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Justification and Sanctification

Life, it seems, revolves around a system of causes and effects. Biologically, rain causes plants to grow. Economically, supply is the cause that yields demand. Socially, movements and revolutions are the causes that produce change within a society or even a world. Spiritual matters are no different. A broad and in-depth look at God's plan for mankind throughout the ages will reveal an amazing and marvelous series of causes and effects that explain both man's spiritual condition and his resultant place in and perspective on eternity. In the grace of salvation through Jesus Christ, one finds both the opportunity to be justified in God's sight and the result of sanctification from the world as a saved child of God.

To be justified is to be declared righteous or "not guilty," regardless of merit. Its Greek derivative dikaiosis connotes a forensic idea, and as such it can best be explained in the legal context (Vine's 338-339). The apostle Paul sums it up well in Romans 5:16, writing, "the free gift [salvation through Christ's sacrifice] arose from many transgressions [man's sins against God] resulting in justification." Here, there is no mention made of man's effort or worthiness. Paul simply concludes that mankind is unworthy of God's salvation, yet can nonetheless become partakers in it through the sacrifice made on our behalf by the Son of God. This thought springs from the conclusion made earlier in his epistle to the Romans - that apart from Christ, man is lost in sin (Rom. 3:9-20). Once one understands the cause of the whole world being guilty, one can then understand the effect of justification as Paul presents it. This exact sequence of ideas is embodied in Romans 3:21-24, where Paul explains that the righteousness of God is manifested in Jesus Christ (21-22) because of man's sinfulness (23) for the result of the justification (24) of those who have faith.

While the concept of justification is most thoroughly discussed in the book of Romans, nowhere is it couched in more understandable terms than in 1 John 2:1-3. This passage presents a courtroom where God the Father is the Judge and each human being is on trial. With Satan as our accuser and adversary (1 Pet. 5:8), we would be doomed were it not for the fact that Jesus Christ is our Attorney or, as John describes him, our "Advocate with the Father." Our lawyer is guiltless, and not only that, He is the Son of the Judge. In this metaphorical passage we can find the simplicity of the gospel - the Judge loves us so much that He gave His perfect Son to bear the punishment for our own guilt, that we might be justified in the Judge's sight. This is how He is able to be both just and true to His word and also a Judge who can rule sinners to be "not guilty."

Since, then, we are justified through our faithful and trusting obedience to our Advocate, there is a discernable result in our relation to those who are not justified. Because we are justified and others, unfortunately, are not, there is a distinction to be made. Biblically, this is referred to as "sanctification" (Gr. hagiasmos), which is the state of being set apart or consecrated (Word Study Dict. 69). When Paul addresses the Roman Christians as being "called as saints," both linguistically and ideologically he is simply calling them "those who have been sanctified" (Rom. 1:7). In Romans we find a detailed exposition of the results of our sanctification, including salvation (5:6-21), freedom from sin (6:1-23), freedom from law (7:1-25), a personal walk in the Spirit (8:1-17), and assurance in our trials (8:18-39).

Sanctification is a multi-faceted term that is used to describe both our separation to God and our separation from the evil ways of the world. Both of these aspects are found in Romans 6, where he explains that in baptism a believer becomes united with Christ in His death, signifying the moment at which the believer is sanctified to God. This is in holding with Romans 5:1, where the word "justified" is used in the aorist, or point, tense, to indicate that there was a definite time at which each Christian became justified (Vine's 339). Sanctification continues throughout the believer's lifetime as the process by which he is consecrated from sinfulness and ungodliness. It is not only a calling apart from the world to be a "saint," it is also the lifestyle that such a calling produces.

It can be concluded, then, that justification is an event that is continued in sanctification. Because of God's justice, the price of sin had to be paid. Because of His mercy, Jesus paid that price in full. The cause of this sacrifice led to the result of the justification of all who are in Him. And justification is the glorious cause that is continued in a holy life of sanctification.

 The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, New American Standard Version. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1994.
 Unger, Merrill and White Jr., William. Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984.
 Zodhiates, Spiros, ed. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1993.

 Article info: 
By: Robert Hindman
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