The Wages of Sin and the Gift of God
November 11th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
THE WAGES OF SIN AND THE GIFT OF GOD
Dr. W. A .Criswell
11-11-62 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, with the great throng of people worshipping in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, we invite you to open your Bible, and read with us from God’s Holy Word; the Book of Romans chapter 6, the Book of Romans chapter 6, beginning at verse 13 and reading to the end of the chapter; Romans chapter 6 verse 13. The title of the sermon is The Wages of Sin and the Gift of God. And the text is that last verse, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” [Romans 6:23]. Now let us read the context, Romans chapter 6, beginning at verse 13:
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
But now being made free from sin, and become servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Once in a while in the Bible there will be a tremendous sentence that sums up the whole Word of God, and this sentence is one of them. Those sentences appear here and there through all of the Bible.
For example, Micah 6:8: “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love righteousness, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Or another one John 3:16 which we learned as children in Sunday school; the whole Bible in one sentence. Or another one like Acts 16:30, “What must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:31; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
Or this one from the Book of Hebrews, Hebrews 9:27-28: “As it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time apart from sin unto salvation.” Or this one from the Book of the Revelation, Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” So throughout the Word of God are these great, vast, tremendous sentences that sum up the whole elective purpose of God in the earth.
Now this sentence is one of those tremendous passages, verses in the Bible. This sums up the whole situation of man, his vast and illimitable need, and the judgment upon his infirmity, and the marvelous gift of God in providing for the salvation of our lost souls. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” [Romans 6:23].
The first part of that verse is the story of the human race in epitome, in a half of a sentence, “For the wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. And that is the whole story, the whole record of humanity, from its beginning in the garden of Eden [Genesis 2:8] until this present sorrowful and tragic hour. When our first parents, driven out of the beautiful paradise of God [Genesis 3:22-24], looked into the silent face of their second son, slain by his own brother [Genesis 4:8], they came to realize what it meant when God said, “In the day that you eat thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17]. And not only did the blood of Abel cry unto God from the ground [Genesis 4:10], but it cried also to the hearts of our first parents as they learned the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23].
In the vast antediluvian world, covered by the rising waters of the Flood, every swollen corpse floating and rocking on the face of the deep, the destroyed life of man and of beast [Genesis 7:21-23], every lost life is an exclamation point at the end of this sentence: “For the wages of sin is death!” [Romans 6:23]. When fire fell down from God out of heaven and burned up Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 19:24-25], every charred remain, every piece of ash and destroyed debris is a vast “Amen” to this text: “The wages of sin is death.”
In the dark night when the angel of death passed through the land of Egypt [Exodus 12:12, 23], the wail and the cry that arose to heaven from the bereaved families of the Egyptians is but an exclamation point after this text: “For the wages of sin is death!” [Romans 6:23]. In that dark and horrid moment when the angel of God passed over the camp of the Assyrians and one hundred eighty-five thousand of the soldiers of Sennacherib lay dead [Isaiah 37:36], it is but another illustration of the truth of this text: “The wages of sin is death.”
And when Christ died on the cross, God’s Son, the perfect Man of righteousness, without sin [Matthew 27:32-50], that cross is but God’s delineation of the judgment of heaven upon our iniquity: “For God made Him to be sin for us, Him who knew no sin” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. And the cross is a picture of the violence of the judgment of God upon our unrighteousness: “For the wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. And when Titus bathed Jerusalem in blood and buried the city beneath the heavy battering rams of the Roman legionnaires, it is but another story in the same volume: “The wages of sin is death.” And every town with its cemetery and every family facing the breaking up of its circle, and every tear that falls before an open grave; all the sorrow and heartache of human life is but a reflection of the truth of this text: “For the wages of sin is death.”
There is no escaping that judgment of God. “It is appointed unto sinful men, iniquitous men, unrighteous men; it is appointed unto men once to die” [Hebrew 9:27]. The reason I know we are all sinners; we are all facing death. If there is a righteous man, he doesn’t have to die. The only righteous man who ever lived, the Son of God, didn’t have to die. He laid down His life because of our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He bore in His own body, He bore on the tree [1 Peter 2:24], nailed to the cross our iniquities and our unrighteousnesses [Colossians 2:14]. “By His stripes we were healed [Isaiah 53:5]. God laid upon Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6].
If you didn’t sin you wouldn’t have to die. I know you have sinned because you’re like all of the rest of us. You are facing death. It is inescapable and universal. The rich man in his mansion, the poor man in his hovel; faces death. The queen in her boudoir, the king on his throne; faces death. The philosopher in his classic chair, the peasant over the clod; faces death. The cheap prostitute in the den, that society matron presiding over her tea table; all alike face death. And in that judgment this whole world is encompassed.
