We’ve spent this week looking at the definition of grace, and what God’s grace means to us. I once heard someone say that grace means that God gives us something we don’t deserve, while mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve. I’m not sure that’s a completely accurate definition of these two words, but I like it all the same. It puts the definition of grace in terms of what we deserve, which as we talked about the last couple of days, is eternity in darkness and fire separated from God in hell. By his mercy, we don’t have to experience that. And by His grace, we get to experience something much better – eternity in Heaven with him, enjoying the blessings of His kingdom and sharing in the inheritance of Christ as adopted sons of the King.
In today’s study, Randy Alcorn pointed out something that I have never heard before. Supposedly, back in the time of Christ, when most of the world (or at least most of the world surrounding Israel) was completely influenced by Greek culture, whenever someone owed someone else a debt, a certificate was drawn up stating what that debt entailed. Whenever someone would pay a debt in full, they would write the word τελέω, transliterated teleō, across the certificate intending to show that the debt was fully paid. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, just a second or two before his death, he said the word tetelestai, which is a form of the word teleō (Strong’s Concordance actually just translates it from teleō), and it translated into English as Him saying “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Jesus probably meant multiple things in this one simple statement, but there is no doubt that His Greek-speaking contemporaries that surrounded him would have understood that He was speaking about more than just the end of His life. As Alcorn put it, “Christ died so that the certificate of debt listing all of our sins could once and for all be marked Paid in Full.”
We all have a debt we owe to God. As the creator of the universe, God has the authority to set whatever laws in place that He chooses, and part of the laws He set down were moral laws. Based on His own character, God set a standard of behavior and a standard of thinking that is so very involved and so very particular that humans couldn’t live up to it. Maybe we thought we could, but He gave us the Old Testament Law to show us what I would guess is just a peek at His perfection and the height of His standards. It proved that we couldn’t meet those standards, no matter how hard we tried. It’s just not in our selfish nature. Therefore, whenever we failed to meet those standards, the scales of justice starting tipping, and our sin debt grew. But in stepped Christ, God in human flesh, to save the day. He lived a perfect life, He taught what being godly was really all about, He gave an example of obedient living, and then He sacrificed Himself as an atonement for our sins. He willingly took torture and ultimately death on the cross, even though He didn’t deserved it and we did. He tipped the scales of justice back toward our favor, and when it was all said and done, he said “tetelestai!” The debt is paid in full. That, my friend, is grace.
- He paid a debt He did not owe,
- I owed a debt I could not pay,
- I needed someone to wash my sin away
- And now I sing that brand new song: Amazing Grace
- For Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay