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Read Introduction to Romans


23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


23 For the wages of sin is death,

It is crucial to see that the context of verse 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 in time and eternity. Eternal life for the believer in time always leads to newness of life. Thus, grace does not lead to sinful living but to living with eternal values in view.

but the gift of God is eternal life

Sin pays wages but the grace of God gives eternal life as a “gift.” The contrast is between “wages” and “gift,” not “death” and “eternal life.” This is the conclusion of the two challenges to the grace concept (Ro 6:1, 15). The federal headships of Adam and Christ are so constituted that Adam’s family oriented to “sin” ends in death and Christ’s family ends in eternal life by a grace-gift. Christ-followers do not receive what they receive by “wages,” a reward due them, but by the grace of God. We do not work for a gift. We do not work for eternal life but grace motivates us to live for God.

in [not “through”] Christ Jesus our Lord.

What we receive in Christ is vastly more than the result of wages; we receive eternal life freely. Note that what we receive from Christ we receive because we are positionally “in” Him. The entire argument of chapter six has been positional truth.

We conclude this chapter with the answer about whether grace produces licentiousness or not. We find the answer in the work of Christ, our Federal Head. Death was due as the wages of sin, but that death was paid in Christ. That is why Christians yield to God rather than sin; they yield because of His grace. Belief in the gospel has power in itself against a reckless attitude toward sin. By reckoning ourselves as God reckons us we are motivated to serve Him. Our standing affects our state.


Grace prohibits a reckless attitude toward sin.


People select the influence to which they are willing to submit. That submission commences to influence how we think. That influence in one sense operates independently because we are under its mastery. Union with Christ at salvation forever influences what we think of sin.

When we place ourselves under the grace principle by identifying with Christ’s death and resurrection for us, that influences the outcome of our decisions. Grace works invariably in us. If we choose to go into an air-conditioned room, no matter what we do we are under the influence of a cooler temperature. If we place ourselves under the influence of the grace of God, it will change us of its own accord.