Confusing justification for sanctification and vice versa is a common occurrence among Christians. Knowing the difference between both concepts is essential to our faith, as important as knowing how salvation differs from damnation.
For the last few weeks, we have focused on justification by faith, what it is, and its benefits. This post will attempt to show you the difference between justification and sanctification. Let’s get started.
Some Christians may not have the slightest idea of what the term “justification” truly means. It isn’t uncommon to see Christians with the notion that through their works, they can get into or stay out of God’s kingdom. Meanwhile, God has declared us righteous in Christ, a legal verdict that is not a function of our works (Romans 4:5, Romans 5:1, Romans 5:8-9).
Yes, every defaulter is due to suffer a particular punishment. However, we no longer have to face punishment for our sins. Why? Jesus Christ took the punishment we deserved upon Himself when He went to the cross. He didn’t just die for us; he earned life on our behalf through His perfect obedience to the Father (Romans 5:17).
Because of justification, anyone that believes will no longer face God’s sentence for sinners. It is more like a guilty murderer in a courtroom who should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Instead, the fellow is declared innocent, discharged, and acquitted because another individual bore the punishment for the crime. This is the freedom that justification brings.
Justification is one step in our journey of faith. While it declares us free from condemnation, we must become like Christ. This is where sanctification comes in.
The moment we accept Jesus Christ to become our savior, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. One of the benefits of the presence of the third head of the Trinity in us is to conform us to Christ’s image (Romans 8:29).
Sanctification is a continuous process that consists of two parts:
- Mortification: This is the death to the old self. Here, we experience a “heartfelt sorrow from the awareness of our sin.” Thus we develop hatred for these acts and desire to flee from them as much as we can.
- Vivification: Here, we become alive to God and His will. As such, we experience a heartfelt joy because of a newfound delight in God’s will. We then seek to do good works and develop a deep love for God and things of the kingdom.
It is imperative that even though we are justified, we must take this walk of sanctification through the help of the Holy Spirit. According to Philippians 1:6, He will complete the work that He has started on the day of Christ. This means that sanctification is a continuous process that will continue as long as we are in the flesh.
Differentiating Between Justification and Sanctification
Now that we have set a foundation let’s briefly look at how justification differs from sanctification. Check out a few key points below:
- Justification is an external process. God declares us justified, righteous men regardless of our sins. Sanctification is an internal process that makes us righteous through the help of the Holy Spirit. Because of sanctification, we come to the point of conviction that we hate and forsake sinful acts.
- By justification, we enjoy positional righteousness. However, we are only declared righteous, we still have the tendency to sin. With sanctification, we have perfect righteousness because we grow into the image of Christ. The Holy Spirit prunes us gradually, showing us parts of our lives where we need to make changes and become like Jesus Christ.
- Justification is a one-time occurrence. We become justified when we believe that Jesus Christ came to take our place and bear the punishment for our sins. However, sanctification is a life-long process. The Holy Spirit will continually sanctify us until we cease to exist on this plane.
- Our works do not justify us. It is purely by faith through God’s grace. Sanctification is through the help of the Holy Spirit, but it requires effort from the believer. You must consciously forsake your old ways.
- Justification declares us righteous, while sanctification makes us grow in righteousness.
This post has explained two crucial Christian concepts, justification and sanctification. It has also shown you five differences between both concepts. What other differences do you know? Kindly share them with us in the comments section.
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