Great Buts in the Bible: Part 3
The greatest “but” in the entire Bible is found in Romans 6:23. It is a classic verse often used in evangelism. It describes the stark contrast of our standing with God because of our sin and the gift God gives us because of His grace. I believe it is the greatest but in the Bible because of how drastic it changes this verse. More importantly, because of how this one little word drastically changes one’s eternity!
The Bad News – “For the wages of sin is death”
I love how the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to use the word “wages” in this verse. In our culture we view this word in the positive sense – a salary, a paycheck, our wages. We understand by experience that a wage is something we have earned. It is something we deserve because of what we have done. A paycheck is one thing, but sin is another thing altogether.
“Wages of sin“: Sin is a word we don’t often hear today. Even in churches, mentioning the word “sin” is becoming extinct. In our ultra-sensitive culture, “sin” hurts people’s feelings. Simply put, the definition of sin is “missing the mark.” When we lie, we have missed the mark of honesty. When we cheat, we have missed the mark of integrity. When we are unfaithful, we have missed the mark of fidelity. When we lose our temper, we have missed the mark of self-control. Missing the mark hurts people, injures relationships, and harms ourselves. Sin is poison and must be dealt with.
People are funny. We are honest enough to admit that we are not perfect but can get defiant when someone calls us a sinner. When it comes to sin, we are quick to justify, ignore, or deflect when we do wrong. But when someone misses the mark (sins) against us we want immediate action and justice! But we tend to only feel bad for the wrong we commit when we get caught. Many times we are more embarrassed than truly sorry. But we have only ourselves to blame. We did it. We deserve it.
God has a high price tag for sin and is uncompromising with it. God demands that the price for sin be paid. The price (the wage) for sin is death. That means you and I are guilty as charged. We have sinned. We deserve to pay the wage for what we have done.
The Good News – “but”
The bad news has been delivered and the guilty verdict given. But. Wait. Hold on. But. This little word stops the condemnation. The accused raises their head and sees the Judge beginning to smile. Something has changed. Everything is now different.
The Great News – “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
God turns from pronouncing us guilty to giving us a gift. The transition from death to life is a gift of mercy and grace. God is truly amazing! All we have to do is accept this free gift from God. We cannot earn it, work for it, or pay for it. It is a gift. A gift doesn’t come with a payment plan or an expiration date. It is a gift from God. The death of Jesus on the cross was the payment for the price of our sin. Receiving Jesus as our Savior removes our guilty verdict, forever!
That is why it is offensive to think that we must do something to earn our salvation. It mocks the gift giver and turns the gift into a “wage” – something to be earned. Any religion or philosophy that teaches we can earn our way to heaven makes Jesus and the cross impotent.
The greatest but in the Bible changes everything. It turns defeat into victory! Thank you Jesus!