As a young boy I watched my dad write checks and wished that I could do it. What I didn’t realize was that there had to be money in an account to back them up.
The apostle Paul never wrote a check, but he did have an account good enough to pay an unusual debt if necessary. He referred to this in his letter to Philemon, a wealthy Christian whose slave Onesimus had run away and may have stolen some money from his master.
In the providence of God, Onesimus met Paul in Rome and became a follower of Christ. They agreed that it was right for him to return to his master. Paul wrote a letter to Philemon (the letter that bears his name), asking him to receive Onesimus as a brother, and assuring him that he himself would pay any debt Onesimus owed.
That’s a picture of what happens in salvation. As sinners, we owed an enormous debt, but Jesus took care of it for us. Because of His sinless life, He has a limitless resource of righteousness. And by dying in our place, He paid the penalty for our sin. Now we can draw on this payment by faith. As Martin Luther said, “We are all His Onesimi.” If we put our trust in Christ as our Savior, our sins are put to His account and we are free for all eternity. Praise God!
Rejoice, rejoice, the debt is paid!
For all our sins on Christ were laid;
Estrangement once was all we knew,
But now we know a love that's true. —D. De Haan
Christ paid a debt He didn't owe to satisfy a debt we couldn't pay.