The Gift Of God
Eternal Life Through Christ
In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 27b of 83


“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

 [We have been considering this magnificent gospel nugget. In the first part of this article, we considered how the wages of sin is death, even spiritual, physical and eternal death.  We noted how, left to ourselves, we have no hope whatsoever. But thanks be to God that there is hope, for God has prepared a gift. It is to this gift we now turn our attention.

JJL]

2.  The Gift of God
is Eternal Life

a.   What is eternal life?

The word ‘eternal’ means ‘everlasting.’ Therefore eternal life is, firstly, life without end. Those who have the gift of eternal life will ‘never die’ (Jn 11:26) says our Lord. This does not mean that we will not suffer physical death. We will still suffer physical pain and death as a consequence of sin. But the sting of death is removed from us. Our death will not be a punishment for sin. It will be entrance into glory and everlasting joy. And moreover, our bodies will be raised again from the dead at the Last Day. And this body will be perfect and permanent. It will know neither pain nor decay. There will be no flu, no fever, no cough, no allergies, no asthma, no tiredness, no cancer and no depression. There will be no illnesses. This will be so for all eternity.

Now, the soul of the wicked will also exist forever. And they will also be given a new body. But it will be a body of death, pain and sorrow. As the righteous enjoy eternal life, the wicked will suffer eternal death.

But eternal life is not just about everlasting life. It is about knowing and enjoying God. The Lord Jesus Christ defined what is eternal life in His high priestly prayer. He says:

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (Jn 17:3).

Eternal life is a life of knowing and enjoying God. It is a life that begins with a spiritual resurrection in this life. We are all by nature dead in sin and trespasses. But by the power of the Holy Spirit we are raised from the dead. We are given a new birth. We are given spiritual minds that we may understand spiritual truths. We are given a new heart of flesh that is able to love the Father and call out unto Him as our Abba Father. We are given spiritual eyes that we may see the loveliness of Christ. We are given spiritual ears that we may hear His voice. We are given spiritual feet that we may “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom 8:12). We are given spiritual tongues that we may praise God with grace in our hearts.

In short, eternal life is a life of fellowship with God in Christ. It is a blessed life that begins today and will continue unto all eternity. It is a life of enjoying God and glorifying God. It is a life that is growing in love, joy, hope and peace that the world cannot understand.

What a contrast with death! And what a great chasm there is between the two.

I brought my family to the zoo the other day. We stopped at the lion enclosure. Across the lion enclosure is a herd of antelopes. I am sure the lion must have thought the antelopes to be delicious. And the lions were not caged. Why did the lions not run after the antelopes? Because there a great watery chasm keeping the lion within their enclosure. On one side of the chasm is captivity. On the other side is freedom. But there is no way for the lions to cross the chasm.

So too is the chasm between death and eternal life. The difference is between black and white, darkness and light, hatred and love, infinite sorrow and infinite joy. How can sinners deserving to die for their rebellion against God enjoy eternal life? How can the great chasm between everlasting death and everlasting life be bridged?

Or in other words, what can we do to obtain eternal life? The answer is: Ultimately nothing! We may think that as we earn death by sin, so we can earn life by righteous. But no! How can fallen sinners obtain life by ourselves when everything that we do is polluted with sin?

b.  Paul makes it clear that we cannot obtain eternal life by our own righteousness. He has just said: “the wages of sin is death.” Would it not be most natural for him to add: “but the wages of righteousness is life.” But no, he says: “the gift of God is eternal life.”

Notice the stark contrast. Sin gives us what we deserve. God does not give us what we deserve, but gives us what we do not deserve. Sin pays with death or everything undesirable. God freely gives us eternal life—or everything desirable.

Eternal life cannot be earned by human efforts. Mere man cannot merit eternal life. It is the free gift of God. No one deserves it. No one can earn it. No one is more deserving of it, compared to another. It must be given by God.

It does not depend on us.

It does not depend on how good we are.  You may have lived a wicked life or you may have lived a moral life. You may have been a murderer, or you may have been a saintly monk. It does not make a difference.

It does not depend on how old you are. You can be an infant in arms when you receive the gift or you can be lying on your deathbed.

It does not depend on how intelligent you are. You may have an IQ of 160 or an IQ of 60. It does not make a difference.

You may be rich or you may be poor. You may be male or female. You may be great or insignificant in society. You may be emotional or you may be rational.

