Bible lessons

What does it mean to be justified in Christ?

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Julie Ayers/

As we read the Bible and listen to Bible teachers, we will encounter the words “justified,” or “justification.” The Bible tells us, as believers, we are justified in Christ. But, what does that really mean?

There’s a familiar saying that to be justified in Christ is to be “just if I’d” never sinned. This is a good attention grabber and makes a point. Actually, I use it myself sometimes when talking to believers, particularly around those who are new in their faith in Christ.

But justification is much deeper than that and believers need to remember that our justification came at a great expense. Yes, our sin is removed—”as far as the east is from the west,” but it’s not as though we have never sinned.

We have all sinned before God, and an acceptable payment was necessary to account for that sin. Sin carries guilt for which a full accounting must be made. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). And, “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22).

That is why Jesus died—to pay our deserved wages of sin. All our sins were placed on Him at Calvary. Our sins were completely atoned for by Christ. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Consider the words “justice” and “justified.” These both come from the same root word.

Justice can be defined as: “The rendering of what is due or merited.”

Justify is defined: “to vindicate”, “to declare guiltless,” “to absolve,” or “to provide adequate grounds for.”

Thinking about these definitions helps us grasp more of what it means to be justified in Christ.

God’s holiness demands justice. In God’s justice, payment for man’s sin had to rendered in full satisfaction for the guilt of a man’s sin to be removed. God’s justice can’t allow for man’s sin to be ignored. There must be an acceptable payment, or atonement.


“He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”  (Romans 4:25).

For those in Christ, our debt was paid and our guilt taken away through the sacrificial blood of Christ.

So, while we as believers are counted as without sin, it’s because of the work of Christ. Jesus paid our penalty at Calvary. In Him, “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7).

We are vindicated, or made righteous, because of who Christ is, and what Christ did. In Christ, we are justified, or declared guiltless—not because it is as if we had never sinned, but because our guilt was inferred upon Christ, who died for us.

“There, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).

Notice, Paul tells us in Romans 5:1, there is a condition leading to justification. While God’s gift of salvation is available to everyone, justification comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Rom. 10: 10). And, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

Although Christ’s justification is available to everyone, it requires a man’s acceptance, through faith, of God’s available gift of grace. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

For all who receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, Paul affirms that we can “have peace with God” (v.1). This is written in the present tense. In Christ, believers now have peace with God through Jesus Christ.

Some will say, “Well, I don’t feel like I have peace. There are so many things in my life that seem overwhelming.”

In speaking of peace with God, Paul isn’t talking about a feeling of serenity, calmness, or absence of conflict. Actually, the Bible tells us that we will have conflict in this world.

This peace with God that Paul is talking about is in reconciliation through Christ. We are no longer subject to God’s wrath because Jesus bore the guilt of our sin. Our guilt has placed upon Christ. He carried it to the grave and left it there.

Furthermore, Paul couldn’t say that we can have peace with God now, if there were any way possible to lose our salvation. For all who are in Christ, there is not, or ever will be, a sin that removes us from our relationship with the Lord God. Our salvation is in Christ. Our salvation belongs to Him and no one can snatch us from His hand.

Therefore, we can have the peace of absolute confidence that, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

That, too, is a part of justification. What God has counted as atoned for through Christ, God will not revoke. It is finished. It has been justified. The debt has been paid. We can forevermore have the peace of our assurance of salvation. “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:10).

We should constantly reflect on the great love our Lord has for us. It has been said that the only “man-made” thing that will be in heaven will be the scars on Jesus’ hands, feet, and side. These remain as a reminder of the greatest of costs He paid for our justification. What a great, gracious, and loving Savior. About Him, we can never boast enough!

Would you say you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ or would you say you are still in the process? You can know for sure. Read this post:

I need Jesus. How can I be saved?

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