Should Christians be concerned about being too clever with the word “justification” by telling people it means, “Just as if I’d never sinned?”
Christians should be very concerned about “reduction theology” whereby a great truth is cleverly summarized for popular consumption. Where there is an element of truth in the wording, for legally, in the sight of the Law, no penalty has to be paid for sin by the individual, it is a misleading statement for three reasons.
First, Someone did have to pay for every sin of those who are justified in the sight of God. That Someone is Jesus Christ. “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). No one should ever say, “I have never sinned.” The Bible says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Second, because every person is a sinner by birth and by choice, the best they can honestly say is that they are not an innocent person, but a guilty person who has been forgiven. The Law does not forgive the guilty. It condemns and punishes in order to remain holy, just, and good. Only God can forgive sins (Luke 5:21). God can only forgive sins because the righteousness of the Law has been satisfied by the penalty of sin being fully paid. Jesus Christ paid the penalty of the Law in order to redeem, or buy back, those who were under the Law (Gal. 4:5).
“He paid the debt He did not owe
I owe the debit I could not pay
I needed Someone to was my sins away
And now I sing a brand-new song
All day long
Christ Jesus paid the debit that I could never pay.”
To say, “I have been forgiven” is much different from asserting, “just as if I’d never sinned.”
Third, to declared that a person has never sinned, when they have, is to imply a life of perfection, and that too is not true. Only Christ has lived a sinless life. No one could ever point to Jesus and say, “You have broken the Law” (John 8:46). While the righteousness of Christ is imputed to those who are the heirs of salvation, the reality is that every person is like a sheep that has gone astray; “we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).