My friend Dr. Roy Gustafson has the finest illustration of justification I have ever
heard. It seems that there was a man in England who put his Rolls-Royce on a boat and went
across to the continent to go on a holiday. While he was driving around Europe, something
happened to the motor of his car. He cabled the Rolls-Royce people back in England and
asked, "I'm having trouble with my car; what do you suggest I do?" Well, the
Rolls-Royce people flew a mechanic over! The mechanic repaired the car and flew back to
England and left the man to continue his holiday. As you can imagine, the fellow was
wondering, "How much is this going to cost me?" So when he got back to England,
he wrote the people a letter and asked how much he owed them. He received a letter from
the office that read: "Dear Sir: There is no record anywhere in our files that
anything ever went wrong with a Rolls-Royce." That is justification.
Did Christ finish His work? How dangerous it is to join anything of our own to the
righteousness of Christ, in pursuit of justification before God! Jesus Christ will never
endure this; it reflects upon His work dishonorably. He will be all, or none, in our
justification. If He has finished the work, what need is there of our additions? And if
not, to what purpose are they? Can we finish that which Christ Himself could not complete?
Did He finish the work, and will He ever divide the glory and praise of it with us? No,
no; Christ is no half-Savior. It is a hard thing to bring proud hearts to rest upon Christ
for righteousness. God humbles the proud by calling sinners wholly from their own
righteousness to Christ for their justification.
Commentary and Devotional
"The question is asked: How can justification take place without the works of the
law, even though James says: 'Faith without works is dead'? In answer, the apostle
distinguishes between the law and faith, the letter and grace. The 'works of the law'
are works done without faith and grace, by the law, which forces them to be done through
fear or the enticing promise of temporal advantages. But 'works of faith' are those done
in the spirit of liberty, purely out of love to God. And they can be done only by those
who are justified by faith.
"An ape can cleverly imitate the actions of humans. But he is not therefore, a
human. If he became a human, it would undoubtedly be not by virtue of the works by which
he imitated man but by virtue of something else; namely, by an act of God. Then, having
been made a human, he would perform the works of humans in proper fashion.
"Paul does not say that faith is without its characteristic works, but that it
justifies without the works of the law. Therefore justification does not require the works
of the law; but it does require a living faith, which performs its works."
I do not come because my soul is free from sin and pure and whole and worthy of Thy
I do not speak to Thee because I've ever justly kept Thy laws and dare to meet Thy face.
I know that sin and guilt combine to reign o'er every thought of mine and turn from good
I know that when I try to be upright and just and true to Thee, I am a sinner still.
I know that often when I strive to keep a spark of love alive for Thee, the powers within
Leap up in unsubmissive might and oft benumb my sense of right and pull me back to sin.
I know that though in doing good I spend my life, I never could atone for all I've done;
But though my sins are black as night, I dare to come before Thy sight because I trust Thy
In Him alone my trust I place, come boldly to Thy throne of grace, and there commune with
Salvation sure, O Lord, is mine, and, all unworthy, I am Thine, for Jesus died for me.
What is justification? It is the declared purpose of God to regard and treat those
sinners who believe in Jesus Christ as if they had not sinned, on the ground of the merits
of the Savior. It is not mere pardon. Pardon is a free forgiveness of past offenses. It
has reference to those sins as forgiven and blotted out. Justification has respect to the
law, and to God's future dealings with the sinner. It is an act by which God determines to
treat him hereafter as righteous--as if he had not sinned. The basis for this is the merit
of the Lord Jesus Christ, merit that we can plead as if it were our own. He has taken our
place and died in our stead; He has met the descending stroke of justice, which would have
fallen on our own heads if He had not interposed.