A Bible Study on Justification and Sanctifcation
Justification and sanctification are two terms you may hear about in Christian circles. You may have come across these terms while reading the Bible or from listening to a sermon at church. However, what do these terms really mean? Let's study together and find out!
Let's turn to Romans 5:1.
- According to this verse, how can we have peace with God?
- Answer (highlight to read): When we are justified by faith through Jesus Christ
Justification is a legal term. When a judge declares a man or woman not guilty, he is giving them a legal standing. The judge is not changing their character, doing anything to their character, or even saying anything about their character.
Let's turn to Romans 3:23.
- According to this verse, who has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?
- Answer: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
We are actually condemned before God. How can, we, as sinners, be justified by a holy and righteous God? How can we move from condemned to justified? How can we obtain a legal standing of "not guilty" before such a judge?
Let’s read the next two verses – Romans 3:24-25.
Our own deeds and works cannot justify us. For example, if a murderer who has killed 75 people is brought before the state of Texas and repents of his ways and never kills again, he is still given the death penalty. Even if that murderer performed a million good deeds from here on out, he cannot erase his sins of murder. We can only be justified by grace through the redemption of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus shed His blood upon the cross, He died the death which was our due. He died in our place, on our behalf.
On the grounds of what Jesus has done on the cross, God the Father can pronounce the "not guilty" verdict on the sinner who believes in Jesus. That sinner no longer believes in his own abilities, deeds, and accomplishments, but rather, puts his faith and trust solely in Jesus.
When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have a new status. However, our lives still need renovation. We need help to become what God has declared us. How does that happen?
Let's turn to 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and read it together carefully. How can we become sanctified?
Let’s turn to John 14:16, 26.
- According to these verses, who is Jesus sending to help us?
- Answer: The Holy Spirit
We all bring to our new-found faith much that is inconsistent with it. The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring about a transformation so that we may become what we have been declared. This process of transformation is known as sanctification.
Let's do a comparison between justification and sanctification. Justification is legal, external, and objective. On the other hand, sanctification is experimental, internal, and subjective. Justification is instantaneous, whereas sanctification is a process.
When we come to Christ, our standing before God in justification is complete. You cannot be slightly justified. You are either justified or you are not. Justification unequivocally declares us righteous in God's sight. There is no longer any condemnation - you are given a clean slate. You only have to first acknowledge that you are unrighteous without Christ.
The Pharisees misunderstood the concept of righteousness. They criticized Jesus for going to the homes of sinners. However, Jesus did not come to call upon the righteous, but rather; He came to call upon sinners. If it were possible for us to become righteous on our own, then Jesus died in vain.
Once you are justified, you now move onto the process of sanctification.
Let's turn to Romans 6:1-23 and read the entire chapter together.
You cannot be justified then ignore sanctification. If we continue on to blatantly sin, then we do not understand the nature of God's forgiveness. Our external constraints must be harmonized with our internal compulsions. Do you remember the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39? Joseph refused to sleep with Potiphar’s wife because he knew adultery was a sin against God. Joseph was energized by the Holy Spirit to act upon his conviction and he literally ran away from temptation.
Let’s turn to Matthew 16:24.
- According to this Bible verse, what does Jesus say to those who would come after Him and follow Him?
- Answer: Deny himself and take up his cross.
Let’s read Philippians 3:7-8 together. Note that Paul shares how his interests changed after he started following Jesus Christ.
Justification and sanctification should not be confused for each other and neither should they be disengaged from each other. In being sanctified, we are being cleansed from the pollution and influences of sin. We are energized and motivated to live better lives out of a love for Jesus (John 14:15). Every day we can make the choice to deny self and draw closer to Jesus, or instead, to indulge in our own selfish desires and draw closer to the world.
We are justified by faith and sanctified by effort. In justification, we bring nothing to the process – justification owes nothing to human endeavor (Ephesians 2:8). In sanctification, we bring something to the process – sanctification owes something to human endeavor (Philippians 2:12).
Let’s turn to Hebrews 10:16.
- According to this verse, what does God promise?
- Answer: He promises to put His laws in our hearts and write them in our minds.
Remember, we are not alone in the process of sanctification. Jesus promises to give us victory over sin through the power of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 4:13). We are not perfect people, but we can become increasingly more conformed to the image of Christ. Through sanctification, our character can resemble Jesus' character more and more.
Friend, Jesus began a good work in you. Will you choose to let Him complete it?