It's needful that we study here because the devil has gone into the religious business today. The Bible says he has transformed himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), and he's doing a terrible work by mixing sin and righteousness. He actually has people believing they can practice some sin in their life and still be a righteous individual and talk about going to Heaven.
However, if there was anything which Paul preached and made plain, it was the fact that sin and holiness are incompatible. When sin comes in, righteousness goes out, and when righteousness comes in, all sin goes out; they can't dwell in the same place. If sin is there, we are servants of sin. If righteousness is there, we're servants of righteousness.
We want to study about the greatest gift ever offered to man---eternal life. When Paul talks about the wages of sin being death, he's talking about spiritual death. This death simply means separation from God. When a child comes to the age of accountability (knows right from wrong) and breaks God's law and commits sin, there's separation which takes place between him and God. That separation is called spiritual death.
God told Adam, referring to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,"...in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17). After they had sinned and were put out of the Garden of Eden, they lived many years and raised a family. God was not talking about physical death, but a spiritual death. They were driven from God's presence, separated from God. Isaiah 59 says, "...your iniquities have separated between you and your God..." (verse 2). So, as physical death brings separation and we are no longer in fellowship with those who have died physically, even so sin brings about spiritual death, a separation from God.
Paul said in Ephesians 2:1, "And you hath he quickened [or resurrected], who were dead in trespasses and sins." Scripture after Scripture deals with the picture that the sinner is dead to God, separated from or cut off from God. Someone may ask, "Why does he call the wages of sin, death?" Because death, or the understanding of it, is common to all men. It is easy for people to comprehend and understand. Whether they are cultured, refined, or unlearned, all people can understand the term death.
It is used in the Scripture to show the pitiful condition we get ourselves in when we sin against God. When we say "death", either physical or spiritual, it means we are void of any life whatsoever. It would be wonderful if the religious world as a whole could understand this one truth, that sin brings spiritual death.
Sin Produces Death
Sin doesn't make us sick. The religious world says the drunkard is sick, the liar is sick, the murderer is sick, etc. No, not sick; they are dead, spiritually dead. When we fall under the power of spiritual death because of committed sin, all we have to do is nothing to be eternally lost from God.
Through committed sin, we fall under the power of spiritual death. Jesus came into this world and said, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25). Jesus is the only one who can give life, and when we refuse Him, we remain under the power of spiritual death. If physical death comes on us in this condition, we will be under the power of eternal death, separated from God for time and eternity.
The picture of death through the Scriptures, portraying a man or woman in sin, is a picture of void and loneliness; it pictures a person without Christ. In Jesus' day, the scribes and Pharisees were very religious folks, but they were yet under the power of spiritual death. All the religious ceremonies they went through could not put life in them. Jesus said, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead men's bones..." (Matthew 23:27). They went through ceremonies which would fix up the outside, but deep down inside, the inner man was just as dead as he ever was.
Religion is still full of whited sepulchers; many have robes on and collars on backwards, but down inside, they are full of dead men's bones. They have never experienced the life which Jesus Christ came to bring. That's why they are against the message of life, holiness, and the high way of living which God has ordained for His people to live by. Man was created in the beginning to live with God, live like God, and live for God. When an individual, just like Adam and Eve, decides to live for himself rather than live for God, he becomes a disobedient creature.
Some people can't understand being alive while you're dead. 1 Timothy 5:6 says, "...she [or he] that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." If we're having too much trouble fighting against the pleasures of this world, we should let God check our spiritual pulse; there may not be a spiritual life left in us.
If men in sin could only realize their true condition, dead, they would quit wasting their time and efforts which they are putting forth to help themselves. A sick man may take a treatment and get better, but a dead man can't help himself a bit. I hear people "out in sin" say, "I have decided that I'm going to follow the Lord." Well, they're in no shape to decide anything until they receive life.
Let's read Luke 7:11-16: "And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
"And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people."
They were carrying a dead man out of the city. Jesus, who is the resurrection, spoke to the dead son. He sat up, jumped out, and went home with his mother.
