"Tell me I have led a good life"These are the words of an old man who has lived in the shadow of the haunting charge given to him by his dying savior Captain John H. Miller, "earn it." As the movie closes the aged James Ryan wants to hear a declaration that he has earned it, that he is a good man. Want he wants is to be justified, and to be justified by a whole life lived.
"Tell me I'm a good man."
Before God we will never be justified if we seek to earn it. If justification is by works then our only certainty is that we will stand condemned. As Romans 3:19-20 tells us:
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.Mercifully there is another righteousness available. As Paul goes on to say (Rom. 3:21-24):
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.Yet if Christ has died only to deal with past sins, leaving the future justification to be determined by his saving work and our co-operation with grace, then there is no hope that the declaration will be secure. Later in Romans we are assured that his atoning work is fully sufficient to deal with our sin, to grant us a righteous status now, and to ensure that on the basis of Christ's work alone we will saved from the coming wrath (Rom. 5:1-11; 8:32-39).
In the gospel God justifies the ungodly. God credits, counts, imputes to us the righteousness of Christ. We receive this right standing on the basis of the obedience and blood of Christ, and it is ours by faith alone resting and relying on Christ (Romans 4:1-8).