“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
The phrase, “the wages of sin is death,” helps us to find Jesus in the Old Testament. On the day of Easter Jesus explained how all the Old Testament was fulfilled in him:
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,  and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:44-47)
In Peter’s sermon in Acts 3 he says that all the prophets testify about the death of Jesus: “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” (Acts 3:18).
If there is anything that the Old Testament teaches us it is that the wages of sin is death. The stories of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, Noah and the worldwide flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the persistent rebellion of the Israelites all teach that the wages of sin is death.
The prophets that God sent constantly warned the people that if they sinned death would follow. Jeremiah, a prophet who had to deliver a lot of bad news, at one point proclaimed, “For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction.’” (Jeremiah 20:8)
The thing that the Old Testament does not clarify, except in a few places like Isaiah 53, is that the wages of our sins would ultimately lead to death for Jesus, the Son of God:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)
In the Old Testament, when his people would go astray God would get angry and punish them. Often many of them would die. God’s anger would subside for a time but then his people would do more foolish things and he would get angry again, and punish them again.
But when Jesus died for us on the cross all of God’s anger was poured out on Jesus and finally, his anger was gone.
Imagine what that was like for God. He wakes up on Easter morning and his anger is gone. The anger that he had for so long, that would only ever temporarily go away, was all gone. Jesus had taken it all away by dying for us on the cross.
As Isaiah said, “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
Or as Paul says at the beginning of Romans 5, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
As it says in the other half of Romans 6:23, this removal of God’s wrath put him in a very generous mood: “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eternal life is a free gift in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the rest of the same chapter of Romans, Paul makes it clear that this free gift of eternal life we have in Christ does not mean we are free to indulge the sinful nature that still clings to us:
“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:15-16)
All those apart from Christ are slaves to sin. They cannot help but turn to sin. But through the power of God’s grace shown to us in Christ we are set free from slavery to sin. We now become slaves to righteousness.
We also are eager to share this good news with others. There are so many who still believe God is angry with them or rejects them. Others are convinced that a life of slavery to sin is still better than confessing their sins and turning to Christ. They all need to hear the good news that, for the sake of Christ, all of God’s anger is removed, we are at peace with God and have the gift of eternal life.
If there is one thing that the Old Testament teaches us it is that the wages of sin is death. God’s people would sin, God would lash out at them in anger and people would die. The death of Jesus on the cross erased our sins and brought us eternal peace with God. What a blessing it is each day to wake up and realize we are at peace with God and are free to serve him in righteousness.
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