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Bible verses about Debt, Our Unpayable
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 6:9-13

It is interesting to note in this model prayer that sin is expressed through the image of debt, a true metaphor. Duty neglected, a debt to God, must be discharged by a penalty. All have sinned and the wages or penalty is death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). We are all under a peculiar form of indebtedness which we cannot pay and still have hope!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

Matthew 18:23-24

"The kingdom of heaven" represents God's government, including His church, so God deals with church members as this king with his servants. The debt of the king's servant was an enormous sum. A talent was a denomination of money, or weight of silver or gold, equaling three thousand shekels. By Roman calculation, if this talent were of silver, then ten thousand talents would be equivalent to several million of today's dollars. By Jewish calculation, ten thousand talents would equal three times more, probably over ten million dollars. If this talent were of gold, ten thousand talents would amount to about fifty times more than the silver talent! Nevertheless, Jesus uses this amount to show that the debt—sin—was immense and humanly unpayable. To us, and those we touch, the impact of our sins is immeasurable, but Jesus' sacrifice is greater, covering all sins.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant


 

Luke 7:36-50

The setting of the Parable of the Two Debtors is the house of Simon, a Pharisee, who had invited Jesus to eat with him. To show respect for Jesus, a woman stops in uninvited, but Simon calls her a sinner, one notoriously wicked, a prostitute (Luke 7:36-39). These three real people are reflected in the three fictitious characters of Jesus' parable (verses 41-42): a creditor, a debtor who owes 500 denarii, and another who owes 50.

The forgiving creditor represents Jesus Christ. The professedly righteous man owing 50 denarii represents Simon. The person in debt for 500 denarii represents the woman sinner.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Debtors


 

Luke 7:41-50

The woman perceived a greatness in Jesus that motivated her to so abase herself. A proper sense of obligation works to produce a valuable Christian virtue—humility.

Notice her emotion, devotion, and seeming unconcern for public opinion in going far beyond the normal task of a slave. We can safely guess that Jesus had played a huge part in turning this woman from her bondage to sin. She may have first simply been among the crowds who were convicted by His messages. However, she thought deeply and personally on the difference between her life and His words. When she heard He was nearby, she rushed to Simon's home, ignoring the scorn of others to express her gratitude to the One who had set her aright.

Her deed expresses her love and gratitude springing from recognition of His greatness as compared to her unworthiness. She felt obligated to respond in a way so memorable that God recorded it for all humanity for all time to witness. Note that the Bible shows human lips touching Jesus only twice: Here and Judas' kiss of betrayal.

Now notice the contrast with Simon the Pharisee, who was evidently a man of some substance and a measure of aggression that resulted in him inviting the celebrated Jesus to his home. He was a man so self-concerned and inhospitable that he failed to offer Jesus even the customary services a host provided visitors to his home. Simon probably felt himself at least Jesus' equal, and his conclusion that He was no prophet perhaps indicates that he styled himself as Jesus' superior. He likely considered Jesus nothing but an interesting celebrity who could gain him recognition in the community for having Him as his guest.

His evaluation of himself in relation to Jesus produced in him no sense of obligation, and thus no gratitude, humility, or act of love, let alone common courtesy. Had he a heart at all? He was scandalized by this dramatic and arresting scene taking place at his respectable table.

While God considered her act of love to be so awesome that He had it memorialized as an eternal witness, Simon's perception of it only concluded, "She is a sinner." No, Simon, she was a sinner, and therein is a major clue to the reason for their differing reactions to Jesus. In Jesus' parable, Simon and the woman held something in common—something Simon did not grasp, but the woman did. Both were debtors to the same Creditor, and neither could meet their obligations, but Simon did not even see his indebtedness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Luke 7:42

Jesus draws a direct correlation between acts of love directed toward Him and the recognition of the enormity of the forgiven sins, as contrasted to the payment made to remove our indebtedness.

We are obligated to love Him, and if the recognition is strong, we are virtually driven to do so due to grasping the enormity of what we have been saved from in contrast to the tremendous value of what we are now free to pursue. Could we, like the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:1-7, have left our first love because we no longer make an effort to remember these things?

