Author Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum
In the Bible, justification and sanctification are solutions to long-standing problems.
All people are guilty of doing wrong (sinning) against other people and against God. All are personally responsible for their sins and thus under condemnation (Rom 3:23; 6:23). Just as people who break the laws of a society are brought before a court to be tried and judged, God brings each individual before Himself to judge them.
The Solution Is there a way to fix all that we have done wrong? God fixes our wrongs by providing Jesus Christ. Jesus’ righteousness satisfies God’s demands. His righteousness (right actions, status and sacrifice) is accredited to all who believe (Rom 3:21).
The term justification means “to declare righteous.” The New Testament writers, specifically Paul, use the term in a judicial sense. Imagine God the judge, sitting on His throne, declaring to the believer, “In light of what Jesus has done on your behalf, you are (now) righteous. Things are now right between you and me. Court dismissed.”
The defendant of course would ask, “How did this happen? And what did Jesus do to make things right between God and I?” The defendant is really asking is, “What is the basis for justification?”
The Answer is Threefold:
God’s grace (Rom 5:15)—Provided by Jesus Christ’s obedience to God the Father.
Jesus’ blood (Rom 5:9)—Jesus’ suffering and death made all who choose to believe in him right with God.
Jesus’ righteousness accredited to believers (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21)—Those who believe in Jesus are freely given “right status” with God, not on the basis of their own works, but on the basis of what God has done in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:28; 4:5–6; Gal 2:16).
Once wrongdoers (sinners) have placed their faith in Christ, God declares them righteous. New believers have peace with God (Rom 5:1) because all sins, past, present and future are forgiven. Once forgiven, believers are no longer subject to the judgment that was once due (Rom 8:1). The declaration of this is justification.
In summary, justification is an act of God’s grace: A guilty sinner places his or her faith in Christ and is acquitted by God. A wrongdoer is “made right” with God.
“In light of what Jesus has done on your behalf, you are (now) righteous. Things are now right between you and me. Court dismissed.”
The Problem Wherever there is the presence of sin, there is conflict. Paul wrestled with this conflict in Rom 7:15–25. This passage shows us that resolving this conflict is a process. It involves God making us more “set apart” from our wrongdoings and more like Him.
For the believer, there must be a constant and ever-increasing sense that although sin remains, it is not in control. It is one thing for sin to live in the believer, but it is quite another for the believer to live in sin.
The Solution The Holy Spirit is the continuous agent of sanctification, who works within us to subdue sinful impulses and produce fruits of righteousness, or right actions (Rom 8:13; 2 Cor 3:17–18; Gal 5:22). This process is sanctification.
Sanctification Defined The basic meaning of sanctification is “to be set apart.” The Hebrew word (qadosh; שודק) has a basic meaning of “separation.” As a moral term, sanctification is translated as “holiness” or “purity.” The term in Greek (hagios; ἅγιος) is translated as “holy”, as in “Holy” Spirit, or “saint.” In the spiritual sense of a believer’s life, sanctification means “to be set apart for God,” or to be made more holy through conforming to the image of His Son.
Summary Sanctification is a work of God’s grace. The whole person is enabled to die to sin and live according to God’s will. Justification occurs at the moment of salvation, whereas sanctification is a process. When our lives are over, we will enter into God’s presence glorified, free from the presence and power of sin—already justified, fully sanctified.
In the spiritual sense of a believer’s life, sanctification means “to be set apart for God.”