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 (the forensic is relational).
I am one who is grievously in debt. I come from a family of debtors. The first father of our family incurred so much debt that his alone is too much for any of us to pay. And to top it off, I am a chronic debtor, in a word, a debtor by nature. And the the mountain of 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, already considers me in violation of its Law because of my debt and has put out a warrant for me to appear before the Judge. The Court will soon issue a verdict that will demand my punishment, one that entails 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. And yet despite this sword hanging over my head, I continued to irresponsibly and habitually add to my indebtedness. I know there is no way of evading the judgment of the Law Court. I can only hopelessly wish for a miracle - someone to take my place, to serve my sentence, someone to pay my debt. But that is only a dream.
But then I find out there is such a Someone who, though by all appearances poor, is yet completely just and debt-free before the Law. It is this One who has stepped forward for me. Unbeknownst to me, years ago this Person, who knew of me and my predicament and out of selfless love, had arranged with the Law Court to take my place, to be my Surety for all the debt and penalties I would accumulate - past, present, future. Without any involvement on my part, the Law Court had covenanted with him and accepted Him as my Surety. And as a result all judgments upon me were transferred to him, legally accounted to him and put in His name. Amazingly, my Surety's benevolence towards me had preceded my awareness of my predicament.
The Law Court thus imputed all my debt and punishment to Him. All my guilt was put upon Him. He, not me, now was legally guilty and 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 all my 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 my 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 arrived. This One is declared the guilty debtor in my place. He is stripped of his freedom, put into chains and thrown into prison. And there He is to sit under my life sentence of condemnation. Yet from the bounty of His immense generosity, he not only takes my place for the judgment due me, but I find out that rather than one in poverty he is one with a storehouse of wealth. And this One has legally arranged to make me a joint-heir to His family fortune! All this was to be put into force upon the moment when he would take my place in judgment. He would pay off my debt in full, including all penalties. Thus according to the Court ruling, He would execute the legal agreement making me a joint heir to all His wealth and take my penalty! Accordingly, upon becoming wealthy in the eyes of the Law, the Court would never again judge me to be a debtor in that any future debts I would incur would have already been covered by the infinite wealth credited to my account. I would be able live as one truly debt free.
When the moment of my sentencing arrives, the Law Court's Official Emissary and Witness brought me the good news that this wonderful Man, this Surety had set me free from my sentence and that I was absolved of all wrong doing! The Emissary comforts me and explains that all I have to do is acknowledge my guilt of debt, believe this good news, accept the free gift of this One, and give my allegiance to Him. I believe against disbelief. Something in the Word delivered to me by the Emissary causes me to believe the unbelievable. I joyously accept what this Man has done for me as explained in the good news that I have heard. I leave my prison cell and go forth a man free from debt. I am no longer under the Law Court condemnation 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 imputes to me his payment and satisfaction to the Law. All my debt (past, present, and future) is forever blotted out and taken away. All this, my Surety, freely did for me.
And wonder of wonders, since this Person, standing in my place, has put forth his wealth and 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 through him. The Law is satisfied. The Law being just requires that He be released. He has 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 did 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, wealthy, and just before the Law. And based on His substitution-sentence-serving, I am now declared just, wealthy, and without debt in the eyes of the Law Court. The Court is satisfied regarding all its demands of the Law. It therefore no longer has any legal-judgment interest in me or my Surety. His perfect satisfaction of the Law is imputed to me. Justice demanded by the Law and Mercy shown towards me have fully met in my gracious Surety.
I am justified before the Law’s judgment. Not under the Law because my debt and punishment is paid, I am now under the favor or grace of this One who has done all of this 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 his Father was also the very Judge who was presiding over my case. His Father had agreed to give his Son as payment for the penalty and debt that I owed to His Court while also making an adopted son, a joint-heir with his Son in his family. How great a love of the Father and the Son! What a blessed and sweet exchange has been accomplished for me...
"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 finished work of Christ, by 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, Christ’s satisfaction of the Law trumps any debt I may incur. All those debts have been reckoned by the Law Court to have been paid. Amazing grace. So now I consider myself a debtor not to the Law in fear of its condemnation, but a debtor only to grace and to the Surety who forever stands between me and the Law's judgment.
“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 death is from life 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 [taking our place as a debtor, though in himself 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 [through faith trusting in the Surety given for me, for it is the Spirit who brings us the good news of Christ’s bearing the penalty of death demanded by the Law and fulfilling the righteousness demanded of the Law on our behalf]” (Romans 8:1-4).
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“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)