Imagine with me: a man was suffering with cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy. Things seemed to progress as testing showed his tumor had decreased in size. Before the tumor had definitively disappeared, his oncologist ended his chemo treatments. Puzzled and bewildered, the man asked himself several questions, "Did I miss something?" "Why would my doctor do such a thing?" "Is this regular protocol?" "Did things get worse all of a sudden?" "If this is the case, how long do I have to live?"
Confused, the man asked to speak to his doctor for an explanation as to why he stopped the treatments. The man could not believe the doctor's response, "You do not require any more chemotherapy because I have declared your cancer (to be) in remission. As far as I am concerned you have no more tumors. I declare you, 'healed.'" As the doctor completed his explanation, the man, who was initially curious, turned disbelieving and then progressively angry. He yelled, "Are you insane? If the tumors aren't gone, how can you declare me anything?" I daresay, most of us would have a similar response. This scenario begs the question, would you rather be declared healed or would you prefer to actually be healed?
The popular interpretation of justification by faith is that we are declared righteous, not made righteous. How does God really work this -- is the thing really true because He declares it so, or does He declare it because it is true? Does God declare something without it being true? Unlike our Doctor from the story above, God is not insane. God does not declare things unless they already are. One example of this is in Genesis 1 (for another example cf father Abraham). At almost every stage of Creation God saw that what He did was good. At the end, in Genesis 1:31, He declared it again,
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
This concept of only declaring could be in part from the definition of righteous. According to a previous Sabbath School lesson,
What is this idea of "justifying," as found in the text? The Greek word dikaioo, translated justify, may mean "make righteous," "declare righteous" or "consider righteous." The word is built on the same root as dikaiosune, "righteousness," and the word dikaioma, "righteous requirement." Hence, there is a close connection between "justification" and "righteousness," a connection that doesn't always come through in various translations. We are justified when we are "declared righteous" by God.
Before this justification, a person is unrighteous, and thus unacceptable to God; after justification, he or she is regarded as righteous, and thus acceptable to Him.
You will notice that the author(s) of the lesson chose "declare righteous" instead of "make righteous." The question again is, would you rather be declared righteous or made righteous? (Which is more accurate?) Especially, since God is fully capable of making us righteous. Ellen White makes reference to this issue in the following quote,
"Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner's account. Christ's righteousness is accepted in place of man's failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son."—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 367.
"...Everything was lost by sin; man forfeited his title to every blessing. It is only by divine grace, through the infinite sacrifice of Christ that we could be reinstated in the favor of God, and be permitted to enjoy His gifts. We are not our own. Christ has bought us with His precious blood, and we belong to Him."
RH Dec. 14, 1886 par. 8.
Being that God is able to make us righteous we can interpret the text from Romans chapter 3 as, "Therefore we conclude that a man is made righteous by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28). The question is will we let Him?