IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: DEATH AND LIFE VS THE WAGES AND THE GIFT
Rev. Innocent Chukwudi Peace Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Joshua is giving his last address to Israel. He begins his address with these words: “Thus says the lord”. During his address the people is given a choice to make: “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? Joshua then makes a profound statement-“But as for me and my house (family), we will serve the Lord.” The choice is never between serving God and personal freedom. The choice is always between God and other masters—whether pagan gods, our sinful passions, or wealth, success, and power. We as God’s people have to make that choice every day.
As we leave Joshua that’s in the Old Testament over to the New Testament, we stop at the book of Romans chapter 6. As it pertains to our text, we can sum up that entire chapter by saying; life is made up of daily choices. But there are also basic, life–shaping choices each of us makes.
We cannot appreciate the magnitude of God’s gift of eternal life until we first understand that the wages of sin is death. Wages are what we “earned, ” what we “deserve. ” “Death” is not only physical death, here, but spiritual and eternal death. Our sin was an offense to the infinitely holy God, and thus justly deserved eternal punishment. But God’s grace, which was greater than all our sin, brings us eternal life instead.
Note well the change: death is a wage, but life is a gift. Sin brings its natural consequences with it; but eternal life is not the purchase of human merit, but the free gift of the love of God. The abounding goodness of the Most High alone grants life to those who are dead by sin. It is with clear intent to teach us the doctrine of the grace of God that the apostle altered the word here from wages to gift. Naturally he would have said, “The wages of sin is death, but the wages of righteousness is eternal life.” But he wished to show us that life comes upon quite a different principle from that upon which death comes. In salvation all is of free gift: in damnation everything is of justice and desert. When a man is lost, he has earned it; when a man is saved, it is given him.
DEATH IS THE WAGES OF SIN. The apostle has in his mind’s eye the figure of a soldier receiving his pay. Sin, the captain, pays his hired soldiers a dreadful wage. The original word signifies “rations,” or some translate it “stipend.” It means the payment which soldiers receive, put in the plural as wages, because pay can be given in different forms: soldiers might be paid in meat, or in meal, or in money, or in part by their clothing, or by lands promised when the time of service came to an end. Now that which sin, the grim captain, pays to those who are under him, is comprehended in this terrible term “death.” It is a word as full as it is short. A legion of terrors are found around this “king of terrors.” Death is the rations which sin pays to those who enlist beneath its banner.
Now “sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of the law of God.” Sin is that evil power which is in the world in rebellion against the good and gracious power of righteousness which sits upon the throne of God. This evil power of unholiness, untruth, sin, contrariety to the mind of God, holds the great mass of our fellow-men beneath its sway at this hour. The rations with which it rewards the most desperate valour of its champions is death.
To set forth this terrible fact, I shall make a few observations. First, 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 wrecks himself, and does that which causes death. The Lord warned Adam thus: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Dying does not mean ceasing to exist, for Adam did not cease to exist, nor do those who die. The term “death” conveys to me no such idea as that of ceasing to exist, or how could I understand that word in 1 John iii. 14: “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death”? How could a man abide in annihilation? A grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies; but it does not cease to be; nay, rather, it bringeth forth much fruit. That Adam did die in the day when he ate of that fruit is certain, or else the Lord spake not the truth. His nature was wrecked and ruined by separation from God, and by a fall from that condition which constitutes the true life of man. When any man commits sin, he dies to holiness and purity. No transgression is venial, but every sin is mortal, and gendereth death.
The further a man goes in lust and iniquity, the more dead he becomes to purity and holiness: he loses the power to appreciate the beauties of virtue, or to be disgusted with the abominations of vice. Our nature at the very outset has lost that delicacy of perception which comes of healthy life; and as men proceed in unchastity, or injustice, or unbelief, or sin of any kind, they enter deeper and deeper into that awful moral death which is the sure wage of sin. You can sin yourself into an utter deadness of conscience, and that is the first wage of your service of sin.
All desire after God, and all delight in him, die out where sin reigns. Death is the separation of the soul form God. Alas, this death hath passed upon all men. 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. The fool hath said in his heart, “No God” — he does not desire God; indeed, he wishes there were no God. As for seeking after God, and delighting himself in the Almighty, the sinner knows nothing thereof; his sin has killed him towards all desire for God, or love to him, or delight in him. He is to God dead while he liveth. “To be carnally minded is death.”
As there is through sin a death to God, so is there a death to all spiritual things. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The man doth not perceive and discern spiritual things, for he is dead to them. Talk to him of the sorrows of the spiritual life, he has never felt them, and he despises them as mean cant. Speak to him of the joys of the spiritual life, and you will soon discover that you are casting your pearls before swine: he has never sought such joys, he does not believe in them, and he thinks you a fanatic for talking such nonsense. He is as dead to spiritual realities as a mole is blind to astronomy, or a stone is dead to music. To him it is as though there were neither angel, nor spirit, nor God, nor mercy-seat, nor Christ, nor holiness, nor heaven, nor hell. Giving himself up to the dominion of sin, the sinner receives more and more the result of his sin; even as the apostle says, “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.”
Beloved, observe gratefully what a wonderful gift this is,— “the gift of God ”— the gift which Jesus bestows upon every believer; for “to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” How express is our Lord’s statement: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him”! What a life this is! It must be of a wonderful sort, because it is called “life” par excellence, emphatically “life,” true life, real life, essential life. This does not mean mere existence, as some vainly talk. There never was a greater blunder than to confound life with existence, or death with non-existence; these are two totally different and distinct ideas. The life of man means the existence of man as he ought to exist— in union with God, and consequently in holiness, purity, health, and happiness. Man, as God intended him to be, is man enjoying life; man, as sin makes him, is man abiding in death. All that man can receive of joy and honour the Lord gives to man to constitute life eternal in the world to come. What a life is this! The life that is imparted to us in regeneration is God’s own life, brought into us by “the living and incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for ever.” We are akin to God by the new birth, and by loving union with his Son Jesus Christ.
The living Jehovah rejoices to give life, and especially to give it to the dead. Corruption flies before him, grave clothes are rent, and sepulchres are broken open. “I am the resurrection, and the life,” saith Jesus; and so he is even at this hour. O God, save thy people to the praise of the glory of thy grace, wherein thou hast made us to live, and to be accepted in thy well-beloved Son. Amen and Amen.
Lord, help us to see that your punishment for sin is just and to sense something of the true heinousness of sin. Help us to appreciate more fully how much we were forgiven, and having been forgiven much, to love thee much.
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