Vain Efforts at Resurrection
Now, let's look at Luke 7:11-16 in the light of today's efforts to work with men and women in their spiritually dead condition. We'll see how futile and foolish the efforts really are. Take a look at another funeral train; this time we don't have one who is physically dead, but a sinner who is spiritually dead. Here they come, bringing him out of town. All at once, the funeral train is interrupted as one runs up to the casket and says, "Let me deal with this man. I can bring him just what he needs. All he needs is education." he begins to pull our the science books and books of philosophy and reads page after page to him. After about two hours of wearing himself out, the man is just as dead as he was before.
It seems to me that too many in the religious world forget that birth and life must precede education, but not until people are born again. Mush time is put forth in catechism classes trying to teach people, who go to class dead and come out dead. A dead man can't be educated.
This man walks away and another approaches the casket, "I have the secret of life. All this young man needs is a better environment. Just sweep up good around his casket, plant some flowers, and get everything to look brighter to him; he will come out of it." Our government ought to wake up pretty soon. Social life can't reach the need of man.
So, the funeral train moves on a little space. Another walks up and says, "I can help this young man." He then said, "Young man, make up your mind that you are going to live right, use you willpower." I have worked with person after person---I think of one who said to me, "You can't help me. You'll be like every other preacher I have been to. They always tell me to exert willpower, make up my mind that I am going to quit these things and live different." Then she said, "I have no willpower." I said, "Sister, I know it; sin breaks you down. It captivates you willpower. Men and women in sin are taken captive against their will."
I said, "I'm not going to tell you about using your willpower because I know it's gone. I'm talking about getting to Jesus, where it's God working in you both to will and to do His good pleasure."
Another speaks to the corpse, "Cone on now, young man, reform." He makes a plea like a lot of preachers do in an invitation, "Look at you mother crying, son; you ought to rise up for your mother's sake." After all the pleading, there is no response so he says, "Give me one more opportunity." He then pulls out a card and says, "Sign this, son, and I will take you into the church. Just raise you hand and say, 'I love the Lord Jesus and will never die again as long a I live.' (It may seem foolish to some, but this is what is going on every day.) Raise your right hand, son, and repeat after me." Well, the crowd waits, but there's no response.
About that time, a rabbi walks up and says, "I will tell you what this man needs; he needs the old-time religion. He needs a thorough knowledge of the first five books of Moses. If he can learn the Psalms by heart, he will make it all right." Now, let's reason together. How can a corpse even hear, let alone repeat anything? I teach young preachers whom I work with to remember this: When you go to preach a funeral, or a service where sinners are present, remember that they are spiritually dead in sin. No matter how well you put your message together, no matter how much you speak with understanding, the Holy Ghost is the only one who can get through to these people. The rabbi gave up and the procession started on.
The Resurrection and the Life
Finally, another man walked up and stopped the procession. The men stopped because there was something about His voice which had authority in it. He said, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise" (Luke 7:14). He got up, walked over to his mother, and went home.
Whether it's physical death or spiritual death, there's only One who has the power of resurrection. All the ceremonies we can hold over a sinner, all the things we can take him through, will not quicken him to a new life until he meets Jesus Christ and does what Jesus tells him to. If we do what He tells us to do, He will furnish the power and make us able to do it.
Somebody may ask, "What happened to him when he got out of the casket and walked?" Jesus imparted life. This is exactly what is need first of all. In the lesson, it was physical life which was needed; in the case of the sinner, it is spiritual life which is needed, and Jesus came to bring it.
Our text tells us "...the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." No one will ever enter Heaven without eternal life. We have to receive it here. Why? That is eternity, long, long eternity. Eternal life is God-life. "...from everlasting to everlasting [or from eternity to eternity], thou art God" Moses prayed (Psalm 90:2). Eternal life is God-life, and Jesus came to bring it.
In John 10:10, talking to an audience who was physically alive, Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life..." There's a life which is beyond mortal life. Jesus Christ came that we might have it; He came to give us eternal life.
