The dictionary definition is much the same as absolution: to set one free from the consequences of sin. Some call that acquittal: the person is guilty, but is set free when payment is made somehow. With sin the payment is the blood of Jesus, and the judge's authority to grant the reprieve is called grace.
Note that nowhere does any of the definition deny the guilt of the sinner, nor even cancels out the sin. The sin is just paid for by Jesus. It is not just as if you've never sinned, but that you have sinned and Jesus paid for your sin by his own blood and life.
Romans 3:23 (ESV) "... for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."Propitiation of Jesus' blood was to appease God who we owe big time for our sins. As such Jesus paid for our sins by bleeding on the cross as an innocent person in the place of the guilty ones - everybody else. Jesus' blood instead of ours was because of his grace, and dying in our place was a gift to mankind! It wasn't a cheap gift; it was costly because life is valuable. As such, we must never forget God's own sacrifice of his son in our place.
The justification was when God passed over our former sins. Only past sins have been passed over, and any future sins must be presented to God for forgiveness. Contrition and repentance is how we continue to appease God. His grace has already paid for the present and future sins, but they must be presented to him for absolution. Only God can absolve so forget the priest. His only purpose is to point toward God.
Because God is fair or just, hence God justifies by providing the sacrifice.
Genesis 22:8 (ESV) "Abraham said, 'God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.'”Many theologians would say that God provided the ram for the sacrifice, but that's not spiritually what happened.
Hebrews 11:17 (ESV) "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.'”This should be obvious, but it's not. It's not even a biblical parallel. It was not the ram which was the sacrificed in Isaac's place, it was Jesus Christ himself, the lamb of God (John 1:29) who paid for that past sin hundreds of years later. God even acknowledged that by pointing toward Jesus who was through Isaac's offspring.
Abraham's works were acknowledged as great faith. (Hebrews 11:17). His faith is what saved Isaac, and himself for that matter. The ram was a temporary blood sacrifice awaiting the real one by Jesus. The Voice of God who was to be called Jesus, spoke to Abraham that day on the mountain, and many years later, the Voice who had become flesh, died for Isaac's sins on that very same spot! Abraham knew of that future sacrifice, and it's efficacy to appease God!
David, the man after God's own heart, confessed his numerous and great sins:
Psalm 51:3 (ESV) "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me... 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise."It was not just as David had never sinned; it was that David sinned and was forgiven. His sin was always before him, although God delivered him from his bloodguiltiness. In other words God justified him because of his repentance, and as a result David praised him. If it was not just as if he never sinned, then he would have no reason for thanksgiving; it was as if he sinned and God forgave him. David would never acted as if his sins never happened.
God blotted them out though. That is what justification is! Because God is appeased with repentance, he totally forgives.
Acts 3:18 (ESV) "But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,..."God worked the same way with the prophets (and David) as he does with us. Because of repentance he blotted out their sins and ours, and on top of that, it was always be the blood of Jesus, not of animals!
Hebrews 10:4 (ESV) "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."With Abraham and David, justification was never by the blood of those animals which were sacrificed, but they only pointed toward the blood of Jesus, the only effective sacrifice. The animal was only a demonstration of faith in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ! When those animals died, the prophets saw Jesus! Those past sins mentioned in Romans were also for the sins of the prophets and other patriarchs.
All those sins of the patriarchs are mentioned in the New Testament; they are not as if they never happened. It's as if they did happen, but were forgiven and no longer on the account in the book of life. Even in days past God kept a ledger.
Exodus 32:32 (ESV) "'But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.' 33 But the Lord said to Moses, 'Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.'"The book spoken of here is the Book of Sins in the New Testament. It's the record of all our sins. When each sin occurs it is written in God's book. When those sins are forgiven by appeasing God with our confession, God blots them out of the Book of Sins. As such God forgets them because he no longer holds them before you, but there is no place in scripture that says that you should forget them! We should put them behind us by not dwelling on them, but to act as if they never happened is to minimize God's grace.
Acting as if you never sinned devalues God's gift as cheap grace. We must never act as if our sins never happened, even though God blots them out. The blood (ink) which covered them in the book can still be seen, and it is as if the sins did happen, but were forgiven,