Wages or a Gift
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
This wonderful verse has been used by the Holy Spirit countless times to bring a person to the point of salvation, and rightly so. Seldom did the author of Scripture pack so much into so few words, and seldom is the gospel of salvation more clearly and succinctly presented.
Perhaps the key to this verse and its teaching is the little word but, for marvelous contrasts hinge on it. In fact, pointing out the parallel but contrasting statements has proven to be an effective witnessing tool. Let us consider these individual contrasts.
First, wages versus gift: Wages are something that must be earned, while a gift cannot be earned; it is free. The wages of employment follow directly from having done the work, just as the wages of sin follow directly from having done the sin. Similarly, the gift of God follows directly from God’s own character. He is a loving, gracious God, who freely showers His gifts on those who will accept them.
Second, sin versus God, or sin versus the sinless one: We might even define sin as the opposite of godliness. Sin is the deed which merits the wages, while God is the being who gives the gift. Sin is a wrong action, attitude, or thought, while God is a person, active and loving. Sin takes; God gives.
Third, death eternal versus life eternal: Conscious existence in separation from God versus conscious existence in communion with God. Sin brings death, surely and permanently; God gives eternal life. This gift of eternal life is not given capriciously, however; it is based on the work of Jesus Christ, the one who Himself collected the wages of our sin. The sinner who accepts God’s gift, through Jesus Christ, can hardly fail to recognize Him as Lord. JDM