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24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,


Man failed but God has a solution. That answer is found in Romans 3:24-5:21. Those who sinned and came short of the glory of God can be vindicated in God’s eyes.

being [passive on the part of the believer] justified [set right]

Justification is one of the most central doctrines of the Bible. All humanity is equally lost, but also all equally have the opportunity to be justified before God.

The phrase “being justified” continues the discussion on “all” having sinned. It is to “all” who believe that “being justified” applies. In other words, verses 22b-23 are parenthesis. Thus, all who believe are justified freely by His grace. The present tense indicates God’s ongoing vindication of man by believing on the cross. This is the general rule by which God operates. It is not through the law (Ro 3:20). It is an act of God’s sheer generosity and by no act of man.

Justification is a legal or forensic term. The picture is of a declaration made by a judge as his final decision. He declares the defendant as in right standing with the law. This person is not subject to the penalty of the law. The central idea is that of pronouncement. The judge does not make him right but declares him right.

The word “justified” means to declare righteous. It is important to distinguish between declare righteous and “make” righteous. To justify does not mean to make righteous but to cause to be righteous. There is no virtue in man whereby God deems him righteous. It is due to no merit of his own. Man can do nothing to pay for his sin and sinfulness, for only God can do something about that.

Ac 13:38-39, 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.

This declaring righteous is in reference to God’s character and God’s Law (Ro 3:28; 5:1; Ga 2:16; 3:24). God sets forth those who accept the death of Christ for their sins as righteous. Man cannot by himself work his way into this status. This is a judicial act. Henceforth, God recognizes this person as righteous.

Ro 4:2, For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

Faith is the method by which a person appropriates the grace of God. That is the only sense whereby faith can be considered as obedience (Ro 1:5; 10:3). This is faith that comes from devotion, not self-righteousness.


At justification our position before God, not our morality or character, changes.


God justifies the believing sinner. Justification means that all standards of God’s character are fulfilled for the believer through the sacrifice of Christ. This is a wholly judicial (forensic) act of God. The effect is the believer’s judicial standing before God as perfect. He imputes His very own righteousness to our account (imputation).

Justification is more than being declared “just as if I never sinned.” That is a true but inadequate definition. Justification is more than being deemed by God as never having sinned but is being viewed by God as having His righteousness attributed to our personal account.

At justification a believer’s position—not our character—changes in God’s eyes. There will be character changes that result from justification, but these changes are not involved in justification itself. Our character changes as we grow in progressive sanctification. This is why the distinction between to declare righteous and to make righteous is so important.

Justification is no mere synonym for forgiveness; it is much more than that. Forgiveness does away with sins in God’s eyes, but without justification we do not stand right in His eyes. It is also more than making up for something that lacks in the believer. God views man as totally depraved in all that he does (in reference to God) and the believer needs to be declared as right as God is right forever. Justification is something that happens instantaneously and the justified person stands justified from the moment he or she believes and for all eternity. This does not mean that we are sinless in practice but right before God in our status with Him.