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.

85. Christianity in Five Verses

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Aaron Puls shares the Doctrine of Justification with Andy Wrasman and Jonathan Rutherford, using Dr. Rod Rosenbladt’s sermon “Christianity in Five Verses” as a guide.

Justification is God’s declaration that sinners are innocent on account of Christ’s death on the cross that atones for all of our sins.  This is pure gift!  We are declared innocent, though we are guilty.  Justice is still served, since the penalty for our sins were paid in full by Jesus of Nazareth.

Objective Justification is a doctrine that states that Jesus died for all sins, past, present, and future, for all people.  Individual receives the benefits of Christ’s saving work through faith, which is the doctrine of Subjective Justification.  This means that though Jesus died for everyone only those who receive the grace he won for us through faith are saved.

Another important doctrine is Sanctification.  Unlike Justification, which is instantaneous, and a declaration of innocence for the sinner, Sanctification is a process.  It is the process of becoming holy.  Though we are declared holy, it does not mean that we are now sinless.  In Justification, we are declared just though we are sinners.  At the exact moment of Justification, the process of Sanctification begins, and it carries on throughout the life of the believer, completed at death, at which time the sinful nature is gone for the believer, once and forever.

Sadly, many Christians look to their Sanctification as the assurance of their Justification.  This is a mistake which plagues the believer with doubt of salvation, leading to utter despair or self-righteousness.  The mingling of Sanctification and Justification points the believer away from Christ’s work inward to each man’s own heart and works.

Aaron plays video clips from John MacArthur, Francis Chan, N.T. Wright, and John Piper.  Do they get Justification right?  Or do they mingle Sanctification and Justification?  Do they point us to Christ for assurance of salvation, or do they point us to ourselves?

Show Links

Dr. Rod Rosenbladt’s “Christianity in Five Verses” Sermon

Dr. Rod Rosenbladt’s “The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church” Sermon

“The Christian Life is Like a Draft of Guinness Stout”

Reconnect Episode 19: “How Do I Know I Am A Christian?”

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Financially support Reconnect by ordering a sticker, tracts, or book at Contradict Movement.

Justification, Sanctification, and Conversion

I received the following question: “What are the main and general differences between justification, conversion, and sanctification?”

Sanctification may not always be such an upward slope.  I believe we will have dips in our walk with the Lord.
Sanctification may not always be such an upward slope. I believe we will have dips in our walk with the Lord.

Justification is being declared holy.
Sanctification is being made holy.

When we are declared holy it doesn’t mean that we actually are holy.  In god’s sight, through faith in Christ and his saving work, we are seen to be holy even though we still sin!  This is justification.

Justification is instaneous.  The moment a person has faith in Christ is the exact moment they are saved – seen to be holy in God’s sight.

At the exact same moment a person is justified he is converted.  He has gone from life to death, from a child of Satan to a child of God.  Just as justification is instantaneous, conversion is instaneous.

Through the life of the believer, he grows in holiness.  He becomes more like Christ.  Sin lessens and good works abound.  However, in this life, we will never become perfect. We will always still have sin.  So though we are becoming holy in sanctication, the process is never complete this side of heaven.

In summary:

Justification and conversion happen at the exact same moment and the effects are ongoing.
Justification and conversion are both instaneous.
Sanctiication is a process.