Romans Lesson 74 - Pay Day!
In this message, Stephen takes us to a future and final payday where God will render to every man according to his works. It will be a day of rejoicing for some...and a day of mourning for others.
It was late summer, in the year 1914, when Earnest Shackleton left England with 27 other men. They set sail on a ship named Endurance . . . but their plan was to disembark at some point and literally cross Antarctica on foot.
By January of 1915, when their ship was within 100 miles of land, the location where they planned to begin their journey on foot – the ship became trapped in ice. That ice pack, in which they were literally stuck, began to carry them further and further away from land.
Shackleton and his crew lived on the ship, stuck fast in the ice, for 8 months until the ice snapped the ship apart like an old tree limb and the ship sank. For 5 more months they lived on the ice pack with supplies salvaged from the ship. For more than one year, they suffered terrible conditions, while floating along helplessly on their prison house of ice.
That next spring when the ice began to thaw and melt in the ice around them, Shackleton and a few men were finally able to set sail, for help, in lifeboats they had saved from their ship. They eventually reached the nearby island of South Georgia. A few months later, Shackleton sailed back to that ice pack and rescued the remainder of his men.
He never accomplished his goal of crossing Antarctica on foot; in fact, not much later, he died at the age of 46, on the island of South Georgia.
One author made these comparisons between Shackleton’s ice pack and sin. Three of them, actually.
One, sin will take you farther then you ever wanted to go;
Two, sin will keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay;
Three, sin will cost you more than you ever wanted to pay.
While Shackleton was a prisoner on that island of ice he recorded this conclusion, “[The ship] is pretty near the end . . . and what the ice gets, the ice keeps.”
Adapted from Citation: Caroline Alexander, The Endurance (Knoph, 1998); submitted by Dan Minjares; 2003 Preaching Today.com
Man! What the ice gets . . . the ice keeps.
How about, what sin gets . . . sin keeps.
That’s been the message of Romans chapter 6.
You are either enslaved to sin . . . and if you belong to sin, you will belong to it forever . . . or you are enslaved to God, and you will belong to Him forever.
Look back at Romans 6:21. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.
Throughout this letter Paul has been contrasting different things:
He’s talked about:
- Two ways;
- Two gospels
- Two Adams
- Two masters
- Two slaveries
- Two kingdoms
And here in the verses we just read – several more.
He begins by talking about two kinds of benefits or fruit. That’s the literal word used in the beginning of verse 21. Therefore what fruit (karpon) were you then deriving . . . notice verse 22b – having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit (there it is again – karpon, or fruit).
Paul contrasts two kinds of fruit.
There is the fruit of sin – verse 21 and the fruit of salvation – verse 22.
The fruit of sin Paul tells us in verse 21 is death.
The fruit of salvation is life (that’s in verse 22).
By the way, Paul mentions a word that has all but disappeared from our consciousness as a culture. In verse 21 it is the word “ashamed.”
He writes, “things of which you are now ashamed.”
Again there is an implied contrast between the conscience of the world – which is not ashamed of their sin; and the conscience of the true believer, who is ashamed of his sin.
One of the greatest evidences of true conversion is when a person stops being an advocate of sin and becomes ashamed of sin.
Romans chapter 1 revealed the downward digression of a perverted society, ending with the climactic characteristic of a culture run amok with sin, when society as a whole defends sin and the sinner.
When it applauds deviant behavior. When it brags about tolerance for perverse acts; when it justifies inventions of evil; when it encourages manifestations of pride and ego; when it gloats about infidelity and selfishness and brutality.
When greed becomes good and deceit becomes acceptable, as long as you don’t get indicted.
When materialism becomes the new religion and possessions become the new gods of wood and stone and plastic and chrome and steel.
Paul summarizes a society, enslaved to the kingdom of sin, in Romans chapter 1 by writing, “Although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
The world knows it is guilty, Paul references their intuitive God created knowledge of good and evil. But enslaved people cannot admit their anything other than free, lest their guilt penetrates their shield of unbelief. It cannot cause them to bend their knee before a Creator God.
Paul wrote to Philippians that the unbeliever actually glories in their shameful deeds (Philippians 3:18-19). He writes, “Their end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame.”
Yet, how tragic is their frantic pace of unsatisfying sin as they rush into more and more sin which only produces more and more guilt.
One actress made daily headlines with her lesbian affair with another actress, but who later left that woman and married a man. That same actress confided to a reporter not too long ago that she had been abused by her father from the time she was a toddler to around 12 years of age. She said, “I did a lot of things in my life to get away from what happened to me. I drank, I smoked, I did drugs, I was promiscuous, I did anything I could to try and get the shame out of my life.”
Citation: Actress Heche Says Sexual Abuse Made Her ‘Insane’; 2003 Preaching Today.com
All the while she ran from guilt and shame, but she only added to it and her friends and the press and the rest of her culture and its tabloids said, “Everything you’re doing is great and wonderful and acceptable and sophisticated and progressive and right.”
