by Lasserre Bradley, Jr.
If we were to go down to Fountain Square today and stop people on the street and ask them, “Do you need a Savior?” you’d probably get a lot of interesting answers. There’s a great emphasis put on independence and self-reliance in this country. People like to feel that they can chart their own course, plan their life according to their own desires, and that as far as eternity is concerned they’re about as good as the next fellow, maybe a little better. Surely if there is a heaven, if there is a hell, all will be well with them because they’re not all that bad.
Today in many churches the emphasis is put on entertaining people. A man said to me recently, “I enjoy the church I attend, because I go out of there just feeling great. I’m really uplifted.” But, you see, we are not always supposed to feel good when we come away from an encounter with God’s Word. Jesus Christ came to this earth to do the Father’s will. He came that He might accomplish a purpose that would ultimately be to His glory because of His success in redeeming a people. He was successful in the work that He came to perform, but He didn’t come just to make life easier for somebody. He came actually to redeem a people who were under the curse and condemnation of sin. To diminish the mission and work of Jesus Christ is to diminish His glory for taking our place on the cross and paying for our hideous sins. We should never dress the cross up and try to make it look pretty—it is gory with the blood of the Son of God, shed for our heinous sins.
According to the Scriptures, “…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” All are justly condemned and—apart from God’s mercy, apart from the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ—all would suffer the wrath of God forever.
Jesus took our place when He suffered on the cross. He was our substitute, which means that you and I deserved what He got. That puts the redemptive work of Jesus Christ in an entirely different focus, if you understand that apart from it we all would have been lost, suffering God’s vengeance forever. He did not come just to make life better, but to save and redeem a people from condemnation. I’ve talked to people who have gone to church basically all of their life and yet seem to have little understanding about the very basic subject of salvation. I want to speak to you this morning on the subject “Why You Need Salvation.”
My text is Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Paul is dealing with some very practical issues in this sixth chapter of Romans. He says in the sixth verse, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” He’s telling God’s people that because of their relationship with Jesus Christ, because of their vital union with Him, that now they are free from the dominion of sin. Verse 14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
In the process of dealing with these practical truths of our Christian walk, Paul then sets forth two vital truths, in verse 23, that have broad implications for us. The first of these is the simple statement, “For the wages of sin is death…” This has reference to the rations that were given to soldiers, soldiers who were paid to fight. After they fulfilled their role, after they fought in the battle, they received their wages. And Paul says that you are likewise going to be paid.
When you’re under the dominion of sin, you are serving sin, the wages you’re going to be paid is death. Romans 5:12 confirms this reality, saying, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…” By one man—by the man Adam—sin entered into the world. Adam willfully transgressed the law of God. Adam rebelled against his Maker by eating the fruit that was forbidden. And so death came by sin, and death passed upon all men because all have sinned. Death came as a result of sin.
Death still comes as a result of sin, sometimes instantly. The Scriptures reveal to us that God has at times brought immediate death, immediate judgment, upon those who have rebelled against Him. In Leviticus 10 we read about the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, who offered strange fire upon the altar. That may seem like an insignificant matter to some today, and really what difference does it make? It looks like one fire would be as good as another fire. But God had His order and arrangement as to how they were to approach Him in worship. And these two young men, ignoring the divine order, took it upon themselves to offer strange fire — and God struck them dead. Aaron held his peace, knowing that God is sovereign and holy, that what God does it right; he did not offer any complaint though these two young sons met an immediate death. With the thinking that’s prevalent in our day some may say, “I just can’t believe that God would do that.” But God did that, and God saw to it that it was recorded so we would know about it.
He obviously wanted us to know that—as a holy God—He has the right to judge us who transgress His law, in whatever time and manner He sees fit.
“…the wages of sin is death.” And there is coming a second death, a final separation. There is coming a time when all the wicked will be banished from the presence of God. They will die that which is called in the Bible the “second death,” an everlasting existence in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:7,8). Not annihilation, but total and final separation from God in hell. In Matthew 25 we read that there’s a separation between the sheep (His people) and the goats (reprobates) in the final day. And in the 41st verse Jesus says, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels…”
Now we learn in Scripture that, because judgment does not always come on the same day in which sin is committed, the wicked assure themselves that there’s no cause for alarm. But those who have come under the curse and condemnation of sin—apart from the salvation that there is in Jesus Christ—will ultimately inhabit that place prepared for the Devil and his angels. You may have had some seasons in this life when you felt like you had a little hell on earth. Maybe you suffered the consequences of your sin. Maybe you struggled with a guilty conscience. Maybe you feared the outcome of some of your actions. But think of it — ultimately separated from God forever!
As long as we’re here—even in the midst of our doubts and fears and apprehensions and our struggles—”we have hope that somehow we can call upon God and that He will hear us. But this is a final separation. The fearful, the unbelieving, the abominable will be cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. “…the wages of sin is death.”
Man is born a sinner. David confessed that he was formed in iniquity and conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5). Psalm 58:3 describes us as coming out of the womb speaking lies. We are born with a sinful nature. We don’t have to be trained to sin, we don’t have to be put into a bad environment in order to sin. We lie and steal and cheat on our own, because we are sinful by nature.
Sometimes you’ll hear a person say, “I know this individual has done some bad things but, you know, basically they really have a good heart.” But that’s exactly where the problem is — it’s in the heart! “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our inclination in human nature is to think better of ourselves than we ought to think. We like to compare ourselves with ourselves. Notice how good you can feel if you pick out somebody that really is a terribly corrupt individual, and you can think, “I’m not perfect, but I’ve never gone that far. I’ve never done what that person’s done. At least I’m better than they are.” Oh, the self-righteousness, the deceit of the human heart, for a person to think, “I really don’t need a Savior. I’m a pretty good person. I’ll take my chances.”
