Justification and sanctification are terms to describe two parts of the process of salvation. It is critically important to understand their relationship to each other and to the status of the one who wishes to be saved by the atoning death of Jesus Christ. What part does sanctification play in the saving process? Two different gospels arise from two answers to this question. Let us examine the inspired evidence regarding sanctification.
What does "sanctify" mean?
"And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." Genesis 2:3
(A) _____ Adam sanctified the seventh day.
(B) _____ God sanctified the seventh day.
(C) _____ God blesses what He sanctifies.
Two correct answers
The most basic meaning of sanctification is "to set apart for a holy use." When God finished creating the earth and all life upon it, He set apart the seventh day as a memorial of His creative acts. God put His special blessing upon this day, because it was to be set apart for all time for the human race to use in a holy way.
Who does the sanctifying?
"Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you." Exodus 31:13
(A) _____ God sanctifies us.
(B) _____ Man sanctifies himself.
(C) _____ God and man together do the sanctifying.
The Sabbath was not set apart just as a holy day, but it was to be a sign or symbol that just as God sanctified the Sabbath, He sanctified His people. His people were also set apart for a holy use. It is very important to note right at the beginning that God does the sanctifying. He sanctified the Sabbath and He sanctifies us. It is currently popular to think that while God does the justifying, God and man together do the sanctifying. We must understand that in the process of salvation, it is God's work from beginning to end, both in justification and sanctification. Now we have a part to play in responding to God's saving work. We believe, we respond, we surrender, we cooperate. But these are only our responses to God's grace. None of these responses earn or merit our salvation. At the most, our responses give God the permission to do His justifying and sanctifying work in our lives.
What part did sanctification play in the sanctuary?
"And thou shalt anoint the altar of the burnt offering, and all his vessels, and sanctify the altar: and it shall be an altar most holy. And thou shalt anoint the laver and his foot, and sanctify it....And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest's office." Exodus 40:10,11,13
(A) _____ Aaron sanctified himself.
(B) _____ Aaron sanctified the altar and the laver.
(C) _____ God sanctified the altar, the laver, and Aaron.
When God instituted the sanctuary system for Israel, the first thing He did, before any ceremonies were carried out in the sanctuary, was to set apart the furniture and the priest for holy use. Before any sacrifices for sin were offered in the sanctuary, God sanctified the altar for its holy use. And it is important to note that God sanctified Aaron in exactly the same way as He sanctified the altar. It was God's work from beginning to end. From that point on, the sanctuary and the priests were set apart for holy use.
How does God sanctify us?
"And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:11
(A) _____ Sanctification is a result of justification.
(B) _____ Jesus does the justifying, and the Holy Spirit does the sanctifying
(C) _____ Washing, sanctifying, and justifying are all done by God.
The person who is washed from sin, who has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus, who stands justified and pardoned in the sight of God, is also sanctified in that very act. When we are justified and washed, we are set apart for a holy use. God looks at us, not in our filthy garments of sin, but now clothed with the pure righteousness of Christ. We are declared to be sanctified, or set apart for holiness. Just as we are declared to be justified, or pardoned from our sins, we are declared to be sanctified. In this way the thief on the cross was both justified and sanctified, because he had been set apart for holiness. In passing, we might note that Paul places washing and sanctifying before justifying, perhaps to make the point that they are really all part of one saving process.
What does God say about those who are forgiven?
"To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Acts 26:18
(A) _____ Sanctification takes place over a long period.
(B) _____ Sanctification is a result of being saved.
(C) _____ Forgiveness and sanctification occur together.
When Jesus spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus, He told Paul that his mission would be to bring the Gentiles to forgiveness of sins and salvation. If the Gentiles would turn from Satan to God, they would be called sanctified by faith in Christ (the same faith which would justify them). Just as forgiveness of sins is possible only by faith in Christ's life and death, so sanctification is possible only by the same faith in Christ. Both justification and sanctification are received by faith, because both are acts of God and flow totally from God's grace. And it is crucial to understand that both justification and sanctification are necessary prerequisites to salvation. The Bible does not teach that justification saves, while sanctification comes along later as the result of being saved.
Just as justification is declared by God at the moment of conversion, so sanctification is declared by God at the same moment. We are set apart for holiness, and God looks at us through the holy character of Jesus Christ. In this way we can have complete assurance of salvation. It is often said that this understanding of the gospel deprives us of assurance, but this is totally false. When the heart is surrendered and we wear the robe of Christ's righteousness, we have perfect peace and assurance, while we continue to grow in Christ.