It is God the Justifieth
"Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." Romans 8:33
Justification, as it is revealed and taught in the Word of God, is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us, not the imparting of it, or the infusion of it. In the new birth, sanctification, the righteousness nature of Christ is imparted to the regenerate soul. In justification, it is imputed. That by which we are justified before God is not our experience of grace, and certainly not our own works of righteousness but the obedience and blood of Christ.
The word justify is never used in the Bible to represent any internal change in us. It is a strictly legal, forensic term. It is always used with reference to judicial matters (Deut. 25:1; Pro. 17:15; Isa. 5:22; Matt. 12:37; Job 9:2-3; Ps. 143). We are justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
We who are by nature guilty sinners, justly condemned by God’s holy law, being justified by the obedience and blood of Christ, are cleared of all charges, acquitted of all accusations, absolved of all guilt, freed from all condemnation, and declared to be worthy of eternal life in Christ. This is the confidences of faith which the Apostle Paul in the eighth chapter of Romans. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit…Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth…Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (vv. 1, 33, 34).
This doctrine of free justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ is the very essence of the gospel (Rom. 3:20-28; Gal. 2:16-17; Tit. 3:5-7; Col. 1:12). Every other doctrine of justification is plainly declared by the Spirit of God to be a false gospel (Gal. 1:6-7). This is the very foundation of true Christianity. Martin Luther called it “The article of the church, by which it stands or falls.” It was the preaching of justification by grace alone which broke the shackles of papacy during the great reformation. And it is the preaching of justification by grace alone which will deliver chosen sinners from the bondage and tyranny of Arminian, free will, works religion today. This is the only ground there is of solid joy, peace, comfort, and hope there is for sinners before the holy Lord God. If my being just with God depends upon me, or must in some way be determined by me, then I have no hope. But, blessed be God, it is not man that justifieth. “It is God that justifieth!" This great work of justification is the work of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God the Father
God the Father is set forth in Holy Scripture as the Justifier of his elect. He is specifically called such (Rom. 8:33; 3:25-26; Isa. 45:20). It is God the Father who, in Scripture, is represented as having contrived the scheme and plan of justification from eternity. He found a ransom for us (Job 33:24). Our heavenly Father laid help upon One that is mighty to save (Ps. 89:19). He set up his Son as our Mediator, Surety, Representative, and Substitute before the world began (Pro. 8:30-31). He accepted us in the Beloved as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:6). It was God the Father who, in the fulness of time, sent his Son into the world to execute his great scheme of grace (Rom. 8:1-4; Gal. 4:4). God the Father accepts and is well pleased with the righteousness wrought by Christ as our Representative.
Once the Lord Jesus had wrought out righteousness for us, once he had magnified the law and made it honorable by both obeying all its precepts and principles and by satisfying all its justice and condemnation, it was our heavenly Father who approved of it and accepted it for us. Our heavenly Father has imputed, forever and irrevocably imputed, the righteousness of Christ to believing sinners (Rom. 4:6-8; 1 Cor. 1:30-31).
God the Son
Yet, (and this must be understood), that God the Father could never have justified us without or apart from the obedience and blood of his dear Son as our Substitute. Therefore God the Son is said to justify his people (Isa. 53:10-12). The question was asked way back in the Book of Job, "How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?" (Job 25:4). To that question there is only one answer – Christ! "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4).
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, having fully obeyed and perfectly satisfied the law of God for us is “the Lord our Righteousness,” and we are made “the righteousness of God in him.” This is the very language of the Bible (Jer. 23:6; 33:16; Rom. 5:9; 19; 2 Cor. 5:21).
The Lord Jesus Christ has the right and power to justify because he is God. Upon the authority of his own great name alone, he says, “Thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matt. 9:2; John 8:11). As the God-man, our Mediator, “He was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification.” He arose from the grave as “The Sun of Righteousness, with healing in his wings!”
As our legal, divinely appointed Head and Representative, our dear Savior was made to be sin for us and punished to the full satisfaction of divine justice for our sins. Then, when he arose from the dead, declaring justification accomplished (Rom. 4:25), he was, himself justified from all sin (the sins of his people imputed to him) and we were and are justified in him (Isa. 45:25; 50:8; 1 Tim. 3:16).
Our Lord Jesus is portrayed as the Angel before whom Joshua the High Priest stood in filthy garments being accused of Satan, the Angel of the covenant who clothed his chosen with the garments of salvation (Isa. 61:10; Zech. 3:1-4). That is exactly what the Son of God does for all his redeemed.
God the Holy Spirit
The work of our justification is also ascribed to God the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11). It is the Holy Spirit who convinces chosen, redeemed sinners of their sin, of righteousness established and brought in by Christ, and judgment, of justice satisfied by the sacrifice of God's own Son at Calvary (John 16:8-11). It is God the Holy Spirit who works faith in us and causes us to look to Christ alone for justification (2 Cor. 4:13; Col. 2:12-13). And it is the blessed Spirit of God who speaks peace to the believing sinner's heart, sprinkles the blood of Christ upon our consciences, and gives us peace with God, even the peace of perfect, full, complete, everlasting justification (Heb. 9:14; 10:22).
Every justified sinner can and should make those same four, bold challenges of faith which the Apostle Paul raised in Romans the eighth chapter, with joy, confidence, and thanksgiving. -- "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Blessed, forever blessed of God, is that sinner who can do so!