“The wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 6:23, New World Translation.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 6:23, New International Version.
Meaning of Romans 6:23
With these words, the apostle Paul explains that humans die because they are sinful. However, God offers his faithful worshippers a wonderful prospect—the gift of everlasting life.
“The wages sin pays is death.” All people are born imperfect and thus have a tendency to sin.a (Psalm 51:5; Ecclesiastes 7:20) Because they are born in a sinful state, humans inevitably grow old and die.—Romans 5:12.
To illustrate this point, Paul compares sin to a master who pays wages. Just as a worker expects a wage for his work, so humans can expect to die because of their imperfect condition.
However, Paul also explains that a person “who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” (Romans 6:7) When a person dies, he is set free, or released, from any sins he has committed. That is why there is no reason to think that the dead continue to suffer somewhere because of their past mistakes. In fact, the Bible clearly states that the dead can neither think nor act nor feel anything.—Ecclesiastes 9:5.
“But the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus.” In contrast to the “wages” sin pays, God offers the gift of eternal life. The original word for “gift” can also be translated “undeserved gift” or “gracious gift.” It refers to something given that is unmerited. No sinful human can earn salvation and eternal life. (Psalm 49:7, 8) However, God freely gives the priceless gift of everlasting life to those who exercise faith in Jesus.—John 3:16; Romans 5:15, 18.
Context of Romans 6:23
Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome about 56 C.E. Some of those Christians at that time appear to have had wrong ideas about God’s mercy. Influenced by Greek philosophy, they may have reasoned that the more they sinned, the more they could benefit from God’s forgiveness. (Romans 6:1) Others may have argued that they were not accountable for their errors because they were no longer under the Mosaic Law. (Romans 6:15) In his letter, Paul emphasizes that Christians cannot benefit from God’s mercy if they allow sin to dominate their lives.—Romans 6:12-14, 16.
Paul’s words reassure God’s worshippers today that although they are born sinful, they still have a hope. If they obey God’s moral standards and do not give in to their wrong desires, God promises to give them everlasting life.—Romans 6:22.
Watch this short video to see an overview of the book of Romans.