In Luke 18, Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed, “God, thank you that I’m not like other men, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give tithes of all I get.”
But the tax collector wouldn’t even lift his eyes to heaven, but he beat his chest saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Jesus said, “I tell you this man went down to his house justified.” But the other will be condemned.
What does it mean to be justified? Justification is a legal declaration in which God pardons the sinner of all his sins, and credits to his account the righteousness of Christ, so the sinner is made innocent in the sight of God.
What is the basis of this verdict? It is based solely on the work of Jesus Christ: His perfect obedience, His atoning sacrifice, and His resurrection from the grave. See, God doesn’t merely expunge our sins, He expiates them. We owed a debt for our sin, and Jesus paid that price.
Colossians 2:14 says that God has “forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.” The debt has been paid by Christ alone. He took our sin, and we received His righteousness, and we are justified by His grace as a gift.
How does someone receive this free gift? By faith in Jesus Christ. Turn from your sin and ask His forgiveness, and you will be justified, when we understand the text.