Justification Made Plain*
Charles H. Spurgeon
"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus"
Now, what is the meaning of justification? Divines will puzzle you,
if you ask them. I must try the best I can to make justification plain
and simple, even to the comprehension of a child. There is not such a
thing as justification to be had on earth for mortal men, except in one
way. Justification, you know, is a forensic term: it is employed always in
a legal sense. A prisoner is brought to the bar of justice to be tried.
There is only one way whereby that prisoner can be justified, that is,
he must be found not guilty. And if he is found not guilty, then he is
justified, that is, he is proved to be a just man. If you find that man
guilty, you cannot justify him. The Queen may pardon him, but she
cannot justify him. The deed is not a justifiable one, if he were
guilty concerning it, and he cannot be justified on account of it. He
may be pardoned, but not royalty itself can ever wash that man's
character. He is as much a real criminal when he is pardoned as before.
There is no means among men of justifying a man of an accusation which
is laid against him, except by his being proved not guilty. Now, the
wonder of wonders is, that we are proved guilty, and yet we are
justified: the verdict has been brought in against us--guilty--and yet
notwithstanding, we are justified. Can any earthly tribunal do that? No, it remained for
the ransom of Christ to effect that which is an impossibility to any
tribunal upon earth. We are all guilty. Read the 23rd verse,
immediately preceding the text: "For all have sinned, and come short of
the glory of God." There the verdict of guilty is brought in, and yet
we are immediately afterwards said to be justified freely by his grace.
And now, let me further go on to explain some of the characteristics of
this justification. As soon as a repenting sinner is justified,
remember, he is justified for all his sins. Here stands a man all
guilty. The moment he believes in Christ, his pardon at once he
receives; and his sins are no longer his. They are cast into the depths
of the sea. They were laid upon the shoulders of Christ, and they are
gone. The man stands a guiltless man in the sight of God, accepted in
the beloved. "What!" say you, "do you mean that literally?" Yes, I do.
That is the doctrine of justification by faith. Man ceases to be
regarded by divine justice as a guilty being; the moment he believes on
Christ, his guilt is all taken away. But I am going a step further. The
moment the man believes in Christ, he ceases to be guilty in God's
esteem; but what is more, he becomes righteous, he becomes meritorious,
for in the moment when Christ takes his sins, he takes Christ's
righteousness; so that when God looks upon the sinner who but an hour
ago was dead in sins, he looks upon him with as much love and affection
as he ever looked upon his Son. He himself has said it: "As the Father
loved me, so have I loved you." He loves us as much as his Father loved
him. Can you believe such a doctrine as that? Does it not pass all
thought? Well, it is a doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine
whereby we must hope to be saved. Can I to any unenlightened person
illustrate this thought better? I will give him the parable we have
given to us in the prophets--the parable of Joshua the high-priest.
Joshua comes in, clothed in filthy garments; those filthy garments
representing his sins. Take away the filthy garments; that is pardon.
Put a miter on his head; clothe him in royal raiment; make him rich and
fair; that is justification. But where do these garments come from? And
where do those rags go to? Why the rags that Joshua had on go to
Christ, and the garments put on Joshua are the garments that Christ
wore. The sinner and Christ do just what Jonathan and David did.
Jonathan put his robes on David, David gave Jonathan his garments.
So Christ takes our sins, we take Christ's righteousness, and it is by
a glorious substitution and interchange of places that sinners go free
and are justified by his grace.
"But," says one, "No one is justified like that till he dies."
Believe me, he is.
Just one more word
here, and then I will leave this matter
of justification. Those who are once justified are justified
soon as a sinner takes Christ's place, and Christ takes the sinner's
there is no fear of a second change. If Christ has once paid the debt,
is paid; and it will never be asked for again. If you are pardoned, you
pardoned once for ever. God does not give man a free pardon under his
sign-manual, and then afterwards retract it and punish man: that be far
God so to do. He says, "I have punished Christ; you may go free." And
after that, we may "rejoice in hope of the glory of God" that "being
justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus
And now I hear one cry, "That is an extraordinary doctrine." Well, so
some may think; but let me say to you, it is a doctrine professed by
Protestant churches, though they may not preach it. It is the doctrine
Church of England, it is the doctrine of Luther, it is the doctrine of
Presbyterian Church: it is professedly the doctrine of all Christian
And if it seems strange in your ears, it is because your ears are
and not because the doctrine is a strange one. It is the doctrine of
that none can condemn whom God justifies and that none can accuse those
whom Christ hath died; for they are totally free from sin. So that, as
the prophets has it, God sees no sin in Jacob or iniquity in Israel. In
moment they believe their sins being imputed to Christ, they cease to
theirs, and Christ's righteousness is imputed to them and accounted
that they are accepted.