In 1 Peter 4:5, all men are divided into two classes, "...the quick and the dead." Men put all these names on people, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.; they are men's tags. But according to the Bible, we have either been resurrected and quickened to a new life (born again) and are the "quick," or we are the "dead" in trespasses and sin. We're either a saint or a sinner. As one has said, "Saints don't sin and sinners don't saint. We're either on God's right hand or His left hand: there's no middle ground. We're either saved or lost.
We see people who are very active in physical life and we say that they are very much alive. However, I want us to get the biblical picture. If they haven't been born again, as God looks on them and as the light of God's Word shines down upon them, they are spiritually dead. We speak of temporal life, but God speaks of eternal life, God-life.
Someone may say, "We don't receive eternal life until we receive a new body at the resurrection." On the contrary, 1 John 5:9 and 11 tells us: "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting [or eternal] life" (John 3:16).
Too many confuse eternal life with immortality. Everybody is going to receive an immortal body. The sinner is going to receive an immortal body, but the sinner will never have eternal life if he doesn't receive it right here. So, when Jesus said, "I am come that they [you] might have life...", He was talking about eternal life, a life far beyond this mortal life which all mankind is living.
"Ye Must Be Born Again"
When we consider this life, we realize that there has to be a birth before there can be any life. Apart from a birth, there can be no life, naturally or spiritually. This is why Jesus spoke and said,"...Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). Why again? Every one of our first births was physical; we were born of the flesh. Still, we need another birth, a spiritual birth, or to be born again.
True Christianity is not formal religion. True Christianity is having the life of God in our heart. Just as our natural parents gave us natural birth, God gives us spiritual birth. To be born once is to die twice, but to be born twice is to die once.
Jesus said, "...Ye must be born again." Why? We need a new Father. The Scribes and Pharisees quarreled with Him and said, "We be Abraham's seed..." Jesus replied, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me... Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication [charging Him with being so]..." Jesus then replied, "Ye are of your father the devil..." (John 8:33-44). The devil was their father, and they were acting just like him.
This is the reason we need to be born again---we need a new Father. When we get this new Father, we will act just like Him. Oh, yes! Every born-again Christian lives godly in this present world. Let's read John 1:11-12: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." God doesn't have any sons-in-law, brothers-in-law, etc. Every born-again person is a first-class, first-rate child of God.
This born-again experience brings an instant, radical change in our life. 2 Cor. 5:17 tells us, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works..." This all comes right along with that new birth. We want to help, first of all, the people who say, "I can't do that. I can't live that life." I haven't talked a thing about what you can do; I'm talking about what we allow our Father to do.
We're created unto good works in Christ Jesus; we become a new species. The new birth involves a new species. John 3:6 says, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh..." Man can't cross the species; he has tried and failed. He may obtain new varieties, but he can't obtain new species. God has drawn some lines which man can't cross. The animal will always be animal; the fish is never changed into one of the bird species.
A Change of Nature
When we're "out in sin", we are of one species. When God, through His mighty creative power, recreates us, He makes us a new creature of a new species. 1 John 3:1 says we are so new that the world won't know us because it didn't know Him. Too many are afraid of this divine work; it seems too far-out according to the Bible.
After Jesus told Nicodemus, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," He went on and said, "and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit...Ye must be born again." We need a new Spirit; we need to be born from above. When we are partakers of God's Spirit, we receive a new nature. 2 Peter 1:4 tells us that we become partakers of God's divine nature. What is His divine nature? God is a spirit, and we become partakers of God's Holy Spirit when we are born again.
People who are bound need to understand the Gospel. Paul said in Romans 7:16-17: "If then I do that which I would not [That is what we are doing if we are bound by a habit which we wish we could lay down.]...it's no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." As long as sin is in our heart, we are the servant of sin. Why do men and women sin? The Bible makes it very plain that we do what we do because of what we are. We need to be changed.
In Matthew, Chapter 7, Jesus said, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" (verse 18). The sinner is a bad tree, and the bad tree cannot bring forth good fruit. It's not because he needs to put forth more effort; a bad tree brings forth bad fruit because it's a bad tree. A good tree brings forth the good fruit because it's a good tree. There's no way any man can take a bad tree and make a good one out of it. There's only one, Jesus Christ, who can recreate us and change the species. He can take the "do wrong' out and put the "do right" in.
