March 04, 2024

In Christ, Our Debt Is Paid

R.C. Sproul
In Christ, Our Debt Is Paid

Sin leaves us with a debt before God that we cannot satisfy. But out of His free mercy, God sent His Son to pay the price in full. Today, R.C. Sproul marvels at the redemption that Jesus accomplished in the atonement.


So, I was in a store once where a little boy came in—it was an ice cream store—and walked up to the counter and ordered an ice cream cone. And when the person behind the counter fixed the ice cream cone and handed it to the little boy, the waitress said, “That will be two dollars.” And the little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out one dollar and just handed it to the waitress, and she said, “I’m sorry, but you need two of these.” And the little boy was crestfallen, and he said, “But, my mommy only gave me this one dollar.” And so, there was a problem there and I stepped forth, as any parent would, right then and there. And I walked over to the counter, pulled out a dollar from my pocket, and handed it to the lady, and I said, “Here. That’ll cover the rest of what is owed.”

Now, here’s my question. Did that store owner or the waitress have a legal obligation to accept my payment in behalf of this child? Can one person pay a financial or pecuniary debt for another? Well, the principle in our society is this: As long as the money is paid, the person who is owed the money is obligated to accept that payment that is rendered. And so, the store owner really had no choice but to accept my payment of the debt that was incurred by this child.

But suppose we had a second scenario where instead of the child coming in and ordering the cone as I’ve suggested, the child comes in, runs behind the counter, steals two scoops of ice cream, and starts running out the store. And the owner grabs him and calls the police, and the police comes in and arrests the child for stealing the ice cream cone, two dollars’ worth of ice cream. And now, I step forward and say, “Just a minute. Take it easy here. You don’t have to arrest this little boy. I will pay his debt.” Now, does the policeman or the store owner have a moral obligation to accept my payment? No, because now, in addition to the pecuniary debt or the financial indebtedness, there is also a transgression of the law, so that now a moral debt has been incurred, and the person who has been violated is not required to accept somebody else’s substitute payment.

I use that illustration for this reason: in the atonement, Christ purchased our redemption. Christ pays the ransom. Christ pays the bride price for His church. But that payment is not of simply a pecuniary nature, but it is a moral payment in the full sense of the word. And insofar that it is a moral payment and not a financial transaction, God is not required to accept that payment. But this is the wonder of the atonement—that the Father accepts in our behalf the payment of a moral debt by someone else.

In fact, it’s by a someone else that He Himself has appointed for this task, that He has sent into the world with this mission in mind. So that in the agreement that we spoke of between the Father and the Son, the Father commissions the Son to buy back His people, to purchase their redemption, to satisfy their indebtedness. And He willingly and gladly makes the sacrifice to give that payment. And the Father now has His justice satisfied and His grace satisfied so that in the work of the cross, we see the clearest example in all of Scripture of God’s maintaining His own righteousness, His own justice, and at the very same time, pouring out the riches of His grace in our behalf. Christ has paid the price for us.