The gift of God




[Romans 6:23]




                Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Here we think of “the gift of God”, or “the free gift of God,” in two parts:


            First, it is regeneration.


                What is regeneration?  It is the beginning of eternal life.  It means that the soul is born again (reborn).  Look at John 3:3 – “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”  Regeneration means becoming a new creature.  Look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  It means that a soul that was dead in trespasses and sins has been brought back to life.  Look at Ephesians 2:1 – “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (KJV).  Before we were born again/before we became new creations, we were people who died in our trespasses and sins (v. 1).  We were souls dead (those who were spiritually dead) and people who were about to die in the body.  The reason is because Adam, the first man of mankind, disobeyed God’s command and ate the forbidden fruit (Gen.3:6) even though he could live forever as a living spirit (Gen. 2:7) if he didn’t eat it.  As a result, not only Adam's soul died (spiritual death), but through him sin entered the world, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned (Rom.5:12).  That is, because of Adam's transgression, not only Adam, but all of us who belong to Adam became souls dead and also suffered physical death, leading to eternal death (“the second death”).  This is the wages of sin (6:23).


                So when did we become regenerate?  When did our dead souls come back to life?  That is when we died in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1).  Then we walked in them, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (v. 2).  We followed the evil ways of the world and lived in obedience to the devil, who had dominion over the realms under heaven (v. 2).  In the midst of it, we all were by nature children of wrath, like others, living in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind (v. 3).  At that very moment we were born again/dead souls were raised to life and became new creations.  How did we regenerate?  How did our dead souls come back to life?  God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, made us, who were dead in our trespasses, alive together with Christ (vv. 4-5).  As for how He made us alive, He made us alive again in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.6:23).  In other words, God has united us, who were spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins, to Jesus Christ so that we may die and be buried with Him (vv. 3-4, 8), and just as He raised Christ from the dead (v. 4), so we also He gave us life (v. 8) so that we may walk in a new life (v. 4).  By being mysteriously united with Jesus Christ, our old self (those who died spiritually before being regenerated) die on the cross with Jesus, and we become new people/regenerated people/new creatures so that we can walk into newness of life.  


                Therefore, the phrase “the wages of sin is death” in Romans 6:23 does not apply to our regenerated believers anymore.  In other words, we do not die for our sins.  We Christians, slaves of righteousness, do not die in the flesh as the price for sin.  Because God has justified us, there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus (8:1).  As we who believe in Jesus Christ, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has already set us free from the law of sin and death (v. 2).  We were originally slaves to sin (6:17), but now that we are set free (v. 22; cf. v. 18) we no longer have to die for sin (v. 23).  Rather, we are the dead in Christ (1 Thess.4:6) who is the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25).  Here, the dead in Christ are those who are asleep (1 Thess.4:13).  Our physical death is not the price of sin, but a passage through the gateway to heaven.  The reason we cannot go to heaven now is because we have this body.  In other words, we cannot go to heaven now because there is no physical death yet.  But when we die physically, our souls will go to heaven even though our bodies return to dust.  Therefore, even if we die, we who believe in Jesus will live, and everyone who lives and believes in Jesus Christ will never die (Jn. 11:24-25).  Therefore, even if we die now, our souls will go to heaven, so we have no choice but to give thanks to God.  An example is one of the two criminals crucified with Jesus.  He said to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Lk. 23:42).  Then Jesus said to the criminal, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43).  Most of the prisoners being crucified at that time were to die within two or three days.  But Jesus said to the criminal, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’ (v. 43).  The word that “today” will be with Jesus in paradise means that Jesus was crucified at the third hour (about 9:00 a.m.) (Mk. 15:25) and died on the ninth hour (about 3 p.m.) (vv. 34, 37) He died after hanging on the cross for about 6 hours.  To that criminal, what a great grace and love it is to be in paradise with Jesus, a sinner who must die forever.  Also, he should have suffered physical pain for two or three days on the cross.  But he only suffered about six hours, so what a great grace and love.


            Second, it is eternal life.


