Justification and Sanctification are two things that are often confused in modern Christendom. Some see Justification as the first step in Sanctification; some see only the need for Justification; while completely different people see Sanctification being just as important to Salvation as Justification. My goal is to examine what Justification and Sanctification are, both to Salvation, and to us as everyday Christians. Let us start with definitions.
First, Justification is an explanation that defends a specific action. In relation to Christianity, Justification occurs when a person has accepted the truth that there is a God, that His Son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins and rose again, and that the Holy Spirit is our guide and guarantor. For the sake of our study we will call this the Truth. Within the instant Justification is applied to us the following occurs:
· We are forgiven of all sins leading up to the time in which we accept the Truth
· All those past sins are removed from our record and guilt is removed from us
· We are declared righteous in the sight of God.
These three actions happen within the blink of an eye. It is a domino effect that cannot be stopped. So Justification is the explanation for us, as Christians, for receiving eternal life and being able to be in the sight of God because otherwise we would be unclean and not be allowed in His sight or in His Kingdom.
Second, Sanctification describes the process of making someone righteous. This occurs after Justification. Right now you might be asking, well if we are declared righteous in Justification, isn’t that Sanctification? That is where some confusion enters on the subject. We think in this way because we apply human logic to the equation. Allow me to explain.
When a child enters the education system they are being educated by what society has deemed appropriate for the age group. As you progress through the system you enter and leave elementary school, you enter and leave middle school, and you enter and leave high school. Often times when you leave one school for the next you graduate. Graduation is the declaration that you have passed the requirements and are educated to that specific standard. That is the logic we apply to Justification and Sanctification and it is wrong. It is in fact backwards for us, God gives us the graduation certificate and says, go learn.
When our logic is applied we believe that the declaration of righteousness means that we are finished. In the case of Salvation that is true, however, in relation to our Christian walk we have only started the macro-process that is Sanctification. Sanctification is the journey to learn righteousness; to be sanctified; to be set apart as holy.
Justification is easy to understand, in my opinion. It is simple and that is how God intended it to be. In the Old Testament the Law of Moses, given by God, included the sacrifice of animals for forgiveness of sin. But this was never intended to be the final way of redemption. It was like a tourniquet on the deep wound humanity had inflicted upon itself in Eden. Sooner or later the tourniquet had to be removed by the Great Physician and a lifesaving solution had to be applied. The sacrifices were never to be the final solution. This is where love kicks in. The Godhead showed us love through the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus took on all the sins of the entire world so that you and I may have the Holy Spirit as our guide, grow in the sight of God, and ultimately live eternally in His Kingdom. That is why today the only way for the Jews, Muslims, or any other religions to be saved is to accept Christ. Not rebuild the temple and reinitiate the sacrificial system.
Sanctification is just as easy to understand once you have everything in the right order and context. So what is the process of Sanctification? The overarching concept is found in Matthew 28:18-20 in what is known as The Great Commission. It says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
After accepting the Truth, and instantaneous Justification occurring, new Christians are to become disciples and be baptized. Baptism is your public statement that you have accepted the Truth. You are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Not into a denomination or sect.) But this is not only your public statement; it is also signifying the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the death of your “old man” and the resurrection of the “new man”.
It is this “new man” which is to become a disciple and learn to obey the teachings found in both the Old and New Testaments. This is where many lack in the Sanctification process. Many attend church every week, or every once in a while, and they believe this satisfies the needs of their spirit. Their logic couldn’t be any more flawed. Jesus says that we are to follow the commandments because we love him. How are we to know what his commands are, remember them, and do what they say if we are only hearing them for 30 minutes to an hour each week? We can’t. Say you only attend church once a week and you are there for one hour. In your lifetime you will have only spent three thousand six hundred (3,600) hours in discipleship. That is only 150 days of your entire life spent learning about God. That is less than a year of your life spent focusing on the only thing that truly matters in our life. Most people spend more time than that on television. Any expert will tell you that it is impossible to truly know something, to truly have knowledge in something, if you only spend one hour per week learning about it. You might have baseline knowledge after a couple decades.
The fact is that discipleship is a 24/7/365 learning experience and this is how Sanctification is accomplished. By knowing God’s Word and practicing God’s Word in our daily lives. Yes, we start off as baby Christians; we are reborn into the Love of God. But we are to grow as Christians and reach spiritual adulthood in Him. Let’s be brutally honest for a second, our babies are ignorant of the knowledge this world has to offer until they grow and enter school. But through hard work and perseverance they learn and go on to be educated and become professionals in a field. As children become adults they loss their ignorance. As baby Christians we are ignorant of the knowledge which God has given us through His Word. Just as our babies understand love and attachment, baby Christians understand love and attachment to God. But only by growing in Him and studying His Word can we become adult Christians ready to be professionals in the field of evangelism and guide others in discipleship.
Next I would like to discuss rather or not Sanctification is a requirement for Salvation. The answer is no. Justification is the only thing needed for Salvation. When you add Sanctification to the Salvation equation you are saying that you have the power to save yourself and that is simply not true. Even worse it takes away from the fact that Jesus Christ died for your sins. Only the work Jesus accomplished on the cross is adequate enough for our Salvation. If Sanctification could save you than the Law of Moses would have been adequate enough and Christ wouldn’t have had to die. The Law of Moses was imperfect because it needed Christ to fulfill it. But now, through Christ’s work on the cross, all is perfect in Him.
Now you may be asking, “But what about the Ten Commandments?” The Ten Commandments serve two purposes under Justification and Sanctification. First, the Ten Commandments point out to unbelievers that they have transgressed the Law of God; that they are sinners. This points a sinner to Christ for Justification (IE Forgiveness, Guiltlessness, and Righteousness). Second, the Ten Commandments are the basis for discipleship. Following the Law of God (The Ten Commandments) keeps us on the path to Sanctification. It is not a requirement for Salvation because Salvation comes through Justification at the start of our walk. But as a basis for discipleship it, along with the Spirit of the Law outlined by Christ, does tell us the minimum requirements for maintaining our walk and maintaining Salvation.
STOP THE PRESSES! You can loss Salvation? Yes. Will a clean new car become dirty? Yes. You see, just because we have Justification and Sanctification does not mean that we will not sin again. We constantly battle our old nature and some people lose faith and thus stop caring to ask forgiveness and continue the walk. But the more you push forward with Sanctification the more likely you are to withstand the “old man” and withstand spiritual attacks. Remember to never loss hope and to always look for assistance in Christ, not in any work that you can do yourself.
Justification and Sanctification is the outline of it all friends. It is how we are saved and how we live our lives. These principles are what started Christianity, gave us the Protestant Revolution, and what keeps us on the path to God in our daily lives. Understanding this will not only make you a stronger Christian but it will help you in sharing the Gospel of Christ with others. Being saved is easy for us because it was hard for God. Being a Christian is hard for us; rather it is through the temptation we face in Western Culture or persecution millions around the world face every day. But through it all we grow and become stronger. The Church will never die. There will always be a remnant following the true path. I pray that you are on the true path so that you will never be deceived, no matter what signs and wonders the enemy may display.
May God bless you all!
By Donnie Elswick