As a Christian, it is absolutely necessary to know what your standing is before God. Unless you understand what your position is before the Father, you have absolutely no foundation on which your salvation can be laid; neither do you have anything on which you can build your faith. Knowing whether or not God’s judgement is upon you can mean the difference between peace and anxiety. This is why the doctrine of justification is important; it is directly tied to one’s assurance of salvation. So before proceeding any further, it is best to explain the meaning of justification.
Justification is to be justified in the sight of God and to be deemed as righteous, and to be accepted; it is a legal act of God, a formal declaration of blamelessness on the account of the work which Christ did in his life and his death on the cross. A man who has been justified has been freed from the wrath of God, he has been acquitted of all of his crimes (sins), and will no longer go before the Great White Throne Judgement (Revelations 20:11-15) where all sinners will be judged and condemned. For these reasons, it is apparent that justification is of great importance, it is a matter of eternality – either eternal blessings or eternal punishment. So how does one become justified in the sight of God?
The Bible makes it clear that justification is by faith, this not only true in the New Testament, but also for those in the Old Testament. Paul makes it clear that keeping the Law never saved anyone either in the Old or in the New Testament. He tells us that no human being would be justified in the sight of God by works of the law. Its main purpose was to serve as a guardian to counsel us until Christ came; however, justification would come through faith (Galatians 3:24). We know this because Paul tells us that Abraham was not justified by any works, but rather he believed and it was counted to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3). Paul gives us yet another example and tells us that King David was also deemed righteous by faith, apart from the works of the law.
Therefore, it is the work of Christ that makes us righteous and justified. Our justification is actualized on the merits of Christ – his obedient life of righteousness and his obedient death on the cross. Justification in not based on anything within us or anything we have done, it is solely in the person of Christ. Justification does not only pardon us or free us from guilt, but we also receive merit before God. In other words, the divine righteousness of Christ is imputed onto us so that we receive the full blessings and privileges. Some of these privileges are the following: first, we are adopted as children (Romans 8:15); second, we become fellow heirs and partakers with Christ (Romans 8:17); lastly, we become united as one with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17).
Another thing that must be mentioned is that justification is different than sanctification. Sanctification is a process, whereas justification is an event; the two must not be confused. While justification imputes the righteousness of Christ to a sinner, sanctification imparts righteousness to a sinner. Although different, both are components to salvation and they are not mutually exclusive, rather they are complimentary and synergistic. A person who is justified can be sure that they will be sanctified and be made perfect for the Lord promises that he will finish the work that he starts.