Merlin Carothers, author of the book Prison to Praise, had firsthand experience of what it is like to be declared righteous. During World War II, he joined the army. Anxious to get into some action, Carothers went AWOL, but was caught and sentenced to five years in prison. Instead of sending him to prison, the judge told him he could serve his term by staying in the army for five years. The judge told him if he left the army before the five years ended, he would have to spend the rest of his term in prison. Carothers was released from the army before the five-year term had passed, so he returned to the prosecutor’s office to find out where he would be spending the remainder of his sentence. To his surprise and delight, Carothers was told that he had received a full pardon from President Truman. The prosecutor explained: “That means your record is completely clear. Just as if you had never gotten involved with the law. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
If we look through a piece of red glass, everything is red. If we look through a piece of blue glass, everything is blue. If we look through a piece of yellow glass, everything is yellow, and so on.
When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, God looks at us through the Lord Jesus Christ. He sees us in all the white holiness of his Son. Our sins are imputed to the account of Christ and his righteousness to our account. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
The Chinese character for “righteousness is most interesting. It is composed of two separate characters-one standing for a lamb, the other for me. When “lamb is placed directly above “me”, anew character-“righteousness” is formed.
This is a helpful picture of the grace of God. Between me, the sinner, and God, the Holy One, there is interposed by faith the Lamb of God. By virtue of his sacrifice, he has received me on the ground of faith, and I have become righteous in his sight. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
Blackmailers once sent C.H. Spurgeon a letter to the effect that if he did not place a certain amount of money in a certain place at a certain time, they would publish some things in the newspapers that would defame him and ruin his public ministry. Spurgeon left at that station a letter in reply: “You and your like are requested to publish all you know about me across the heavens.” He knew his life was blameless in the eyes of men and, therefore, they could not touch his character. ── Michael P. Green《Illustrations for Biblical Preaching》
Quest for Righteousness
He who would gain righteousness by faith and works is as the dog who runs along a stream with a piece of meat in his mouth, and, deceived by the reflection of the meat in the water, opens his mouth to snap at it, and so loses both the meat and the reflection.— Martin Luther
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.
"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 grace;
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 to ill;
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 Son.
In Him alone my trust I place, come boldly to Thy throne of grace, and there commune with Thee.
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.
Ⅰ. Self-judgment is its fore-runner. “ This man went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14)。
Ⅱ. God is its Author. “God that justifieth “(Rom.8:33).
Ⅲ. Grace is its Spring. “Justified freely by His grace”(Romans 3:24).
Ⅳ. Blood of Christ is its Purchaser. “Justified freely by His blood”(Romans 5:9)
Ⅴ.The resurrection is its Proclaimer. “Raised again for our justification”(Rom. 4:25)
Ⅵ.Faith is its Accepter. “Being justified by faith” (Rom.5:1)
Ⅶ. Union is its Confirmation.”He that is dead is freed ( margin, justified )from sin”(Rom.6:7)
Ⅷ. The Holy Spirit is its Effector .”Justified…. by the Spirit”(1.Cor.6:2)
Ⅸ. All things arc in its Scope . “ justified from all things” (Acts 13:39)
Ⅹ. Works are its Evidence. “By works a man is justified” (James 2:24)
── F.E. Marsh《Five Hundred Bible Readings》