I received a phone call the other day. The recording tried to tell me a company was giving away vacations. The recording told me to press a number to get a live person. I really hate to hang up on people, because I’ve been taught it isn’t polite, so I’m glad it was a recording. I’ve had phone calls like this before, and no one is really **giving** anything away.
What is a gift? The Scriptures try to tell us that God has given each of us the gift of eternal life, but are there any strings attached? One of the places we can find the promise is in one of Paul’s epistles.
Romans 6:23 KJV For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What’s the deal here? Well, we can determine a lot by just recognizing the meaning of each noun in this verse. I learned a long time ago that a noun in the English language is a name for a person, place or thing. The first noun is the word wages. What is a wage? It is what we get paid for our labor. Is it not? It is what we deserve for services rendered. In fact, if our employer refused to give us our wages we could take him or her to court and seek restitution there by proving that we performed a task and were not paid for the services we rendered. It is a right—my right. It is what I have earned. It’s mine!
The next noun is the word sin. What is sin? According to Scripture, sin is the transgression of the Law (1John 3:4). What Law are we talking about? – God’s Law! If God created everything, he certainly has the right to make the rules. He has a right to expect us to behave a certain way. We founded the country in which we live, and as founders / citizens we have the right to institute laws that govern the behavior of those around us. We elect or appoint certain individuals to enforce the laws we’ve instituted and even submit to those laws ourselves. No one is above the law, or so is the ideal. When someone breaks the law we institute, we call it a crime. When someone breaks God’s Law, he calls it sin.
The next noun tells us what the wages of sin is—death! In other words, if we break God’s Law, the reward or wage is death. We may not agree that this is fair, but how we feel about what God has instituted has nothing to do with the effect. According to the Bible, sin brought death into our race. We may not like the fact that death is real, but there is no getting around the fact that some day we all shall die, because the Scripture has concluded that all have sinned (Romans 5:12). One may argue and say—”Wait a minute, babies don’t sin!” It is a fact that many little children have died long before they could have hurt anyone, or broken any law including God’s. This is true, but there is a greater point involved. It is a matter of authority. Adam is the leader of our race. He spoke for the entire race when he rebelled against God. We can agree that the king, president, dictator, or emperor of a nation speaks for all the people he rules—even if they don’t agree with his decision. If he makes war with an opposing nation, that nation will make war with you whether or not you approve of your leader’s decision. It has always been this way. All wars are conducted in this manner. We may not like it, but it is the way things are. In any event, if you are old enough to understand and argue this point, you are old enough for the Bible to conclude you are a sinner. Even if you could make a point for very young children, you are still a sinner and you will eventually die. You may conclude God is unfair to babies, but you cannot conclude God is unfair with you. I know I cannot conclude God has been unfair with me.
Next we come to the word gift! What is a gift? It is something with no strings attached—is it not? If someone gave me a gift, and I tried to pay that person for the gift, it would be rude—would it not? It would be like saying I don’t appreciate their kindness. My employer wasn’t being kind when he gave me a paycheck each week—he owed it to me. That was not kindness. It was justice. A wage is not a gift. Some employers try to make it seem like a gift, but that idea is wrong. A wage is what is mine by right, but a gift is mine through kindness, or mercy or some other gracious motivation on the part of a second party.
The next noun identifies the Giver—God! But, isn’t it his Law that got me in trouble in the first place? No, it was my own breaking of his Law that got me into trouble. I often try to **blame** others for what I do (including God), but really it is my fault for the predicament I’m in. In any event, I am condemned to death, but God says he wants to give me a gift. What would that be?
LIFE! God wants to give me life. My just reward is death, but God says he wants to give me life—eternal life, if I am allowed to use an adjective here to describe what kind of life God is offering me. So, what’s the catch? There are always “strings” attached to any **gift** aren’t there? No—not all. Those who love me don’t attach anything to what they give me, and I presume you have loved ones too. This world attaches “strings” to everything it wants to **give** you, but those who really love you give of themselves and their wealth simply because you are you! So, God wants to give us life—eternal life. How?
LIFE comes “through” (I must now use a preposition to show how the nouns are related) Jesus Christ. Okay, God wants to give us (eternal) life through Jesus (the) Christ. In the beginning we were to receive our life through Adam (ultimately). He was the first of our race, and we get our lives through our parents but back ultimately to Adam. Our life was not really ours in the first place. It was given to us by someone else, and that someone was Adam. The problem is that Adam’s life became temporary when he rebelled against God. He lived quite a long time, but eventually he died. Science could possibly lengthen our lives too, but in the end, we would still be as temporary as we are today. We would still die. So, first our life came through Adam, but now God speaks of another “LIFE” but through Jesus (the) Christ. In Adam, I didn’t have a choice to be born or to die. What about Jesus, do I have a choice with him? Yes, according to the next noun.
Finally we come to (our) Lord, and this is the key to it all. My just wage for being in rebellion (sin) against God is death. God could have left it at that, but he so loved the world that he gave us his only Son (John 3:16). Why? – in order that we **through** his Son, Jesus (the) Christ could receive his gift of eternal life. Adam was the lord of our race. He rebelled and brought death (among other things) upon his race. He is (was) our lord and is (was) the authority or lord of who we are. Ultimately, we had no freedom in choosing him, just like we had no ability to choose our parents. Nevertheless, God gives us a choice—remain in Adam and keep him as your lord or receive Jesus by faith (trust) and accept him as your new Lord. If that is a **string** then choose the **string** you want—the one that attaches you to Adam or the other that attaches you to Jesus. I call it an umbilical cord. I’ve already been born in Adam, but I’ve chosen to be reborn in Jesus. It isn’t all that difficult. I’ve admitted to be in rebellion against God and expressed a desire for his gift. I can bring nothing to the table, so I can’t offer anything in payment, but the good news is—God doesn’t want payment—the debt has been paid for all of us by Jesus. He loves us and wants to give us LIFE just because of who we are. In Adam we inherited his (Adam’s) character and proclivity to sin, but in Jesus we are given his Spirit, which empowers us express Jesus’ character. In the end, it means eternal life for me, and all it costs me is to switch “umbilical cords”—meaning, instead of living in Adam, choosing to live in Christ, through whom I receive God’s Gift of LIFE! Not a bad deal, really!