The wonderful truth of paid in full is eternal. Jesus made a one-off payment, a deposit to cover every single sin we will ever commit. But the payment must be applied to be effective.
Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1)
Anyone who has every owed anything will testify to the absolute relief of the confirmation that it is paid in full. Ours is a debt-based society which encourages credit and we are all aware of the implications like interest and legal obligation. We have likely all had times when things have gone wrong, and we see the debt mounting rather than depleting. Any kind of debt, be it financial or moral, has a tendency to weigh us down and drag at our progress, and the spiritual ramifications of our sin is a powerful weight to a spirit which has not fully accessed the forgiveness of God. I so often encounter those who are saved but who still struggle to grasp the completeness and magnitude of the saving grace of the cross. The problem is the worldly understanding that we are responsible and must account for our debts.
Paid in full is a universal principle.
We need to grasp upfront that debt is a universal obligation, and that paid in full applies both in the natural and the supernatural. The Bible does not teach that financial debt disappears at the cross. If we’ve entered into a credit agreement, being saved doesn’t miraculously wipe out our responsibility. In the world, He expects us to act with honesty and integrity and meet our obligations until they are paid in full. The same principle applies in the spiritual realm. Salvation does not mean that suddenly, God has decided to waive all debts of sin and rebellion. They are real and exist just as surely as God Himself does. Every debt in the spiritual realm must be satisfied, just as they must in the natural. If our spiritual debt to God were to simply disappear, the cross would have absolutely no relevance in our lives at all.
To be released of all obligation in debt can only happen when it is paid in full. A creditor could waive a debt, of course, but it always lurks in the background as unfinished business. It may bring respite, but it also brings condemnation. Failure to meet a debt will remain a source of constant guilt for all but those absolutely without conscience. Even if the debt is waived, we still have to answer for the fact that we did not meet the agreement. It’s a broken covenant. God did not waive our debt on Calvary for the simple reason that this would not be sufficient. It would not restore but would create further separation. The debt would remain a spiritual fact, no matter how much He and us pretended it was dealt with. A broken agreement cannot restore us to right relationship with God.
God’s solution is paid in full.
It’s natural, when we contemplate the holiness of God and the utter sinfulness of our natural nature, to see our sins in technicolour. Little wonder that the psalmist cried out for mercy and forgiveness. None of us, once spiritually awakened, can endure the thought of our sin remaining before God. Unless the full conditions of the debt are met, we would never be able to draw near to Him in full assurance of faith. God’s solution is the obvious one – the debt must be paid in full. This is the only way to remove it from the equation and to restore us to right relationship. But He also knew that it was a debt we could never pay. It would be our eternal bondage and damnation. That’s where His solution jumped out the box as only God can. He chose to pay the debt on our behalf.
It is finished means paid in full.
The Greek word tetelestai translated ‘it is finished’ literally means paid in full. Jesus affirmed on the cross that He assumed and paid our full spiritual debt to God. There is no danger that it can come back to bite us ever again. We no longer have to live with it lurking in the background. It doesn’t sit on God’s desk ‘in abeyance’ or ‘pending action’ but is fully dealt with. Jesus has stamped it with His blood, and it’s filed away. Out of sight. Gone. Finished. Paid in full. Once those three little words appear on a debt, it has no control over us. No one can pull it out and make any further claim. There is no further interest, no collateral required, and no legal basis for any further demands. The debt hasn’t vanished. God no longer sees it because it’s filed under ‘closed’ and forgotten.
Our verse today reminds us, however, that the only recourse for our spiritual debt is God Himself. We can rest in the assurance that Jesus has paid in full. This covers all our debts to the point of confession and repentance. But before we get too comfortable and decide that the psalmist’s prayer only has relevance to salvation, we need to consider our true condition. The reality, sad as it is, is that despite Jesus, we continue to sin. It’s unfortunately a truth that will continue to plague us throughout our lives. Every day, sin still intrudes into our walk with God however much we may desire or strive to avoid it. Jesus has paid every single one of our debts on the cross. But the payment has to be applied to our ongoing sin in order to keep us ‘up to date’ with our payments.
The daily power of paid in full.
It may seem contradictory to say, ‘once and for all’ and raise the truth of current debt. In reality, though, it’s very simple and logical. Jesus paid our debt, and His payment covers all future debts we may incur as well as those already in place. At salvation, we present our statement of account up until that point which is stamped with the words paid in full. It’s filed away and forgotten, and we’re immediately released from any and all obligations. But as we continue to sin, we accumulate new debt. Jesus has already paid it, but we need to present it in order to be released from it. We do this through confession and repentance. We go before God, acknowledge our debt, and present payment in the form of the blood of Jesus. The payment has to be applied – allocated to the right account – to clear the debt.
What this means is that the psalmist’s cry in today’s verse should be the daily cry of every believer. I often encounter a false understanding of the truth that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. The vital and precious truth of this cannot be denied. To do so would be to deny the cross and His sacrifice. But it does not mean that because Jesus paid in full once and for all that it automatically covers every sin we will then continue to commit. It means that that when we present the payment He has already made through repentance and confession His single once-and-for-all payment is allocated. It will never miraculously work without our participation – acknowledging our obligation and presenting the payment Jesus has made on our behalf. We have the assurance that the payment will not be questioned. That is what no condemnation means.
Paid in full remains a requirement.
The nature and character of God cannot and will not change. What He required at the beginning of time will still apply at the end. It saddens me when I hear believers claim that ‘constant confession is condemnation’ to avoid their required participation. This is only true when we persistently confess the same sin that has been forgiven and not repeated. Hauling our ‘closed’ account from the filing cabinet and putting it on God’s desk over and over means we don’t believe Him. It means we don’t accept that Jesus paid in full. We have forgiveness but won’t receive it and walk in liberty. Today’s verse points to human frailty and the grace of God to continually forgive active and current sin when we lay it before Him. It may be that these are repeat sins that require new confession, but it’s about the ‘now’ sin not the previous one.
Jesus has said that He is the only way to the Father. That way is through the cross and the awesome, absolute truth that He paid in full for every debt we might incur. Our release is stamped in His blood and cannot be revoked. But we cannot simply staple our new accounts onto our old. Each ‘invoice’ must be stamped. It all comes out of the same payment, the eternal deposit against our sinful nature which never runs out but which we must access the right way. Jesus is that way. But yesterday’s blessings are insufficient for today. We must take hold of what is banked for us by actively acknowledging that we need it. The funds are there, but we have to draw on them for them to have effect. God still requires that our debts are paid in full and has provided the means to accomplish it.
Living in the liberty of paid in full.
A good definition of liberty is live in freedom from any and all debts and obligations. Being debt-free is transformational. The weight of guilt and condemnation is brutal. It sucks the life out of all we do and hinders our progress. We can never enter into pure worship and full intimacy with God because sin remains between us. This is the anguish manifest in the psalmist’s cry. It is the desire to deal with the problem that separates us from God. Under the new covenant, we have the grace and assurance of God Himself that He has made all provision to empower the precious liberty that comes with paid in full. Let this be the daily cry of our heart, so that we can enter with liberty and faith into the rest He has provided. Jesus is waiting, stamp in hand, to seal it finished and release us.
Sweet Saviour, thank You for what You have done for us on the cross. Thank You that paid our debt in full, and that Your precious blood is all we will ever need. Prompt us to confession and repentance for our daily sins, and keep us coming to the cross so that we can be set free by what You have already done. Remind us that it is finished is as much for the past as it is for each new day, part of the mercies that are new every morning for a heart that desires to walk in liberty in God’s presence.