This is a slightly extended version of a brief treatment of this issue that I wrote for an email correspondent, but it occurred to me that perhaps more people might be interested. The traditional Reformed understanding of "to be justified" is the forensic "to be declared righteous". N.T. Wright has suggested that "to be justified" is the forensic "to be declared a member of God's covenant community". Theologians in the Reformed tradition have regularly through history argued for their understanding of "to be justified" against the Roman Catholic understanding that "to be justified" means "to be made righteous". Not surprisingly, most of these arguments work against N.T. Wright's position as well. Here is a brief overview of these traditional Reformed arguments, with pointed application against the New Perspective position. There are four basic arguments concerning the meaning of dikaioo, based around: 1) what the biblical writers contrast being justified with; 2) who the biblical writers say are justified; 3) who the biblical writers say are doing the justifying; and 4) what the biblical writers treat as being synonymous with being justified. In the first category are verses such as Rom 5:16 and Romans 8:33-34: "Again the gift of God is not like the result of one man's sin. The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification." (Rom 5:16) "Who will bring any charge against those who God has chosen? It is God who justifies, who is he that condemns?" (Rom 8:33-34) If the opposite of being justified is being condemned, then being justified must mean something like "being declared righteous" or "exonerated" or "vindicated", for these are the opposite of being condemned. Being made righteous (Roman Catholics) or being declared to be one of God's people (NPP) is not exact opposites of being condemned. The same is also true of the Arminian position that "to be justified" means "to be forgiven one's past sins". Of special interest in the second category are those verses that speak of God or Jesus being justified. (Here the Greek is needed, as English translations often obscure the fact that "justified" is being used.) There are numerous examples, but here are two: "All the people, even the tax collectors, when they head Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right (justified), because they had been baptised by John" (Luke 7:29) "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated (justified) by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, ...." (1 Tim 3:16) If God and Jesus are being justified again it must mean something like "declared righteous" or "exonerated" or "vindicated" and not being made righteous, or being declared to be one of God's covenant people (and certainly not the Arminian "to be forgiven"). (Clearly, the ground that God and Jesus are declared righteous is because they actually are righteous, not because of imputed righteousness, but that doesn't change the basic meaning of what being justified actually means). In the third category of special interest is when ordinary people are justifying each other, God, or themselves. Clearly, ordinary people cannot "make anyone righteous" (contra the Roman Catholic understanding of the meaning of justification), nor can they declare someone to be one of God's covenant people (contra the NPP and Wright position of justification) ... come to that, they can only forgive sins committed against them, not all of someone's past sins. "But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10:29) (Jesus' interlocutor here certainly wasn't trying to forgive himself!) In the fourth category one finds various things associated with salvation paralleled with being justification, again showing that being justified is to do with soteriology and not merely ecclesiology (contra Wright). "For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but it is the does of the law who will be justified." (Rom 2:13) To be justified means to be declared to be righteous, and when it is God doing this declaring, that has salvific implications. Numerous other verses in each of these categories could be found, and can be found quoted in various older Reformed books on justification, such as Buchanan's "The Doctrine of Justification". Wright might have been right about the linguistic meaning, but fortunately the Bible provides enough context to show us exactly how "justified" worked for Paul and Luke and others, and it was as the Reformers told us, to be justified is to be declared righteous. It is a forensic declaration, not merely that one is one of God's people (although being declared righteous entails that), but that one is exonerated/vindicated/declared innocent by God ... and Paul tells us that it is the wicked who are so justified ... by faith alone in Christ alone through grace alone.