Romans 3:28 “ Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”
We must understand that in God’s “Plan of Salvation” for the fallen human race, there are three aspects. The first one is justification by faith and is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. It is a one-time act that starts our Christian life. I read and heard that this “fifty cent word”, justification is a judicial term. If a prisoner is brought before the bar of justice, the judge can only justify him if he is innocent. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it as the act of justifying; a showing to be just or conformable to law, rectitude or propriety; vindication; defense. In law, the showing of a sufficient reason in court why a defendant did what he is called to answer. If he is guilty, he may be condemned and sent to prison. Then, perhaps, he may be pardoned by the governor or president, but then he is pardoned criminal and that is vastly different from being justified.
2 Peter 3:9
To be justified is to be made “just as if I had never sinned”, as my late Pastor Krueger used to say. That is something no human judge can ever do. Oh, we try to justify our wayward thoughts, words and actions. Our disobedience to God's commands admits no justification. Only God can justify. So, per Webster’s dictionary again, justification is remission of sin and absolution from guilt and punishment; or an act of free grace by which God pardons the sinner and accepts him as righteous, on account of the atonement of Christ. When we repent of our sins and trust in Christ alone for our salvation, the miracle of justification takes place.
2 Corinthians 7:9-11 For godly sorrow that is in accord with the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but worldly sorrow the hopeless sorrow of those who do not believe produces death.For you can look back and see what an earnestness and authentic concern this godly sorrow has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves [against charges that you tolerate sin], what indignation [at sin], what fear of offending God, what longing for righteousness and justice, what passion to do what is right, what readiness to punish those who sin and those who tolerate sin! At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in the matter."
I heard it this way: we are brought before the judicial bar of God’s judgment. Justice accused us by the evidence of our sins, and the scales tipped against us. The Judge God looked us sternly in the face and said, “I pronounce that you are guilty and shall die. Do you have anything to say for yourself before the sentence of eternal death is pronounced upon you?” For the first time in all of our self-righteous life, we will be speechless. The Judge brings down his gavel, and the sentence is pronounced. But then, Jesus intervenes, declaring, “Surely, they deserve to die, but I died on the cross for them, so they wouldn’t have to. Now let them go free.” That is justification.