glory. Let us show by our gratitude how greatly we prize this gift.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.