Paying Sin’s Price

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

Christ paid a debt He did not owe to free us from a debt we could not pay.

In the scientific realm there are universal laws, such as the law of gravity. These laws are built into the creation by its all-wise Creator and keep it functioning normally.

Just as God has made inexorable laws to govern the physical dimension, so also has He decreed universal spiritual principles. The most significant of those spiritual laws is that sin demands death; death is the wages sin pays. The Greek word translated “wages” was commonly used to speak of giving compensation for service rendered. When God sentences sinners to Hell, He is merely giving them the compensation that they have earned and that His justice demands.

In sharp contrast to the inexorable law of sin and death is the gracious “free gift of God”—“eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eternal life is not a wage but a gift, and hence it can’t be earned. Good works, church attendance, or religious rituals will not entitle anyone to it. After recounting his religious credentials—credentials unsurpassed in first-century Judaism (Gal. 1:14)—Paul dismissed them as “loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil. 3:7).

The free gift of eternal life comes only through “Christ Jesus our Lord.” In Acts 4:12 Peter declared that “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” And in John 14:6 Jesus said simply, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15)!

Suggestions for Prayer

Have you lost touch with the reality that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:2)? If so, spend some time in prayer today, thanking God for giving you eternal life.

For Further Study

What do the following passages teach about the possibility of earning eternal life: Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16; 3:11; Philippians 3:9; Titus 3:5?



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Serving A New Master

“I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification” (Romans 6:19).

You must live consistent with your new nature.

It is a truism that in the spiritual realm, no one stands still. Sin leads to more sin, while holy living leads to further righteousness. All unbelievers are slaves of sin and have no choice but to sin; yielding to sin comes naturally to them. They are inwardly full of “impurity” and hence outwardly given to “lawlessness.” They continually spiral downward; sin leads to more sin, which leads in turn to still more sin. Ultimately, sin will drag a person into the depths of Hell.

For Christians, however, the spiral is an upward one. Having become new creatures at salvation (2 Cor. 5:17), believers are no longer servants of sin. The Christian life is the process of bringing one’s lifestyle into line with one’s nature. As believers “present their members as slaves to righteousness,” the inevitable result is further “sanctification.” Decreasing frequency of sin, therefore, is a sure sign of a mature believer.

Paul knew all too well from his own experience that the believer’s body is a battleground. In his spiritual autobiography he wrote, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:21-24).

How are you faring in the daily battle with sin? If victories are few and far between, perhaps you have forgotten Paul’s exhortation to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray with the psalmist, “Establish my footsteps in Thy word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me” (Ps. 119:133).

For Further Study

Identify one area in which you lack self-control. Use a concordance to see what Proverbs teaches about your problem.



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Slaves Of Righteousness

“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).

True freedom comes from being a servant of Jesus Christ.

I once knew a man who, though intellectually convinced that the gospel was true, balked at committing his life to Jesus Christ. When I asked him why, he replied, “Because I don’t want to give up my freedom.” He understood clearly that genuine saving faith requires submission to Christ’s lordship. But he was tragically deceived in thinking that non-Christians are free—they aren’t. Unbelievers are slaves to sin (John 8:34). Only Christians have true freedom (John 8:31-32)—the freedom not to sin.

Paul reminded the Roman Christians that before they were saved, they ”were slaves of sin.” The apostle’s use of the imperfect tense indicates that the Romans, like all unbelievers, had been in a continual state of slavery to sin. Every human ever born—since Adam and Eve plunged the human race into sin—has been born enslaved to sin—except of course, for Christ.

When a person comes to faith in Christ, he or she becomes “obedient from the heart” to the Lord Jesus Christ. A Christian’s initial act of obedience, repenting and believing the gospel message (Mark 1:15), is the first step in a lifelong path of obedience. In the words of the apostle Peter, Christians are those who “have in obedience to the truth purified [their] souls” (1 Peter 1:22).

Paradoxically, it’s only those who have made themselves servants of Jesus Christ who are truly free. They alone are free to do what is right; even unbelievers’ “good deeds” are sinful, since they aren’t done to glorify God. Christian liberty is not the freedom to choose to sin, but the freedom to choose not to.

Renew today your commitment to be an obedient servant of God, knowing that “you are not your own. For you have been bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for freeing you from slavery to sin.
  • Ask Him to show you those areas in your life that you have not yielded fully to Him.

For Further Study

  • Memorize Matthew 5:6; 1 Timothy 6:10-12; and Hebrews 12:14.
  • Ask God to help you pattern your life after Jesus Christ.



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Serving A New Master

“I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification” (Romans 6:19).

You must live consistent with your new nature.

It is a truism that in the spiritual realm, no one stands still. Sin leads to more sin, while holy living leads to further righteousness. All unbelievers are slaves of sin and have no choice but to sin; yielding to sin comes naturally to them. They are inwardly full of “impurity” and hence outwardly given to “lawlessness.” They continually spiral downward; sin leads to more sin, which leads in turn to still more sin. Ultimately, sin will drag a person into the depths of Hell.

For Christians, however, the spiral is an upward one. Having become new creatures at salvation (2 Cor. 5:17), believers are no longer servants of sin. The Christian life is the process of bringing one’s lifestyle into line with one’s nature. As believers “present their members as slaves to righteousness,” the inevitable result is further “sanctification.” Decreasing frequency of sin, therefore, is a sure sign of a mature believer.

Paul knew all too well from his own experience that the believer’s body is a battleground. In his spiritual autobiography he wrote, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:21-24).

How are you faring in the daily battle with sin? If victories are few and far between, perhaps you have forgotten Paul’s exhortation to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray with the psalmist, “Establish my footsteps in Thy word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me” (Ps. 119:133).

For Further Study

Identify one area in which you lack self-control. Use a concordance to see what Proverbs teaches about your problem.



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.

Liberty Or License?

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:15-16).

Freedom from sin does not mean freedom to sin.

From Paul’s day until now, the gospel of grace has been accused of providing license to sin. If salvation is the gift of God’s grace, legalists argue, wholly apart from human works, what will motivate people to lead holy lives? In the face of such opposition, Paul never gave an inch on the vital issue of salvation by grace—and neither can we. The Bible teaches a salvation that is entirely by God’s free grace through faith and in which human works play no part.

But there is a second way in which the doctrine of salvation by grace may be perverted. Fulfilling the legalists’ fears, some believe that since God’s grace covers all their sins, they can live as they choose. In today’s passage Paul addresses that error.

The very thought of a Christian living in persistent, habitual sin horrified Paul. To the hypothetical question “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” Paul responded emphatically, “May it never be!” As in verse 2, the apostle used the strongest form of negation in the Greek language. In our English vernacular, Paul was saying “Ridiculous! Impossible! No way!” He went on to point out the self-evident truth that no one can serve two masters. Everyone is either a servant of sin or a servant of God; there is no third option. And the one to whom people habitually yield their obedience is their real master, no matter what they may claim.

Don’t be deceived by those who claim that since Christians are forgiven, they can therefore sin at will. Such people know nothing of God’s grace, which, far from giving us license to sin, “instruct[s] us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His grace, which is always greater than your sin (Rom. 5:20).

For Further Study

Read Joshua 24:14-27; Matthew 4:8-11; and 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9. Spend some time in prayer, asking God to help you renew your commitment to serve Him.



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.