As a college student I am very good friends with Mr. Debt. Having to owe money is not a nice thing when you start realizing that one (and soon) you’ll be paying it all back (and for a very long time)—I guess it’s that way with most people (that are poor). On my side of the bill (no pun intended) I’m doing everything within my power to incur the least debt as possible knowing that it’ll one day affect my future education plan, my marriage plans, and with enough foresight, my children’s plans. I will one day pay it all back in one form or another.
Do you ever stop to realize that we all share one debt that one day we all will have to pay for? It’s a debt that is not optional but comes with the package of just being human. It isn’t for school and it isn’t for a mortgage; it isn’t for a car and it isn’t for a house. In fact, it doesn’t even exist materially (insofar as it cannot be paid with any material asset). What I’m referring to is our sin debt. We all carry this debt on our accounts whether we realize it or not—its existence is not dependent on our knowledge or assent to it, it’s outside of our control.
The apostle Paul traces this debt all the way to the early days of the world, saying, “. . . [T]hrough one man [Adam; cf. Gen. 3] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. . .” (Rom. 5:12). Adam passed down to all of us our natural bent to sin. Ain’t that something special! From the moment we are born our sin is present as David makes clear, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5). In Romans we find a dark picture for mankind, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and then with a strong follow-up, “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).
In the garden of Eden (before the Fall [in chapter 3]), God warned Adam, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:16,17). One must see the full scope of “death” as the Bible describes it. It is death physically, but it is also death spiritually. In other words, spiritual separation from God occurred when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. God mercifully spared Adam and he lived to be nine—hundred and thirty years (Gen. 5:5) but spiritually, there was a debt to be paid that could not be escaped.
In our complete absence of good we are dead in our transgressions (Col. 2:13a), which only adds to the utter helplessness. We are unable to pay back God even if we mustered enough willpower to somehow appease Him for our sin. The inescapable result is death—to be banished eternally from God presence.
Being in that predicament God “. . .made [us] alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:13b,14).
Do we have hope? An emphatic yes! Our Savior bore the sins that we committed and the wrath of God was poured on Him. Having abolished sin by His death, Christ stamped “PARDONED” on us and more than that, He gave us His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).
In the Old Testament:
“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our wellbeing fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa. 53:4-6).
In the New Testament:
“Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. . . .He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:16-17,21).
That is the heart of the gospel. Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, who “knew no sin,” didn’t sin, but became sin for what?. . .so that we would become the righteousness of God. Our disobedient lives were traded in for the sinless and righteous life of Christ.
Our “certificate of debt” (Col. 2:14) was, along with Christ, nailed on the cross where He gave up His spirit saying, “It is finished!” (Jn. 19:30). At that moment, the entire work of Christ redeeming His own and canceling their sin and giving them His righteousness had been complete. The love and justice of God had been met and the words of John 3:16 never rung truer,
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
While in this life I’ll be paying off debt for a while, there is one debt that has been paid for already. I rest assured in the grace of God who loved me and gave His own Son for me. I place my trust in Him and He gives me all that ever matters: being with Him forever. Remove all else in this life and one thing remains intact—my debt has been paid and I belong to Him.