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Luke 7:49

Simon's guests are surprised to hear Jesus taking on the divine prerogative to forgive sin (see Luke 5:20-25). He says that it is her faith that brought forgiveness—not her tears, kisses, or ointment. His last comment to her is "Go in peace" or "Go into peace." She receives Christ's command to enjoy that peace and live in the full realization of the peace that passes all understanding.

We are all debtors in the sight of our just Creditor. All have sinned, so none of us has a way to discharge our debt on our own (Romans 3:23). Christ can forgive all who truly repent of their sins and turn to Him in faith (Acts 13:38-41). Through His willingness to take our debt and blot it out with His own blood, we receive the remission of our sins. Once freed from sin's oppressive debt, we must show our gratitude to Him by living in holiness and loving service to others, glorifying Him in a life of righteousness (II Peter 1:2-4).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Debtors


 

Luke 15:5-7

Just people need no repentance because they need no change of mind and purpose. Some people were reared in a godly and righteous family environment. Their parents obeyed and worshipped according to God's laws, statutes, and ordinances, and taught their children to do likewise. The Gentile Cornelius was one such man (Acts 10:1-2). Of course, no human being is completely just (Ecclesiastes 7:20), but he may be righteous in comparison to those who flagrantly sin, such as those succinctly described in Luke 15:1. A just person cannot repent of the idolatries of a pagan, which he has not practiced, nor of the larcenies of a tax collector, of which he has never been guilty. When comparing just people to flagrant sinners, we immediately see what Jesus means: These needed no repentance in comparison to the others, not being guilty of such gross sins.

There is more immediate joy over a sinner who repents and follows Christ than over those who are already repentant and safely within God's flock. The latter already have greater and more intimate happiness—eternal joy!—within the Family of God. Faithful members should be elated by the fact that their Shepherd loves and cares for them so intimately. And for the one who strayed, upon genuine repentance, there is hope of salvation.

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Luke 15 (Part One)


 

Romans 13:8-10

In verse 8, Paul has presented us with an interesting paradox. On the one hand, he states that we should owe no man anything that he can rightfully claim from us, yet on the other hand, we must owe everyone more than we can hope to pay—perfect love. By this, he extends and intensifies the concept of obligation. We must be more scrupulous within the limits of the customary concept of indebtedness, and we must infinitely widen the range within which they operate.

Was it not our failure to meet our obligations to God and man that accrued the unpayable debt in the first place? Now that the debt has been paid, we are under obligation, not only to strive to avoid falling into the same trap, but to expand and perfect the giving of love. The paradox is more apparent than real because love is not merely one's duty added to others, but is the inclusive framework within which all duties should be performed. Love is the motivating power that frees and enables us to serve and sacrifice with largeness of heart and generosity of spirit.

However, as long as we view love merely as the keeping of God's laws, we are stuck on a low-level, letter-of-the-law approach to righteousness. That is most assuredly a vital and necessary aspect of love, but there is far more to love. That level of love can be merely one of compulsion, and be done in a "just because" attitude: "I must love this person, but I don't have to like them." This may suffice for a while, but Paul, by drawing upon Christ's teaching, unveils an entirely new significance to the concept of obligation.

Of what level was the love of the fallen woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them with her lips, and anointed them with costly oil? Was her conduct merely to keep a commandment, or was it an exquisite expression of a heart freed to give its all?

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

1 Corinthians 11:23-29

I Corinthians 11:17-34 encapsulates the solution to a tragic story of gluttony, drunkenness, class distinction, and party spirit—all within the framework of the "love feasts" of a Christian congregation! Why were some guilty of these sins? Because, despite being converted, some of them neither loved God nor their brethren, which a reading of the entire epistle reveals.

To what does Paul refer them to correct their abominable behavior? To the Passover service and Christ's death! Christ's death is the supreme example of unselfish and sacrificial service in behalf of the undeserving guilty. It is the highest, most brilliant example of love.

Out of a beneficent good will, the Father and the Son freely gave of themselves for the sake of our well-being. For those of us still in the flesh, this beneficent goodwill results in our forgiveness, forging a foundation from which the same approach to life can begin to be exercised. When we can properly judge ourselves in terms of what we are in relation to Their freely given sacrifices, it frees us, not only to conduct life as They do, but eventually to receive everlasting life too.

