The word justification describes the act of God which changes the relationship between ourselves and him. Although we are sinners, God declares us righteous because of our faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22). We are accepted by God as we are. We do not deserve such acceptance, neither can we earn it, or repay it. We can only experience the joy of forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Like the returning prodigal in Jesus' parable, we are treated as one who has the right to the Father's fellowship and esteem (Luke 15:17-24). We know ourselves to be children of God, and are affirmed in our relationship with him and with one another. We are fully adopted into the family of God, having the hope of eternal life (Galatians 4:3-7; Titus 3:4-7).
Our justification depends upon the character of God, the saving work of Jesus Christ and our faith in him. God, who is righteous, merciful and true, has reached out in the person of Jesus Christ to save the guilty and helpless. We are acquitted of our sin, accepted by God and our sins are forgiven because God is gracious and merciful. This is the gift of God.
Jesus taught the gracious fatherhood of God and the need for humble faith in his mercy. Paul's teaching used the image of justification to describe God's way of restoring all people to a right relationship with himself through faith in Christ (Romans 1:17; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:24). Justification is central to the good news of the gospel.
It is helpful to recognize that there is a paradox in our relationship with God that the twin blessings of justification and regeneration address. Justification speaks of a decisive change in our relationship with God through faith in Christ, from alienation to acceptance. Regeneration also speaks of the life of the Spirit imparted to us; the ongoing work of grace in our lives in which we must co-operate. We know both the joy and the pain of the growth to which true righteousness invites us. Both regeneration and justification are true; though God calls us on to holiness of life, he always accepts us as his children and through the Spirit reassures us of our place with him.