The Gospel in a Verse
This morning we are going to start with a hypothetical question. If you could only use one sentence to sum up the gospel, what would it be? No doubt most of you are jumping to John 3:16 in your mind. There might be many places we can point to that have similar summaries of the gospel.
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
This is a simple version of the gospel. Christ came to save sinners. End of story. Paul considers himself the foremost of sinners. Sinners are in trouble and need saving. Jesus came to save them.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
In this verse you have the reality that Jesus became sin for us. Jesus did what we could not. Because he did so, we can become the righteousness of God. At the cross there was an exchange. Our sin was attributed to him, but now by faith, his righteousness is attributed to us.
There are a number of places we can go. Today we are going to look at the book of Romans. We will look at a very well known verse that sums up the gospel in a single sentence. Next to the gospels and the book of Acts, Romans is the most important book in the New Testament. It is Paul’s greatest elaboration on the gospel and its implications and it is where we get so much of our doctrine from. Today we are going to take a look at just a small snippet of this amazing letter.
In Romans chapter 6, Paul is explaining what happens when one comes to faith in Christ on a spiritual level. We die to sin and its power over us and are raised to new life in Christ, where we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can overcome temptation and choose righteousness. We were dead in sin. Sin ruled over us, but now are alive in Christ. We are under new management.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are going to take a look at several key words in this verse and by the end of this service you will be better equipped to share the gospel from this one verse with your friends and loved ones.
The first part of the verse talks about wages. Anyone who has ever held a job understands how wages work. Wages are what is owed for services rendered. It is a monetary term. When you go to work, you put forth time and effort in performing a task and you earn wages for that work. No matter where you come from or from what socio-economic background you have, everybody can understand this concept. This is what makes this verse so relatable.
Imagine this scenario. You go to work for someone else and he or she gives you the job description and expects you to go perform the services requested. So of course you go to work and you do the job as requested. Pay day comes and the boss says he isn’t going to pay you. What do you mean? If you do the work, you expect to be paid, do you not? If you have ever run into a scenario like this, you know the feeling of injustice here. You want justice. You want to be paid.
Now let’s flip that and look at the opposite. An employer hires you to do a job. You accept the terms of the job, you show up to the job, but you don’t complete any of the work. You spent all day playing games on your phone, watching YouTube, talking to friends, playing around with the equipment, or anything but doing the job you were hired to do. The boss comes along and notices you haven’t done anything he has asked you to do. Should he still pay you? If so, how is that just? We who are reasonable know that it would be unfair to get paid for something we did not do, just as it would be unfair not to get paid for something we did do.
As we apply this to the words of Paul, we see that sin is the work for which we receive wages. Sin can be defined as a departure from God’s standards. Romans 3:23 teaches us that all people have done this. Everyone has departed from God’s standard of uprightness. Rather than follow what God set out for us in the beginning, we have chosen to define those standards for ourselves. We as human beings have left God.
Sin is not just an action. It is not just the things that we do that are morally wrong, it is a condition.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
Sin is both an outward expression and an inward condition. Because our first parents sinned, that is, departed from God’s standards, the payment was death, which spread to all men. It is a cancer that will consume everything it touches until the death of that which it has attached to.
We talked last week about the reality that it is not the external that defiles us, but the internal. Our condition begins from the inside.
“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. “These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
It is from the inside that we are corrupted, so it is from the inside that we must be restored.
If sin is the work, and we are to be paid for our work, then the payment is death. Because we have sinned against God, the payment for that work is death. We suffer a spiritual death that separates us from God.
This is the bad news. Then we get to one of the greatest words in all of scripture: but.
The word but is a conjunction. It is used to introduce something that contrasts what was previously stated. So we know that what is about to follow is going to be the opposite of what was just stated, but listen closely.
But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let’s break that statement down.
First, the free gift contrasts that of the work of sin. Unlike wages for work rendered, a gift is not something earned. A gift is just that. A gift. It is given out of someone else’s love and appreciation for you. Think about birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, so on and so forth. Why do people give birthday gifts? “Congratulations! You survived on earth another year!” How about anniversaries? “Congratulations! You put up with me for a whole year! Again!” No. Gifts are given as an expression of the love and adoration the giver has for the recipient.
There is a free gift of God. That is, he is the source of the gift. That which is received is received from God. What is the gift? The gift is eternal life. Eternal life is given to whom God wants to give it to because of his love for you.
But we need to stop and notice something. The gift is unlike the wages in that the gift is not earned, but freely given. Though it is freely given, it does not mean there was no price. Any time you receive a gift, remember that it cost the giver. Generally speaking, the larger the gift, the higher the price. There is no greater gift than eternal life. And the price of the gift was God’s own son.
Remember that the righteousness attributed to us is not our righteousness, but his. We cannot take the credit for the good in us. That belongs to him. Go back to the wages idea for a minute. Have you ever called in sick and needed someone to cover you? Of course you have. What if someone covered your shift and then paid you for the work they did? While it is not a perfect analogy, this is sort of like what Christ has done for you. The work has already been done. The gift of payment for something you did not earn is coming your way. The gift is only found in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is only by looking to Jesus and what he did, placing our trust in him, that we are brought back into a relationship to the Father.
God does not give this gift any other way. There is no way to earn it and there is no other source from which it can be obtained. The offer of eternal life is available to all people, but all people must come to God through Christ to receive it. And just like any gift, it is not yours until it is received. Trust in Christ for his work gives us access to the gift of eternal life given by God the Father.
Place your faith in Jesus today to receive the gift of eternal life.
Continue to live a life pleasing to him, as sin is no longer your master.
Share the truth of the gospel where God gives you opportunity.