- For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
- Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
- Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God (Romans 3:23–25).
One could substitute the words guiltless and blameless for the word justified. "Justification, then, as defined by the Bible and the Book of Mormon, is the process by which guilt is taken away through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ. Most students of the scriptures would agree with that definition. The confusion comes in understanding how the process of justification works" .
The words, just, justification, and justice are, of course, legal terms, and relate to one's legal standing before God. Under laws of justice, a punishment follows the breaking of a law. Breaking the laws of God increases one's distance from Him. This separation is called spiritual death.
- Fortunately, there is another divine law that goes hand in hand with the law of justice that can bring about a spiritual rebirth. The Book of Mormon refers to it as the law of mercy. This law allows us to escape the punishment justice demands if a Savior will accept the punishment in our place. This person must meet two conditions, however: he must be willing, and he must be sinless. Furthermore, a propitiation for divine laws broken must be rendered by one who is divine.
- Jesus Christ met all these conditions and accepted the punishment for our sins. In some way—ultimately incomprehensible to mortals—the Son of God took upon himself the punishment for the sins of all mankind. And since his sacrifice was “infinite and eternal” (see Alma 34:10–14), he satisfied the demands of justice and mercy and can offer forgiveness to those whose sins he has borne. This offer is a gift—the scriptures often use the term grace—that the Savior extends because of his great love for us (“I Have a Question,” Ensign, June 1991, 51–53).
The gift is given and received by exercising faith in Christ:
- And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him (Mosiah 3:9).
As we learn "line upon line," and continue in repentance and faith, we move from "grace to grace."
- As we progress from “grace to grace,” receiving “grace for grace” (see Doctrine and Covenants 93:12–20), we will eventually be perfected and be able to stand before the Father fully justified as one who has become like him—guiltless, perfect, and holy (Colin Douglas, Ensign, April 1989, p. 12).
- In the scriptures, the process by which we are cleansed and perfected is often called sanctification. Those who are justified by Christ and receive the Holy Ghost are sanctified, or “reborn.” (See Mosiah 3:19; Alma 5:14, 19.)
- Many Christians don’t understand that faith and good works are really two sides of the same coin; speaking of the one is impossible without including the other. Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 13: “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. . . . And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (See 1 Corinthians 13:2, 13; see also Moroni 7:42–47.)
- Ultimately, our justification before God is a product of faith in the grace of Christ. As Nephi said, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). But the Lord does expect us to do all we can—to repent of our sins, to covenant with him in the waters of baptism, to keep his commandments, and to follow his example of love. (See 3 Nephi 27:16, 21–22.) After all, he gave everything—his blood, his body—to remove our sins from us; is it too much to ask that we give him in return our hearts, minds, and strength? And yet, characteristically, he desires this devotion of us only so that he can justify and sanctify us before the Father (S. Michael Wilcox, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, June 1991, 51–53).
- No unclean thing can enter into [the Father’s] kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
- Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day (3 Nephi 27:19–20).
Gordon B. Hinckley has said:
That article of our faith [Articles of Faith 13] is one of the basic declarations of our theology. We ought to reflect on it again and again. Then, whenever we might be tempted to do anything shoddy or dishonest or immoral, there would come into our minds with some force this great, all-encompassing statement of the ethics of our behavior. There would be less rationalizing over some elements of our personal conduct which we try to justify with one excuse or another.
—“Fear Not to Do Good”, Ensign, January 2000, 2