Justification and Sanctification – From Scripture

Justification and Sanctification

From The Book of Concord: The Lutheran Confessions, The Smalcald Articles Part 2, Article 1:

Article 1: The First and Chief Article

“That Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins, and was raised again for our justification, Rom. 4:25.

2 And He alone is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world, John 1:29; and God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all, Is. 53:6.

3 Likewise: All have sinned and are justified without merit [freely, and without their own works or merits] by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood, Rom. 3:23f

4 Now, since it is necessary to believe this, and it cannot be otherwise acquired or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us as St. Paul says, Rom. 3:28: For we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law. Likewise 3:26: That He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Christ.

5 Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And with His stripes we are healed, Is. 53:5. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us.”

Justification Definitions

Justification – God declares sinners to be just (righteous) for Christ’s sake.  He imputes (credits) our sins to Christ and credits Christ’s righteousness to us. 

Objective Justification (AKA Universal Atonement) – Christ’s work of reconciliation in which he justified the entire world by his death and resurrection.  Objective justification focuses on the extent of Christ’s saving work. 

Limited Atonement – John Calvin taught that Christ’s saving work on the cross only atoned for the sins of the Elect.  In short, Jesus didn’t die for everyone.  Lutherans reject this doctrine, because it is not what Scripture teaches. 

Subjective Justification – The application of Christ’s work of justification of the whole world to an individual person.  A person who is subjectively justified receives the benefits that Christ won in objective justification. 

The Essential Components of Justification

Ephesians 2:8-10 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  Ant this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” 

1. By Grace
2. Through Faith
3. The Object of this Saving Faith is Christ (Galatians 2:16)
4. Apart from Your Works


The word sanctification comes from two Latin words, sanctus (holy) and facere (to make). 

The work of the Holy Spirit of making people holy.  In its wide sense, sanctification includes everything God does for our salvation and preservation, including the work of justification and conversion.  In its proper sense, sanctification refers to the inward, spiritual transformation of a believer that is accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit. 

The Proper Distinction Between Justification and Sanctification

Justification is instantaneous at the moment of faith/conversion. 
Justification is a declaration that a sinner is holy. 

Sanctification is a process that starts at the moment of faith/conversion. 
Sanctification is a life-long process of being transformed into the image of Christ. 
Sanctification is never complete in this life. 

A person’s justification must not be judged by that person’s process in sanctification!!!

Examples of Christians (in error) mixing justification and sanctification.

From Catechism of the Catholic Church – Part 3, Chapter 3, Article 2 In Brief
2019 “Justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man.”

2027 “No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods.”

Kevin DeYoung wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition entitled, “How Do I Know That I’m A Christian?”  He gave three signs that a person can use to have confidence that he or she is saved:

1. The first sign is theological. You should have confidence if you believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God. 2.  The second sign is moral. You should have confidence if you live a righteous life. 3.  The third sign is social. You should have confidence if you love other Christians.

Published by

Andy Wrasman

I live in Lilburn, GA, with my wife and two young kids. I am a pastor at Oak Road Lutheran Church. I've written a book called, Contradict - They Can't All Be True. Be sure to visit my other website: https://www.contradictmovement.org.

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