It does not make a difference.

Eternal life is a gift of God. God gives to whom He would according to His good pleasure. It does not depend on who we are. None of us are more deserving than others.

c.   “The gift of God is eternal life.” Eternal life is a gift of God. It cannot be earned.

But if eternal life cannot be earned, then how is it made available to us? How do we receive this gift? And how does God give it to us? The apostle Paul gives us the answer as he completes the statement. This gift will be given…

3.  Through
Jesus Christ our Lord

What does it mean that this gift is “through Jesus Christ our Lord”? It means three things.

a.   Firstly, ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’ means that the gift of eternal life was purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ. How did He purchase the gift? Christ himself says, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 15:15).

Christ purchased the gift by first taking on human flesh and living a life of poverty and suffering for our sakes. “…though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor 8:9).

Then He went to the Cross to pay for our sins. He had no sin. He needed not die. But He went to the Cross and died an excruciating and cruel death in order to pay for our sins. He shed His blood for us.

We have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Because of what He did for us, we can have the free gift of eternal life. It is free for us. But it was not free for Christ our Lord. He paid for it. He suffered for us. He was flogged for us. He was nailed for us. He bled and died for us.

b.  But secondly, “through Jesus Christ our Lord” means that the gift of eternal life must be received by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Lord himself says:

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved… 36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (Jn 3:14-17, 36).

Unless we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and receive Him as our Saviour and Lord, we cannot have everlasting or eternal life. Eternal life is a gift that only Christ our Lord can give us. We cannot have eternal life without faith in Him.

c.   But thirdly, “through Jesus Christ our Lord” means, first of all, that only those who are united to the Lord Jesus Christ will have the gift. These are those who will sincerely call Him Lord. For these, the Lord Jesus Christ is not only “the Lord” but “my Lord,” or “our Lord.”

These are the sheep of Christ. The Lord himself says:

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish…” (Jn 10:27-29)

Although the gift of eternal life is freely given, it is not offered to everyone. It is given only to those who are the sheep of Christ. Those who are the sheep of Christ will be given faith that they may receive the free gift of eternal life. This is why the Lord said to the unbelieving Jews: “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep” (Jn 10:26). Notice how He did not say: “You are not my sheep because you believe not.”

The sheep of Christ is the elect of Christ whom Christ will give faith. Paul will address the doctrine of election when we come to chapter 8 and 9.

For now, let us be content to know that the sheep of Christ are not identified by any physical markings. Rather, our Lord says “My sheep hear my voice” (Jn 10:27).

Do you hear the voice of Christ? The sheep of Christ hears His voice and follows after Him. Those who hear His voice and follow Him are given the gift of eternal life.

In a word, eternal life is purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ with His own life. It was purchased for His sheep. It is received by faith in Him.

Conclusion

The Word of God says:

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Where do you stand, dear reader?

Are you still a soldier of sin? Are you still faithfully fighting on the side of sin and drawing the wage of sin? If you are, you really should pause to ask yourself why.

Sin is killing you, and yet you are laying down your life to serve sin. Oh do not be fooled.

Sin is not as generous a master as he appears to be. He is paying you all right. But he is paying you with what you do not need—death.

Will you not flee from sin? Go to the Lord and say: “Lord, I am a sinner. I have been serving sin. Have mercy upon me, O God. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.” The Lord Jesus promises:

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Mt 11:28-29).

You who have been labouring under sin, will you not go to Christ? Will you not serve under Him? His yoke is easy, His burden is light. And in Him alone is eternal life.

Or do you, in your heart of hearts hate sin, but believe and love the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, may I assure you that you are already in Christ. And if you are in Christ, you already have eternal life.

But the question is: Are you enjoying your eternal life?

If not, why? Is it because of backsliding? Or is it because you have given in to temptation and you are poisoning your soul by serving sin. If so, will you not pause for a moment to ask the Lord to search your heart? Cry unto Him:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:23-24).

David was already enjoying everlasting life, but he cried to the Lord to lead him in the way everlasting. If you are in Christ you are already enjoying everlasting life. But do not fooled. Sin can destroy your enjoyment of God. Take heed therefore, to ask the Lord to restore a right spirit in you, and to keep you in the narrow way wherein is enjoyment of eternal life, abundant and free in Christ your Saviour. Amen.

—JJ Lim