What is the Difference between Justification and Sanctification?

Erik Raymond: What is the difference between justification and sanctification? I am thankful that this is a frequent question that I get as a pastor; thankful because people are thinking but also because this is so important. After all, we are talking about our standing before God. In short, justification means we are declared righteous, while sanctification means growing in righteousness. Let me explain and contrast a bit further. Justification refers to God’s declaration that someone is determined to be righteous in his sight. This justification is a one-time act whereby God declares a sinner like you and me to be not only not guilty but perfectly righteous before his high bar of justice. How does God does this and maintain his justice? The basis for the divine declaration is the doing and dying of Christ. God credits (or imputes) us with the righteousness (merit) of Jesus. We are justified by grace (a gift) through faith (trusting in Jesus). Some

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Do Paul and James Disagree on Justification by Faith Alone?

Tom Schreiner: Critics of the slogan “faith alone” often point out that Scripture only speaks once about whether we are justified by faith alone—and that text denies it: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, CSB). What does James mean in saying we are justified by works? I won’t defend the truth of justification by faith alone in detail, but it’s clearly taught, for example, in Romans 3:28: “A person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Or, as Paul teaches inRomans 4:5, “God justifies the ungodly.” Both Abraham and David were justified by faith and not by works (Rom. 4:1–8; Gal. 3:6–9). Salvation, as Paul elsewhere demonstrates, is “by grace” and “through faith” (Eph. 2:8–9). Works are excluded as the basis of salvation—otherwise people could boast about what they have done. Salvation by grace through faith highlights the amazing and comforting truth that salvation is the Lord’s work, not ours. But does

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Everyday Justification

By Tim Chester, coauthor of Why the Reformation Still Matters. A Personal Doctrine Justification is not just a doctrinal or church doctrine. It is a deeply personal doctrine. Every time I sin, I create a reason to doubt my acceptance by God and I question my future with God. But day after day, the doctrine of justification speaks peace to my soul. This is especially true of imputed righteousness. Catholicism says that righteousness is imparted to us or infused into us, primarily through the sacraments. This righteousness is the potential to live a righteous life that pleases God. With God’s help mediated through the church, we may be accepted by God. We are justified by faith, but it is faith plus human effort. Declared Righteous In contrast, the Reformers spoke of imputed righteousness. Luther said saving righteousness is external or alien. In other words, it’s not our righteousness; it’s not something we achieve. Instead, Christ’s righteousness is given to us

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Paul and James on the Meaning of Genesis 15:6

Gerald Hiestand: One of the more revealing aspects of Paul and James’ soteriology is the different ways they both use Genesis 15:6 (“And Abraham believed God and it was counted for him as righteousness,”) as a proof text to defend their comments about the gospel. The key observation to make is that in Romans 4, Paul views the birth of Isaac as the fulfillment of Genesis 15:6, whereas in James 2, James views the offering of Isaac as the fulfillment of Genesis 15:6. These readings are not mutually exclusive, and ultimately serve as complementary theological readings of the same OT text. In what follows I offer a sketch (scratchy notes, if you will) of my reading of Paul and James’ use of Gen 15:6, with a view to showing how their use of this text sheds light on their respective soteriological frameworks. Paul and Genesis 15:6 In Romans 1-3 Paul is laboring to show that righteousness comes through faith in

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Is God always pleased with you?

Michael Kruger: Imagine this scenario. Your friend at church (who is a believer) comes to you and confesses an ugly sin they committed.  And they feel terrible about it.  What do you say? No doubt this scenario is played out countless times a week in evangelical churches all over the country–particularly given the church’s fascination with authenticity and vulnerability (see my post on that issue here).  And it is not always easy to know how to respond. But here’s one response that gets used a lot:  “Don’t feel bad about this sin.  If you are a believer, then God is always pleased with you.  He can never be more pleased with you than he is right now.” Is this response helpful?  Yes and no. It depends on what a person means and how they frame it. Our purpose in this post (as in all the posts in this series) is simply to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this phrase. 

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10 Things You should Know about Justification

Sam Storms: (1) Most Protestant Christians immediately think of the reformer Martin Luther when the subject of justification is raised. Early on Luther believed that, if the sinner would take the initiative by humbly calling on God and “doing what lies within”, God would respond with the grace of justification. This doctrine, however, brought Luther little comfort, for he found himself despairing of the ability to fulfill the condition of the covenant. He conceived of the “righteousness of God” as an impartial divine attribute according to which God either forgave or condemned the individual based on the latter’s response to the terms of the covenant. God’s righteousness, therefore, was not gospel (i.e., good news) for Luther but an ever-present threat. The transformation in Luther’s theology came with the recognition that the “righteousness” of God was, in fact, that according to which God graciously provided the very righteousness he required. (2) Luther’s concept of justification is best seen in the phrase

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Complete Assurance for Incomplete People

