The Debt of Sin Must Be Paid!

urlDuring a war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French Army by a kind of lottery system. When someone’s name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. On one occasion, the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot and killed two years ago.” At first the officials question his sanity, but he insisted that was indeed the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!” He explained that when his name first came up, a close friend said to him, “you have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent on me. I’ll take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed. This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another. This is what God has done for all of us who will receive the full payment of our debt of sin by the sacrifice of Christ

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

In the above scripture, Jesus compares our sins to debts. When we sin we violate the moral law of God and expose ourselves to the penalty of exclusion from God for eternity because of the sin debt that we bring upon ourselves. As debtors of God, in His love for us, He has made a way for us to be forgiven our debt of sin before Him. The only way was for someone to pay the debt. This was what Jesus did at the cross. He died in our place to pay our sin debt and to justify us before God. Here’s how Paul the apostle described what happened at the cross of Christ:

…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith (Romans:3:24-25).

 Simply put, we are justified by God’s goodness to us, just as if we had not sinned. Debt is not a problem confined to the present day; it was a problem in the ancient world as well. If someone had serious debts, their only way out was to sell themselves to pay their debts, either that or the law courts forced slavery upon them. Suppose a friend happened into the market just as he was being sold and asked the price. Suppose that friend then paid his debt and let him go free. He would be redeeming him. In a similar way Jesus paid the “redemption fee” to buy us out of Satan’s slave market of sin.

Paul used the words “justified freely.” Justification is a legal term. If you went to court and were acquitted, you were justified.

Two people went through school and university together and developed a close friendship. Life went on and they both went their different ways and lost contact. One went on to become a judge, while the other one ended up a criminal. One day the criminal appeared before the judge. He had committed a crime to which he pleaded guilty. The judge recognized his old friend, and faced a dilemma. He was a judge so he had to be just; he couldn’t let the man off. On the other hand, he didn’t want to punish the man, because he loved him. So he told his friend that he would fine him the correct penalty for the offense. That is justice. Then he came down from his position as judge and wrote a check for the amount of the fine. He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That is love.

This is an illustration of what God has done for us. In His justice, He judges us because we are guilty, but then, in His love, He came down in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, and paid the penalty for us. In this way He is both ‘just’ (in that He does not allow the guilty to go unpunished), and the one who justifies—Romans 3:26 (in that by taking the penalty Himself, in the person of His Son, He enables us to go free). Isn’t it time you received for yourself the payment of your sin by another—the Lord Jesus?

Keith Thomas

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