                What is “eternal life”?  Eternal life does not mean regeneration.  Eternal life can be said to be the completion of regeneration.  Eternal life refers to whether the body changes (if alive until then) or is resurrected (if dead) and is united with the soul to enter the new heavens and new earth, heaven, and live with God forever. 


                Let us think about physical resurrection.  Look at Revelation 20:13 – “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.”  The dead will be given up.  In other words, the dead will rise again.  Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:16 – “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”  Those who died in Christ will be resurrected first.  Look at 1 Corinthians 15:52-53: “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”  When Jesus comes again (the Second Coming), the dead will be ‘resurrected’ (raised again) with immortality, and the saints who are alive until then will be “transformed.”  Look at Philippians 3:21 – “who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”  The Lord will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body.

                Let us think about heaven.  Look at Revelation 22:4-5: “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”  There is nothing in heaven that is in hades (Things that are not in hades are in heaven).  In heaven we will see the face of the Lord.  Then we will see Him face to face (1 Cor.13:12).  When Jesus appears, we too will become like Him and see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3:2).  “Jesus, the very thought of Thee With sweetness fills my breast; But sweeter far Thy face to see, And in Thy presence rest” (Hymn “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee”, v. 1).  In heaven we will reign with the Lord for ever and ever (Rev. 22:5).  How did this become possible?  It is made possible by the free gift of God, eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:23; cf. Jn. 3:16).  In the verse “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.6:23), the word “in the Lord” occurs 164 times, but let me introduce only three of them: “those who have fallen asleep (the dead) in him” (1 Thess.4:14), “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (the regenerated ones) (Rom.6:11), “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Completed eternal life, we will go to heaven and reign with the Lord) (v. 23).


                Look at 1 Corinthians 15:57-58: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  Look at Revelation 22:12 – “Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”  In order to receive the reward that the Lord will give us when He comes, we must be steadfast, unwavering, and always put more effort into the Lord's work.


                When I meditate on the gift of God, that is, the free gift of God, divided into regeneration and eternal life, we as Christians come to think about how we Christians should live between regeneration, which is the beginning of eternal life, and eternal life, which can be said to be the completion of regeneration.  In other words, we Christians who have been “already” regenerated/born/new creation in the past, hope for the completion of eternal life at the Second Coming of Jesus “not-yet” in the future.  How to live the present, which is between “already” and “not-yet”.  I found the answer in the hymn “Lately the Life of Christ” in verse 3, “This is eternal life tasted before it's due, Life with the Lord is a new heaven here below!”  In other words, we must live on this earth between being “already” regenerated and “not-yet” eternal life, enjoying eternal life as those who have received a new life.  And the life to enjoy that eternal life is the life in heaven, the heart to enjoy it is the kingdom of heaven (Ref.: Lk. 17:21), and the community (the Lord-centered family and church) is the kingdom of heaven.  Then, how should we live when we enjoy eternal life between being born again, which is the beginning of eternal life, and still eternal life, which is the completion of eternal life?  We need to know the only true God and Jesus Christ.  Look at John 17:3 – “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  Here, we come to know God the Father and Jesus the Son, because of the Holy Spirit who has given us (1 Jn. 3:24) enables us to enjoy fellowship with God the Father who love us so much love that we become His children (3:1-2), and with the Son Jesus, who is the word of life from the beginning and eternal life (1:1-3), who is the atoning sacrifice for out sins (2:2) and who laid down His life for us (3:16), and to obey the commandment of the Lord (3:11, 23, 24) and bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).  The Lord’s commandment is a twofold commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (the commandment in vertical fellowship with God) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (the commandment in horizontal fellowship with brothers in Christ) (Mt. 22:37, 39).  This is heavenly commandment.  To live in obedience to the Lord's twofold commandment (the heavenly commandment) is to know the Lord, to live in the Lord, and to abide in the Lord's love, which is a life in heaven full of love and joy (Jn. 15:9-12).  This is the life in which the eternal life to be fully enjoyed in the world to come (heaven) is partially enjoyed in this world.