Sunday sermon on the Epistle reading from Romans 6:18-23
on our choice of the wages of sin and the free gift of God
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.
Those of us who are old enough to work for money, know the feeling of getting paid for the work we put in. When a person is hired, there is a sort of agreement between the employer and the employee – the employee agrees to do the necessary work, and the employer agrees to compensate the employee accordingly.
After you work those 40 hours a week and come to your boss for the check, you do not break down in tears thanking him for paying what you are supposed to be paid (unless you have a really crappy boss). In fact, if you do not get paid, you are likely to sue the boss. After a full week of work, we are entitled to the appropriate paycheck.
Saint Paul tells us today that the relationship between sin and death is the same as work and paycheck, “The wages of sin is death.” Meaning, after putting in a life’s worth of sinning, we get death. Sin pays us with death because that’s all it has.
Sure, along the way of leading a sinful life we may feel good a bit. Drugs and alcohol do give a sense of pleasure at first; it’s only after we are addicted that we realize that they make us miserable and hateful. Sleeping around and being sexually immoral can also make us feel quite good and maybe even accomplished, but that too leads to dejection and loneliness. Being abusing towards others, either verbally or physically, can give us a sense of power, but in the end we realize that only cowards act abusively. Cheating people out of money or services, lying and taking advantage of them can definitely make someone rich, but even that lifestyle ends in gloom.
If sin is not corrected in our life, if we do not repent or refuse to repent, we die a miserable death because the wages of sin is death. Sin has nothing else to offer us.
Notice, Saint Paul did not say the punishment of sin is death, but wages of sin is death. In other words, we get what we deserve. We are not being punished for sin; nobody punishes us. We work and get a paycheck at the end of the week; we sin and get death at the end.
On the other hand, there’s “the free gift of God,” which “is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s not wages, it’s nothing we do to deserve it, we are simply offered it – “the free gift of God.”
As the only sinless One, Christ received our wages of death on our behalf and annulled all further payments. He basically came to our boss, the devil who had dominion over the dead, and took all of our future paychecks. In return He gives us a free gift of eternal life.
The devil is rendered powerless and deprived of even his kingdom of dust and ashes, and all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Christ. Every human being now belongs to Christ as their Lord and Master. He rules over all creation, over those who accept and embrace Him as Lord and Master of their life, as well as over those who continue in rebellion against Him.
If we are rebellious, then we are just like the devil and the demons – disobedient, prideful, and selfish. Wages for this rebellion will be eternal death, not just death, but eternal death.
But since Christ has already collected that paycheck for us, we do not have to be rebellious. We actually have a choice. What is that choice? Accept the free gift of eternal life. But how do we do it?
First of all, repentance. Saint John the Baptist and Jesus would not have begun their ministry with the same message, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” if repentance was not crucial to our salvation.
Repentance is an act of realization that we are rebellious against God. And rebellious not in some sort of general sense, like, “Oh yeah, I am so sinful.” Rather, each of us is rebellious against God in specific ways.
Forgive me for being frank, but most of us have not even tried taking stock of our own specific rebellions and sins. We are ok admitting that we have some sort of general sins, but I think we are scared to admit and look for the sins that we actually commit because that takes actual spiritual and physical effort.
We need to find those specific rebellions of ours and repent of them – stop, ask God for healing from our specific sins, and do the opposite of sin, which are the acts of righteousness.
And second, to accept the free gift of eternal life, we exercise faithfulness. God offers us a free gift of eternal life and in return we offer Him our faithfulness, loyalty. Notice the order here, we do not offer our faithfulness first and then God, in response, offers a free gift. He offers a gift, and in acknowledgement of the reception of this gift, we offer our faithfulness.
And when we are faithful to God, He produces fruits of holiness through us. Remember, Christ said that He is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:1). A branch on its own is unable to produce anything, except for becoming a firewood. But when the branch is on the vine, it produces fruit.
When we are attached to sin and the devil, we get paid what we deserve – death. That’s all they can offer us. When we are faithful to God, we are attached to Him like a branch is attached to a tree, and He does His works through us because we have received the free gift of eternal life.
Stop serving sin, stop getting paid by sin. Repent and be faithful to God because the free gift has already been offered. Take it and produce fruit of holiness.
To Christ our Lord, Who has taken our wages of death and liberated us from sin and granted us a free gift of eternal life, together with His Eternal Father and Most Holy Spirit, we give all our loyalty, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages.