For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
St. Paul, writing by inspiration of the Lord, writes first what sounds to our ears as very harsh. Just a few chapters before, he wrote that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). These words exclude no one. They include everyone, for that word “all” is wholly inclusive. Sin is described as “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Indeed, it is! Sin is the breaking of God’s commandments. It is disobedience to God’s Holy Word. Here there is no discrimination. Everyone is in the same boat as the other. “No one is righteous,” acceptable in God’s sight (Psalm 14:1-3;’ 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10). All are therefore deserving of death, even eternal death, because of all that we think, do, and believe contrary to God’s Word and will.
We would like to think that things are not so bad. We naturally minimize our sin. “I didn’t mean to do it.” “That was not my intention.” “I was only trying to help.” “I really didn’t know.” But by these we only try to cover up what God already knows (Psalm 19:12). Though we try to convince others and ourselves otherwise, we are not able to convince God. His Word is too strong. Before Him, there is no way of weaseling ourselves out of our own sinfulness. We are stuck in the hole and cannot escape. We are falling and cannot help ourselves or any other out. We are trapped.
Like the mouse running through the maze trying to get to the cheese, so human reason seeks the goal of easing the conscience that we feel better about ourselves. The problem is, there is no end to this maze. We will only keep running. And though rest might come for a time, the unrest of a guilty conscience and shamefulness for words and actions still will come.
Sinners cannot save themselves. They cannot minimize their sin. Nor can they escape what is according to their sinful human nature. The only true and lasting salvation must come from outside of the sinner and apart from human reason. Human reason cannot mitigate God’s decrees, nor can it understand God’s promises. “The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Such gift is through faith, not in one’s own works, but in Christ’s works.
Rather than minimize sin, Christians recognize it for what it truly is and what it truly merits, according to God’s Word. And in doing so, they also recognize the only help that is available for it—Jesus Christ, who through His own death put sin to death and gives forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe in Him. Amen.
“Human reason would like sin to have no greater force and power than it itself dreams of. Although hypocrites, who do not know Christ, may feel sorry for sin, they still suppose that they can get rid of it easily by their works and merits.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p34).
Prayer: Righteous Judge, forgive me for believing that my sin is not as great as You Yourself reveal to me. Help me to see my sin rightly, that I believe in Your abundant grace more firmly. Save me only for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Filed under: Confession & Absolution-The Office of the Keys, Devotions, Justification & Sanctification-The Christian Faith & Good Works, Salvation-Soteriology | Tagged: death, eternal life, Gift, Jesus Christ, salvation, sin |