One of the clearest passages that describe for us what happened when we received God’s grace is found in Romans chapter 3. It reads, “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:21-24 —NASB) Here is what this passage is telling us. Note the section of this verse I’ve highlighted. This section speaks of us being “JUSTIFIED” as a gift by His grace . . .”
It is vitally important that we understand what this word “justified” actually means. The reason for this is that some of the current preaching of today does not accurately define this word. The word “justified” is the Greek word “dikaioo” and it means, “to declare righteous.” This means when God did a “justifying” work at the point where He saved us. So what does that mean? It means that God, as an act of pure grace, declared us righteous in His sight.
According to 2 Corinthians 5:21 the “amount” of righteousness we receive is equal to the total righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself. This passage says that He made Him who knew no sin (only Jesus fits that bill) was made sin on our behalf—so that we might become the righteousness of Christ in Him. This is astounding—because what it says is that God in a single historical act (at the moment of us receiving His grace) gave to us the very righteousness of Christ—so that in His sight we are just as righteous as Jesus Himself.
Some might argue that this verse says that we might “become” as righteous as Jesus—meaning this is a process (requiring growth and continued obedience). Nothing could be further from the truth. The word “become” here (ginoami) is a punctiliar aorist Greek verb. This speaks of a single act in the past. Thus we see here that Scripture tells us that in a single moment—the very moment of our salvation—we were declared just as righteous as Jesus by a gift of God’s grace. Truly this is an astounding thing—the extreme of God revealed to us is that by grace—we stand in God’s sight—just as righteous as Jesus Christ Himself. None of this is due to our performance—but is a gift given to us by God Himself—pure, unadulterated, undeserved grace poured out on the most unworthy of creatures by its Creator, Who alone paid the full price for sin by the death of His Son on the cross. This, dear ones of God, is given to us at our salvation—in a moment when we repent and put our faith in what Jesus accomplished by His death, burial, and resurrection. Marvel saints . . . marvel at the extremities of God’s grace—and the glorious results in your standing before a Holy God!