Can God be justified in His judgments if we are not sinners? Can anybody judge God otherwise? God is above all human judgment, nor does He need to justify Himself to anyone. In the ten dollar church lexicon of the old Lutheran dogmaticians, God is eternal, constant, essential, and never-changing. He is the supreme Justice and Judge of all things. In other words, God is Almighty and we are not.
But, in relation to God, we rebel and fight against all God's words and works for us. We judge, condemn, and hold ourselves up as the judge of all things, even the Almighty Himself. In this way, we are in a constant legal war with our Judge. And yet, when it is revealed that our judgment is located at Calvary, and our Judge allows Himself to suffer execution in our place, we hear that God's words and works are all, first to last, pointing to the suffering of our Christ. God's judgment is that we receive as gift forgiveness, life, and salvation for our sin and godlessness through the suffering of Jesus Christ, that whoever believes in Him and none other will be saved.
That we rebel against this free gift of God's justifying judgment demonstrates the depth of our sin and its power over us. We refuse to be sinners. We do not want to admit that we need a Savior. So we make God out to be a liar and we the sole possessors of the truth about our condition, its diagnosis, and prognosis.
The apostle John writes that, "If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). And again, "If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us" (1 John 1:10).
Just and Justified
For God, the only way He acts as Judge and Justifier for us is through Christ Jesus Who dies for sinners. We may be just and justified in relation to family, friends, and neighbors, but in relation to God there is only one justice and one justification, and that is that we are great sinners in a need of a greater Savior.
From conception to death we are sinners. Selfish, self-serving, self-centered people who want to be God in God's place. We are evil trees and "by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2:3). So long as we eat, breathe, love, suffer, and struggle to get by we remain sinners. We must pray, "Father, forgive us our trespasses for Christ's sake until this body of death is killed and destroyed." Our old Adam and his nature must be put to death before Christ can live in us completely. This is why Christians confess that our death is a good thing. Only through death can we be united once and for all with our Savior Who must be all in all for us.
For God, the only way He acts as Judge and Justifier for us is through Christ Jesus Who dies for sinners.
To those who insist on justifying themselves this sounds and looks absurd. We hate ourselves so long as we rebel against our grace and hope. We pray for death, yet enjoy our earthly vocations as the place where God has chosen to crucify our old Adam and all his selfish desires. We are always dissatisfied with ourselves, looking away from ourselves, praying for Jesus to come soon to rescue us from sin and death. The proud do not understand this, since it offends them that for all their efforts they are still revealed to be nothing but horrible sinners, and this knowledge drives them to hate God even more since He does not reward them for their successes, achievements, obedience, or religiosity.
Faith prays that God would not look at our works since they are all sin. Instead, in spite of our sin, faith asks that our heavenly Father would focus His attention on Jesus' work for us, that in every way He was tempted as we are and yet He did not sin, so that He can sympathize with us in every way. In this way, God does not impute to us our sin, but Christ's righteousness. Jesus becomes our sin so that we may become His righteousness. In this way, God is just when He judges us for Christ's sake. In Christ, we are judged innocent and justified in our godlessness. And despite sin and death, which hang around our neck every day of our life, because of Jesus' words and work for us, we can boldly say, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven."