Beyond Belief
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 11 – Justification and Sanctification

Now that we have defined genuine saving faith and have seen what role it plays in our salvation, let’s 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 humanity’s 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 God’s 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 Son’s power to destroy sin and the devil.  Only by putting together justification by faith (the receiving of Christ’s righteousness) and sanctification by faith (the experiencing of His righteousness) do we get a complete, accurate picture of what righteousness by faith really is.

Let’s summarize, then, the main differences between justification by faith and sanctification by faith:

  1. Justification makes effective our legal standing before God; sanctification has to do with our daily personal experience as Christians.

  2. Justification is meritorious; it qualifies us for heaven now and in the judgment.  Sanctification is demonstrative; it progressively manifests in our lives what we have already been declared to be in Christ.

  3. Justification is the work of a moment, although it remains effective all our believing lives.  Sanctification is a lifelong work that has to be experienced daily through a living faith.

Apart from these three differences, justification and sanctification are closely related.  We may separate them for purposes 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.

Common Misunderstandings

Before concluding this chapter, we should look at some common misunderstandings about this important subject.

  1. Justification by faith refers only to the forgiveness of past sins.  It’s true that one important truth about justification is the forgiveness of our past sins, but justification involves far more than that.  The righteousness of Christ includes the fact that He endured the just penalty of the law on behalf of our sins — past, present, and future.  But in a positive sense, Christ also kept the whole law on our behalf.  All this becomes ours the moment we are justified by faith.

    Justification means all of Christ’s 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 Christ’s 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.

  2. Every time we fall or sin we become unjustified.  This is another common misunderstanding about justification.  It is a monstrous teaching that has no support from the Word of God.

    It’s 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.

  3. It takes a lifetime or more to reach the goal of sanctification.  This is how many interpret the familiar expression, “Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.”  Satan is pleased to have us believe this error.  On the contrary, Christians who are not living a Christ-filled life are living subnormally as far as the gospel is concerned.  The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthian Christians for still remaining babes in Christ only a few years after they had been converted from rank paganism [see 1 Corinthians 3:1-3].  The normal Christian life is Christ living in the heart by faith.  Anything short of this is falling short of God’s ideal for each believer.  Such a life, of course, is possible only as we continuously believe, watch, and pray, because the sinful flesh is still very much alive and is constantly trying to assert itself.  This is why sanctification is the work of a lifetime.  So also is eating the work of a lifetime is we are to maintain physical life.  If Christ is to continually life through and in us, the work of sanctification will be with us throughout our lifetime.


This, then, is what righteousness 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 character 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
3.Legally righteous
[Romans 1:17; 3:21-26; 4:1, 6; 5:17; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9]
3.Live righteously
[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 God’s children
[Ephesians 5:1, 8; 1 Peter 1:13-14]
5.God’s 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 God’s 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]
12.Cleanse yourselves
[2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 4:8]
13.Made holy
[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 sin’s 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 Spirit’s control
[Galatians 5:16-17, 25; Ephesians 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19]
17.Spirit gifted
[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 Christ’s 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]

Key Points in Chapter 11
• Justification and Sanctification •
  1. Both justification and sanctification are founded on the objective gospel:  what Christ has already prepared and done for the entire human race.

  2. It is by faith alone that we receive and experience both justification and sanctification.

  3. Justification is the gift of the gospel that legally declares us righteous before God; sanctification is the provision of the gospel that actually produces righteousness in us.

  4. Three common misunderstandings about justification and sanctification are present in the church today:

    1. Justification by faith refers only to the forgiveness of past sins.  Justification includes forgiveness, but it goes beyond it to declare us righteous and to change our hearts from being self-centered to being Christ-centered.

    2. Every time we fall or sin, we become unjustified.  This misunderstanding is based on the belief that our justification is based on our obedience, an idea that has no support in the Bible.

    3. It takes a lifetime or more to reach the goal of sanctification.  Sanctification is not perfection; it is Christ living in the heart by faith, and that is the norm for Christian life.  Sanctification is indeed the work of a lifetime if we are to maintain spiritual life, as is eating if we are to maintain physical life.
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