<<to declare righteous>>
A legal term meaning to acquit (just as if we had never sinned) – it is the opposite of condemnation.
The book of Romans elaborates on this major theme of justification whereby God in His grace freely cancels the penalty for the sins of humanity and accounts them righteous through faith in Christ; this is not by their own works, rather by the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ on their behalf (Rom 3:28, 4:3; Gal 2:16, 3:11,24; Eph 2:8,9; Phil 3:9; Tit 3:5-7). It is instantaneous, occurring at the time of salvation; we are justified by faith, through the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (Rom 5:2; Col 2:14; 1 Pet 2:24). God’s demands for sin (death) having been met through Christ’s sacrifice for all humanity (Ezek 18:4,20; Rom 3:23-26, 4:5-8, 5:6-9,16). It does not minimize the seriousness of sin as the penalty is still met by another party (God Himself) who intervenes on the offender’s behalf. Jesus gave His life for us; in gratitude, we give our lives to Him. God as the ultimate judge is the only one who can declare us eternally justified – positionally perfect in Christ (Rom 8:33).
Justification – pronouncing the guilty pardoned – is the reference point of salvation. The foundation is God’s love and mercy; the conditions ‘man’ must fulfill are repentance and obedience to God’s will. While we are still sinful and sinning, yet because of Christ, in God's sight we are accepted and righteous.
God reckons righteousness to the unrighteous and justifies the ungodly. Jesus Christ acting on our behalf has satisfied the claims of God's law through His act of righteousness (His sinless life and sacrificial death) so the gift of justification is available to all through faith in Christ (Rom 5:1,9,18). God cannot pardon without repentance – godly sorrow for sin, forsaking and confessing it, and turning to God in total commitment. No one will remain justified, unless they walk in obedience, which is “Loving the Lord your God with all your heart...” (Deut 6:5; 2 Cor 7:10).
Thus believers become ‘the righteousness of God’ in and through Him who knew no sin but was representatively made sin, treated as a sinner and punished in our place (2 Cor 5:21). Christ is ‘made unto us righteousness’, and so as believers we are made righteous before God not by our own efforts but because we are in Christ (Isa 64:6; Rom 3:20, 5:18,19; 1 Cor 1:30).
In order to maintain their justification, those who are justified are to continue in sanctification – the process of being set apart for God’s work and being conformed to the image of Christ, which requires the believer to co-operate with the Holy Spirit to submit to God’s will, resist sin, seek holiness and develop godly character (Rom 8:29; Gal 5:22,23).
We have been justified from confessed sin – live in purity
Justification is a one-time legal declaration by God that delivers a person from the penalty of sin; sanctification refers to where we are on the journey wholeness; it is the continuing process involving the efforts of a justified person to bring about freedom from the pollution and power of sin making them more like Christ through being transformed within. Justification states we are holy, sanctification is the ongoing 'being made holy'.