Everything we have we have been given (1 Corinthians 4:7); and the more we have, the more we are in debt to the One who has given it to us. So how is it possible that there is something we do not owe God?
Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30)
All men are debtors to the justice of God. All men, having transgressed the law, are under its condemnation and deserve the wrath of Almighty God. However, for the Christian, the debt to God’s justice has been paid in full by the Lamb of God and is now no longer owed. The Christian will never again be a debtor to the justice of God and will never be called upon to pay the penalty for his or her sins. All those sins were paid for in full on the cross by Jesus, and God will not collect twice for a debt that was paid once for all.
To be sure, there are consequences for our sinful behavior. But those consequences are never punitive. God is not exacting His “pound of flesh” from us because we have sinned and fallen short of the mark set before us by sacred Scripture. He exacted more than His pound of flesh once for all on the cross through the sacrificial death of His precious Son. Charles Spurgeon beautifully captured this truth in a way like few can:
Of the Christian it can be said that he does not owe God’s justice anything, for Christ has paid the debt His people owed; for this reason the believer owes the more to love. I am a debtor to God’s grace and forgiving mercy; but I am no debtor to His justice, for He will never accuse me of a debt already paid. Christ said, “It is finished!” and by that He meant, that whatever His people owed was wiped away forever from the book of remembrance. Christ, to the uttermost, has satisfied divine justice; the account is settled; the handwriting is nailed to the cross; the receipt is given, and we are debtors to God’s justice no longer.
How freeing it is to never have to look over your shoulder, fearing that God may angrily smite you because of your sin! How liberating it is to know that there is no frown on the face of God or clenched teeth when He is looking at you. God is not angry with you, regardless of what you do. You are forever accepted in the beloved . . . you are forever loved in the beloved . . . you are forever forgiven in the beloved. Nothing can change your standing before a holy and just God when you are standing in Christ, covered by His blood poured out for you on the Hill Golgotha.
What freedom we find in this truth! We are no longer under the penalty of your sin, but rather we are under the promise of the finished work of Christ. Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves, and what He has done no one can undo. No one can open a door Jesus shuts or close a door He opens.
So if we are no longer in debt to God’s justice, how should we live? We should live in debt to His grace. His grace sought us. His grace caught us. His grace bought us. The debt we owe is not to justice but to grace. Those who understand this truth live with a joy unspeakable, because all we need we already have in Christ, and all we need to do has already been done by Christ. Give freely of yourself, making yourself a living sacrifice—not because of what you might get from God, but because of what you already have in Jesus.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!