Did Jesus "Pay" our "sin debt?"
 Did Jesus "Pay" for us, "purchasing us?"
“What? Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in you, Whom you have of God?
And you are not your own, for you are bought with a price. [YOU ARE BOUGHT with a price!] Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
And Again: “You are bought with a price [YOU ARE BOUGHT with a price!], do not be the slaves of men” (1 Corinthians 7:23).
This doctrine of a sin debt that must be paid to God is ubiquitous throughout Christendom. It is also false, and leads to a complete misunderstanding, and therefore great division in the Boy of Christ and how salvation works.
What is it the doctrine of the Sin Debt, and from whence does it arise?
It is conceived to be a debt owed to God that one incurs by sinning.
It arises from Paul's teachings - misunderstood - and is closely related to the Christian doctrines of substitutionary atonement.
It's essence is this:
>> Every one has sinned and is therefore a sinner.
>> Sin is disobedience to the Law of God,
>> Therefore every sin is an offense to the holy God that incurs the penalty of death.
>> God is just and cannot simply "excuse" sin;
>> Thus we incur a sin debt that we cannot pay for our sins;
>> Every one owes it and it includes both physical and spiritual death.
>> There are no exceptions because all are sinners.
>> No one else can pay the debt for us, because everyone has her or his own debt and only one life by which to pay.
>> However, God loves us, is full of grace and does not want to condemn us.
>> Therefore he has provided a sinless substitute who, having no sin debt of his own, can offer himself in payment for the debt of others provided he identifies with them so as to represent them.
>> He sent his only Son, Jesus, into the world to live a sinless life as a man among men,
>> Then to give up his life, suffering death on the cross as an atoning sacrifice to God for the sins of others.
>> We who are the sinners need do only one thing, which is to accept the death of Jesus as the payment of our sin debt in our behalf, repenting of our sins and confessing them before the Father.
>> Forgiveness is immediate, and it is absolutely free.
>> The sinner then receives the gift of eternal life!
There is a verse of scripture to support every point of the doctrine, and I once would thumb through my Bible, making sure that the lost soul to whom I was witnessing was reading along with me. There is one text in particular, from Paul, to which all such witnesses refer. This is the only one of Paul's texts we will discuss, and that briefly, to illustrate the problems in this application that are typical of all.
Rom.6 For the wages (oywnion, opsonion) of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There is not a word here about debt. Wages is the key word, and is interpreted as meaning debt. This is curious, because it does not at all mean or imply debt. Wages are recompense for services rendered. Paul utilized the same word only once more, shown here, so we can see what he means by it:
2Cor.11 I robbed other churches by accepting support (oyw)nion)) from them in order to serve you.
He received wages for services rendered. The word is appropriate there, so we must assume that he means the same in Rom. 6:23. By sinning, one renders service to God that earns death as his wage!
God is the one who owes the SIN debt! God owes the sinner "Wages" for his sin during the time from his sin until the wage is paid at death.
This is typical of the doctrines of Christians. When put under a glass and carefully examined, in the light of the texts offered in support, the whole thing becomes nonsense and falls apart! I remember the many doubts that began to cloud my heart and mind in the course of soul winning by this means until I could go no further. It was terribly confusing, to say the least, until I acknowledged that the very doctrine I had been promoting as the remedy for sin was itself an offense to God and that of the maximum degree!
Having recognized the error, I was eager, even desperate, to discover the Truth concerning sin, its consequences and its remedy. All along I had been drawn to the utterances of Jesus as they appear in the gospels and my committment was to him and to no other. In time I learned to listen only to him for the Light of Truth, and he has not disappointed me. His promises are these among others:
John.8 If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
John.5 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Following the guidance of the many teachers and mentors who had imposed Christian doctrine on me, I had been listening to the words of others. These included Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Solomon, Paul, Peter, James, and John, as well as Jesus, and I had accepted the interpretations of my teachers and mentors because they were much older and mature in their faith and I respected them. But by examining words of the Lord I began to realize that my elders were grossly in error and had misled me while I, who should have know better, attempted to receive their teaching. I always sensed something was not right.
More and more I listened to Jesus my Lord and I learned. John 5:24 clearly states that eternal life depends wholly on hearing and believing the words of Jesus, which are the words of the Father who sent him. This means that, to receive eternal life, one must believe what Jesus says, whereas I had been tricked into believing something said (by someone else) about Jesus! Here is what Paul says one must believe about Jesus:
Rom.10 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.
