This week I’m focusing on two related verses, sung together as track 2 on “Seeds of Character.” The song is called “The Wages and The Gift,” and combines Romans 3:23 and 6:23. I’ll paste them both below in the NIV.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These verses are very popular for memorization and for sharing the Gospel, and with good reason. They clearly state some of the basic truths about the Christian faith, and are easy enough to understand for those who are seeking answers about God. These verses are part of the good old “Romans Road” witnessing tool, and if you’re a fan of Google image (as I am!) you can find a fun bunny trail of great and not-so-great tracts from years gone by on there. Outdated graphics aside, these verses from Romans are timeless, true, and always useful in the life of a Christ-follower. God’s Holy Spirit has been using these words for centuries to point out our need for God and his gracious gift of life to his children.
Because Romans 3:23 is a little clause from the middle of a longer sentence (although with Paul they’re always longer sentences), and because both verses begin with “for,” I went ahead and re-familiarized myself with chapters 3 and 6 in their entirety. I had considered splitting these verses up across two weeks, but after reading both chapters decided against it. The ideas in each verse complement one another really well.
Looking at both verses in context helped me with ideas for application, so I’ll paste the natural habitat of each verse below. But I highly recommend reading Romans 3 and Romans 6 (only around 50 verses total) to see what the Spirit has for YOU!
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
(I think verse 24 might actually be my favorite. Justification that I couldn’t achieve on my own– thank you, God! Moving along…)
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin,which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amazing stuff! So much truth!
In my own life I want to do a little bit of re-association with these verses. They bring up such a strong picture of “witnessing” to me that when I hear them I don’t really think of my own need, and that’s a problem. I will always need these words in my own heart and mind even though I have already accepted God’s free gift of eternal life. These verses do not provide us with a “one and done” lesson, but give ongoing guidance (through the Holy Spirit) as we strive to live our lives pushing sin away and reaching out for God.
I need to keep coming back to these words, because part of my heart keeps trying to go back to its old sinful ways (or “enslaving” itself to sin as seen in Romans 6). I didn’t just need these verses at the moment of my salvation, but I need them every hour. I need them to renew my mind, and I need them to change my actions.
May these words keep me from usurping judgment that belongs to God. May these words keep me on the path of righteousness in moments seen by others, and moments seen only by God. May these words remind me that I must continue receiving grace rather than relying on my own effort to produce righteousness. May these words draw me back to the one who saved my life. May these words in my life do more than I could ever imagine!
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts about these verses and ideas.