A person’s response to sin is very important. If someone sees himself as a helpless sinner and he calls to God for mercy, he can be justified as is shown in this parable that Jesus told:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14).
What does justified mean?
The Bible teaches that all of mankind has rebelled against God (see Romans 3:10-12, as discussed in the response to sin page). The verdict on the whole of mankind is guilty.
God can’t simply ignore sin. When things are done that are wrong, justice needs to be done. The amazing thing about the God of the Bible is that he has produced a solution to the problem of sin which is both merciful and just at the same time.
Jesus Christ came to this earth in order to die on a Roman cross. When he hung there he bore the punishment for sin that God’s holy nature demanded.
We read in John’s Gospel that on the cross Jesus said, “‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30).
In the original language, Greek, the expression “It is finished” includes the idea that the debt is paid in full.
If, like this tax collector, you repent of your sins and ask the Lord for mercy, he can forgive you. You will no longer be guilty before God. The debt for your sins will have been paid. This is the idea of justification.
It has been suggested that a simple meaning of the word “justified” would be “just as if I’d never sinned.” – God can look upon any justified person as if they were completely pure and holy.
No longer guilty
So the Christian can join with David in his proclamation: “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
And Paul writes “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1).
It is an offer to all: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
It’s as simple as that
Simply by repenting of his sins and believing that Jesus’s sacrifice was complete, a person is justified in front of a holy God. Eternal life is a free gift. No one can earn it.
The apostle Paul writes “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus said “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed from death to life.” (John 5:24).
At the point of conversion a Christian is guaranteed eternal life. But this doesn’t suddenly mean that he is a good person. He is simply a sinner who has been saved by God’s grace.
However, a process begins at the point of conversion called sanctification. This process carries on for the rest of a Christian’s life and can often be very difficult and challenging. So, it has been said that the gift of eternal life is free, but it doesn’t come cheap.