What is justification?


It is God’s regarding sinners as if they had never sinned and granting them righteousness.

The next big Bible word we’re going to look at is justification. It looks complicated, but it makes more sense when you break it down into its parts: justification. The “just” part is related to the word “justice.” To be just is to be righteous, to do what God says is right.

The “ification” part is something you can add to any word to mean “make or transform into.” For instance, if I made up a new word called “coconut–ification,” you would know it means to be transformed or made into a coconut! Justification, then, means to be made or transformed into a just and righteous person.

Now remember, each and every one of us is a law-breaking sinner. And a sinner is an un-just and un-righteous person! So every single one of us needs to be just–ified. We need to be transformed into just and righteous people. Now, there’s no high-tech machine that can justify you, but there is a God who can!

It all starts with Jesus. He made our justification possible when he finished his mission as the Christ. If you remember, he did two important things to save us. During his life, he kept all of God’s commands in our place. And on the cross, he paid the wages of our sin, which Romans 6:23 tells us is death. Because of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death, unjust and unrighteous sinners like us can be justified, transformed into just and righteous people.

Here’s how it works. Because Jesus died for us, all of our sins are paid for – they are gone! When God looks at us now, he sees us as if we are sin-free. And we are! It’s not anything we did. It’s all because the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, has washed our sins away. Because of Jesus’ death, God looks at us “just as if” we have never sinned. But that’s not all justification means.

Remember, Jesus not only died in our place, he also lived in our place. When we repent of our sins and believe the good news of Jesus, God gives us a gift: the righteousness of his Son! God takes the good and righteous things that Jesus did during his perfect life and gives them as a gift to us. Jesus was so unbelievably good during his days on earth, he has plenty of extra goodness to share with us!

When God looks at us now, he sees us full of goodness and righteousness. Again, not because of anything we did, but because Jesus shared his endless righteousness with us! Not only does God look at us “just as if” we had never sinned – he also looks at us “just as if” we had obeyed him as perfectly as Jesus did!

2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way: “God made him who had no sin (that’s Jesus) to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Many people who study this verse call it the “Great Exchange.” We give all of our sins to Jesus. And in exchange, he gives us all his righteousness. It’s the greatest trade of all time!

This is what it means to be justified. When we believe in Jesus, it transforms the way God looks at us. Instead of seeing a law-breaking sinner, he sees us as sin-free and completely righteous. It’s “just as if” we’ve never, ever sinned and “just as if” we had always obeyed! And all of it is because of Jesus!


+ Read Romans 5:8-9. What happens because we are justified?

+ What are the two “just as if” things that describe justification?



Zech. 3:1-5; Rom. 3:24-26; 4:5; 5:17-19; 8:33; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 8:12; Phil. 3:9

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