I was given the opportunity to teach the college group at our church once again this Sunday, and our topic of discussion was based on Romans 6:23. If you grew up in church, this ought to be a familiar verse. It says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This verse ties in very well to my discussion here on the blog about whether Jesus’ prayers in John 17 were answered or not, as you’ll see later in the post.
I think there are two questions that ought to be addressed in understanding this verse. 1. What is Sin? 2. What is eternal life?
Awhile back I wrote a post entitled: What is Sin? I address the sin question in depth there, and I encourage you to read it if you want a more lengthy study, but sin basically boils down to anything that is not loving God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and anything not loving your neighbor as yourself. If you do anything, and I stress anything, outside of these two areas, it’s sin. You’ve fallen short. You’ve earned death, and you’ll not find one person on Earth outside of Jesus Christ who can say they’ve lived that life.
So what’s eternal life?
It seems like such a self-evident answer. Living forever, right? In Jesus’ prayer in John 17, He begins by praying this: “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.” Again, there’s that idea of the gift of God being eternal life.
And yet we all die. Do we have eternal life or not? Is it just in the resurrection that we live forever, or did God answer Jesus’ prayer when He prayed it? And C.S. Lewis once said, “You have never met a mere mortal.” Everyone technically lives forever; the concern is usually location.
But to really answer this question of “what is eternal life”, we have to look at verse 3, where Jesus defines in very specific terms what eternal life is: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Eternal life is knowing the One True God.
So, let me put Romans 6:23 in perspective for you: Sin is not loving God with everything you have, and the wages of this is death. But the gift of God is that He forgave you for not loving Him, He paid the wages of sin at the cross, and because of His great love for you, He has made a way for you to know and love Him again through Jesus Christ; this is eternal life.
Eternal life doesn’t start when you physically die; it starts when you come to know God. And when you know Him, He empowers you to love Him with everything you’ve got (aka stop sinning). It’s the beautiful circle of grace freely given by God to all who call on His name and believe. Amen.