What is justification?

Question: "What is justification?"

Simply put, to justify is to declare righteous; to make one right with God. Justification is God declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ. Though justification as a principle is found throughout Scripture, the main passage describing justification in relation to believers is Romans 3:21-26:

"But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight - not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus."

We are justified, declared righteous, at the moment of our salvation. Justification does not make us righteous, but rather pronounces our righteousness. Our righteousness comes from placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished. Because as believers we are in Christ, God sees Christ's own righteousness when He looks at us. This meets God's demands for perfection; thus, He declares us righteous--He justifies us.

Romans 5:18-19 sums it up well: "Yes, Adam's one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness makes all people right in God's sight and gives them life. Because one person disobeyed God, many people became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many people will be made right in God's sight." Why is this pronouncement of righteousness so important? "Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us" (Romans 5:1). It is because of justification that the peace of God can rule in our lives. It is because of the FACT of justification that believers can have assurance of salvation. It is the FACT of justification that enables God to begin the process of sanctification – the process of God making us in reality, what we already are positionally.

Recommended Resource: Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper.

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