We’ve seen clear evidence of how violent man really is apart from the grace of God in these recent years. We cringe at the thought of lives that are snuffed out by suicide bombers. We are all appalled to see terrorists fly airplanes into office towers full of people. One thing that struck me in my recent trip to the Philippines was to see how much effort has to be put forth today to try and spot terrorists and try to protect travelers and try to protect people who go into certain buildings. How can anybody say that man is basically good when you see the violence that is perpetrated, the wickedness and corruption of the human heart? And this is exactly what the Scriptures tell us. His mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; his feet are swift to shed blood. You may say today, “I can understand why God’s wrath would be meted out against people like that. I can understand why at the last day God would condemn Hitler, who was responsible for so many deaths, to final destruction.” But you see there’s another side of it that’s a little more difficult to comprehend, but is vital to understanding our position before a perfect and holy God. James helps us to this.
James explains that, “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law” (2:10). This is sin from God’s perfect perspective. You might select a number of great sins and say, “I haven’t done that, I haven’t even thought about that, I haven’t even been inclined to that.” But when you’ve offended in one point you’re still guilty, you’re still justly, fairly condemned before God. God is a holy God and demands perfection. Jesus tells us that the first commandment is to love the Lord, our Creator, with all our heart and soul and mind (Matthew 22:37).
While we might be able to name a whole list of sins that we have not committed, that is one command we all have omitted. Surely that is nobody who could honestly say, “All my life I have loved God supremely. Every decision I’ve made, every thought I’ve had, everything that’s motivated me — it has all been because I loved God perfectly and supremely.” Think about the days that you’ve had little thought about God. Think about the decisions you’ve made when you never even consulted Him. Think about how many times you’ve been concerned about yourself, your comfort, your well-being, you wanted to be entertained, you wanted to be recognized, you wanted to be appreciated, you wanted to be applauded. So although your life may seem to be superior to someone else’s, you too are a violator of the law of God because you haven’t loved Him with your entire heart, soul, and mind. So if you were expecting to stand in the presence of God on the basis of what a good job you’ve done, you’ve missed it. You’ve missed it!
You only have to commit one crime to be a crook, and you only have to fall short in one area to be guilty before a perfect God.
This is why even “getting religion” or “being virtuous” is not the way to salvation. Matthew 7:21 says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” What’s that teaching us? Just because it may appear on the surface that a person is doing that which is good does not mean they are reconciled to God.
Hebrews 11 says, in the sixth verse, “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” A person may do many “good” deeds, but whatsoever is not of faith is sin. No matter how worthy the action may appear to be, if it’s not in faith, and to the honor and praise of Jesus Christ, it’s empty. It doesn’t mean anything. “You who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power…” (2 Thessalonians 1:7).
Seeing that “…the wages of sin is death…” the text says, “…the gift of God is eternal life…” I hope that from what we have reviewed thus far you see that salvation must be by the grace of God. We started out with the question, “Why do you need to be saved? Why do you need salvation?” I hope that you can see from what the Scriptures declare that man is fallen and that even your righteousnesses are as filthy rags and you have nothing of yourself to plead before God. “…the wages of sin is death…” But here’s the contrast, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
When you see that you have sinned—you have not loved God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength and as a result His wrath is upon you—then your only hope is in His mercy. This salvation is the gift of God. It must be a gift because there’s nothing that the sinner could do to purchase it — no work that we could perform, no effort that we could put forth in order to recommend ourselves to God. It is by His grace. Titus 3:3 says, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” There we are in our fallen state, there we are far from God, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared…” how was it? “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost…”
This is God’s gift of grace. The gift of God is given you by His divine and sovereign grace.
The words of Jesus as recorded in the gospel of John speak of it as being a gift. Speaking of His sheep, He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (10:28). It’s not something you can buy, it’s not something you earn, it’s not something you deserve. It’s a free gift.
Salvation is a gift. As God moves upon that stony heart and gives the heart of flesh and makes one willing in the day of His power (Psalm 110:3), repentance is granted. Acts 11:18 says that God granted repentance to the Gentiles. In the hardness of your heart, in the rebellion of your nature, you never would have repented. You never would have acknowledged your sin; you never would have come to Him apart from His divine sovereign grace.
You may say, “Today I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and, if so, I rejoice to hear that; but I want to tell you that the faith by which you believe is God’s gift. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” No place to glory, all of it is given by Him. Jesus says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…” (6:44). Man will not come, he cannot come, he doesn’t fear God, he doesn’t seek God, he doesn’t love Jesus Christ, he doesn’t respond to the gospel — so if you are drawn to Him, it is because He has drawn you to Him by His free and sovereign grace. Everything that you need in this salvation is in Jesus Christ. He’s not part of it; He’s all of it. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”
You may ask, “How can I know that this gift is mine? It’s a marvelous thing to read about.” You may say, “I can relate to what he says, ‘…the wages of sin is death...’ I’ve suffered in my life the consequences of sin. There’ve been times when I’ve felt to be dried up and barren and dead. But how could I know that this gift of salvation is mine?” Jesus says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life…”
Is the crucified Christ your hope today? Christ is the heart of the gospel.
Paul said, “we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22). Is the gospel of Jesus Christ good news to you today? That’s an evidence you’ve been drawn and called effectually by the Holy Spirit. Does the gospel make sense to you? Is it good news to you? As Paul emphasizes, “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance… and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (see 1 Thessalonians 1:4-9).
Why do you need salvation? Because in your fallen nature you are a sinner guilty, corrupt and condemned before God. Even if your moral status is such that others would commend you, you haven’t loved God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength. But the hope for fallen sinners is that Jesus Christ gave Himself to die and put away our sin. Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
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