Our Record of Debt

Our Record of Debt

Day 8 – Our Record of Debt

Read Colossians 2:6-15; Hebrews 10:1-14; Matthew 18:21-35

Yesterday we looked at how the Old Testament law demanded the sacrifice of a spotless lamb. God, dwelling in infinite holiness, demanded that sin be atoned for on a yearly basis. The system seemed to work well for a while, but it was imperfect. It was imperfect because it was never meant to be a permanent solution. It was imperfect because the blood of animals is utterly incapable of removing the stain, the guilt and the shame of sin. The author of Hebrews explains, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).  If this is true, and it is, then why did it matter? Why did the Israelites go through these yearly rituals, over and over again, offering imperfect sacrifices through an imperfect system with imperfect motives offered by imperfect people? It mattered because of what, or rather, WHO it pointed to. It mattered because it foreshadowed the coming of Jesus, the perfect, sinless, spotless lamb. The writer of Hebrews continues, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God” (10:12).

The law, then, was a shadow (Hebrews 10:1). It pointed to the perfect One who would come and perfect the sacrificial system. The deck was stacked against us. What we needed was a cancelling of our debt. The law demanded perfection. The law demanded sinlessness.  But no human being had ever been able to meet either of these demands. Until … Jesus. Paul explains in Colossians how this debt was cancelled. He says, “by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).

There it is. The demands of the law were met through the sacrifice of Jesus, the only sinless, spotless lamb. Our debt was nailed to the cross, its demands fully met through the death of Jesus.

John Piper asks, “How was this damning record nailed to the cross? Parchment was not nailed to the cross. Christ was. So Christ became my damning record of bad (and good) deeds” (John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ, Crossway Books, p.33). That’s one of the incomprehensible paradoxes of the Gospel. Jesus was damned so I could go free.

There’s a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 18 that illustrates the extent to which we have been forgiven by Christ. In this parable, there were two servants who both owed a financial debt to their masters. The first servant (we’ll call Bill) owed an astronomical amount of debt, but was mercifully forgiven by his master. The amount was 10,000 talents, equalling an unimaginable 200,000 years worth of wages. Having been forgiven and released, Bill then paid a visit to his servant (we’ll call Dan) who owed a financial debt to Bill. Bill forcefully demanded that Dan pay up, grabbed him by the collar (or robe, or tunic, or whatever it may have been), and began choking the air out of him. Dan pleaded for his life and begged that Bill be patient with him while he came up with the money. But Bill bitterly refused and threw him in prison. A display of this proportion could only mean one thing:  Dan must have owed Bill an even more unfathomable amount of money than Bill owed, for surely Bill had now understood mercy, right?  Well, actually, no.  In reality, the amount that Dan owed Bill was a mere 100 denarii, or 100 days’ wages–just a drop in the bucket in comparison to Bill’s debt. Unbelievably, Bill, who had been forgiven the most, refused to show Dan the same mercy.

Jesus’ point was simple. We had an unpayable, astronomical, inconceivable debt on our shoulders–a debt that could not be repaid in a thousand lifetimes. When we refuse to forgive our brother for an offense that is laughable in comparison, it means that we have drastically misunderstood both the gravity of our sin debt and the mercy and forgiveness that was extended to us by God. It is nothing less than a blatant mockery of the crucifixion of our Lord–the One who gave his very life to cancel the record of debt that was on our shoulders.

The truth is, we can only appreciate the mercy and forgiveness of God when we understand the infinite record of debt stacked against us.

Challenge Question:

  • In what ways was Christ the fulfillment of the “shadows” of the law?
  • How does understanding your astronomical sin debt bring a greater appreciation for the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus?
  • If you harbor unforgiveness in your heart toward a brother or sister, what does that say about your understanding of the Gospel?
  • Spend some time thanking Jesus for the sin debt that He cancelled on your behalf. Ask Him to show you if you are harboring any unforgiveness toward anyone.