The Bible, God’s Own 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 6:30,31; Ezekiel 33:14-16; Matthew 5:23,24; Luke 19:8,9; Acts 23:1-5; 24:16; James 4:17.
Restitution is an 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 or not, for God knows (Hebrews 4:13).
We receive forgiveness when we confess and forsake our sins. Then, we are cleansed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (Proverbs 28:13; I 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 has 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 the 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 ensures that we have right relationship with our fellowmen after we are reconciled with God.
The Bible doctrine on restitution in precept and practice spans virtually all the dispensations of God’s dealings with men till the 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 by the law.
Restitution is part of the moral law. Most sins committed by men are against God as well as their neighbours. 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 for rulers-temporal and spiritual- to reflect on this commitment to God’s moral requirement for all men (2 Samuel 16:5-8 with 19:16-23; Proverbs 6:30,31; I Kings 20:34).
The prophets in Israel also preached, explained and emphasised 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 of Christ and the atoning sacrifice. They were quick to recognise 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 17:3-4; Luke 19:8-10).
Zacchaeus’ encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ is an object lesson. Zacchaeus wanted nothing to stand between himself and his salvation – not even his wealth, especially the ill-gotten part of it. 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 also 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 another.
The Apostles in the early church also practised 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 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 (I 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 organisations that may affect other people in an adverse way. It also includes cases in which we don’t have clear leading from God’s word as to what steps to take. For delicate restitutions, we need fervent prayerfulness, wisdom and counselling 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 restitutions be made. A far reaching benefit in God’s plan as regards restitution is that an undeniable testimony is directed to 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 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).