The Gospel in One Verse
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23, ESV).
Wages are what we receive in exchange for our work. If we work at Starbucks, we receive wages for serving up coffee. If we sin against God, we receive wages for our disobedience.
Sin is when we disobey God, whether willfully (that is, on purpose) or inadvertently (that is, either on accident or out of so-called ignorance).
Death is what we rightly deserve as the wages of our sin. God gave us life, and He also gave us a few commandments; by disobeying God's commandments (that is, by sinning against God), we no longer deserve the life that He gives. Rather, we deserve death, which rightly brings about separation from God.
But is what is known as an "adversative conjunction." That's just a fancy way of saying that "but" sets up something that is in opposition to something else. In other words, "The wages of sin is death, but the story thankfully doesn't end there." This is a huge "but." Because of our sin, we all deserve death and eternal separation from God. But...
A free gift is completely undeserved. There is nothing we do to deserve gifts; rather, they are given to us by givers out of their generosity. God, out of His infinite love and generosity, has chosen to give a free gift to those who would turn to Him by faith for salvation.
God alone is the giver of this free gift. There is nothing we could ever do to deserve it on our own; rather, God gives us the gift out of His unsurpassable mercy. God alone is the author of salvation. For us, salvation is the free gift of God.
Eternal life is the result of God's free gift to those who turn to Him by faith for salvation. Compare the idea of "eternal life" (which is God's gift) with the idea of "death" (which is the wages of our sin). We don't deserve eternal life. We deserve death and eternal separation from God in a place called hell. "But the free gift of God is eternal life." But the story doesn't end there.
Christ Jesus is the only way we can receive God's free gift of eternal life. Because God is perfect, He cannot tolerate our sin. In other words, our sin separates us from God and there is nothing we can do to repair our relationship with God. But God took it upon Himself (literally) to repair our relationship with Him. Some 2,000 years ago, God took on the flesh (that is, He became a person) in the form of Jesus Christ. He proceeded to live a perfect life wholly devoid of sin. Since Jesus never sinned, He did not owe the wages of sin, namely, death. In other words, Jesus did not deserve to die. Yet nevertheless, Jesus died on a Roman cross as a substitutionary, atoning sacrifice for our sins, and three days later, He triumphantly conquered death by resurrecting from the grave. That means Jesus' physical death served as an acceptable substitution for our spiritual deaths, and His sacrifice atoned (that is, made amends or reparation) for our sins. The Bible says that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9).
A Lord is someone who has authority over another. Jesus is the Lord of Lords, and the King of Kings. He alone can rightly claim Lordship over us. The Bible says that one day, every knee will bow at the name of Jesus and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11). Those that confess Jesus as Lord during this lifetime will experience eternity with God in heaven. Those who refuse to confess Jesus as Lord during this lifetime will experience death and eternal separation from God in a place called hell. Choose to make Jesus the Lord of your life today, and choose to submit to His Lordship over your life. Surrendering to Jesus' Lordship means obeying God's commands as presented in the Bible. These are summed up in what is known as the "Great Commandment," namely, to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37, 39).
If you just decided to submit your life to the Lordship of Christ, or if you would like more information regarding how to go about doing so, please contact Pastor Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org so that he may rejoice with you in your decision and so that he can offer you guidance as you begin your new walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Or if you'd prefer, talk to somebody at a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church. If you live in the United States, you can find such a church in your area by using the SBC Church Search.
You might also find the following internet resource helpful: Randy D. Raysbrook's "One-Verse Evangelism: How to Share Christ's Love Conversationally & Visually."