The process by which sinful human beings are made acceptable to a holy God. Justification is God’s declaration that the demands of His Law have been fulfilled in the righteousness of His Son. The basis for this justification is the physical death and shed blood of Christ on the cross. Paul tells us that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Cor. 5:19). This reconciliation covers all sin: “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). Justification, then, is based on the work of Christ, accomplished through His physical blood shed on the cross (Rom. 5:9) and brought to all faithful believers through His resurrection (Rom. 4:25).
“38Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39and by Him EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES IS JUSTIFIED from all things from which you could not be JUSTIFIED by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38-39).
“28Therefore we conclude that a man is JUSTIFIED BY FAITH APART FROM THE DEEDS OF THE LAW.” (Rom. 3:28).
The word JUSTIFICATION is Greek: “Dikaiosis”, which means the act of pronouncing righteous. The verb form “dikaioo” means to JUSTIFY. JUSTIFICATION means that the believer receives the righteousness of God and also the pardoning of sins at the same time.
Because of the atonement of Christ, sinners are able to be JUSTIFIED in God’s eyes. This is the work of Christ and not the work of the sinner. It is placing on Christ all of our sins. Instead of leaving us in a neutral state, God goes further and imputes to us the righteousness of Christ. We lose our sins and gain His righteousness. Christians know this is true by faith.
“1Therefore, having been JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5:1-2).
“10For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ 11But that no one is JUSTIFIED by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (Gal. 3:10-11).
“15We (Jewish Christians) who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16knowing that a man is NOT JUSTIFIED by the works of the law BUT BY FAITH in Jesus Christy even WE HAVE BELIEVED in Christ Jesus, that we might be JUSTIFIED BY FAITH in Christ and not by the works of the law; for BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW NO FLESH SHALL BE JUSTIFIED.” (Gal. 2:15-16).
Apostle James taught that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). Now he was not teaching that the works of the law must accompany faith to be genuine faith. But instead he was explaining that genuine faith would be demonstrated in the heart of the believer as he shows faithful works of God’s grace. This includes brotherly love for one- another; concern for one-another; praying for one-another, exhorting one-another, helping one-another, and so on. James said: “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you MY FAITH BY MY WORKS.” (James 2:18).
The distinguishing truth that James was teaching is that the works of the law do not justify anyone or prove that anyone has faith. Instead it is works of righteousness, not the law, which confirm that a person has faith. It was Abraham’s faith at work that proved his JUSTIFICATION by faith (James 2:21-24).
Abraham’s faith was counted for righteousness before he was circumcised, and before the Law of Moses was even given. Abraham had faith to believe God that he would be the father of many nations, even though he was 100 years old at the time. His wife, Sarah, bore his son Isaac. By faith, when he was tested, Abraham offered up Isaac even though God had promised: “in Isaac your seed shall be called.” But he concluded by faith that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead. Abraham knew that God had figuratively raised him and Sarah from the dead so that he could father a child at his old age (Heb. 11:11-12; Heb. 11:17-19; Rom. 4:11-12, 17-22).
So we see that the works of the law do not make us righteous. In fact those works show that we are unrighteous, always falling short of full obedience. But rather it is through faith in Christ’s atoning work for us that God uses to declare us JUSTIFIED from all things from which we could not be JUSTIFIED by the Law of Moses (Acts 13:38-39).
“18Therefore, as through one man’s (Adam) offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s (Christ) righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in JUSTIFICATION of life. 19For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” (Rom, 5:18-19).
Therefore JUSTIFICATION has two aspects. First the pardon for and remission of our sins, including reconciliation to God and the end of His enmity against us; and Second, granting us the righteous status of Christ, including adoption as God’s heirs, giving us the Holy Spirit, and granting us eternal life. All born-again believers after AD 70 enjoy this completely fulfilled JUSTIFICATION now and forever.
[Also see: “Propitiation” also “Sanctification”]
[For a more in-depth study see salvation/soteriology “Study Series 1 Meaning, Need and Scope of Salvation”]