Once three debtors were put into prison because they owed the king a lot of money and couldn’t pay.
A man marched to the cell of the first debtor and said, “I have paid part of your debt, but you still have to pay the rest of it.”
The first debtor waved at the dark prison cell around him. “How am I supposed to work off my debt in here? I can’t earn money while in prison.”
And because he couldn’t earn any more money to pay off the rest of his debt, the first debtor stayed in prison.
A man shuffled to the cell of the second debtor, held up a bag of coins, and said, “I have some money here, and I would be willing to pay your debt. I think I have enough. All you have to do is open the door to your cell. I don’t want to force you into anything.”
The second debtor waved at the dark prison cell around him. “How am I supposed to open the door to my cell? I don’t have a key.”
And because he couldn’t open the door to his cell, the second debtor stayed in prison.
A man strode to the cell of the third debtor, unlocked the door, and swung it wide open. “I have paid your debt. You are free to go.”
The third debtor shook as he tried to stand, but he was sick from his time in prison. The man picked him up, carried him from the prison, and took him into his own home. The third debtor, now a free man, was so thankful that he gladly served his rescuer for the rest of his life.
Because of sin, we are all debtors who can’t pay even a part of our debt to God. Christ is the only one who can pay our debt, and he is the only source of our salvation. Reformers like Martin Luther fought for this truth that salvation is found in Christ alone.