That is the very invitation to which I had responded when becoming a disciple, and it promises salvation and eternal life by believing something about Jesus. There is not a single word about believing anything said by Jesus. Paul would be validated if he could be shown to be consistent with what Jesus says, and I had been proceeding on the basis of the belief that such was the case. I was without excuse because, as you see above, we have already seen that he is false. This is an insidious deception made much more so when those who promote it also promote the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible. If the Bible is inerrant then, of course, what Paul said is valid, for it is in the Bible. Satan draws millions into this trap who follow the false doctrines of the false apostle, Paul. Before I could settle on the Truth, I also had to come to a new perception of the Bible.
What does Jesus say about the forgiveness of sin? Does he speak of a sin debt that must be paid to God? If not, how does he define sin and how must we proceed to be delivered from sin's bondage? If not a debt, surely sin brings a penalty that someone must pay? An atonement?
Absolutely not! Listen:
Matt.5 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.Matt.6 And forgive us our debts,As we also have forgiven our debtors; And lead us not into temptation,But deliver us from evil. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.Luke.6 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.
In summary, we can say that the merciful are those who forgive the offenses of others, and they will receive similar mercy from God -- their sins will be forgiven. Matthew 5:7 is a blanket statement, covering all who are merciful without exception. Luke's version, 6:36, calls for an imitation of the mercy of the Father and could possibly be understood to apply only to those who have, by first appropriating the supposed payment of the sin debt by Jesus, been "born from above." Indeed, I have heard this distinction made. Those outside of Christ, we may be told, have not had the price of their sins paid by the blood of Jesus, therefore such a promise of mercy to the merciful does not apply to them. The same sources point out that in Matthew, this utterance, from the Sermon on the Mount, is specifically addressed to his disciples and not to everyone (Matthew 5:1,2). But Jesus never made this distinction with regard to qualifying for the forgiveness of sins. He surely would have done so were this the case, for he was careful to avoid statements that would cause his disciples to stumble.
The killing blow to this objection, that depends on a distinction between the sons of God and those who are not sons of God, comes from the Parable of the Unmerciful servant. Here it is in full, and you will see how it does not allow for such distinctions.
Matt.18 Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, `Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, `Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
This is clear enough, is it not? Nevertheless, for those of my readers whose minds and hearts are so beclouded by Paulinism as not to see anything clearly, I will spell it out to you in the following list:
1. There is no doubt to whom the words are addressed: to Peter, the great apostle and son of the Father.
2. Nevertheless, every one of you sons of God will be held accountable for your impossible debt if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. This parable puts up neither Jesus nor anyone else to pay it.
3. In that case, every disciple's (every one of you) trust in an atoning sacrifice, or a vicarious payment of the sin debt by Jesus or anyone else, is vain for they yet have to pay the debt themselves!
4. This Principle of Mercy therefore applies to all. There is no distinction between the servant and the son or the saint and the sinner.
5. This is a parable of the kingdom, in which God is king. It therefore applies to all supposed debts owed to that king, who can only be God. It applies to sin debts!
6. Every debtor in this parable is a servant, not a son! Therefore the Mercy Principle, addressed to disciples, applies equally to servants and sons.
7. The Mercy Principle therefore applies without distinction to everyone.
The Answer -- The Mercy Principle
In the Word of Jesus (the Logos) we have identified a principle that applies without distinction to everyone, which is best called the Mercy Principle because that is what it is. Jesus stated it most precisely here:
Matt.5 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Jesus draws no boundaries around it and makes no distinctions in its application, which makes it a universal principle. It is a matter of simple justice, because one who is merciful receives mercy in the form of forgiveness of sin, one who is not merciful will receive no mercy, no forgiveness of sin. Yes, sin can be understood as a debt owed to God through having transgressed his law, but it is a debt of a unique sort because the debt can never be paid by anyone, including the sinner. All of this finds illustration in the above Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. Even the debtor cannot pay the debt and must inevitably suffer the penalty of non payment -- prison in the parable -- or receive forgiveness on the basis of his own forgiveness of others.
The very idea of forgiveness obtained through payment of the sin debt is a radical contradiction.
Let us refer again to the Parable above, and consider a monetary debt as specified there. Now, if such a debt be paid, it is simply retired and was not and cannot be forgiven! The only way a debt can be truly forgiven is to be retired unpaid, as was the case of the unmerciful servant prior to his manifestation of the lack of mercy on his fellow servant. This is the definition of forgiveness in such a case:
b : to grant relief from payment of 1
Therefore, when Christians profess that the crucifixion of Jesus was payment of the sin debt for all who believe, they are also saying that their god is merciless, for in such a case the debt is not mercifully retired unpaid as essential to forgiveness. They are saying that their god does not forgive sin because he exacts payment in every case, even though it comes from one who has no sin. They are therefore further charging God with injustice, who would have him punish the innocent one for the guilty! The god of the Christians -- whoever it be -- is not the Father of our Lord Jesus because it, the god of the Christians, is both merciless and unjust!
