The expression in Scripture that God justifies forgiven sinners is a rather startling doctrine. In Romans 4:5, the declaration is that God “justifies the ungodly.” This statement means that God knowingly treats ungodly persons as though they had not sinned by accepting them immediately into His holy family and ultimately into His perfect heaven.
The basis on which God takes such action is declared in Romans 5:6, where the Bible asserts that “Christ died for the ungodly.” In thinking about such a declaration, one might ask, “Who are the ungodly?” Verse 8 in the same paragraph declares, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We are the ungodly, as is every human being.
The only basis for the removal of human guilt and God’s full acceptance of us is the finished work of Christ on the cross. Romans 5:9 expresses this with the opening phrase, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood.” When we focus on the cross, we are correct in thinking that the Just One has died for unjust ones, the Innocent One has died for the guilty ones and the Perfect One has died for the imperfect ones.
Not only has the action of the Innocent One been effective potentially for everyone, but the action of one — namely Adam — has been effective actually for everyone. This latter truth is declared in Romans 5:19: “For as by one man’s disobedience many have been made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” God justifies us by passing on to us for Christ’s sake the verdict which Christ’s obedience merited.
By His perfect obedience, Christ was not guilty before God. On the basis of Christ’s death on the cross, God declares repentant and believing sinners not guilty and thereby accepts us into full favor with Himself. Only Jesus has ever lived up to the declaration He uttered at the time of His baptism at the hand of His reluctant forerunner, John the Baptist: “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15).
In the history of our planet, only one person has ever lived a totally perfect life. On the basis of the accomplishment of Christ in life and in death, repentant sinners can find full acceptance with God and admission into His heaven. God no longer counts us guilty because Christ has taken the legal consequences of our sin upon Himself on our behalf. The Bible assures us that God is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).