What if God said, “Pay me now or pay me later”?
Regardless of the payment plan choice, the idea of owing God a debt would be terrifying.
Yet, this is what Mormonism teaches in their plan of salvation. So, what is the Biblical response to this LDS teaching of owing Jesus a debt?
What is the teaching?
The Bible emphasizes that God gives us salvation; Mormonism emphasizes that God gave us a plan of salvation and puts the spotlight on human effort because people need to work the plan in order to progress. The ultimate goal is to become perfect. Many agree this is impossible in this life. This is why they are so thankful to Jesus. They believe that he paid their debt.
In biblical Christianity, Jesus turns to us and says, “Now, you’re set free!”
In Mormonism, Jesus turns and says, “Now you owe me.”
This idea is explained through a popular parable from Gospel Principles (a manual for new LDS members that summarizes the teachings of Mormonism). It casts Heavenly Father in the role of man’s creditor and Jesus as the mediator. In the parable, after paying for our sins, Jesus asks if we will accept him as our creditor. He says we will have to pay him back for the debt he already paid for us! (You can find this parable in its entirety in Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons, pp 72–75. It was also popularized by the LDS apostle Boyd Packer in a talk entitled “The Mediator”).
Why does it matter?
Mormonism teaches that this extension of their payment plan is comforting. It gives them more time to pay off their debt (now to Jesus instead of Heavenly Father). It simply kicks the can down the road.
In other words, Mormonism still brings the debt back to themselves.
By replacing Christ’s perfect and complete payment on the cross with their own efforts, they negate the victory Jesus won.
How do we talk about it?
Help them recognize the truth.
Help them recognize the truth of this payment plan by asking, “If Jesus paid the debt, then that means you don’t have to do this or that, right?” Invariably, they will have to answer, “No, you still have to….”
Help them to see the hopelessness of a debt that returns to them. Not only does adding years to the payment plan put the focus and the pressure on the individual, it only delays the inevitable. Eventually, the payment comes due, and that payment is death.
Point to Jesus’ words—It is finished!
Point to the comfort of Jesus’ words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). It literally means “paid in full.” If something is already paid, there is no need to pay it again. In fact, trying to do so would cause offense to the one who paid your debt by effectively saying it wasn’t enough.
Our sins are drowned in the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). They have been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). In other words, they will never return back to us. That’s only possible because Jesus is enough.
Emphasize your Status of Perfection in Christ.
Emphasize how you are already perfect in Christ. You know for sure that you will live eternally with Heavenly Father. There’s no waiting around—you’ll be carried to his side the moment this life ends.
Our debt hasn’t just been refinanced. It’s been paid off. Share that message with joy and confidence!