By Olen Holderby
The Greek word means, “One who owes any-thing to another,” or “a person who is under an obligation.” W. E. Vine offers six instances of the metaphorical use of this word (opheiletes) in the New Testament; they follow: Matt.6:12 Here it refers to those who have not, as yet, made amends to those whom they have injured. They owe a debt to the offended to make those amends. Lk.13:4 It is referring to those whose disaster was liable to be regarded as punishment for their offences. The word “sinners” has a marginal reading of “debtors.” Rom. 1:14 Paul uses the word in reference to himself in the preaching of the gospel. He considered himself owing a debt which could be met only by preaching the gospel. Rom.8:12 Here an obligation is placed upon the believers to mortify the deeds of the flesh. Rom.15:27 Gentile believers were obligated to assist Jewish believers. Gal.5:3 Those who would be justified by circumcision were duty bound to keep the whole law. These six verses are enough to establish our own debtorship; and, as was Paul, we need to be deeply aware of that obligation, that debt that we owe to others. But, to what, or to whom are we debtors?
When we are neglectful or fail to obey him, we jeopardize our own salvation (Heb.2:3; 5:9).
We are debtors to our loved ones. God has plainly stated the obligations of all family members: Parents to children (Prov.22:6; Eph.6:4; Col.3:21); children to parents (Col.3:20; Eph.6: 1-3); husbands and wives to each other (Eph.5:22-33; Col.3:18-19; 1 Pet.3:1-2). Timothy learned the “holy scriptures” from his youth (2 Tim.3:15). Being a good example cannot be more important anywhere else than in the home (1 Tim. 4:12).
We are debtors to the church. In Ephesians 5:25-27 we have God’s intended purity of the church plainly stated; and, we are debtors to see that it meets this high standard. We must use all of our talents to edify the church (Matt.25:14:30). We must strive to make sure that the organization, worship, and work of the church is exactly as the first-century church (2 Jno.9; 1 Cor.4:6). We are debtors to cooperate within, and to do all things to edify one another (Rom.14:19).
We are debtors to God. This is true because we receive from him “every good and every perfect gift” (Jas.1:17); and, our continuing existence depends upon him (Job 34:15). Creatures ought to already know that they must not forget their Creator.
We are debtors to the world of the lost. This is Paul’s emphasis in Romans 1:14-15. The lost need the gospel of Christ for it is God’s power to save them (Rom.1:16; Mk.16:15-16). We are debtors to carry that gospel to them; and, we are lost unless we produce fruit unto the Lord (Jn.15:2).
Accepting our debtorship in all facets of our lives ought to be a pleasure. Christ died for us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8). He bare our sins in his own body on the Cross (I Pet. 2:24); and, we are saved, now and eternally, by his “precious blood” (1 Pet.1:19).
We are debtors to ourselves. We do have to give an account to God (2 Cor.5:10). We must not permit the cares of this world to choke the Word from our hearts (Mk.8:36); and, we must be doers of that Word and not hearers only (Jan.1:22).
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 7, p. 13
April 7, 1994