John Piper: By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14) Two things here are mightily encouraging for us in our imperfect condition as saved sinners. First, notice that Christ has perfected his people, and it is already complete. “For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” He has done it. And he has done it for all time. The perfecting of his people is complete and it is complete forever. Does this mean that Christians don’t sin? Don’t get sick? Don’t make mathematical errors in school? That we are already perfect in our behavior and attitudes? There is one clear reason in this very verse for knowing that is not the case. What is it? It’s the last phrase. Who are the people that have been perfected for all time? It is those who “are being sanctified.” The ongoing continuous action of the Greek present

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The “Just-as-if-I’d” definition of Justification

Erik Raymond: How would you define justification? I’ve heard some say that justification means that God treats me “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned. Is this a helpful way to explain it? In one sense there is truth here. God does treat those who are justified as if they have never sinned. We have peace with God (Rom. 5:1-2) rather than judgment from God. However, this just doesn’t go far enough. It leaves us short of what the Bible teaches and conveys an insufficient understanding of justification. Justification is the instantaneous and irreversible divine declaration of the unrighteous as positionally righteous, based upon the merit of Christ’s obedience, applied by grace and received through faith (Rom. 3.24-28; 4.1-5; 5.1-2). God declares the unjust to be just based upon Christ’s work for them. To simply say that justification is “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned is to stop far short of what the Bible says. It does not take us far enough. Justification by faith alone is the

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It is God who justifies

It is God who justifies. — Romans 8:33 “Behold the eternal security of the weakest believer in Jesus. The act of justification, once passed under the great seal of the resurrection of Christ, God can never revoke without denying Himself. Here is our safety. Here is the ground of our dauntless challenge, ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies.’ What can I need more? What more can I ask? “If God, the God of spotless purity, the God of inflexible righteousness, justifies me, ‘who is he that condemns?’ Sin may condemn, but it is God that justifies! The law may alarm, but it is God that justifies! Satan may accuse, but it is God that justifies! Death may terrify, but it is God that justifies! ‘If GOD is for us, who can be against us?’ Who will dare condemn the soul whom He justifies? “How gloriously will this truth shine forth in

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Which is better: Justification or Sanctification?

. . Mark Jones: . Why do we love justification and sanctification? And do we love one more than the other? . If you’ve ever been in a position where you think you might die, your theology really begins to matter, and you learn a great deal about yourself and what you believe. . A legalistic type of Christian probably needs to be confronted with the reality that he or she will die. When that reality hits, Christ’s righteousness and God’s mercy are no longer just doctrines to live by, but truths to die by. That is why justification by faith alone is a doctrine worth dying for: people need to die believing that truth. . The Puritan (ahem), Anthony Burgess, while vigorously opposing antinomianism, nevertheless suggested that the doctrine of justification, unlike any other, inclines God’s people to increased humility and self-emptiness, “for by this we are taught even in the highest degree of our sanctification, to look out

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A Birdseye View of the Gospel in One Big Sentence

  Kevin DeYoung: One of the clearest and most comprehensive statements of John Witherspoon’s theology can be found in his Essay on Justification ( 1756) where he sets out to defend justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ and ends up giving this big, broad, glorious summary of the gospel:   The doctrine asserted in the above and other passages of Scripture may be thus paraphrased: that every intelligent creature is under an unchangeable and unalienable obligation, perfectly to obey the whole law of God: that all men proceeding from Adam by ordinary generation, are the children of polluted parents, alienated in heart from God, transgressors of his holy law, inexcusable in this transgression, and therefore exposed to the dreadful consequence of his displeasure; that it was not agreeable to the dictates of his wisdom, holiness and justice, to forgive their sins without an atonement or satisfaction: and therefore he raised up for them a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who, as the

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The greatest personal question ever asked

  “Justification by faith is an answer to the greatest personal question ever asked by a human soul: ‘How shall I be right with God? How do I stand in God’s sight? With what favor does he look upon me?’ There are those, I admit, who never raise that question. There are those who are concerned with the question of their standing before men but never with the question of their standing before God. There are those who are interested in what ‘people say’ but not in the question of what God says. Such men, however, are not those who move the world. They are apt to go with the current. They are apt to do as others do. They are not the heroes who change the destinies of the race. The beginning of true nobility comes when a man ceases to be interested in the judgment of men and becomes interested in the judgment of God.” J. Gresham Machen,

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Three Ways Our Deeds Relate to Our Salvation

  John Piper: One effect of close attention to Scripture is that sweeping generalizations become problematic. This is notably true of the way our works (including our attitudes and words and behavior) relate to our salvation. The biblical texts relating to this issue are many and diverse, but not contradictory. If you take any one of them and treat it as the whole picture, you will almost surely lead people astray. For example, Paul rejoices that we are “justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). I take that to mean that anything we bring to Christ other than faith has no part in the ground (Christ) or the instrument (faith) of our justification. This is a glorious truth, and our life hangs on it. But if we carelessly speak of justification as having no relationship to works, or if we generalize about salvation being apart from works of the law, we lead people away from the

