Sixth, salvation is justification by the grace of God. “So that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:7). The verb “being justified” (dikaioo) means “be acquitted, be pronounced and treated as righteous, in theological language be justified = receive the divine gift of δικαιοσύνη.” (Gingrich) It refers to “imputed righteousness, as God’s judging and saving activity in relation to persons justify, declare righteous, put right with (himself) (RO 3.24).” (Friberg) To be justified is to receive the righteousness of God. It is to be declared righteous by God. That is justification.
God declares us righteous not because we are righteous for we are not. We are unworthy sinners. There is nothing good that we have done or will do that can make God justify us. God declares us righteous not on the basis of our own righteousness. It is not even because we are more righteous than the others for we are all equally unrighteous before God.
Rather, God declares us righteous by His own mercy and grace. God declares us righteous by giving us His righteousness in Christ. When we trusted Christ as Savior, God saved us by imputing His righteousness to us in Christ. Thus, salvation is solely based on the character of God and totally, on the work of God.
One day, I made a left turn in downtown Cebu near Colon. But it was a “No Left Turn” road. I didn’t see the sign. A traffic enforcer flagged me. He said, “No left turn.” I replied, “Sorry, sir, I didn’t see the sign. But I’ve no excuse. I was wrong. I made a left turn. Now, can you forgive me and not give me a ticket?” He looked at me for a moment and say, “Okay. You can go now.”
I did something wrong. I admitted my wrong. I asked for forgiveness. The man forgave me. He cleared me. He did not make a record in his ticket book.
But God did something better than that. When we trusted Christ as Savior, God forgave our sin. Yet God did not only clear our sin. He declared us righteous.
The verb is passive participle, “being justified” (ESV, NASB) or “having been justified” (NKJV, NIV, NRSV). The passive voice speaks of another person doing the action. It means that God was the one who justified us. God saved us by justifying us, declaring us righteous in Christ.
The verb is also an aorist participle, “having been justified.” The aorist tense refers to point-action or one-time action. At one point in time, God justified us. God justified us when He saved us. God saved us when we trusted Christ as our Lord and Savior.
This justifying act of God, Paul wrote, is “by his grace” (Tit. 3:7). In v. 5, God saved us by “his own mercy.” Thus, salvation is only by the mercy and grace of God. Justification is by grace alone. Salvation is justification by grace alone.
Salvation then is a comprehensive act of God. God saved us by washing us, by regeneration, by renewal of the Spirit, by the pouring of the Spirit, and by the justifying act of God. Salvation is solely, totally, and completely, the work of God.