Justified 
Let me start by reading part of a Baptist creed to you. A creed is a statement of beliefs. This one is an American Baptist one but its statements are true for us here too:
We believe that [humanity] was created in holiness, but, by voluntary transgression, fell; in consequence of which all [humanity] are now sinners, not by constraint, but choice, and are under just condemnation of eternal death without defense or excuse; 
that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace, through the mediation of the Son of God: 
that this salvation is conditioned upon repentance and faith; 
that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth, but his own inherent depravity and voluntary rejection of the gospel; 
that at the moment the sinner exercises saving faith (which is confiding trust in, and a relying on, the Lord Jesus Christ, and him alone, as his all-sufficient Saviour), he is justified; 
that this justification is not so much a pardon for sin, as an acquittal from guilt by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness; 
that justification leads to full assurance of faith; that regeneration, or the “new birth,” is simultaneous with saving faith and justification, and consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind;  
I have read this because I want to emphasize what it says.
Romans 3:23-24
23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith
Verse 23 about all/everyone sinning and falling short of the glory of God is well known and is a key verse in explaining the need for Christ to non-believers.
The next verse, verse 24 is the one which is not so often quoted.
24 …they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
The “all” in verse 23 is the “they” of verse 24.
All have sinned; all have been justified by grace.
This concept is repeated in Romans 5:18
18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
To be justified means to be set right or declared righteous. It refers to both the acquittal of all charges and the provision of right status before God. Justification stands in contrast to condemnation.  
This is not a once only act of justification.  The word is actually a present tense word and may be translated as “being declared righteous”.  So verse 24 could be read “ they are now being justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”
Now before you accuse me of universalism – that everyone regardless of faith in Jesus is saved, there is a key provision in this:
God declares sinners righteous only because Christ took their sins upon himself, atoning for them by his sacrificial death. And if such a declaration is a gift of grace, it still must be received:  
That is the key.  The gift must be received to be activated.
All are offered justification which is freely given by the death of Jesus Christ for our sins, but we have to accept that free gift. Otherwise it remains an unopened present under the Christmas tree, not received. 
I watch a bit of TV.  One of the programs that surprises me is the one about the auctions of lost airport luggage. Expensive stuff just not picked up. If we do not take up the gift from God, it sits in the unclaimed luggage at the airport.
Another program that surprises me is the collectable programs on TV where the toys worth the most are the toys that are still in the original box, unopened. The toy intended for a child to play with was kept away from them. 
Do not be like that at the end of your life.  “Here God here is the gift of justification that you offered me. It is still in the box unopened”.  You will not receive a good price for that. In fact God is likely to say, “Go away I do not know you.”
God’s justification of those who believe is provided freely (without charge) by His grace. God justifies through His grace, His unmerited favor. The death of Christ on the cross of Calvary was the price of payment for human sin which obtained release from the bondage of Satan and sin for every person who trusts God’s promise of forgiveness and salvation. 
The gift is offered to all.  To those who accept the free gift is the priceless acceptance by God of us into his eternal relationship.

Let me repeat: Justification is something that God bestows as a gift and that is a gift we must actively receive.  
A gift can never be imposed by obligation (it cannot be forced upon us); nor can it be earned or deserved. 
There are no degrees of justification: we are either justified or we are not.   We accept the gift in its entirety or not at all.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his book the Cost of Discipleship that “the only one who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the one who has left all to follow Christ. Such a man knows that the call to discipleship is a gift of grace, and that the call is inseparable from the grace.”  

Note again the totality of this; we cannot sit on the fence on this.  The only one who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the one who has left all to follow Christ. Not just a part but all.  All or nothing.

Sometimes we try to work out of justification by our own means. If we work to achieve it, it is not a gift, it is payment. Justification is not payment for being good because we cannot be good enough.

Sometimes we try to get into God’s good books by trying to keep the Law, but that again is works and unachievable. Paul says that the Law shows us what sin is but cannot save us.

Galatians 2:21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing 

Sometimes we say I will give you only part of me. But that is not what is required. It is all or nothing.

There is no partially justified person. You either are or aren’t.  Either Christ died for my sins in their entirety or he didn’t.

Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of God. Romans 5:1-2 says that therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ

Only those who are justified through faith can have God’s peace. Only those who have accepted God’s free gift can have his peace.


If there is no peace in your life, consider where that free gift is. Is it still unopened under the tree?  Is it opened but you have only taken out the bits you like – like a Favourites chocolates box where you leave behind the Cherry Ripes because you don’t like them? Or have you received that free gift of justification in its totality?

The gift is there for you.  It is prepared for you. It is in the hands of God offering it to you. All you need to do is to accept it.  Then the peace of God is yours forever.

Let me finish by repeating part of that creed that I read out at the start.
[we believe] that [humanity] was created in holiness, but, by voluntary transgression, fell; in consequence of which all [humanity] are now sinners, not by constraint, but choice, and are under just condemnation of eternal death without defense or excuse; 
that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace, through the mediation of the Son of God: 
that this salvation is conditioned upon repentance and faith; 
that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth, but his own inherent depravity and voluntary rejection of the gospel; 
that at the moment the sinner exercises saving faith (which is confiding trust in, and a relying on, the Lord Jesus Christ, and him alone, as his all-sufficient Saviour), he is justified; 
that this justification is not so much a pardon for sin, as an acquittal from guilt by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness; 
that justification leads to full assurance of faith; that regeneration, or the “new birth,” is simultaneous with saving faith and justification, and consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind;