by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira
Now that we have defined genuine saving faith and have seen what role it plays in our salvation, lets look at the two main areas justification and sanctification that together make up this doctrine of righteousness by faith. There is much confusion in the church today over these aspects of righteousness by faith.
To begin with, we must be clear on two points. First, both justification and sanctification are founded upon the objective gospel: what Christ by His holy history has already prepared and provided for the fallen human race. Second, it is by faith alone that we receive and experience both justification and sanctification.
What do we really mean by these terms justification and sanctification? What is involved in each, and how do they differ from each other?
Keeping in mind that both are founded on the objective facts of the gospel, we may describe justification as the righteousness of Christ that is imputed, or credited, to us as a consequence of accepting Christ by faith. Sanctification is the righteousness of Christ that is imparted, or given, to us as a result of living by faith.
The legal justification effected at the cross is not something we experience; it is something we receive as a free gift. Sanctification, on the other hand, is something we personally experience as we walk by faith. In both cases, the thing that we receive and experience is the righteousness of Christ. Therefore, justification is the gift of the gospel that legally declares us righteous before God, while sanctification is the provision of the gospel that actually produces righteousness in us. The one qualifies us for heaven; the other makes us fit to live in heaven. Thus the gospel fully satisfies all our needs.
In chapter 3, we saw that justification is simply the objective gospel applied to the believer who has put on Christ by faith. In other words, when a person accepts the gospel and is united by faith to Christ, immediately all that Christ has prepared and provided as humanitys substitute is made effective for that person. The history of Christ now becomes lawfully the history of the believer because he is in Christ by faith. God looks at such a person as being perfect in obedience, justice, and nature, since all three were obtained for him in the holy history of Christ.
Such a person is no longer under condemnation; he has passed from death to life [see John 5:24; Romans 8:1]. God looks at the justified believer as if he has met all the demands necessary to qualify for heaven and eternal life. Justification, then, is the work of a moment, a heart response to what Christ has already accomplished.
Sanctification, by contrast, is an hourly, daily experience that continues throughout the lifetime of the believer who continues to walk by faith. The gospel not only freely gives us the righteousness of Christ in order to deliver us from the condemnation of the law; it gives us the righteousness of Christ as a personal experience so that we can reflect His character.
Anyone, therefore, who stops with justification and makes it the entire gospel experience has received only half of the good news. God did not send His Son merely to legally deliver us from sin so that He could declare us righteous. He sent His Son in order to also set us free from sin and restore His image in us. This work of restoration includes sanctification, and it, too, is part and parcel of the good news of the gospel.
It is Gods purpose that the church, His people, reflect the character of their head, Jesus Christ [see Ephesians 4:11-15]. This is the only way God can demonstrate to a lost world His Sons power to destroy sin and the devil. Only by putting together justification by faith (the receiving of Christs righteousness) and sanctification by faith (the experiencing of His righteousness) do we get a complete, accurate picture of what righteousness by faith really is.
Lets summarize, then, the main differences between justification by faith and sanctification by faith:
Apart from these three differences, justification and sanctification are closely related. We may separate them for puroses of discussion, but in real-life experience they are inseparable because the righteousness of Christ is the key factor in both, and we realize both by faith alone. Therefore, in its broadest sense, justification by faith includes the experience of sanctification by faith, or holy living. Note, for example, James argument in James 2:21-24.
Before concluding this chapter, we should look at some common misunderstandings about this important subject.
Justification means all of Christs righteousness that He provided for us so that nothing more is required of us to qualify for heaven. In other words, we stand perfect in Him. If we are not absolutely clear on this point, we will continue to be victims of self-concern, constantly fearful about our eternal security. In this condition it is impossible to have a real heart appreciation for Christs cross or to experience genuine sanctification by faith.
Forgiveness is the most wonderful thing for us sinners. But glorious as it is, forgiveness is still a negative thing, for it is concerned only with acquitting us of our sins. Justification, on the other hand, is both a negative and a positive truth. It includes the negative aspect forgiveness but it goes beyond that to declare us righteous and to change our hearts from being self-centered to being Christ-centered [see Philippians 1:21]. The very righteousness of Christ is put to our account so that we stand before God and His law perfectly righteous, both now and in the judgment. This is the superabundant gift of the gospel [see Isaiah 54:17; Acts 13:39; Romans 10:4].
The devil has deceived many Christians into believing that justification by faith does not fully qualify them for heaven, that something more is necessary, that they must keep the law and do good works. As a result, many sincere Christians are trapped in a subtle form of legalism, living in fear and insecurity.
Its true that every time we fall into sin we misrepresent Christ and hurt Him, because even the smallest sin figured in what happened at the cross. However, God does not reject us every time we make a mistake or fall into sin. If we believe that we lost our justification in Christ each time we sin, we completely invalidate the truth of justification by faith. Such a concept is based on the idea that we are justified because of our obedience what Christ is doing in us and not because of what He has already accomplished for us by His doing and dying on the cross. Such an idea makes the gospel good advice instead of good news. We will look at this idea in more detail in a later chapter.
This, then, is what righteouess by faith is all about; it is making real in our lives the righteousness of Christ by faith. In Christ we are perfect and complete in every respect in character, in performance, in nature, and legally [see Colossians 2:10]. This is what God has obtained for us by His life, death, and resurrection [see Hebrews 9:12]. But in actual practice, we often fall short of perfection. So the Christian life of sanctification is the experience of becoming in charater what we already are in Christ through justification by faith. The following texts compare our standing in Christ (justification) with the corresponding life we then follow by faith (sanctification).
|What our standing is in Christ by faith:||What our experience becomes in Christ by faith:|
|1.||Dead to sin
[Romans 6:2-10; Colossians 2:10]
|1.||Give no place to sin|
[Romans 6:11-15; 13:14; Colossians 3:1-3; 1 Peter 2:24]
|2.||Alive to God
[John 5:24, 20:31; Romans 6:11; 8:10; 1 John 5:1
|2.||Live unto God|
[Romans 14:8; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:19-20; Titus 2:12
[Romans 1:17; 3:21-26; 4:1, 6; 5:17; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9]
[2 Timothy 2:22; 1 John 3:7; 1 Corinthians 15:34; Philippians 1:11; 1 Timothy 6:11]
|4.||Adopted as children of God
[Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 3:1; Romans 8:16]
|4.||Act like Gods children|
[Ephesians 5:1, 8; 1 Peter 1:13-14]
|5.||Gods claimed possession
[Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 2:19]
|5.||Yield or surrender to God|
[Romans 12:1; 2 Timothy 2:19-21]
|6.||Not of this world, but citizens of heaven
[John 15:19; 17:14-16; 1 John 5:19]
|6.||Love not the world, but live like citizens of heaven|
[1 John 5:4-5; 2:15; Colossians 3:1-2; James 1:27]
|7.||Crucified to the world
[Galatians 1:4; 6:14-15]
|7.||Avoid worldly practices|
[1 John 2:15-17; James 1:27; 4:4; Romans 12:2]
|8.||Slaves of God
[1 Corinthians 7:22-23; Romans 6:22]
|8.||Serve joyfully as Gods slaves|
[Romans 6:17-19; 12:11; Hebrews 12:28]
|9.||Have new life
[2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 1:14; Galatians 6:15]
|9.||Walk in newness of life|
[Romans 6:4; 7:6; Ephesians 4:24]
|10.||Made obedient to the law
[Romans 10:4; 3:31; Philippians 3:9]
|10.||Keep fulfilling the law|
[Romans 8:4; 1 John 5:2-3; Revelation 14:12]
|11.||Light to the world
[Matthew 5:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:5]
|11.||Walk as children of light|
[Matthew 5:15-16; Ephesians 5:8]
[John 15:3; 1 John 1:7, 9]
[2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 4:8]
[Ephesians 1:4; 1 Corinthians 3:17; Hebrews 3:1]
|13.||Live holy lives|
[1 John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Peter 3:14]
|14.||Free from sins slavery
[John 8:32-36; Romans 6:18; 8:2]
|14.||Do not let sin rule you|
[Romans 6:22; Galatians 5:1, 13-14; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18]
|15.||Made secure in Christ
[1 Peter 1:5; Romans 8:1; John 10:27-28]
|15.||Enjoy that security|
[2 Peter 1:10; Hebrews 10:19-22; 1 Thessalonians 1:5]
|16.||Spirit indwelt and led
[1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Romans 8:9-10]
|16.||Yield to Spirits control|
[Galatians 5:16-17, 25; Ephesians 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19]
[Romans 12:5-6; 1 Corinthians 12:4, 12; Ephesians 4:7-13]
|17.||Use your gift|
[Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:11]
|18.||Empowered for witnessing
[Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Ephesians 3:20; 2 Timothy 1:7]
|18.||Witness to that power|
[1 Corinthians 2:4; Ephesians 6:10; Philippians 3:10; 4:13]
|19.||Given possession of Christs love
[Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:1-13; 1 John 2:5; 5:1]
|19.||Love as Christ loved|
[John 13:34-35; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8; 1 John 3:18, 23; 4:7, 12]
|20.||Legally in Christ
[1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:3-6, 10; 2:5-6, 13]
|20.||Joyfully abide in Christ|
[John 15:4-7; 1 John 2:6, 28; 3:6]
The life God expects of every believer is the life of His Son. Every provision has already been made for us in Christ. We are never justified by faith plus works, but true justification by faith always produces works [see John 14:12; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5, 8]. For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. [1 John 5:4]