Sinning is natural, and it's natural to add sin to sin when we're a sinner. We commit sin when we are a sinner for the same reason a dog barks. We have never heard a dog "Meow!" It's just natural for a cow to "Moo". No one has to teach it to. When God makes us a new creature, it will be just as natural for us to live holy and righteous as it is for a cow to "moo" or a dog to "Bow wow". Our nature is changed.
Our old nature used to grump, murmur, complain, talk cross, etc. When we get this change that I'm talking about, old things pass away and all becomes new. 2 Cor. 5:17 tells us, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all [not just some] things are become new."
Too many try to hold onto some old things, while saying they are a Christian and that they have been born again. No, if we've been recreated through the mighty power of God, Jesus has given us power to become the son of God. We become partaker of God's very divine nature.
Paul said in the Roman letter, "...if the root be holy, so are the branches" (Romans 11:16). The Bible lets us know that Christ is the root of David, and He was holy. We have ministers today trying to teach that you don't get holiness like Christ had. They say that you are made holy, but it is not holiness like Jesus had. Nevertheless, there is only one kind of holiness. We become partaker, Paul said, of the root and fatness of the olive tree. What is the root? Jesus Christ is the root and seed of David, and when we are grafted into that living vine, we partake of the fatness of it. We are holy just as He is Holy.
Birth Is Instantaneous
Being born again is a very present experience. In John 3:36 John said, "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." Notice the difference in the wording (it will hold up in the Greek), "he that believeth not"---he didn't say, "he that believeth not on." We can't be on the Son, or standing on Christ, and not believe.
It's a present and instantaneous experience. In Jeremiah 18:7 and 8, God said: "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation...If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them." I brought this Scripture up because there are many books being written about the new birth. Notice the word instant in this Scripture. Some teach that we just get the seed in us when we accept Christ. They say it geminates on through life, and somewhere out in the future, maybe not until Jesus comes again, we will become a true son of God.
Jesus used the word birth...Why? Birth is always instantaneous. It doesn't take us a year to be born, or even six months. I was around when each of our six children were born. When we sent notes out, we told how much the baby weighed, how long it was, and exactly the minute it was born. At 2:12, it wasn't born. At 2:14, it was already born. At 2:13, it was born. One minute we were a sinner, loaded down with sin, bound with the habits of life, taken captive against our will, and pleading with God to have mercy, "I take Jesus as my substitute. I take faith in His shed blood. God, make me new; I want to be born from above." In an instant, we're changed and made a new creature. It doesn't take six months to be born.
It doesn't take a year to be born; this is why we have a birthday. Every one of us can point to the day we were born, physically, and every one of us who have had the experience can point to the time we were born again.
Remember our text, Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life..." This great experience is a gift. Anybody can receive a gift. This is the witness which John said that God has given us, eternal life, and this life is in His Son. When we receive His Son, we receive eternal life; it's a gift.
1 John 5:12 reads, "He that hath the Son hath life..." When we come in old-time repentance and Jesus comes in, eternal life comes in too, because the life is in the Son. If I offer you a gift, one moment you don't have it and the next moment you do. If I offer you a gift, you'll never have it until you reach of it.
Why Do People Perish?
Why do so many people perish? Jesus answers in John 5:40, "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." If we've heard the Gospel, there's only one reason we're still under spiritual death---we will not come to Christ that we might have life." "...the wages of sin is death [spiritual death and separation from God]; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Now, do you have eternal life? Do you have the witness? I know there are times when we must go by faith, but we can have the witness. There will be times when we go through hard places; we will have trials. As far as feeling like shouting or leaping over a troop, we couldn't do it, but we can have the witness. We can look right up to God and say, "Lord, I don't know why I feel so bad today. I don't know why there's no real rejoicing about me, but thank God, I still have the witness. I know I'm still living for you; I have not sinned or disobeyed you. Therefore, I know that Christ is still in my heart, and this life is in the Son and He is still there." Is the Son of God living in your heart right now? This is the witness.