The prophet Jeremiah described his culture as having lost the ability to blush (Jeremiah 8:12).
They no longer blush over their iniquities.
The word of God never says to run from shame. You accept your shame; you accept the fact that you are indeed guilty; you bring your guilt and your shame to the cross of Christ which highlights and magnifies the grace of God.
You pray, like Ezra who experienced revival, “O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens . . . 8. But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, regardless of what the world would tell you to run from and try to cover up and try to ignore, never underestimate the godly power of shame.
Paul says that shame over sin happens to be a fruit of true salvation.
Parents, as you raise your children, part of your instruction includes the reality of shame. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.” “Shame on you!” Teach them the value of godly shame.
I couldn’t help but think of that well repeated tale, evidently true; as reported in the Christian Century by Lloyd Steffen, about how when King Frederick II, an 18th century king of Prussia, was visiting a prison in Berlin, the inmates tried to prove to him how they had been unjustly imprisoned. All except one inmate who sat quietly in a corner, while all the rest of the inmates protested their innocence. Seeing him sitting there oblivious to all the commotion, the king asked him what he was imprisoned for. “Armed robbery, Your Honor.” The king asked, “Were you guilty?” “Yes, Sir,” he answered, “I deserve my punishment.” The king then turned and gave an order to the guard: “release this guilty man . . . I don’t want him in jail corrupting all these innocent people.”
Likewise, the one who admits his guilt and shame, he discovers the grace and God and release from the prison cell of sin.
Now Paul comes to the climax of his contrasts, with one final, all encompassing statement.
Verse 23. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“21 words in my English translation; 19 in the Greek. This one phrase has been memorized by millions of children in Sunday School – it has been a key verse in gospel tracts and studies for centuries. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in the late 1800’s called this verse the golden sentence of truth worthy to be written across the sky.”
James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume Two (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI), 1991, p. 705
I would agree. This verse summarizes the entire gospel of Paul’s first 6 chapters.
And look at all the contrasts:
Wages versus A free gift
Sin versus God
Death versus Life
This great statement begins with the bad news. Jonathan Edwards was right a few centuries ago when he said the gospel must be revealed as bad news before it can be good news.
Jonathan Edwards, quoted in Religious Affections, Christianity Today; Vol. 30, no. 11.
The wages of sin is death!
He pulls no punches. The unforgiving sinner will be paid one day. In fact, the idea of this verse is that the unredeemed are paid every single day, with one great balloon payment at the end of life.
I get that idea from the word for wages. It’s the Greek word opsonion (oyswnion). It refers to the daily food ration given to a Roman soldier. It was the daily currency for being in the Roman army.
Sometimes they were paid in salt, which served as a valuable currency with which he could trade in the market place for food.
We get our phrase, “an employee needs to be worth his salt” from this ancient practice.
The soldier got paid.
Paul says, the unbeliever will get paid too!
Yes, he will physically die one day and the word of God talks about the second death – eternal separation from God in the lake of fire.
But here, Paul is actually referring, not only to that ultimate separation from God, but the actual daily experience of death.
Pride puts relationships to death with it’s selfishness and arrogance.
Lust destroys virtue; spreading like cancer it further destroys integrity.
Addictions, whether food or drink or drugs are ultimately self-destructive.
Sloth destroys opportunities and ambitions
Envy destroys contentment.
Greed destroys nobility.
Sin is a thief . . .it never gives, it only takes.
- It has stolen God from true religion;
- It has taken the supernatural out of Christianity;
- It has erased authority from the Bible;
- It has voted God out of education;
- It has erased morality out of literature;
- It has taken virtue out of art;
- ethics out of business;
- fidelity out of marriage;
- honesty from employment;
- truth from politics;
- creation from science;
and on and on and on!
The wages of sin is death . . . right now!
But there’s more . . . upon physical death – there is the balloon payment – the final Pay Day – which is eternal death . . . an existence described in the Bible, so hideous that mankind has tried to ignore it. So terrible, that many Christians do not want to believe it; preachers do not want to discuss it.
Ravi Zacharias recently said, “The Scripture makes it clear that man is condemned eternally. Hodge in his theology says there is no Greek word more emphatic for “eternal” than the one used of hell in the New Testament. Leon Morris [in his Greek companion] says the word for “eternal” applied to an age that never ends. Another commentator wrote in his book, A Universal Homecoming, that sixty-four times the same Greek word used to describe the eternality of hell is used to remind us of the eternality of heaven. Hell is an eternal, unending, physical, real [state of] separation from God [just as heaven is an eternal, unending, physical, real state of union with God.]
Ravi Zacharias, "The Lostness of Humankind," Preaching Today, Tape No. 118.
Talk of hell has disappeared. Hell as a future home has become some uncomfortable experience on earth; a figment of your imagination . . . the Bible says it’s real.
Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Charles Spurgeon described the horror of this lake of fire with these words, “There is a real fire in hell, as truly as you have a real body – only it sill not consume you though it will torture you. You body will be prepared by God in such a way that it will burn forever without being consumed. With your nerves laid raw by searing flame, yet never desensitized for all its raging fury, and the acrid smoke of the fumes searing your lungs and choking your breath, you will cry out for the mercy of death, but it shall never, never, never come.”
Charles R. Swindoll, Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, Word Publishers, p. 267.
No wonder Dante wrote in his Inferno, “These words are inscribed over the gates of hell: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
What sin gets . . . sin keeps!
You say, it isn’t fair . . . my friend, perhaps you could argue it wouldn’t be fair for God to throw you into hell without warning you that’s where you were headed?
Paul delivers the warning here . . . The wages of sin is death!
That’s the bad news . . . you ready for the good news?
That’s Paul’s next statement.
(vs. 23) The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life.
So choose your master!
Will it be sin . . . or the Savior?
You can choose your master today, but you cannot choose the consequences.
Sins will give you everlasting hell.
The Savior will give you everlasting heaven.
How do you get this gift?
Paul writes, The free gift of God.
By the way, he didn’t say “wages” did he? Why? Because you don’t get heaven as a paycheck. You can’t earn heaven.
You earned hell by sin. . .you get heaven as a gift.
In other words, the only place you can work your way in, is hell.
David H. Stern; Jewish New Testament Commentary (Jewish New Testament Publications) 1992, p. 374
You can’t work your way into heaven.
It’s a free gift.
By the way, the Greek word for gift is the word ‘charis’ – translated throughout the New Testament as ‘grace.’
You could literally translate this phrase to read, “But the free grace of God is everlasting life.”
Grace, in the New Testament, is that a word which refers to you and me receiving something we don’t deserve.
The wages of sin is death – and we’re all going to die at least once – because we’ve all sinned . . . we deserve to die!
But the believer will not experience that eternal death but go straight to heaven . . . why? Because he deserves it? No. Because God , demonstrates His grace toward those who’ve placed their faith in Jesus Christ.
That’s why this verse ends with that critical phrase, notice, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
God’s grace does not come through Confucius, or Mohammed, or Krishna, or Mary, or Joseph Smith, or Buddha.
It comes solely through that perfect Lamb of God who came into the world to seek and to save those who were lost.
It comes through Jesus Christ.
Throughout this letter, Jesus Christ has been the theme.
The Gospel of God has been delivered through the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4)
God’s grace is through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24)
God is the justifier of the one who comes by faith in Jesus (3:26)
We are counted as righteous, having been raised in Jesus our Lord from the dead (4:24)
We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (5:1)
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; much more then, having now been justified by His blood we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (5:9)
Those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through Jesus Christ (5:17)
Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (6:11)
And now here in verse 23, “we have eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12)
Deny it and die. . . . forever!
Believe it and live . . . forever!
Jan Davis, a professional veteran parachutist, was involved in a dangerous sport called BASE jumping – leaping off fixed objects like cliffs and towers. It was while BASE jumping that she fell to her death a couple of years ago.
I read about her death . . . she and others were jumping off a 3,000 foot high granite cliff in Yosemite National Park in California.
She and the other jumpers knew the BASE jumping was, and is, illegal in Yosemite Park. The law was adopted because there had already been 6 deaths in that very Park. They were there protesting the park’s jumping restrictions and, ironically, were jumping to prove that the sport was safe. They knew the risks, they also knew the law . . . and they ignored the warning. Jan Davis paid with her life when her parachute failed to open properly.
She fell for nearly 20 seconds before hitting the rocks below. Her husband was filming her jump . . . it was all caught on tape.
In a similar way, many people today, perhaps even you, believe you can ignore the warning . . .that somehow you can violate God’s law of life and death.
Adapted: Originally submitted by Jonathan Mutchler; original source: Kiley Russel, Associated Press (10-23-99)
You’re still falling . . . you haven’t landed yet upon the unbending, unwavering, holy justice of God.
Sin will take you farther then you ever wanted to go;
Sin will keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay;
Sin will cost you more than you ever wanted to pay.
There is still time to experience His charis – His grace . . . this free gift of eternal life.
The Philippi an jailor asked the Apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved? And Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
That answer hasn’t changed.
Several years later, before the Apostle Paul went home to heaven, he wrote the answer this way, “The wages of sin is death . . . but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Ignore Him . . .
violate Him . . .
refute Him . . .
disbelieve Him . . .
and face eternal hell.
Accept Him . . .
embrace Him . . .
receive Him . . .
believe Him . . .
and face eternal heaven.
Believe in Him today, my friend, and on that coming Pay Day, you will not experience the final wages of sin, you will experience the heavenly reality of grace.
And you will live forever in that kingdom of our Savior, having been delivered eternally from the kingdom of sin!
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