When I went to Dakar, Africa, the first Muslim community I ever saw, the first thing I saw in Dakar was a funeral procession; a Mohammedan who had died and the family and friends following behind in sorrow and in tears. When I went to Jerusalem the first time, crossing the street, I was stopped by a vast procession. They were burying their soldier dead. And beyond the trucks and the trucks and the trucks carrying those coffins came busload after busload after busload of families who were weeping and crying.
When I went to the Orient, one of the things that impressed me so much was the vast attempt in building mausoleums to preserve the names of those who had died. It is universal. And for a man to live his life in these days and to pass through this journey oblivious to the great judgment that is yet to come and the inevitable hour of his death, is for a man to live like a fool and like an idiot. You know, we know this inevitable hour awaits and there is no escape.
What shall we do then and where shall we turn? “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. I have sinned. “The wages of sin is death.” I face a certain and inevitable rendezvous with the grim reaper, with the grim reaper. And beyond that hour of my departure and decease, I stand in the judgment bar of Almighty God [Hebrews 9:27]. What shall I do and where shall I turn? That is the way Pilgrim’s Progress opens. There is a man dressed in rags with a great burden on his back. His face is turned from his home in the City of Destruction, and he holds in his hand a book. And as he reads the Book, being no longer able to contain, he breaks out with a great and a lamentable cry, saying, “What shall I do?”
And it looked as though he sought a way to escape. But he stood still because he did not know where to go. There was one named Evangelist who saw him, and coming to him asked, “Why do you cry so exceedingly?” And the pilgrim answered, “Because I read here in the Book that it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment [Hebrew 9:27]. I am not willing for the first, and I am not able for the second.” Then Evangelist said, “If that be your case why don’t you flee?” And the pilgrim replies “Because I don’t know where to go.”
And Evangelist then pointed him out a little hill, a wicket gate, a wicket gate, through which he must travel up to the hill. And that hill is the hill of the love of God, and the mercy of God, and the pardon of God, and the free offer of the salvation of God; for that hill has a name. In the Hebrew it is Golgotha [Matthew 27:33]. In the Latin it is Calvary [Luke 23:33]. In the English it is the Place of a Skull [Mark 15:22]. “For the wages of sin is death; but the love of God, and the gift of God, and the grace of God, and the mercy of God, and the provision of God, and the remembrance of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” [Romans 6:23].
Thus may I do. I may carry my burden to Jesus. I may take to Him my lost and condemned soul. I can cast myself upon the mercies of God. And the though the wage of my sin is death; the gift of His love and mercy is forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ my Lord [Romans 6:23].
It is the gift of God [Ephesians 2:8]. It is something God does for us that we cannot do for ourselves. If a man were in the midst of a vast illimitable sea drowning, somebody would have to save him. If a man were in the heart of a vast burning desert thirsting to death, somebody would have to save him. If a man were in the midst of a great burning forest, somebody would have to save him.
It is thus in our helpless condition in this world. We cannot save ourselves. God must provide for us. And God does it as a gift:
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saves us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Which He hath shed in our hearts abundantly through Jesus Christ our Lord.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should say I did it; lest any man should boast I bought it; lest any man should be proud, saying, I deserved it.
[Ephesians 2: 8-9]
It is a gift of God. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” [Romans 6:23]. It is a gift because a man couldn’t buy it; it is priceless. It is a gift of God because it is a debt that Christ paid for us [Galatians 3:13-14], and God does not demand two payments for the same debt. If Christ has paid it, then I do not need to. He did it for me [1 Peter 1:18-19]. The debt is wiped clean.
I can stand by faith in Christ as though all of the sins of my life were purged and washed away. He did it. It is a gift of God [Ephesians 2:8-9], because it is open to anyone, without money, without price [Isaiah 55:1-4]. It is ours for the taking. It is ours for the having. It is ours for the asking. There is no better way to define salvation in Christ than to define it as a simple offer and a simple taking [Acts 16:30-31]. And the man, who by faith will take it, can have it. It’s for him free; from the love, and mercy, and grace of God. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” [Romans 6:23].
Now may I say a brief word concerning eternal life? “The gift of God is eternal life” [Romans 6:23]. Oh, you could just think, and meditate, and quote Scripture! I don’t know how many times God emphasizes that the gift He bestows upon the receiving, believing soul that comes to Jesus; the gift is never withdrawn. It is never decimated. It is never fragmented. It is never destroyed. But it is an eternal endowment and enduement; eternal life [John 10:27-30]. That means it lasts forever. It is everlasting. It goes on and on and on in this life, beyond the grave, in the life that is yet to come, through all of the eternities through which God hath destined that His people shall live and reign in heaven [Revelation2 2:3-5]. It is an eternal life, a forever life. John 3:16 says it. The Lord was raised up, died on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]. God gave His only Son for our sins, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting, eternal life” [John 3:16]. John 5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed out of death into life.”
