Study No. 157
Repentance Without Restitution
Restitution is one of the least understood, yet most important, Bible teachings. This important principle is taught in both the Old and New Testaments. Yet today in the Church of God, it is commonly taught that "When a person repents and is baptized, his sins are forgiven. Therefore, he is not required to perform any restitution at all." This is an abysmal lack of understanding of what repentance is, and of the guiding influence of the Almightyís Holy Spirit. Let us examine the Bible teaching of restitution, and see how those truly repentant responded to the leading of the Spirit.
We are enlightened to the Eternalís teaching of restitution in Exodus 22:2-3. A thief caught in his crime "should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold [into slavery] for his theft." This is not just a governmental statute for a nation to administer in its justice system. It is a spiritual principle applicable to New Testament believers today. If a thief has the stolen goods in his hand, he should restore double. Of the best of his own shall he make restitution, verses 4-5. And in verse 6, arsonists are to make restitution. For other laws relating to restitution, see also Leviticus 6:1-5. In Numbers 5:6-8, we are instructed that if there is no kinsman to make recompense to, then, "let the trespass be recompensed to the LORD . . . ."
As for the wicked man, "That for which he labored for shall he give back, and shall not swallow it down [to enjoy it]; according to his wealth shall the restitution be, and he shall not rejoice in it," Job 20:18, Amplified Bible. When the Savior returns, He shall ensure "the restitution of all things,"Acts 3:21.
There are two excellent Bible examples of fulfilling the requirement to make restitution. The most well-known case is that of Zaccheus in Luke 19:2-10. Zaccheus was convicted by the Spirit of God to make restitution. Was there a law compelling him to do this? Yes, we have quoted the law from Exodus. The thief is to make restitution. Did the Messiah quote this law to Zaccheus? No, He did not have to do this. The Spirit working with Zaccheus convicted Zaccheus to do what the Almighty required. Zaccheus did not restore extorted tax money he had squeezed from his victims because the Law of God required him to do so, although it did require him to do exactly that. Zaccheus restored because his conscience could not be made clean without doing, immediately, what was necessary to clear his guilty, sinned-stained, record. The Messiah congratulated Zaccheus, "This day is salvation come to this house," Luke 19:9. By following repentance with restitution (recompense), salvation came to the house of Zaccheus.
Another, less well-known, example of applying the Bible principle of restitution, is the conversion and life of Paul, previously known as Saul of Tarsus. If you do not read the New Testament with understanding, you might miss the Truth, and wrongly conclude that Paul made no effort to compensate the victims and families of those he had put in prison or had put to death. Saul was the son of a rich Pharisee (Acts 23:6) of Tarsus who was sent to Jerusalem for an education "at the feet of Gamaliel," the most eminent of all the doctors of the law. Whereas some paid a great sum of money to obtain Roman citizenship, Saul was born a Roman citizen, probably through his wealthy father, Acts 22:28. Before his conversion, Saul became a brilliant scholar of the Law. Saul was a rich man educated in the best school of his day.
But what happened when Saul became converted? He became a tireless evangelist, totally immersed in the Work of the Almighty. Rather than live off his means, or take tithes from the brethren, Paul often supported himself by making tents, Acts 18:3. This is the equivalent of Albert Einstein digging ditches. What happened to Paulís money? The New Testament is silent, but there are important clues. Philippians 3:8 indicates that Paul divested himself: "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." The converted Paul got rid of his filthy lucre, and lived as a humble tentmaker. The same Spirit that motivated Zaccheus, also motivated Paul to make restitution, if not to those whom he had directly harmed, then, as Numbers 6:8 states, to the Lord. Paulís whole life, after his conversion, was involved in restitution. Paul deserved execution for his many murders. Yet the Almighty had mercy on him. Paulís whole life after conversion was one of active restitution. He gave the rest of his life as a living sacrifice to God, and encouraged others to do likewise, Romans 12:1-1, Galatians 2:20.
A different spirit predominates today. Many in the Church of God claim that they have no responsibility to make restitution upon repentance. They claim they do not have to quit sinning. They are NOT being led by the Holy Spirit, but a different spirit. They feel they can remain in an adulterous marriage, and/or live a life of luxury, while the House of the Lord lays waste. Repentance and restitution are in order.
Restitution is one of the key doctrines of the Bible, yet so many in the Church of God today have never studied this subject nor realize its importance. Repentance without restitution is like faith without works!