Job confesses in Job 42:5-6, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Though Job was among the most upright of men, all his life he had held a wrong evaluation of himself in relation to God and other men. Yet when God allowed him to "see" himself, as He did the apostle Paul in Romans 7, Job was devastated, his vanity crushed, and he repented. Now, he was truly prepared to begin to love.

"Do this in remembrance of Me" has a couple of alternative renderings that may help us understand more clearly. It can be rendered more literally, "Do this for the remembering of Me," or "Do this in case you forget." God does not want us to let this sacrifice get very far from our minds. It is not that He wants maudlin sentimentality from us. Instead, He wants to remind us that it represents the measure of His love for us as well as of our worth to Him, that we always bear a right sense of obligation, not as an overbearing burden, but a wondering awe that He would pay so much for something so utterly defiled.

We are admonished to remember not merely the personality Jesus, but the whole package: His connection to the Old Testament Passover; His life of sacrificial service; His violent, bloody death for the remission of the sins of mankind; the sacrificial connection to the New Covenant; and who He was, our sinless Creator! This act becomes the foundation of all loving relationships possible to us with God and His Family because it provides us reason to hope that our lives are not spent in vain. In addition, it motivates us to do what we failed to do that put us into debt in the first place—to love.

Paul admonishes in verse 29, "For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." To eat the bread or drink the wine in an unworthy manner is to treat His sacrifice with casual, disrespectful ingratitude—a better translation might be "without due appreciation, especially as shown by one's life." It means that the person who does this is not showing much love in his life because he is barely aware of his sins and the enormous cost of forgiveness.

Such a person is not really free to love because he is still wrapped up in himself. When we take Passover, let us strive to remember that our fellowship at that special time is with Him. The others there to participate in the service are at that time only incidental to our relationship with Christ. The focus is on Christ and our unpayable debt and subsequent obligation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Philippians 3:6

Does this contradict Paul's poverty of spirit in I Timothy 1:12-15? No, before conversion Paul was a great deal like Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7. He was clothed in respectability, but he knew he was guilty of many deeds and attitudes for which Jesus denounced the Pharisees. In Philippians 3, he is instead looking back on what he thought of himself then. However, as God called him, he came to see himself through God's eyes as a man struggling with sin but rescued from it through Jesus Christ, which he describes in Romans 7. He then became a man whose faith was in God's grace, and he responded with zealous work largely out of a deep sense of grateful obligation.

Paul was full of wonder and gratitude when he remembered what Christ had done and continued to do through and for him. G.K. Chesterton, an atheist who converted to Catholicism, commented regarding this circumstance, "It is the highest and holiest of paradoxes that the man who really knows he cannot pay his debt will be forever paying it."

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

1 Timothy 1:12-15

This proves that late in his life as an apostle, Paul was still keenly aware of the enormity of what he had been forgiven. He probably purposely kept this memory alive so as not to take any chance of losing his sense of responsibility. He understood human nature well, not wanting to risk losing the proper perspective that Christ had given him at the beginning. Rather than carry it about as a burdensome load of guilt, he used it as a realistic recognition of his indebtedness to Christ for what he had been forgiven and what had been accomplished since that time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

2 Timothy 3:2

"Thanksgiving" means virtually the same thing in Hebrew, Greek, and English: a heartfelt and cheerful acknowledgment of favors bestowed on us by others. This is especially interesting because it involves consciously thinking about a circumstance that makes one feel a sense of obligation. The English "thank" comes from the same root as "think." Its Indo-European root is tong, whose basic meaning is "to know or form in the mind, regard or consider; to determine by reflecting." Thanking involves thinking. Spiritually, it is consciously looking for the good with God in view.

Some say that ingratitude is the most common of sins. II Timothy 3:2 shows that it is a hallmark of the end-time generations not to consider, or reflect deeply upon God's part in our peace, prosperity, and liberties. This is a practice that we must develop by exercising it on a daily basis.

The Greek word translated unthankful, means "to refuse to recognize debts; to feel one has the right to services and be without obligation." The American attitude is not disregard of God, but rather failing to remember the good He has done. We have become indifferent in relating blessings to God, and He calls upon us to reverse this in our lives. This right worship of Him requires a true knowledge of Him, keeping His commandments and steady communication with Him in prayer and study so we really come to know Him. Then we can be truly thankful on a daily basis.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Thanksgiving or Self-Indulgence?


 

 




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