John 10:28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them…And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never, never perish.” There is no such thing in the Word of God as being sometimes partly saved and sometimes partly lost; sometimes partly justified and sometimes partly condemned; sometimes partly alive, sometimes partly dead; sometimes partly born and sometimes partly unborn. There’s no such a doctrine in the Word of God. But the Word of God is this: “The wages of sin is death, lost; but the provision of God in mercy and in grace, the gift of God in Christ, is eternal life” [Romans 6:23]. It is ours for the having, and when God bestows it upon us, it is forever and forever. It is eternal life.
It is a life that never ceases. It has no cessation. It has in it a translation. We have it now in this body of sin, this mortal house of death. But the eternal life that God gives us goes on and on and on. And what we call death is just an incident in its translation, when we lay down this house and body of clay in order that it might be resurrected in the likeness of the glorious body of our blessed Savior Christ Jesus [Philippians 3:21].
That’s why I had our “Reminder” in printing the names of these who have fallen asleep in Jesus, that’s why I had our “Reminder” to put their names under a column which is headed by the words from 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 8, “Absent from the body, absent from the body, fallen asleep in Jesus; absent from the body, present with the Lord” [2 Corinthians 5:8]. Eternal life, it never ceases. “Verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed out of death into life, an enduring, eternal life that never never ceases” [John 5:24].
“I am the resurrection, and the life: He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never never, ever, ever die” [John 11:25-26]; absent from the body, present with the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8]. This house of clay, fallen asleep in Jesus [1 Thessalonians 4:14], our spirits to be with our Lord until that day when we come with Him, and the whole purchased possession is redeemed [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]; the house we live in, immortalized, glorified [1 John 3:2], and our redeemed spirits living in the new house made without hands, eternal from the heavens [2 Corinthians 5:1]. It never ceases. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is life eternal” [Romans 6:23].
And we can never be lost, never. We can never be lost. The soul that comes to Jesus is saved forever and forever. John 10:3 “He calleth His own sheep by name.” And in the Book of Ezekiel He says “And I will cause you to pass under the rod” [Ezekiel 20:37]. God knows you. He knows your name. And when you have trusted in Jesus He writes your name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27].
And some of these days, in the figure of Ezekiel when He speaks of causing His people to pass under the rod, your name is going to be waited for and looked for, because that figure of passing under the rod is the figure of the shepherd. If you’ve ever been in Palestine there’s always just one door into the sheepfold. And the shepherd put his rod across the top of the door. And as his sheep came in he knew them so intimately, spent every day with them, shepherding them, taking care of them, and he called the sheep by name as they passed under the rod until all of them were accounted for. And then he sleeps at the door, taking care of his sheep; under the rod.
“He calleth His own sheep by name” [John 10:3], or as the twenty-third Psalm said it, which is written by a shepherd boy, “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me” [Psalm 23:4], under the rod as we pass through the door of the veil of His flesh [Hebrews 10:20], which we call death, into the presence of the great King. “And He calleth His own sheep by name. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish [John 10:28]. The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” [Romans 6:23]. Sinful as I am, facing death as I do, in Christ it is but an avenue to that upper and more glorious world that is yet to come; in Him the gift of eternal life.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will never no never devote to its foes
That soul though all death all hell should endeavor to shake
I’ll never no never no never forsake
How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in His glorious Word
What more can He say than to you He hath said
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled
[“How Firm a Foundation,” John Rippon]
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” [Romans 6:23].
If we are sinners, there is an invitation to you. Jesus came into the world to save sinners [1 Timothy 1:15], and if I am a sinner, I qualify. I can have eternal life in accepting the goodness, and mercy, and grace, and free pardon of my sin in Him [Acts 16:31]. It is ours for the taking, an eternal possession for the asking [John 3:16]. And that’s our invitation in the name of Christ to you tonight. “As a sinner, as a confessed sinner, preacher, I know I have fallen short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. But I do believe in the grace, and mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus that extends even to me, and I come tonight accepting Him as my Savior.” If you will, stand by us who are also sinners saved by grace [Ephesians 2:8]. Out of the balcony, come. On this lower floor, somebody you, giving your heart to the Lord, or putting your life with us in the fellowship of His dear church, make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.