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I arrived late at the bi-weekly meeting of the Old Boys, Christian men who have known each other since the early 1970’s. As I sat down at the table, we talked a bit about my entrance, but they soon returned to the topic they were discussing before I came. It was something called the Soul-Winning Plan. It was—or is—a script that the one ministering memorized along with four different verses from the Bible. The one they were ready to discuss was Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”1 The man sharing it is a retired architect who made his living doing architectural renderings. He is a gifted artist. As he looked across the table at his already-a-Christian friend, he spoke those words while engaging him with his eyes. I was sitting next to that friend, so I couldn’t see if he had any reaction, but unexpectedly, I experienced a reaction myself. More on that in a minute.

After our conversation drifted away from evangelism, I told the architect that he was particularly good at sharing the gospel. I said he was sincere when he shared God’s truth, and it was striking. Later in the week, however, I realized that what I experienced in his recitation of Romans 6:23 was less about my friend’s sincerity and more about the Holy Spirit confirming the truth of God’s words. I realized I hadn’t thought much about it deeply at all because, as strange as it seems, I knew it so well. I, too, had memorized the Soul-Winning Plan back in the day. So, I focused in on the meaning of those beautiful words.

The Greek word for “wages” that Paul used is opsṓnion, which is defined as “a figurative extension of meaning of ὀψώνιονa ‘a soldier’s wages, the end result from some activity, viewed as something which one receives in return—‘wages, result.’”2 Why Paul used a military word here I don’t know, but one thing is certain: when we sin, there is a result; that sinful activity earns us something, as surely as a soldier gets wages for performing his duty. The result of that “work” is death. This is just the truth—real-life, spiritual reality. There is no side-stepping it, trying to get around it by denial or clever reasoning. This is truth for both Christians and non-Christians alike. Every time one sins, death ensues in some fashion. The more one sins, the more death occurs. For Christians, there is a remedy. We repent and ask forgiveness. If we don’t, death will continue to creep in. That’s just the way it is. For unbelievers, the death continues to work its will. Life does not become better. It becomes worse and worse over time. A sinful life can never flourish.

However, following this terrible, soul-jarring truth is a beautiful, comforting one:

The free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus.

A free gift. Eternal life. Even our earth-bound parents didn’t give us gifts because we had earned them. That is not a gift, it’s a wage. No, we can’t do anything at all that will impress God enough to give us the kind of lives which are the polar opposite of dark death.

This amazing gift is free.

Let’s pause for a moment.

It is impossible to imagine that I suppose, but let’s try, regardless. You are opening a gift someone has given you, and after you’ve torn off the paper and opened the box, you find eternal life inside, beautiful, freeing, and joyous; life in a kingdom without end with a King who will love and provide for you forever. Would you throw that gift across the room like a child who didn’t get what she wanted for her birthday?

Believe it.

Believe Him.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 781). New York: United Bible Societies.

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