Martin Luther asserted to the effect that one man armed with one verse of Scripture, rightly interpreted, is stronger than all human authority put together. Will you be that one man? In this area, as in all other areas, the “weakness” of God is stronger than the strength of man (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:25). “Let God be true, but every man a liar,” cries one apostle; and “the witness of God is greater,” cries another (Romans 3:4; 1 John 5:9). He who sees all things speaks the truth on any one thing; therefore, let me give you one verse to arm you for a flight to heaven.
“The wages of sin is death;but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Note the size of this verse–God above and death beneath, sin behind and eternity before, stretching beyond your mental vision. What will the outcome be for you? Now note the contrasts–wages and gift, death and life, sin and God. Such size, such significance, packed in such a small verse! What does it mean?
First, if you are relying on what you deserve to go to heaven, you are doomed. Our wages are what we earn, what we deserve. Anyone who demands that God give him what he deserves (in the ultimate sense) should wince at the blow coming his way. Our sin has earned us death. Amazingly, how few connect the dots between the universal fact of death and the universal fact of sin! An epidemic is in the land–everyone is dying–and yet who is searching for the universal cause? Surely the cause must be as universal as the effect. Since all men are sinners, all men deserve to die, as sentenced by God the Judge. Interestingly, death is not ultimately the result of any physical cause, no matter what our opinion may be on the national health care debate; death is ultimately the result of a moral cause–sin. Death is the judicial punishment that we have earned for disobeying our Maker.
Therefore, if you hope to enter heaven, you need to embark on a journey to receive a gift. Receiving eternal life as a pure gift is not natural to our thinking. Often I ask people, “If you were to die tonight and stand before God, and He were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ what would you say?” This question is not to make people feel bad, as if it were a quiz, but rather to help them start thinking on what really matters in the long run. Often the answer begins with a personal assertion, such as “I did this” or “I didn’t do that” or “I tried to do this” or even “I asked forgiveness for that,” showing that the person is probably trusting in himself to earn enough points (or to remove enough demerits) to get into heaven as a wage. Grace does not work that way (Romans 4:4-5). Grace demands that the Giver be free to give or not to give. Therefore, since eternal life is a gift of grace, you must seek out the Giver to receive it. And the Giver is a Person. This requires relationship.
To me, this one observation is the most delectable detail about this little verse. The gift of eternal life is “in” a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ! Mind you, not merely an historical person, like George Washington, but an historical-and-now-living Person, who by virtue of both His resurrection from the dead and His divine nature can hear you and answer you right now. This one fact is marvelous in itself. Many speak of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you have one? When is the last time you pondered the significance of Jesus as Man seated at the right hand of God? Do you take His book in your hand and ask Him to teach you, as He used to teach men and women at His feet in Israel? Will you not begin to seek Him out, to get to know Him as your Lord, to welcome Him into your life as your Savior? Eternal life is “in Jesus Christ our Lord.”