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Only Jesus Is Enough

Eric Costa: We don’t often live with a functional understanding of biblical justification and sanctification. We often try—usually subconsciously—to attain feelings of assurance, satisfaction, or righteousness in our sanctification. “If I can perfectly confess and repent of this sin… If I can just figure out how to change my life in this way… If I can just achieve a certain level of sanctification, then it will be enough.” We can invest a lot of hope and effort in our sanctification in order to obtain what we’re only supposed to get from our justification: that joyful sense of assurance, satisfaction, and righteousness that comes vicariously through Jesus Christ, by his grace alone. You cannot truly and perfectly diagnose your own sin, in order to feel that “enough-ness” about your confession and repentance. You cannot understand how you’re supposed to change to the degree where you will feel that “enough-ness” about your sanctification. What you can achieve will never be enough. You’re

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Justification

A collection of quotes from chapter five of John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied: If we are to appreciate that which is central in the gospel, if the jubilee trumpet is to find its echo again in our hearts, our thinking must be revolutionized by the realism of the wrath of God, of the reality and gravity of our guilt, and of the divine condemnation. That justification does not mean to make holy or upright should be apparent from common use. When we justify a person we do not make that person good or upright. When a judge justifies an accused person he does not make that person an upright person. He simply declares that in his judgement the person is not guilty of the accusation but is upright in terms of the law relevant to the case. In a word, justification is simply a declaration or pronouncement respecting the relation of the person to the law which he, the judge,

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Fully pleasing to him

Ray Ortlund: “. . . so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him.”  Colossians 1:10 We should not be afraid of this clear biblical teaching.  It does not counteract the gospel in our lives; it is the sweet fruit of the gospel in our lives. The good news of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from all our works, is thrilling.  The message of forgiveness, acceptance, adoption, all by radical divine grace — I never get tired of hearing it and preaching it.  It is oxygen to me.  Every day.  I hope it means that to you too. But this grace is also a power that transforms.  It both reassures us and changes us.  Both/and.  How else can we account for the New Testament? “Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”  Ephesians 5:10 “We ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how

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Just and Justifier

George Smeaton: The design or final cause which God had in view in the whole matter of the atonement is next subjoined: that He might be just, and the justifier (Rom. 3:26). The allusion is to the concurrence or harmony of these two perfections of God. The word JUST, applied to God, means that He asserts just claims and inflicts just punishment. It is a perversion of language to interpret the term as if it could mean anything else than justice in the ordinary acceptation of the word among men made in the image of God. The contrast in which it is placed to divine forbearance, and the allusion to the propitiatory, allow no doubt as to its import Justice seemed to slumber during that period of forbearance; now it is displayed. But this determines the character of the atonement Such language would be unmeaning, if it were not admitted that the atonement is in the proper sense of the word a

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The cross and criticism

“In light of God’s judgement and justification of the sinner in the cross of Christ, we can begin to discover how to deal with any and all criticism. By agreeing with God’s criticism of me in Christ’s cross, I can face any criticism man may lay against me. In other words, no one can criticize me more than the cross has. If you thus know yourself as having been crucified with Christ, then you can respond to any criticism, even mistaken or hostile criticism, without bitterness, defensiveness, or blame shifting. Such responses typically exacerbate and intensify conflict, and lead to the rupture of relationships. You can learn to hear criticism as constructive and not condemnatory because God has justified you.” — Alfred Poirier “The Cross and Criticism” The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 17, No. 3, Spring 1999) 17 (HT: Of First Importance)

Justification and Sanctification: What’s the Problem?

Matt Smethurst: The relationship between justification and sanctification—between being pronounced righteous in a moment and being made righteous over a lifetime—is delicate, complex, and altogether crucial to grasp. “Sanctification is always properly built on justification,” says Bryan Chapell in a new roundtable discussion with Kevin DeYoung and Rick Phillips. Still, he explains, we can make two mistakes concerning what motivates our obedience—denying either a plurality of motivations on the one hand or a priority of motivations on the other. “We’re never in danger of talking about grace too much,” DeYoung insists. “But we can talk about grace in a truncated, reductionistic way.” We must take great care, then, to deal faithfully with the Bible’s multiplicity of motivations, resisting the tendency to flatten certain texts, while at the same time never becoming “suspicious of grace.” Phillips cautions against rhetoric that suggests sanctification is a “tag on” to justification—little more than “being excited about justification.” Rather, he says, sanctification is a “twin grace with justification, each resulting from union

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In Christ Your Sin Is Publicly and Legally Cancelled, Nailed Up for All to See

John Owen: Sin being removed, and righteousness bestowed, we have peace with God—are continually accepted before him. There is not any thing to charge us with: that which was, is taken out of the way by Christ, and nailed to his cross—made fast there; yea, publicly and legally cancelled, that it can never be admitted again as an evidence. What court among men would admit of evidence that has been publicly cancelled and nailed up for all to see it? So has Christ dealt with that which was against us; and not only so, but also he puts that upon us for which we are received into favor. He makes us comely through his beauty; gives us white raiment to stand before the Lord. This is the first part of purchased grace wherein the saints have communion with Jesus Christ. In remission of sin and imputation of righteousness does it consist; from the death of Christ, as a price, sacrifice,

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