In my last post, we looked at the phrase “wages of sin” from Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Today is a bit more encouraging as we look closer at this “free gift of God” that is “eternal life”.
The words used for “eternal life” here are used in many places throughout scripture. There are times it’s used to talk about a destination, or something that will happen “someday”. (Matthew 25:46) But this isn’t necessarily the only way it’s used. Just as the “wages of sin” doesn’t have to mean eternal punishment…the words here offer so much more than a “someday” understanding. As NT Wright has written:
“But ‘eternal life’ does not mean’ continuing existence.’ It refers neither to a state of timelessness, nor simply to ‘linear time going on and on.’In its original Jewish context the phrase fairly certainly refers to ‘the life of the age to come.’ The ‘present age/ according to some Jewish thought, would give way to ‘the age to come.’ One of the great beliefs of the early Christians was that God had already kick-started the ‘age to come,’ even though the ‘present age’ was still in some sense continuing. The new world order that God was to bring to birth had, they believed, already begun, and those who were Christ’s had already entered upon it. The life proper to the new age, the new aion in Greek, had already begun. The phrase ‘eternal life’ should not, therefore, be read as though it meant a spaceless, timeless existence. It should refer to a new (age/mode of existence) which God will create in the renewal of all things.“
The “gift of God”, therefore, comes as much more of a readily available opportunity and invitation today, than a “someday we’ll be with Jesus in Heaven” type understanding. The fact that as we live “in Jesus name (nature)”, we have access to the ability, by His Spirit, to live from the life of the “age to come”!!! That can be a confusing concept, so let me break it down more simply:
1. Jesus has been physically resurrected (“firstborn from among the dead”- Colossians 1:18) as the first bit of “New Creation”, an actual physical existence we all look forward to someday as God brings together Heaven and Earth and makes all things new. (see Revelation)
2. Even though we cannot yet be swallowed up by this new way of “being” (2 Corinthians 5:4), we can still exist resourced in the same life that is the source of that New Creation (age to come). This is the gift of God that comes in overwhelming response to the threat of the “wages of sin”. We not have have to continue paying the wages for sin, because we have been set free, and given a source of overcoming the cycles and identity of those who choose their own way.
Add into all of this, the fact that the word for “gift” is “charisma”…the root word of which is “grace”. There is nothing we’ve done to deserve this, or earn this, but it comes as a truly free gift of Love from a God who looks at His creation with a desire to bring healing, redemption, and renewal.
May we continue to offer this “gift of God” to our children on a regular basis, as their understanding will change/grow with their age/experience. May we never offer it as a carrot on a stick to shape their behavior, but rather a source of identity to be claimed TODAY as they live their lives as citizens of the Kingdom that is, and is to come!!!