God’s Moral Constitution
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 6:22 (Holman) But now, since you have been liberated from sin and
become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results
in sanctification—and the end is eternal life!
Verse 21 was a humiliating expose’ of the Christless life. It is fruitless, full of shame, “but now”—praise God for these first two words of verse 22—the useless, shameful life is left behind. Christians undergo a radical change. “But now” we bear fruit, yielding positive, valuable results. Nothing worthy of the name “fruit” was produced by the deeds of which we are now ashamed. “But now” things are different.
Romans 6:23a For the wages of sin is death, . . .
I know no better title for this verse than “God’s Moral Constitution”. As the Universe’s ordained law, this passage is inviolable, unassailable, and unalterable.
Be not deceived, regardless of what we may think, there are absolutes in this world. Certain things cannot be altered, however much they are denied. For our well-being we need to understand the message in God’s Moral Constitution.
It starts with, “The wages of sin is death.” Sin promises the opposite, looks promising at first, and lures us with prospects of happiness and satisfaction. It begins delightfully. The fact it caters to self makes it especially attractive to our old nature. Sin wants us to think we work for pleasure, but we actually work for death.
God, wanting us to know truth, kindly warns us. However appealing sin is, its end is bitter; it bites, paying “wages”. The word implies something earned or due. Consequences we face, here or hereafter, due to our sins, we earn and deserve.
Sin pays installments throughout life, but holds a balloon payment until the end. Wages are paid to workers after they complete work; even so the full wage of sin is not paid until lost people reach their end. Only after all work is finished is the debt paid in full. Sinners are not independent, but are workmen having to be paid.
This is the result of lostness. It is a life said to be free (v. 20)—the pleasures of sin are sought without thought of obligation toward God, fruitless (v. 21)—it produces only shame, nothing worthwhile, and fatal (v. 23)—it causes separation from God. Lost sinners march a dangerous path to the cemetery. Their destination is the grave, which will merely be the first step down in an everlasting descension.
God help us to hate sin. In our thoughts, always connect sin with its child, Death. Sadly, people dread death; yet love sin, though the death dreaded is a direct consequence of the sin loved. May our dread of death turn into a dread of sin.
Imagine something whose only contribution to the world is graveyards. This is exactly what sin can boast. The only field it plows and harvests is a cemetery.
Sin is vicious. It is so cruel that it can be in one person, and yet its “death rattles” can leap to others. No wonder Clyde Painton said, “On Judgment Day, I hope God will use my fist to knock Satan into Hell.” How horrible to cause every death that ever occurs. This is the case with sin. It causes death in three forms.
One, physical death. When Adam sinned, physical death passed as a sentence on the entire human race. It is appropriate the money paid to the betrayer of Jesus was eventually used to purchase a cemetery. It reminds us sin can buy only death.
Two, spiritual death. Sin makes us want a life separate from God, free of holy restraint. Not desiring God, we are spiritually dead. Opportunity for spiritual life with God is the most glorious gift ever given us, but due to sin, we often refuse it.
Three, everlasting death. This means the confirming of one’s condition at death as unalterable forever. As millennia pass, we remain what we were. The unholy stay unholy. Being forever evil, they are forever shut out of heaven. Unless a person repents in this lifetime, the final result is irreversible separation from God.
We were not meant to die physically, spiritually, or everlastingly, but because “the wages of sin is death”, we can do all three. Not even God can reverse this decree. He ordained a curse to be implanted in sin; it always carries seeds of death. Happily, “the wages of sin is death” is only the start of God’s Moral Constitution.
Romans 6:23b . . . but the gift of God is eternal life . . .
Death is a wage, something earned, but eternal life is a gift. It has to be free, for no one possesses it by nature, deserves it, or can earn it. If we received our due, all would be condemned. Sinners deserve Hell, but saints do not deserve Heaven.
God’s free gift can only be received. The word for “gift” was a technical term often used in royal inscriptions. It denoted an unearned bonus a ruler gave soldiers. To show his favor, an emperor would often provide his army gifts on special occasions. This was not earned, but given due to the ruler’s kindness.
Note the vast contrast between Satan and God! Satan and sin only pay wages. They only give us exactly what we earn and deserve. God provides a gift, something we cannot merit. Sin pays based on justice; God gives based on grace.
God wants to give us eternal life, unity with Him now and forever. It is a free gift. God refuses to sell salvation. It is beyond price, too valuable to earn. It can only be received, and God’s Moral Constitution tells us how it is given to us.
Romans 6:23c . . . in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul’s thoughts never strayed far from the Savior. At every chance, Paul inserted a reminder about the Cause and Source of all our benefits. Everything good comes from Jesus. Without Him we would have nothing of worth. Eternal life is a free gift from our vantage point, but not from Christ’s. To obtain eternal life for us, Jesus had to taste death on behalf of us all (Hebrews 2:9).
Sin, lying under the curse of God, had to be punished. It cannot be ignored by a holy, just God. God does not take the matter of sin lightly. It is very serious to Him, and thus should be serious to us. Only “fools make a mock at sin” (PR 14:9). And foolish they are indeed for doing so.
Physical death is the never-ending reminder; sin does not pass unnoticed by God. Every corpse confirms God’s declared war against sin. Unrepentant sinners believe they will find Heaven after death, though they never uttered a prayer of repentance.
They have a hope built on no promises. They bank their all that the Bible is a lie, Hell is a myth, preachers are deluded, God is Santa Claus, and Judgment Day will be a spiritual Christmas party with gifts for everyone.
If this is wisdom, insanity does not exist. Friend, God’s Moral Constitution is written. It will never be changed. Our only hope is to flee to Jesus for refuge.
Christ bore sin’s punishment in our place. He purchased our salvation by tasting our death. He has paid the price necessary for our redemption. Salvation is earned, but not by us. In Christ, the wages system broke down. Jesus gives away what He earned; we, who can’t earn, receive. We deserve death, but He offers life.
God’s Moral Constitution cannot be altered. Rest assured, He will abide by it. We must assess it, and then make our own choice. Do we want what we deserve, or would we rather have God’s gift? Only two possibilities face every person, and I beseech you, judge the alternatives by the final harvest they produce.
Consider only the end result. Do not ponder the occasional excitements and temporary pleasures. What will be your condition when the story is completely told? The two ends are opposite in their results.
The one is wages, a merited reward, what one deserves; the other is a gift, bestowed freely by grace. Death is the end of one; life of the other. One confirms people forever in sin and alienation from God; the other confirms forever in holiness, enjoyment, and communion with God. Which do you choose?