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Romans 6:23

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

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.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The pleasure and profit of sin do not deserve to be called fruit. Sinners are but ploughing iniquity, sowing vanity, and reaping the same. Shame came into the world with sin, and is still the certain effect of it. The end of sin is death. Though the way may seem pleasant and inviting, yet it will be bitterness in the latter end. From this condemnation the believer is set at liberty, when made free from sin. If the fruit is unto holiness, if there is an active principle of true and growing grace, the end will be everlasting life; a very happy end! Though the way is up-hill, though it is narrow, thorny, and beset, yet everlasting life at the end of it is sure. The gift of God is eternal life. And this gift is through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ purchased it, prepared it, prepares us for it, preserves us to it; he is the All in all in our salvation.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

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?

  1. In the preceding chapter we see the connection that subsists between the doctrines of the Gospel and the practice of Christianity. A doctrine is a teaching, instruction, or information concerning some truth that is to be believed, as essential to our salvation. But all teaching that comes from God, necessarily leads to him. That Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification, is a glorious doctrine of the Gospel. But this is of no use to him who does not die to sin, rise in the likeness of his resurrection, and walk in newness of life: this is the use that should be made of the doctrine. Every doctrine has its use, and the use of it consists in the practice founded on it. We hear there is a free pardon - we go to God and receive it; we hear that we may be made holy - we apply for the sanctifying Spirit; we hear there is a heaven of glory, into which the righteous alone shall enter - we watch and pray, believe, love, and obey, in order that, when he doth appear, we may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless. Those are the doctrines; these are the uses or practice founded on those doctrines.
  • It is strange that there should be found a person believing the whole Gospel system, and yet living in sin! Salvation From Sin is the long-continued sound, as it is the spirit and design, of the Gospel. Our Christian name, our baptismal covenant, our profession of faith in Christ, and avowed belief in his word, all call us to this: can it be said that we have any louder calls than these? Our self-interest, as it respects the happiness of a godly life, and the glories of eternal blessedness; the pains and wretchedness of a life of sin, leading to the worm that never dies and the fire that is not quenched; second most powerfully the above calls. Reader, lay these things to heart, and: answer this question to God; How shall I escape, if I neglect so great salvation? And then, as thy conscience shall answer, let thy mind and thy hands begin to act.
  • Ellen G. White
    The Story of Redemption, 425

    The whole wicked world stand arraigned at the bar of God, on the charge of high treason against the government of heaven. They have none to plead their cause; they are without excuse; and the sentence of eternal death is pronounced against them. SR 425.1

    It is now evident to all that the wages of sin is not noble independence and eternal life, but slavery, ruin, and death. The wicked see what they have forfeited by their life of rebellion. The far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory was despised when offered them; but how desirable it now appears. “All this,” cries the lost soul, “I might have had, but I chose to put these things far from me. Oh, strange infatuation! I have exchanged peace, happiness, and honor for wretchedness, infamy, and despair.” All see that their exclusion from heaven is just. In their lives they declared, We will not have this Jesus to reign over us. SR 425.2

    As if entranced, the wicked have looked upon the coronation of the Son of God. They see in His hands the tables of the divine law, the statutes which they have despised and transgressed. They witness the outburst of wonder, rapture, and adoration from the saved; and as the wave of melody sweeps over the multitudes without the city, all with one voice exclaim, “Marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints” (Revelation 15:3), and falling prostrate, they worship the Prince of life. 427 SR 425.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 730

    “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, ... and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” 5T 730.1

    Such are the words in which “Paul the aged,” “a prisoner of Jesus Christ,” writing from his prison house at Rome, endeavored to set before his brethren that which he found language inadequate to express in its fullness—“the unsearchable riches of Christ,” the treasure of grace freely offered to the fallen sons of men. The plan of redemption was laid by a sacrifice, a gift. Says the apostle: “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.” “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity.” And as the crowning blessing of redemption, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 5T 730.2

    “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Surely there are none that, beholding the riches of His grace, can forbear to exclaim with the apostle. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” 5T 730.3

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    Ellen G. White
    The Great Controversy, 544

    “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23. While life is the inheritance of the righteous, death is the portion of the wicked. Moses declared to Israel: “I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” Deuteronomy 30:15. The death referred to in these scriptures is not that pronounced upon Adam, for all mankind suffer the penalty of his transgression. It is “the second death” that is placed in contrast with everlasting life. GC 544.1

    In consequence of Adam's sin, death passed upon the whole human race. All alike go down into the grave. And through the provisions of the plan of salvation, all are to be brought forth from their graves. “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust;” “for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Acts 24:15; 1 Corinthians 15:22. But a distinction is made between the two classes that are brought forth. “All that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28, 29. They who have been “accounted worthy” of the resurrection of life are “blessed and holy.” “On such the second death hath no power.” Revelation 20:6. But those who have not, through repentance and faith, secured pardon, must receive the penalty of transgression—“the wages of sin.” They suffer punishment varying in duration and intensity, “according to their works,” but finally ending in the second death. Since it is impossible for God, consistently with His justice and mercy, to save the sinner in his sins, He deprives him of the existence which his transgressions have forfeited and of which he has proved himself unworthy. Says an inspired writer: “Yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.” And another declares: “They shall be as though they had not been.” Psalm 37:10; Obadiah 16. Covered with infamy, they sink into hopeless, eternal oblivion. GC 544.2

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    Ellen G. White
    Fundamentals of Christian Education, 234

    The ransom has been paid, and it is possible for all to come to God, and through a life of obedience to attain unto everlasting life. Then how sad it is that men turn from the immortal inheritance, and live for the gratification of pride, for selfishness and display, and through submission to the rule of Satan, lose the blessing which they might have both in this life and in the life to come. They might enter into the palaces of heaven, and associate on terms of freedom and equality with Christ and heavenly angels, and with the princes of God; and yet, incredible as it may seem, they turn from heavenly attractions. The Creator of all worlds proposes to love those who believe in His only-begotten Son as their personal Saviour, even as He loves His Son. Even here and now His gracious favor is bestowed upon us to this marvelous extent. He has given to men the gift of the Light and Majesty of heaven, and with Him He has bestowed all the treasures of heaven. Much as He has promised us for the life to come, He also bestows princely gifts upon us in this life, and as subjects of His grace, He would have us enjoy everything that will ennoble, expand, and elevate our characters. It is His design to fit us for the heavenly courts above. FE 234.1

    But Satan is contending for the souls of men, and casts his hellish shadow athwart their path, in order that they shall not behold the light. He would not have them catch a glimpse of the future honor, the eternal glories, laid up for those who shall be inhabitants of heaven, or have a taste of the experience that gives a foretaste of the happiness of heaven. But with the heavenly attractions set before the mind to inspire hope, to awaken desire, to spur to effort, how can we turn from the prospect, and choose sin and its wages, which is death? FE 234.2

    Those who accept Christ as their Saviour have the promise of the life that now is, and that which is to come. The human agent owes no part of his ability to the service of Satan; but his entire allegiance is due to the infinite and eternal God. The lowliest disciple of Christ may become an inhabitant of heaven, an heir of God to an inheritance incorruptible, and that fadeth not away. O that every one might make choice of the heavenly gift, become an heir of God to that inheritance whose title is secure from any destroyer, world without end! O, choose not the world, but choose the better inheritance! Press, urge your way toward the mark for the prize of your high calling in Christ Jesus. For Christ's sake, let the aim of your education be shaped by the inducements of the better world.—The Review and Herald, November 21, 1893. FE 234.3

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