All analogies are imperfect. But they can help point to truths that are not always clear. This is an attempt to that end - what Jesus did for me.
I am one who is grievously in debt. I come from a family of debtors. I am a chronic debtor, in a word, a debtor by nature. And the debt that I have accumulated has been acquired foolishly and irresponsibly. I owe immense sums of money and my debt continues to grow. Payment is long overdue. The Law Court, in fact, has already judged me in violation of its Law because of my debt. And the Court has issued a verdict that demands my punishment, entailing life imprisonment or until such time as all the debt, interest, and penalties have been paid in full - something I would never be able to do in a million lifetimes. Despite that reality, I have continued to irresponsibly and habitually add to my large debt. And deep inside I know there is no way of evading the judgment of the Law Court. Hopelessly, I can only wish that someone would take my place before the Law and save me from my punishment and pay off my debt. But that seems only a dream.
Yet Someone, a Person completely just and debt-free before the Law, has indeed stepped forward. Unbeknownst to me, long before I was born, this Person had arranged with the Law Court to be my Surety for all the debt and penalties I would accumulate - past, present, future. Even more, He had also contracted to make me a joint-heir to His family fortune, to be put into force upon taking my place. Without my involvement, the Law Court had ruled and accepted Him as my Surety and as a result all judgments upon me were to be accounted legally in His name. My Surety's benevolence towards me had preceded my predicament.
The Law Court thus imputed all my debt and punishment to Him. All my guilt was now His. He, not me, now legally owed the debt even though He was not by nature a debtor and had never incurred any debt and certainly not mine. He now legally owed what I owed. He, not me, was now liable before the Law for penalties that He had not incurred. In effect, the Law Court considered Him to be the debtor, even though I am the one who went into debt. And the Law Court assigned the judgment of imprisonment to be on His head, not mine. And in prison He would remain until every last penny was paid off.
The day of judgment comes. He is declared a guilty debtor. He is stripped of his freedom, put in chains and thrown into prison. And there He sits under my condemnation. But then from the bounty of His immense storehouse of wealth, He pays off my debt in full, including all penalties. In addition, according to the Court ruling, He executes the legal agreement making me a joint heir to all His wealth. Now wealthy in the eyes of the Law, the Court can never again judge me to be a debtor.
At the moment of my sentencing, the Law Court's official Emissary then brought me the good news that a Surety had set me free from my sentence and that I was absolved of all wrong doing! Believing against disbelief... yet something about the Emissary's message causes me to in fact believe. I joyously accept what has been done for me and go free. I am no longer liable to the Law Court because of the completed transaction enacted between the Court and my Surety. As in a dream - but it’s not a dream - Another has willingly been judged in my place. And because He legally took my place, the Law Court accounts me debt free. All my debt (past, present, and future) is blotted out and taken away. This, my Surety, freely did for me.
And, since this Person, standing in my place, has paid all my debts and penalties, the Law Court then no longer has any legal basis to continue his incarceration! Prison cannot hold Him. He has no debt in His Name. My debt is paid. The Law is satisfied. The justice of the Law requires that He be released. He served my sentence. He went to prison and paid my debt in full. He satisfied every judgment and demand of the Law Court. As to His own person, my Surety was not a debtor and never had been. Even though for a time the Law Court legally considered Him a debtor it no longer does. Once my debt was paid, He was vindicated to be what He had always been - without debt and just before the Law. And based on His substitution-sentence-serving, I am now declared just and without debt in the eyes of the Law Court. The Court is satisfied regarding all its demands for the Law to be upheld. It therefore no longer has any legal interest in me or my Surety. His perfect satisfaction of the Law is accounted [imputed] to me. Justice demanded by the Law and Mercy shown towards me have fully met in my gracious Surety.
I am no longer under the Law’s judgment. Rather, as pertaining to my debt and punishment I am now under the favor [grace] of the One who executed the office of Surety for me. And, little did I know until I was given the good news of my freedom from the Law’s condemnation, that the Surety who took my place was actually the One to whom all my debts were owed. And not only that, but He was also the very Judge who was presiding over my case. He paid for me that which I owed to His Court. He bore the sentence that His Court had passed on me. It is this One who took my debt and gave me his wealth. Sweet exchange, indeed.
"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace" (Rom 6:14). All my debt (sin) has been remitted - paid by Another. Debt no longer can put me under the judgment of the Law. The Law is no longer hanging over my head because of my sin. All my debt - past, present, future - has been paid. How? - by the riches of His grace. I am no longer under Law but under Grace. Sin/Debt cannot reign over me ever again even though at times I do still sin/incur debt. Yet all those debts have been reckoned by the Law Court to be paid. Amazing grace. So now I consider myself a debtor not to the Law, but only to grace and to the Surety who forever stands between me and the Law's penalty.
“For the death that he died, he died unto sin [my debt] once: but the life that he lives, he lives unto God. Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin [my debt is as far from me as life is from death because the Law is satisfied with Christ's penalty payment], but alive unto God in Christ Jesus” [if you are dead to sin, you are alive to God] (Romans 6:10-11).
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life [by grace and favor] in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin [debt] and of death [punishment for debt]. For what the law could not do [it only demands, it doesn’t fulfill], in that it was weak through the flesh [my propensity to accrue debt], God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh [appearing as a debtor, though not one] and for sin [for my debt payment], condemned sin in the flesh [punished Jesus for my debt]]: that the ordinance of the law [its just sentence for debt and its demand for debt-freeness] might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh [i.e. my efforts to remove my own debt and earn freedom], but after the Spirit [Who creates in me the the eyes of faith to trust in the Surety given for me, for it is the Spirit who brings us the good news of Christ’s death on our behalf]” (Romans 8:1-4).
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Romans 5:1-11)