When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14
When I read that verse from Colossians, I just want to cry out, "Thank You Jesus!" He canceled the debt against me! He has taken it out of the way. He nailed my debt to the cross, and paid the penalty when He died for my sins.
My debt was like the debt of the slave in the story Jesus told to illustrate forgiveness.
Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves."When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. Matthew 18:21-25
This slave could have never repaid his debt to the master. Ten thousand talents was significantly more money than anyone would have made in an entire lifetime - Jesus used this huge sum of money to illustrate just how great His forgiveness of us is! We could never repay what we owe - not even in our whole lifetime.
"So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt." Matthew 18:26-27
He forgave him the debt! He said he didn't have to pay! The slave didn't have a chance of ever repaying it, but no he doesn't even have to worry about it - his debt is forgiven. But wait, look at what the slave does next:
"But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed." Matthew 18:28-30
The slave had just been forgiven a debt he could never repay (what a tremendous gift!) and then he goes and find a colleague who owes him a tiny fraction of that amount and demands payment - to the point of throwing the fellow slave in prison since he couldn't repay his debt!
"So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' Matthew 18:31-33
God has given us a wonderful gift: forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ. Our debt was paid and canceled by Jesus on the cross. We have only to accept this free gift and follow Him. And, just as He has forgiven us, we are called to forgive others.
"And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." Matthew 18:34-35
The slave who had his debt canceled but did not forgive his fellow slave was handed over to pay his debt with his life. Jesus calls us to forgive others just as He has forgiven us.
He has canceled our debt! Let us live in the celebration of that freedom, and extend His forgiveness freely to others.
Words by John P. Scholfield
When my debt to God was resting on my soul,
And I trod the downward road,
I looked up to Him who died to make men whole,
And He canceled the debt I owed.
Jesus canceled the debt I owed,
Jesus lifted the mighty load;
Grace divine touched my soul and made me whole,
When He canceled the debt I owed.
My account was great, I knew I could not pay,
I bowed ’neath the heavy load;
Jesus paid my debt, I love Him more each day,
For He canceled the debt I owed.
Gratitude to Him has turned my heart to praise,
I’m grateful for gifts bestowed;
And my song will flow thro’ all the coming days,
For He canceled the debt I owed.
When I stand alone and face the setting sun,
And darkness obscures the road,
He will guide me home and say to me, “Well done,”
For He cancelled the debt I owed.