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God’s Word for You

Luke 12:57-59 Is your debt settled

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, August 24, 2018

57 “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?  58 When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort to settle with him along the way, or he may he drag you to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the officer, and the officer will throw you into prison.  59 I tell you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last penny.

We learned a little about Roman coins when Jesus said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?” (Luke 12:6). Those pennies were the Imperial as, each on worth eight of the leptons mentioned here. This tiny coin was the widow’s might (Mark 12:42). This “very last penny” must have been a paltry, insignificant thing, worth far less than a crushed pop can today—less than a bottle cap, or a button. Until every last little bit of your debt is paid, the human judge and officer won’t let you out of debtor’s prison.

Paul explains Jesus’ warning to the Corinthians: “If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!” (1 Corinthians 6:1-4).

The scene Jesus paints is simple: If you are being accused of something, you try to settle before you get to court, because the outcome in the court in former times could be debtor’s prison. This was a virtually impossible situation: A man who couldn’t pay his debt could be put into prison until he paid, which for some men meant a life sentence. How does that apply to our spiritual lives? Any payment for sin is impossible for a man. The Bible is clear and uses simple words for this truth:

“The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23.

Those who die rejecting Christ perish forever in hell: “Whoever does not believe will be condemned,” Mark 16:16.

Those who die with faith in Christ have their souls brought immediately to heaven: “You will have treasure in heaven,” Matthew 19:21. “Today you will be with me in paradise,” Luke 23:43.

Jesus is encouraging the Jews who were listening to him to settle the debt of their sin in the only way possible, which was by putting their faith in him. No one can redeem themselves with good works, with gold, with a good heart, or anything else. We can only be redeemed by our Savior. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect,” 1 Peter 1:18-19.

To use this passage in Luke 12 as proof of Purgatory is monstrous, the devil’s argument to draw people away from faith in Christ and into a morass of false hope that seeks to put off until eternity those things that Jesus commands us to attend to today. Put your faith in Jesus. Through his blood your sins are covered over and sent away forever. This is the promise of God, the judgment of God, and the content of the gospel, the good news for all mankind. Treasure it and thank Jesus that you are all settled. You whole debt is paid before magistrate, judge, and officer. You have a place with God forever in heaven.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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