For the wages of sin is death - The second death, everlasting perdition. Every sinner earns this by long, sore, and painful service. O! what pains do men take to get to hell! Early and late they toil at sin; and would not Divine justice be in their debt, if it did not pay them their due wages?
But the gift of God is eternal life - A man may Merit hell, but he cannot Merit heaven. The apostle does not say that the wages of righteousness is eternal life: no, but that this eternal life, even to the righteous, is το χαρισμα του Θεου, The gracious Gift of God. And even this gracious gift comes through Jesus Christ our Lord. He alone has procured it; and it is given to all those who find redemption in his blood. A sinner goes to hell because he deserves it; a righteous man goes to heaven because Christ has died for him, and communicated that grace by which his sin is pardoned and his soul made holy. The word οψωνια, which we here render wages, signified the daily pay of a Roman soldier. So every sinner has a daily pay, and this pay is death; he has misery because he sins. Sin constitutes hell; the sinner has a hell in his own bosom; all is confusion and disorder where God does not reign: every indulgence of sinful passions increases the disorder, and consequently the misery of a sinner. If men were as much in earnest to get their souls saved as they are to prepare them for perdition, heaven would be highly peopled, and devils would be their own companions. And will not the living lay this to heart?
For the wages of sin - The word translated here “wages” ὀψώνια opsōniaproperly denotes what is purchased to be eaten with bread, as fish, flesh, vegetables, etc. (Schleusner); and thence, it means the pay of the Roman soldier, because formerly it was the custom to pay the soldier in these things. It means hence, what a man earns or deserves; what is his proper pay, or what he merits. As applied to sin, it means that death is what sin deserves; what will be its proper reward. Death is thus called the wages of sin, not because it is an arbitrary, undeserved appointment, but
(1) Because it is its proper desert. Not a pain will be inflicted on the sinner which he does not deserve. Not a sinner will die who ought not to die. Sinners even in hell will be treated just as they deserve to be treated; and there is not to man a more fearful and terrible consideration than this. No man can conceive a more dreadful doom than for himself to be treated forever just as he deserves to be. But,
(2) This is the wages of sin, because, like the pay of the soldier, it is just what was threatened, Ezekiel 18:4, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” God will not inflict anything more than was threatened, and therefore it is just.
Is death - This stands opposed here to eternal life, and proves that one is just as enduring as the other.
But the gift of God - Not the wages of man; not what is due to him; but the mere gift and mercy of God. The apostle is careful to distinguish, and to specify thai this is not what man deserves, but what is gratuitously conferred on him; Note, Romans 6:15.
Eternal life - The same words which in Romans 6:22 are rendered “everlasting life.” The phrase is opposed to death; and proves incontestably that that means eternal death. We may remark, therefore,
(1) That the one will be as long as the other.
(2) as there is no doubt about the duration of life, so there can be none about the duration of death. The one will be rich, blessed, everlasting; the other sad, gloomy, lingering, awful, eternal.
(3) if the sinner is lost, he will deserve to die. He will have his reward. He will suffer only what shall be the just due of sin. He will not be a martyr in the cause of injured innocence. He will not have the compassion of the universe in his favor. He will have no one to take his part against God. He will suffer just as much, and just as long, as he ought to suffer. He will suffer as the culprit pines in the dungeon, or as the murderer dies on the gibbet, because this is the proper reward of sin.
(4) they who are saved will be raised to heaven, not because they merit it, but by the rich and sovereign grace of God. All their salvation will be ascribed to him; and they will celebrate his mercy and grace forever.
(5) it becomes us, therefore, to flee from the wrath to come. No man is so foolish and so wicked as he who is willing to reap the proper wages of sin. None so blessed as he who has part in the mercy of God, and who lays hold on eternal life.
“Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” AA 519.1
Had silver and gold been sufficient to purchase the salvation of men, how easily might it have been accomplished by Him who says, “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine.” Haggai 2:8. But only by the precious blood of the Son of God could the transgressor be redeemed. The plan of salvation was laid in sacrifice. The apostle Paul wrote, “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9. Christ gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity. And as the crowning blessing of salvation, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23. AA 519.2
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren,“ Peter continued, “see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” The word of God—the truth—is the channel through which the Lord manifests His Spirit and power. Obedience to the word produces fruit of the required quality—“unfeigned love of the brethren.” This love is heaven-born and leads to high motives and unselfish actions. AA 519.3Read in context »
Christ “came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” John 1:11. The light of God shone into the darkness of the world, and “the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:5. But not all were found indifferent to the gift of heaven. The merchantman in the parable represents a class who were sincerely desiring truth. In different nations there were earnest and thoughtful men who had sought in literature and science and the religions of the heathen world for that which they could receive as the soul's treasure. Among the Jews there were those who were seeking for that which they had not. Dissatisfied with a formal religion, they longed for that which was spiritual and uplifting. Christ's chosen disciples belonged to the latter class, Cornelius and the Ethiopian eunuch to the former. They had been longing and praying for light from heaven; and when Christ was revealed to them, they received Him with gladness. COL 116.1
In the parable the pearl is not represented as a gift. The merchantman bought it at the price of all that he had. Many question the meaning of this, since Christ is represented in the Scriptures as a gift. He is a gift, but only to those who give themselves, soul, body, and spirit, to Him without reserve. We are to give ourselves to Christ, to live a life of willing obedience to all His requirements. All that we are, all the talents and capabilities we possess, are the Lord's, to be consecrated to His service. When we thus give ourselves wholly to Him, Christ, with all the treasures of heaven, gives Himself to us. We obtain the pearl of great price. COL 116.2
Salvation is a free gift, and yet it is to be bought and sold. In the market of which divine mercy has the management, the precious pearl is represented as being bought without money and without price. In this market all may obtain the goods of heaven. The treasury of the jewels of truth is open to all. “Behold, I have set before thee an open door,” the Lord declares, “and no man can shut it.” No sword guards the way through this door. Voices from within and at the door say, Come. The Saviour's voice earnestly and lovingly invites us: “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” Revelation 3:8, 18. COL 116.3Read in context »
Repeatedly the Saviour says, “Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” Jesus would have those who are engaged in His service, not eager for rewards, nor feel that they must receive compensation for all that they do. The Lord would have our minds run in a different channel; for He sees not as man sees. He does not judge by appearances, but estimates a man by the sincerity of his heart. CS 339.1
Those who have brought into their service the spirit of true sacrifice, of self-abasement, are the ones who will stand first at last. The laborers who were first hired, represented those who have an envious, self-righteous spirit, and claim that, for their services, preference should be given to them rather than to others. The householder said to the one who questioned his right to give more to others than to him, “Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?” I have kept my part of the agreement. CS 339.2Read in context »