Typically, justification is defined as God making a statement about us. God declares us righteous. It is used as a legal or accounting term. God moves us from one column to another column. It signifies nothing more than God changing His mind about you.
Although this is part of what is going on, it’s far from the whole story. Justification includes the aspect of rebirth that we are made the righteousness of God.
Justify, in the Bible, carries with it the notion of vindication or proving something to be so. When we view ourselves as being justified, it’s more than just God’s mind game; it’s a reality.
I’ll take one verse from Jesus to make the point. When Jesus was being accused of being a bad guy because He hung out with bad people, Jesus said, “But wisdom is justified of her children.”
The New American Standard says, “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
The English Standard Version says, “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
Wisdom eventually shows itself regardless of what immediate circumstances appear to be.
Being justified is a proving of what is true. A declaration, not just in the words of the one justifying, but a proof in the one justified. Remember, declaring a wicked person to be just is an abomination with God. In declaring us righteous, God also makes us righteous.
I think this is an important, yet neglected, aspect of what “declared to be righteous” means. We know a justified person is righteous because there is proof of righteousness going on that wasn’t there before.
Again, to be clear, this is not saying a person is justified by works. We are justified by faith in Christ, His blood, and resurrection.
The result of believing this is being born again, being made a new creation in Christ Jesus, which obviously means we are made righteous, justified.
The new life that flows out of that proves that we have received, or been made the righteousness of God. We no longer live as slaves of sin, but as servants of righteousness with fruit unto holiness with the end everlasting life.
Justification is not a floaty concept in God’s mind; it’s a reality the new life declares.