God as Our Debtor
While reading that title, you may be shuddering at the mere thought of God being our debtor -and I hope so. But not many see how the implications of their beliefs make God a debtor. Why is this so important? Well, lets take a look.
First, we can see very clearly in Scripture that the Gospel of Jesus Christ -the good news of salvation, the only way of salvation and favor with God- is antithetical to anything that creates a situation of debt where God is somehow our debtor. A situation of debt of this kind means, in the most basic terms, that God is bound or obligated to do something in response to something we do. We do something, God is bound to respond a certain way.
Compare that idea to Paul's example of Abraham in chapter four of his epistle to the Romans. Paul is giving us an example of what faith is and how it is related to salvation and justifying righteousness (which is revealed in the Gospel: cf. Rom 1:17, Rom 3:21; Rom 10:1-10). Paul describes the one to whom righteousness is credited, the "blessed man" whose "sins the Lord will not count against him". Who is the blessed man? Verses 4-5 tell us.
4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.
5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited unto righteousness,
Both verses start out the same, in the Greek, but with one stark difference. Verse 5 includes the word "mey", which flips the meaning into the negative. There is a direct contrast between the one who works and the one who does not work but believes. There is no mingling of the two -just like a woman is either pregnant or not pregnant. There is no such thing as being partly pregnant. The first man who works creates a situation of debt. He performs certain duties, no matter how large or small, in order to receive something in return. This is not a gift, but a wage! However, the man who *does not work*, but *believes* (the opposite of working to create debt) is the man to whom God credits righteousness and does not count sin. Amazing, huh? So, the one who relies not upon their works but believes upon God who freely justifies on the basis of Christ, who is the sole foundation of our justification, is the blessed man who has favor with God. No wonder Paul says that there is "no boasting" in ourselves, but only in Christ Jesus and His cross! How can one boast when he has done nothing but only rests upon that which was freely promised?
Now, apply this, if you would, to things we see in our day. Think of all of the world religions, cultic groups, etc. Most of them have no place for Jesus, but even if they name His name in some way, the basic premise is the same: we somehow create a situation of debt which leads to God responding favorably. Not many would phrase it that way. In fact, most would vehemently deny it, but the beliefs speak differently. It doesn't matter if it is prayers, confessions, rituals, good works, our commitment to God, our surrender to God, our "faith" -if we hold these things as something which obligates God (even if we do not use that word) to respond to us with favor, we are believing a false gospel.
The scary thins is that this is rampant from within Christendom, as well. "Yes, we know... Roman Catholicism is like this." While that is true, I was actually referring to the various flavors of evangelical Christianity -at least Rome is up front about believing we must cooperate with God to a certain level and do works of penance for our sins for Him to accept them into His Kingdom. The evangelical variety, sadly, is much more sinister and deceptive. No, in evangelical Christianity we don't have those "idols" such as statues or crucifixes, but we have plenty of our own that can't be seen. Lets list a few: moralism, our "decision" for Christ, our "surrender", our alleged compliance with what it means to be a "good Christian". These are all things that many rely upon as the lever that pulls down God's favor. The act of "deciding for Christ" or "choosing to serve the Lord", we imagine, is that which God responds to and bestows salvation upon us. Our "making a commitment to Christ" or "asking Jesus into our hearts" is that one-time deed, though small, though only 1% of the entire equation, which results in God responding favorably and forgiving us. See, Jesus is apparently not enough to save. God can only give us our salvation in response to us doing what it is He asks -just that one little work. Blasphemous!
My prayer is that God smashes our idols -especially the ones that can't be seen. I pray that He shows us the futility of ever trying to create a situation of debt before God. I pray that He shows us that He is the One who justifies the ungodly, not those who are bad off, but not so bad off that they can't perform a single act, and perhaps add some moral reform to fix things for themselves. God is no man's debtor.