We have now been justified by his blood (Romans 5:9)
[We] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24)
We hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:28)
I suppose it’s obvious, but being justified before God and being forgiven by God are not identical. God has a definite and perfect system of divine justice. Being forgiven implies that I’m guilty and my crime is simply not counted, but being justified means I’m tried and found innocent of all charges.
Justification in Christ is an instantaneous benefit of salvation. Justification isn’t a process like sanctification, it’s a divine declaration that happens in a moment. Upon trusting in Christ unto salvation the Infinite Creator and Judge of the universe declares a verdict upon the new creature in Christ: “Just! Righteous!”
This is particularly amazing given the fact that we have not kept the law and are therefore guilty before God and worthy of His wrath. Only God Himself could have purchased us from this miserable estate! Who else but God was worthy to take our place and make our atonement? None else!
The Bible even says “He who justifies the wicked [is] and abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15), yet God in Christ by his boundless grace, mercy, love and pity justifies the ungodly who trust in His grace (Romans 4:5)!
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Romans 11:33)