I continue to scratch my head at how people who read and know the Scriptures well continually discount the forensic element of the Biblical revelation. If one thing is clear from the Scriptures, it is that we will stand before our Lord Jesus who will indeed pass judgment upon us. He warns us that we will have to "give an account" for every idle word we speak. The "courtroom" metaphor runs throughout the Gospels and the NT epistles as well. The very language of "justify" is forensic lingo. The word "Advocate" (which the Sacred Scriptures apply both to our Lord and to the Holy Spirit) is legal through and through. To simply read the Scriptures while discounting this semantic domain is to ignore one sizable chunk of God's message to humanity in His Son.
Which is not to say that the forensic element exhausts the Gospel - no way! The Scriptures teach us to speak of the Gospel as the bringing of the dead to life, the finding and reclaiming of the lost, the reconciliation of those at enmity, and certainly many other ways too. Nevertheless, among the ways that God has spoken His Word to us through His Son is the whole complex of "court" language. "Forensic" is one way that the Holy Spirit confronts us with the problem of our sin that we might despair of "fixing" it and learn instead to live from the merciful pardon of God extended to us in His Son. To unite some of the images: that pardon is what brings the dead to life!
And one of my all time favorite passages from St. John Chrysostom builds upon such language and images to preach some high octane Gospel:
Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose, next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and that he would be condemned.
Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo punishment, he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of the Emperor's favor. For when he made himself accountable to the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift.
This is what happened in the case of the Jews. Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. "All have sinned," says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins.
All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and profit from his gift. But those who wish to find justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They will not be able to enjoy the King's loving-kindness because they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts; they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification.