BIBLE DOCTRINE 6: RESTITUTION
God’s Word teaches:
That Restitution is making amends for wrongs done against our fellow men, restoring stolen things to their rightful owners, paying debts, giving back where one has defrauded, making confessions to the offended and apologizing to those slandered so as to have a conscience void of offence toward God and man – Genesis 20:1-8,14-18; Exodus 22:1-7; Leviticus 6:1-7; Numbers 5:6-8; 2 Samuel 12:1-6; Proverbs 6:31; Ezekiel 33:14-16; Matthew 5:23,24; Luke 19:8,9; Acts 23:1-5; 24:16; James 4:17; 5:16
Restitution is the act of making amends for wrongs done against our fellowmen; restoring stolen or misappropriated things, properties or persons to their rightful owners; paying back just debts, giving back where one has defrauded, making confessions to the offended and apologizing to those slandered so as to have a conscience void of offence toward God and men. This is done whether the person injured knew it or not, for God knows (Hebrews 4:13).
We receive forgiveness when we confess and forsake our sins. We get cleansed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). When a man sins against God, we often find that other people suffer as a result of that sin. It is also true that when a man sins against his neighbour, he sins against God in the same act, because one of God’s commandments ahs been broken. God willingly forgives the sins committed against Him when there is repentance and forsaking of sin. However, God
requires that a man make amends to any person he has injured or wronged as a mark among other things, that repentance is genuine. We need to bear fruit that signify to all that we have become new creatures indeed (Luke 3:8-14; Romans 8:1,2; Acts 24:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Making restitutions ensure that we have right relationship with our fellowmen after we are reconciled with God.
The Bible doctrine on restitution in practice and precept spans virtually all the dispensations of God’s dealings with men till present day. The revelation of God’s will and word before the Mosaic laws demands that we make restitution (Romans 1:19,20). Therefore, this teaching or doctrine of God’s word, which had been established many years before the law cannot be abolished with the law. Restitution is part of the moral law. Most sins committed by men are against God as well as their neighbour. So repentance toward God for the children of Israel included restoration to man of all properties gained by fraud, lying or pretence of whatever kind (Exodus 21:18,19,22,26-36; 22:1-15; Leviticus 6:2-5; Numbers 5:6-8).
Rulers in Israel reflected and embraced this teaching on restitution. It is vital today that rulers, temporal and spiritual reflect this commitment to God’s moral requirement for all men (cf.2 Samuel 16:5-8 with 19:16-23; Proverbs 6:30,31; 1 Kings 20:34; 2 Kings 8:1-6). The prophets of Israel also preached, explained, and emphasized the need to make restitution by every backslidden Israelite who is returning to God (Nehemiah 5:6-13). The prophets proclaimed and prophesied much of the coming Christ and the atoning sacrifice. They were quick to recognize the need for the blood of the lamb to cleanse sins, yet they did not lessen God’s requirement of the necessity of restitution. The ministry of preachers today is akin to that of the Old Testament prophets.
Restitution is a doctrine of Christ, confirming his word that “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled”. Every believer must earnestly and whole-heartedly contend for and practice all that Christ taught (Matthew 18:15-17; Luke 17:3-5; 19:8-10). Zacchaeus’ encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ is an object lesson. He wanted nothing to stand between himself and salvation – not even his wealth, especially that part that was ill-gotten. Though the
people murmured that Jesus was going to be a sinner’s guest, Jesus pronounced that salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house since he as a son of Abraham not only by birth but now by faith, is ready to make right his life and wholly follow the Lord. The salvation experience makes a person feel like returning all possessions that rightfully belong to others.
The Apostles in the early church also practiced and taught restitution. In fact, the whole church of God lived by this teaching (Matthew 28:19,20; John 14:26; Acts 2:42; 16:4,5; Philemon 7-21). The rules of righteous living are just as high (or even higher), under the dispensation of grace, as those in the Old Testament. Restitution is as much a part of the gospel as conversion or water baptism. It is not a self-righteous act to merit pardon. When a man is saved, he will not only make right matters of money such as theft, dishonest gains and unpaid bills; he will also confess his lies, slanderous reports, unjust criticisms, hatred, malice – those things in which one may have injured others in word or in deed. One may say, “my brother or sister does not know that I talked evil of him.” But what about the person to whom you talked? Without doubt you have harmed him, and perhaps he repeated it to others. You should go to the one to whom you talked and confess it. It is better that we make right all previous wrongs here and now than face it in eternity. The great ‘Counsellor’ who never lost a case can go before us and soften the hearts of those whom we have wronged (1 Timothy 5:24).
Making restitution can be likened to a spiritual warfare in which we need God’s help and wisdom to undertake for us and quench all the fiery darts of the wicked (Ephesians 6:10-12,16). Some restitutions are delicate. These are restitutions that may implicate or bring injuries or harm to others that may be unsaved or the need to settle issues with individuals or organizations that may affect other people in an adverse way. These also include cases in which we do not have clear leading from God’s word as to
what steps to take. For delicate restitutions, we need fervent prayers, wisdom and counseling from Spirit-filled preachers of God’s word who believe and teach the whole counsel of God (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6).
The civil laws in a country may not always govern in matters of restitution. For example, the law may provide a time limit for certain classes of debts and obligations, after which they become lapse; but no debts are outlawed with God. Time cannot cancel moral obligations. Restitution is usually considered at the time of salvation because God will only forgive when a man is
willing, so far as it lies within his power, to make right every wrong that he has committed against others. There would be need, however, throughout life as a Christian to be ready to make restitution where need be, when others are offended, for example, out of human error of judgment (Acts 23:1-5; Matthew 5:23,24). God demands that restitution be made. A far-reaching benefit in God’s plan as regards restitution is that an undeniable testimony is directed to the people who otherwise might never seriously hear the story of the gospel. A religion that compels a man to pay his just debts, restore back the things he has stolen, and uncover his crimes demands confidence from the men of the world. When restitutions are made, and past wrongs are settled, the peace of God floods the believer’s heart. There is confidence towards God in prayer and the believer makes progress in the Christian life as sense of guilt is removed (Romans 8:1,2).
1. Admit that you are a sinner. "For all [humans] have sinned, and comes short of the glory of God....[and] the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 3:23)
2. Repent now. "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out ...[for] if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness " (Acts 3:19, 1 John 1:9)
3. Believe that God loves you and Jesus died for you. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet Sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
4. Invite Jesus into your life through prayer of faith. Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20)