The Payment for Sin
In the economy of God, the devil wound up being sin’s paymaster. Death is the paycheck for sin. But let us move on to a refinement of terms. Instead of being paid wages, let us think about the payment of fines.
When someone is caught by the police breaking a traffic law, they get a ticket that specifies the fine they must pay for breaking the law. If someone racks up a sizable enough fine and is unwilling or unable to pay with money, the state can make them pay with their time. They can send the offender to jail for failure to pay fines.
But there are crimes for which a fine can’t satisfy. For instance, if a murderer were simply given a monetary fine to pay, there aren’t many who would feel that justice had been served. Our own conscience and sense of justice demands something more: either the incarceration or execution of the perpetrator. This happens to be our condition before a holy God. His justice demands execution and incarceration for sin. And what is real death but an eternal incarceration away from God?
Why is hell an eternity away from God? On the surface, this might seem like cruel and unusual punishment, but it’s not. We need to think in legal and economic terms. We have already seen that if a man can’t pay a fine, he winds up paying with time. If the crime is serious enough, the imprisonment can be a life term. That may keep the criminal out of the society, but does it really pay his debt? No. If a man sins against God and dies without his fine being paid, he may be incarcerated for eternity. This will keep him from God, but it won’t pay his debt to God.
Suppose you had a fine to pay to the court and you didn’t have the cash. You did, however, have a credit card. Relieved and excited, you run to the court to pay your $100 fine on the last possible day. But when they run your credit card, it’s denied. It seems that you are already $200 over your limit! So the sheriff is called and you are hauled off to jail, now owing the $200 you were overdrawn and the $100 fine you couldn’t pay, plus a $35 bank fee for trying to overdraw more! You’re in prison and in debt and presenting your credit card, regardless of how often you do it, is of no avail.
This is how it is with us. Our blood is spiritually bankrupt. It is under a sentence of death. If we give it to pay for our sin, we simply wind up overdrawn and incarcerated with no way out. This is why hell lasts forever. No amount of incarceration will pay the fine. We don’t have the wherewithal to pay. But Jesus did.
Not With Silver and Gold
1 Peter 1:18
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers…
We were not redeemed with silver and gold. By referring to the traditions of the fathers, Peter gives us some real insight into the meaning of redemption. Redemption does not mean that the devil owned us and somehow Jesus paid the price to him to have us. No, satan wasn’t holding the tab; God Almighty was holding the bill for our sin. And because man submitted himself to the authority of the devil by sin, the devil exercised the authority of death over mankind. And what kept man under that sentence of death was the fine that man could not pay.
Who was owed the fine? God, the One offended. The one offended is the one to whom the price was owed. This is why hell lasts forever. No one can pay the price. Eternity won’t pay it. Why? Because He is an eternal God. Our sin offended an eternal, holy, and righteous God.
We need to understand that the sin must be weighed in light of who is offended. Even civil law teaches us this lesson. If a person betrays a confidence, he may lose his friend. If he profiteers from divulging industry secrets, he may be incarcerated for insider trading. But if he betrays the security of his nation, he may be executed for treason. Please note that the act is the same: betrayal. But look at the difference in consequences! If we betray a private individual, we lose a friend. If we betray our nation, we lose our life. Is not our God greater than any earthly government? What should be the punishment for betraying the Sovereign of the Universe?
The Holy Spirit uses symbols, types, and analogies throughout Scripture to instruct us. Often we focus so much on the spiritual principles that these figures of speech teach us that we deny their practical application. One principle we are most guilty of treating this way is the correlation between offenses and money, debt and sin.
Jesus used financial debt as an illustration of sin. But financial debt can’t be sin, right? Many say, “God allows me to be in debt.” Sure He does, just like He allows us to be in sin. “God’s way of supplying my need was to have the loan approved. It was His way of getting me over the hump.” Sure, just like stealing bread is a starving man’s way of getting over the hump!
Is debt sin? In and of itself, no. But there is a reason why God uses financial debt as an illustration of sin. Obviously, there is a connection between debt and sin. The real question isn’t whether sin is debt, but rather which sin led us into debt. Was it presumption, impatience, greed, lust, worry, idolatry? Indebtedness is spoken of in Scripture as the result of sin and part of the curse. Sin puts us in debt with God.
We understand this principle in human relations. If I break something of yours and can’t fix it, it is incumbent upon me to replace it or pay you for it. Why does this work? Why does this satisfy our sense of right? Because it is a system that God designed and uses to explain redemption to us.
28 If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit.
29 But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.
30 If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.
Here we have tort law in the Torah. If the man has been negligent by not restraining an ox that was known to be harmful and that ox kills someone, the owner and the ox are put to death. Verse 30 refers to fines imposed for bodily injury. Note what he gives the sum of money for: the ransom of his life! The implication is that if the man doesn’t pay the fine, his life is forfeited.
31 Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him.
32 If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
The fine was to be paid in silver. The liable party could pay a ransom for his soul with silver. This is why silver is called the redemption metal. In the Old Testament economy, a man could be redeemed with silver.
Later, the Lord told Moses to enlist the army. Every man twenty years old or older was to give a ransom for his soul as he was numbered so that no plague would come upon him. Everyone, rich or poor, gave the same amount: a half shekel of silver. This was called the atonement money.
And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
The army of God paid a ransom price for their souls so that they could serve God and not die. It made atonement, a covering, for them. The silver collected was then used to craft the bases for the tabernacle and to overlay the tops of the pillars of the outer court. Redemption outlined the tabernacle in the wilderness. As the children of Israel approached to worship, the silver caps on the pillars of the court would shine with the message of redemption. As they entered the courtyard and sacrificed, they could see the gold-covered boards of the tabernacle sitting in silver bases. This silver would bear witness to the army of God as they worshipped that they were redeemed.
The silver was only a type of the blood. All of redemption is outlined in blood. It is the basis of our redemption and its crowning achievement. As He bled from head to foot, we walk in the blood and are covered by the blood. And the army of God can stand before the throne of God in worship because Jesus made the way by His blood! Praise God for His undying mercy and His goodness to mankind! What other god is like our God? Who else is mighty to save?
When we were redeemed by the blood, we were bought into the army of God to make war on principalities and powers in a way that we should not die. Why? Because the ground that gives the enemy the power of death is sin, and the blood ransomed us from sin! As long as we stand on blood-soaked ground, the devil can’t defeat us!