The being regarded and treated as if innocent; or acquittal from the consequences of guilt before the tribunal of God. "Justification by faith" means that a person, on account of true and living faith in Christ as manifested by good works, will be delivered from condemnation on account of his sins; that is, his sins will be forgiven, and he be regarded and treated as if innocent and holy. Thus, besides the remission of sins and their penalty, it includes the restoration and everlasting enjoyment of the favor of God.
We obtain justification by faith in Christ. Yet neither this nor any other act of ours, as a work, is any ground of our justification. In acquitting us before his bar, God regards not our works, in whole or in part, but the atoning work and merits of Christ. He was treated as a sinner, that we might be treated as righteous. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus;" the moment we believe, our justification is as perfect as the infinite worthiness of our Redeemer. Its validity does not depend on the measure of our assurance of hope, nor on spotless holiness of life. Sanctification, indeed, or progressive growth in holiness, commences simultaneously with justification, and must in the end reach the same perfectness. Yet it is important to distinguish between the two, and to observe that, could the believer's holiness become as perfect as an angel's, it could not share with the atoning merits of Christ in entitling him to admission to heaven.
The best obedience of my hands
Dares not appear before thy throne;
But faith can answer thy demands,
By pleading what my Lord hath done."
True justification, by the gratuitous gift of the Savior, furnishes the most powerful motive to a holy life. It is followed by adoption, peace of conscience, and the fruits of the Spirit in this life; and by final sanctification, acquittal in the day of judgment, and admittance to heaven, Ro 3:20-31; 5; 8:1-4; 10:4-10; Ga 2:16-21; Eph 2:4-10.