how are we justified before God and men?
I remember my pastor in Texas sharing one interpretation of the key passage in James 2:14-26-- on "faith without works is dead".
In the passage, James asks how Abraham and Rahab were "considered righteous" or "justified". James observes that righteousness was credited to Abraham because he believed. But James also notes that (true) faith and works go together.
My former pastor made this useful distinction: we are justified before God by our faith; we are justified before men by our deeds. It is clear from Scripture that we are saved by God's grace through our faith. But this is not observable by men. We can only observe works which are improperly correlated with a (true/saving) faith. In any case, we can only justified before men by the things we do.
This brings me to Mark 2 where I recently read about one of Christ's many miracles. Most of his miracles connect to a reinterpretation of the Sabbath-- or follow His assertion that he had forgiven someone's sins. His opponents accused him of blaspheming in the latter cases, but his response was gorgeous: is it easier to say one's sins are forgiven or to heal a man.
Jesus was justifying Himself (before men)-- and avoiding the appearance of blasphemy-- through the miracles.