The Christians make their case based on the Old Testament sacrifices for sin, and tie it to the prophets, Isaiah 53 in particular. But Jesus, who came from God, who speaks what he heard from God and who knows God, demolishes this contention with this brief and simple assertion, also taken from one of the Hebrew prophets:2
Matt.9 Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'
Whoever does not believe this does not believe Jesus, for Jesus says it! The Christians who believe in the sacrifice as sin debt payment are therefore only believing something said about Jesus, as I stated above. They are not listening to Jesus, not hearing him, not receiving and believing his word, and therefore they cannot qualify for eternal life, again based on what Jesus has said:
John.5 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.John.10 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.
Salvation unto eternal life therefore depends wholly on listening to his voice, on hearing and believing his Word that he heard from the Father. My Baptist mentors who taught me the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints and quoted John 10:28: . . .they will never perish, were wholly blind to the Truth of the Word because they believed in a sin debt that has to be paid.
Why don't they hear him?
Jesus has not failed to answer that question. Just go back a little to John, Chapter 8, and we find this:
John.8 He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.
The Mercy Principle underlies the salvation doctrine of Jesus. Yes, we have sinned and it is as a debt that should be paid -- but it cannot be paid by any means, either by the sinner or by the Righteous One. No, it cannot and need not be paid because God is so great in mercy as to forgive it without payment -- provided only that we repent of the sin and render like mercy to those who offend us.
He desires mercy, not sacrifice!
The Sin Behind Sins
There is a much more fundamental flaw in Christian doctrine than that of believing that Jesus came to pay a sin debt at Calvary. We defined sin above as the transgression of the Law of God, and so it is, but that is sin of the second order only. There is a sin behind our sins that dominates all consideration of these things, yet the Christians generally refuse even to give it a thought. Consequently, they remain blind to their sin and bound by their sin.
Sin being seen as transgression of the Law opens the way for us to see it in slightly different terms, if we make the reasonable assumption that the Law of God is consistent with His will. From this we can proceed to a second correct definiton of sin as transgression of the will of God. But what is the will of God? Jesus was careful to define the Father's will in John, Chapter 6, and most Christians ignore it. There is one of the most significant statements in the scriptures and you need to go there and find it for yourself. What I will do is to define it in terms of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
In that parable, it is obvious that the only thing the Prodigal's father wanted was for his wayward son to repent of his waywardness and return home. This, precisely, is the will of the Father for all humans. He wants us to come home to him. Should this be a great mystery? Don't all loving parents want the children to live with them, in the same house? If you have had a run away child, you know and understand the grief that this causes the parents.
Human beings, alas, love life in this world and do not want to leave it so as to go anywhere. That is the sin behind sins from which all sins spring as branches from the trunk of the tree. In the bondage of this love, tangled in worry and anxiety for the things of this life, how is it possible that anyone can obey the Law of the Lord?So every sin that is a violation of the Law has its power in the love of life. From the perspective of the Father, for so long as we love this life and do not want to go to him, we are in direct violation of his will at the deepest level. No one qualifies for eternal life while loving temporal life, and the Father cannot and will not receive anyone into the eternal glory who does not want to go there! In the Light of this Word of the Lord, all considerations of sin that includes the ridiculuous doctrine of payment of the sin debt is pure foolishness. Here is the way Jesus stated it, and it defines the Great Principle that underlies the Word of Truth at every point:
John.12 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
All considerations of sin, forgiveness, salvation and eternal life are vain that do not begin with this Great Principle.
So now you know. The sin debt is a debt that no one can pay, but the Father mercifully forgives it anyway if the sinner repents and is merciful to others. Why wouldn't a sinner be merciful? If someon offends me, then acknowledges it and asks my forgiveness, why wouldn't I grant him mercy and forgiveness?
Think about it. You will find the root cause of mercilessness is the love of life -- it is the sin behind sins.
COPYRIGHT, Cambridge Theological Seminary: 1973 (c)
Contributions from the best scholars in numerous fields are added to Ministers-Best-Friend.com website daily. Such research papers and articles:
* Cambridge Theological Seminary USA & Global has no connection or relationship to Cambridge University in England, EXCEPT . . . we in the USA are carrying on their "Christian Values of Hundreds of Years" . . . as they have long since become secular humanists, agnostics and atheists: "Anti-Christ" in almost every way and contrary to every Scripture.