Justification: How a righteous God declares a depraved sinner to be righteous in His sight
The word δικαίωσις occurs twice in the New Testament, in Romans 4:25 and Romans 5:18. In the former passage it appears to be the equivalent in meaning to faith being imputed to the believer for righteousness, that is, of the believer being accounted righteous (by God). Such are not righteous in themselves, no, but because of belief, they are considered righteous in Christ..that is their position. Hence the word “justification” may be said to be the estimation formed in God’s mind concerning the believer with regard to that order of things of which the risen Christ is the Head. Such estimation has its expression in Christ Himself, and its consequences are seen in Romans 5. Now if that seemed hard to understand, let us explain further:
The question of how a righteous God can justify a sinner is raised and answered in Romans 3. That is what justification is all about. It is difficult to conceive a subject more momentous for every human being. What is set forth in the gospel at the outset is the vindication of God -in righteousness- regarding sin by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. God cannot and does not accept sin in His presence, yet in justification God is making a way for sinners to be acceptable to Him. In the death of Christ (and resurrection), God’s infinite grace to sinners is shown....because the issue of sin and its judgment has been raised between Himself and the spotless Sin-bearer ........and settled to His glory.
Of Christ it is said, “Whom God hath set forth a mercy-seat, through faith in His blood....for the showing forth of His righteousness in the present time, so that He should be just, and justify Him that is of the faith of Jesus.” It is therefore in the blood of Jesus that God’s judgment of sin is seen, and it is on this righteous basis that He can justify all who believe in Him.
Justification (Rom. 5:18) is the righteous way of bringing sinners to life (it is toward all men) through the one righteousness act of the Lord Jesus Christ -even His death. This is in contrast with what the one offense of Adam brought...which was death and condemnation upon all. What has been brought to pass by the one Man, Jesus Christ, exceeds in scope all the problem that was brought in by the first man, Adam. In the death of Christ there is seen the complete judgment and removal out of the sight of God both of the sins and of the man who sinned. Believers in Christ are declared "just" by God and are considered to be raised from the dead, they have a new Head, in whom they live for God.
There is another aspect of justification referred to in the Epistle of James (James 2), where it is entirely a question of what is seen by men. “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” But what must comes first, is the matter of How Can a Sinner be Just before God? Answer, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. God is satisfied, God is propitiated, believers are reconciled to God, because they are declared JUSTIFIED by God, on the basis of the work of Christ. It is a work totally OUTSIDE ourselves, by another, Christ Jesus.
-above adapted from Concise Bible Dictionary
One of the foundational divides between Protestant Christianity and Roman Catholicism is the Protestant doctrine of "Sola Fide" or "faith alone." The reformers sought to restore the biblical doctrine that justification before God is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. While true saving faith will always lead one to turn from sin and progress toward a godly and sanctified life of good works, these works are the result of our justification, not one of the causes of it. They are the fruit of regeneration and the new birth, not prerequisites for it, and though a person who is saved will repent of their sins and do righteous deeds, these deeds are not part of the basis for our eternal salvation. God doesn't save us because of our faith and our good works. He graciously saves us on the basis of faith in Christ alone, and it is that faith which also leads us to go on to do good works to please our master who already saved us. This was the position that the reformers defended and that the Roman Catholic church condemned at the Council of Trent. This is the central gospel issue that divides Rome and the Reformation. This is why it is so important to note that the doctrine of "Sola Fide," the doctrine that salvation is through faith alone, was taught by our Lord Himself and has been the revealed gospel truth from the very beginning -J.Peters 10/21/17 Facebook post