In court a man might claim he hit another fellow because he was defending himself. The judge or jury would look through his case, and if they felt he was “justified,” they might proclaim him not guilty. We use this word justification frequently in relation to our justice system. A man might commit an act that at any other time would be considered against the law, but if he is justified in doing so, the judgment will prove him free from guilt. The scriptures point to a very similar concept. Romans 5:18-19 states, “Therefore, as by one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.” We see here that sin entered the world, and with it condemnation. Romans 3:23 addresses the fact that all men have sinned. It is not as though sin is inevitable. God never allows man to be tempted beyond his capacity to overcome that temptation. Sin is a blatant disregard for God. It is a denial of God, and an acceptance of death.
God, in His pure love for man, did not want to see His creation guilty and deserving of death. Paul writing to Titus says, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7) Here we were, guilty of sin, deserving of death, and God provided the way, through His grace where we might be made righteous in His sight. Justification, as defined by God, is the process whereby man is made righteous in God's eyes.
This process began with Jesus. Romans 3:24 explains that though we have sinned, through the redemption in Christ Jesus (His blood being a propitiation for sin – Romans 3:25) we are freely justified. Christ, through His sacrifice, enabled man to be justified from his sins. Romans 3:26 takes this process one step further, “...that He might be the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” God's grace is useless to the man who does not believe. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.”
Faith necessitates action. If I believe my house is burning, I'm going to get myself out of harms way. So too, believing in Jesus and the reality that He is the propitiation for our sin, ought to necessitate our obedience. James 2:19-24 explains this point,
You believe that there is one God you do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the alter? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
We have sinned, and are absolutely guilty before God. There will never be a time where we can justify ourselves before God. God be praised that by His grace He has provided us His Son as the sacrifice for our sins, so that we might be made right. In order to accept the terms of this judgment, we must believe in Him, and willingly follow His command.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14