Do I need to make restitution?

Questions & Answers January 27, 2017

Q: I haven’t lived a very clean life, but have recently rededicated myself to Jesus. I’ve made personal and public confession of my sinfulness, but am wondering if the Bible teaches that we are to turn ourselves in for breaking man’s laws? Or are we forgiven for our past entirely, and told to “go and sin no more”? — Name withheld, United States

A: Friend, let me assure you with a precious promise found in 1 John 1:9 — “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” There is no sin so terrible that God can’t forgive; there is no pit so deep that God cannot pull you out.

Notice the three-steps revealed in this wonderful promise: 1) we confess our sins; 2) because God is faithful and just, He forgives us; 3) and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

Once we are truly sorry and confess our sins, not only will God forgive us, but He promises to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He has the power to change our hearts and actions so that we are new people in Him.

Jesus urges us to stay connected to Him. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:4, 5).

Be sure to stay connected to Jesus every day by spending time with Him through the reading of His Word, the Bible, and through prayer. I also encourage you to read (or re-read) that inspired book on the life of Christ, “The Desire of Ages,” by Ellen White. I’m certain that you will be greatly blessed by this book. You can download a free copy by visiting and clicking on “eBooks.”

In addition, if you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend finding a local Seventh-day Adventist Church where you can fellowship with other believers. Visit this link to find an Adventist church near you.

While the Bible doesn’t specifically address whether one should turn himself in to the authorities for crimes committed, it does encourage making restitution when possible for wrongs done to others.

For example, Zacchaeus a tax collector who had enriched himself by taking more than was his due, told Jesus, “Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8, NKJV). In response, Jesus replied, “Today salvation has come to this house” (vs. 10).

Commenting on this passage, Ellen White wrote, “No sooner did Zacchaeus yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit than he cast aside every practice contrary to integrity. No repentance is genuine that does not work reformation. The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin; it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct. … Every converted soul will, like Zacchaeus, signalize the entrance of Christ into his heart by an abandonment of the unrighteous practices that have marked his life. Like the chief publican, he will give proof of his sincerity by making restitution” (“The Desire of Ages,” p. 556).

There are some situations, of course, when restitution isn’t possible. Furthermore, the criminal justice system is not really focused on restitution. However, if you intend on reporting your situation to a government authority, I would urge you to consult with an experienced Christian lawyer. To find a Seventh-day Adventist attorney, visit

May God bless you in your new life in Him!