The gospel in one Bible verse
Joe lives alone and has little contact with his family. He has no carer and needs help to look after his home, garden, health and safety. And he has been socially isolated during the 3-month lockdown in Sydney during the COVID pandemic. Like all of us, his days on earth are numbered. But being over 90 years of age, his number of days is less than most of us.
Joe is a nominal Roman Catholic who needs to hear the good news about Jesus – the Bible says that Jesus took our place before God by dying on the cross for us so that we can be forgiven and have a new relationship with God. Here’s an easy way to share the gospel with someone like Joe.
In the context of whether, because of God’s grace (kindness), a Christian can keep on sinning, Paul says that to keep on sinning like before they became a believer will end in disaster – “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23ESV). There is bad news before the comma and good news after it.
The bad news
The verse begins with the reasons why we need God’s help – “the wages of sin is death”.
“Wages” are what we earn and deserve by working. They are owed to us as our income.
“Sin” is what we have done in life that is wrong. It is anything we think, say or do that is displeasing to God (Rom. 3:23; Jas. 4:17; 1 Jn. 3:4). And any thought or behavior that is contrary to the Word of God (Bible) or His character. It’s when we ignore, disobey or dishonor the God who created the universe.
“Death” is what we receive for doing sin. Physical death (separation of body and soul) comes to us all. And spiritual death separates us from God, who is the source of life. Paul mentioned this earlier in Romans 6:16, 21.
The good news
The verse ends with how God can rescue us from this dangerous situation – “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
“The free gift of God” is what God offers us. It is not based on what we earn, but on His grace (kindness). We do not work for a gift (Eph. 2:8-9), but someone has to purchase it. One of the criminals executed with Jesus accepted the gift and was saved without doing more than trusting in the words of Jesus (Lk. 23:40-43).
“Eternal life” is the gift that God offers us. It is forgiveness of sin, purpose in life and living forever with God in heaven after we die.
“In Christ Jesus our Lord”: is how God addressed the bad news. There’s nothing we can do to fix the problem, because only God could do it. Jesus took the wages of our sin. He was our substitute when He suffered the penalty for the sins of humanity. Christians receive eternal life because God sees them “in Christ” rather than “in Adam”. They have a new identity in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Their position (or state) before God is “in Christ”.
Application to non-Christians
There is a choice – you can either receive the wage or receive the gift. If you receive the wage then God will give you the penalty of sin that you deserve. If you receive the gift then God will place the penalty you deserve on Jesus which will pay for your sin and will allow you to receive the gift of eternal life.
You deserve death but you don’t have to experience it because Jesus took it for you. He took your physical death and your spiritual death to the cross. You no longer have to worry about death. Yes, we will all physically die unless Jesus comes back first, to take all believers to be with Him. But we no longer have to worry about the wage of our sin. Jesus took what we deserved so He could give us what we didn’t deserve. You can receive this gift by praying a simple prayer, telling God that you accept His gift and committing to live with Jesus as your Lord.
Application to Christians
The context of Romans 6:23 refers to Christians, not non-Christians. The life of the non-Christian leads to separation from God (death), whereas the life of the Christian leads to a life with God both now and in eternity. Eternal life for the believer always leads to newness of life. Thus, God’s grace (kindness) does not lead to sinful living but to living with eternal values in view.
Romans 6 addresses whether God’s grace (kindness) produces sinfulness. Christ took the death penalty for our sin. That is why Christians yield to God rather than sin; they yield because of His grace. Belief in the gospel has power against a reckless attitude toward sin. By viewing ourselves as God views us (in Christ) we are motivated to serve Him. Our standing affects our state.
But Christians can experience the symptoms of spiritual death. Their eternity is secure; they will not be separated from God in hell. However, when they live out of their old natures rather than out of their new natures (2 Cor. 5:17), they experience a sense of separation from God. This is very similar to what occurs when a child disobeys a parent. The child’s status as a family member and the parent’s love for the child do not change. However, the vitality of their relationship is damaged. Thankfully, this relationship can be restored. All they need do is confess their sins and turn back to God (1 Jn. 1:9) and their fellowship with God can be restored.
God’s way of salvation is given in Romans 6:23 and in John 3:16 (Appendix). It’s the only way to heaven. And the only way to avoid what we deserve. Do you accept or reject God’s way of salvation? Do you believe that God’s gift of sacrificing Jesus for your sins will save you?
Appendix: John 3:16
Another verse that gives a summary of the gospel message is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son [Jesus], that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV).
The context is that Jesus is talking with Nicodemus about His death, which would save people like the bronze snake saved the Israelites in the wilderness (v.14-15; Num. 21:8-9). God has an unconditional sacrificial love for humanity. This was shown by sending His one and only Son to die for our sins. The means of salvation is belief in the person and the work of Jesus Christ. Those who accept this gift will spend eternity with God, and those who reject it will spend eternity apart from God.
Jesus was sent to save people, not condemn them (v.17). But there will be judgment for those who reject this message (v.18).
The exegesis of Romans 6:23 and John 3:16 is based on Grant Richinson’s verse-by-verse commentary.
Written, September 2021