The Difference Between Justification and Sanctificaiton Matters

For Lord’s Day, March 25, 2012

Dear Saints,

What do you think about the following statements from Reformed pastors/writers?:

I’m about as good as I’m going to get, and I’m tired of trying.”

You are “free to cuss and spit … You are free. You can do it right or wrong. You can obey or disobey. You can run from Christ or run to Christ. You can choose to become a faithful Christian or an unfaithful Christian.”

On sanctification: “God works his work in you, which is the work already accomplished by Christ.” [Notice the word “already” and the use of “Christ” and not the “Holy Spirit”]

The son [The Prodigal Son in Luke 15:18-19] intends to say, ‘Father, I know I don’t have a right to come back into the family. But if you apprentice me to one of your hired men so I can learn a trade and earn a wage, then at least I could begin to pay off my debt.’ That was his plan.” [In a book entitled, The Prodigal God !]

Scary, aye? These are quotes within the most recent Trinity Review I just received. It was providential timing for its topic, because it shows the serious problems that arise when one does not properly discern and articulate the difference between justification and sanctification, which last Lord’s Day’s evening sermon was specifically to explain as guided by the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 77.

You can see from the above quotes a good example of how “Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?” is a question that is still very relevant to the Church in our day. Often, the Trinity Review rightly tackles the issues of Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul related to vast problems in contemporary “Reformed” circles that confuse justification as (or mixed with) sanctification (as do the Catholics). Here, the Trinity Review deals with another contemporary problem of thinking of sanctification as similar to justification, but in the reverse (sadly by some pretty well-know names in the Presbyterian Church in America, critiqued in this article by one of their own). I hope you see further that mistaking justification with sanctification, or vice-versa, is potentially deadly.

This recent article also gives helpful explanations to remember on the matter:

First, we ought to avoid N.T. Wright’s mistake that “seems to define faith as faithfulness.” They are not the same thing, and there are different Greek words for “faith” and “faithful” in the NT.

Justification is a once-for-all legal declaration of righteousness received by faith alone in what Christ has done, and sanctification is an on-going work of mortification of sin and a living unto holiness by means of the Word and Spirit He gave us.”

“ … justification is about Christ’s substitution, but sanctification is about my transformation.”

As A.W. Pink is quoted, unlike justification, sanctification is “intentional obedience”.

Remember beloved, justification is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness into your moral bank account outside of you as a once-and-for-all completed legal act by God based on Christ’s finished work in this life. Sanctification is the infusion of God’s grace and power inside of you for ongoing growth by the work of the Spirit using your works until you attain complete perfection at the resurrection in the life to come. As LC 77 explains, while the two doctrines are inseparably linked in your union with Christ, they differ, and the difference really matters.

If you’re interested to read more, here is a link to the full article online:

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant