Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:1 NASB)
The word justified is from the same root word for righteousness. The core idea is that anyone who is justified is righteous.
Notice that the word justified is past tense, meaning it has already occurred. You will also notice it has happened to you and me. It is only true for those who believe in Jesus Christ. So because of Jesus Christ and his life, death, burial, and resurrection, justification has been given to every person who believes in him.
To be justified means to be totally forgiven and to be made totally righteous. We who have faith in Jesus Christ have already been forgiven and made righteous. It’s past tense. It’s already happened to us.
Justified is also an accounting term telling us what our “righteousness account” is before God. Before salvation, we were not at zero; we were minus 100 percent! Do you know why? All the sins we have committed and will commit, along with our identity of being a sinner, put us 100 percent in the negative.
Can a person ever get above negative 100 percent through performance? This might include, for instance, trying to be a good person, obeying the Ten Commandments, attending church, giving away millions of dollars to feed the poor, or working at a soup kitchen. No! Regardless of what people do, they are eternally stuck at negative 100 percent. “No one is righteous—not even one” (Rom. 3:10 NLT).
When we place our faith in Christ for our salvation, all our sins are forgiven forever. In addition, our identity as a sinner is removed forever. This gets us to zero in our righteousness account with God. Yet what I’ve observed in all my years of talking with Christians is they believe the gospel only gets them only to zero. Think of it this way. If you have only zero in your checking account, you still don’t have any money to truly live! In the same way, if all God did was put you and me at zero in our righteousness account, we couldn’t truly live.
Here is the great news. We are more than forgiven! The resurrection of Jesus Christ makes us new creations who have been given the gift of righteousness! Romans 5:19 says, “Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous” (NLT). This clearly states that you, the sinner, were replaced with a new righteous you.
Some say God sees us only as if we are righteous. No, we have become righteous in Christ. It’s who we are. Let me say this directly to you: as a Christian, you have an account with God that declares you to be 100 percent righteous which makes your identity in Christ 100 percent righteousness!
Consider these questions: Can you do anything to increase your righteousness through obedience to God, pleasing God, good works, ministry, not sinning, and so on? Of course not. On the other hand, does sinning ever drop you below being 100 percent righteous? Again the good news is no. You are 100 percent righteous all the time, whether you obey or sin!
Isn’t that great news? It’s the understanding of this that makes the good news of the New Covenant as fantastic as God intended. No wonder Satan tries to keep it hidden from us.
Let’s make this more personal by changing the word righteousness to the word acceptable. Have you ever thought that God only accepts you because He is kind and is God? He is that but that’s not why He accepts you. There is a much better reason.
Before salvation, every person is 100 percent unacceptable to God. No one can change that through good works. After salvation, a Christian is 100 percent acceptable to God. That person cannot increase or decrease their acceptance with God, whether through obedience or sinning. We are unconditionally accepted by God because we are 100 percent acceptable to God by virtue of being 100 percent righteous in Christ.
That’s why it’s called grace! Doesn’t that make you want to jump up and down and then fall on your knees and worship God?