"Who shall lay anything 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." (Romans 8:33-34)
An Act of God
Justification is something that God does. "It is God that justifieth" says our text. No-one else can do it except God
Opposite of Condemnation
"It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?" To be condemned is to be declared guilty. In a court of law a man can be declared guilty or not guilty. Being declared guilty is condemnation; to be declared not guilty is justification.
Christ's Merit Alone
"It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again." God justifies a sinner (that is, declares him righteous) when he reckons all that Christ did on behalf of sinners as belonging to that particular sinner. Christ lived a perfect life and never sinned in thought, word or deed. He kept God's law completely. Nevertheless, He bore the punishment of sin when he suffered on !he cross. He suffered, not for any sin of His own, but for others.
When God justifies a sinner, he imputes to (or reckons as belonging to) the sinner Christ’s perfect obedience and his bearing the punishment of sin. "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor 5:21). There is an exchange here of the individual's sin for Christ's perfect righteousness. it is rather like exchanging a filthy garment for one that is spotlessly clean.
Does God reckon Christ's righteousness to the account of every sinner? No - He is "just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:26). God's provided righteousness for sinners is "unto all and upon all them that believe (Romans 3:22).
God's verdict is final. Everyone of us, even at this moment, is either condemned or justified. God's verdict will be openly and irreversibly declared before the universe at the great Day of Judgement. But our text emphasises that God has the last word. It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?" If God declares us not guilty there is no one else in the whole of existence who can overturn that. The reverse is also true however. If God condemns there is no appeal beyond his tribunal. No higher court exists.
This is why this subject is so important. If Christ is not your saviour, your sins are alt before the face of God. The sentence of eternal condemnation is ready to be put into effect. "He that believeth not is condemned already." (John 3:18). Only God's longsuffering stays the execution of judgement, giving you opportunity to seek and find Christ. On the other hand the Bible describes the blessedness of those who have trusted in the Saviour. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity and in whose spirit there is no guile." (Psalm 32:1-2).
Perhaps some readers can remember learning the Shorter Catechism when they were young. "Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone." (Ans 33)
To have such a clear biblical definition of justification stored in the mind is a good thing but it is not enough. Are you justified? Have you believed in Jesus?