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Debtors, Enemies and Criminals

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Yesterday I read R.C. Sproul’s new book The Truth of the Cross. It’s just a short book, coming in at just 167 small pages, but as we’d expect from Sproul, does not waste a word. It’s a great little book and one that gave me a lot to think about. I wanted to share just one of those things today, primarily because after finishing the last chapter this morning I went to church and heard a powerful message just relaying the beauty of the gospel. The pastor’s message fit perfectly with Sproul’s book.

In the third chapter, where R.C. discusses the human condition, he uses three biblical concepts: debtors, enemies, and criminals. The Bible describes all of us in these terms. What Sproul did, that really helped this hit home for me, was show how it is always the Father who has been offended and the Son who intercedes. We have committed crimes against God and are, thus, justly termed criminals. The Father stands as Judge, passing the just sentence of death. But Christ stands between us and the Father, acting as substitute. Our sin puts as in debt to God so that we are debtors to Him. God is the creditor who demands repayment, but Christ stands in as surety. And sin puts us at enmity with God, making us His enemies. He has been violated by our sin, but Christ intercedes as mediator, opening the way between man and God.

Sproul breaks this down into the following simple table:

Sin As…ManGodChrist
DebtDebtorCreditorSurety
EnmityEnemyViolated OneMediator
CrimeCriminalJudgeSubstitute

He concludes this: “Christ, then, is the One Who made satisfaction. By His work on the cross, He satisfied the demands of God’s justice with regard to our debt, our state of enmity, and our crime. In light of the facts of God’s justice and our sinfulness, it is not difficult to see the absolute necessity of the atonement.”

What a great Savior.


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