Q32: What do justification and sanctification mean?
A: Justification means our declared righteousness before God, made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection for us. Sanctification means our gradual, growing righteousness, made possible by the Spirit’s work in us.
1 Peter 1:1-2 “To those who are elect exiles… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”
The Vertical Truth in Faith – What does this truth mean in my relationship with God?
Justification is God’s act of declaring us righteous by means of our faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. It is complete at the moment of salvation. I’ve heard it explained that justification by God means he sees us “just as if we never sinned”, because of Jesus taking the punishment of death in our place. It is important for us to remember that it was God’s design to make it possible for us to be justified. He found a way for us to be forgiven and restored to Him and be completely just in His method. Sanctification is God’s plan to make us more like Jesus day by day. Because His Spirit powers this process, drawing near to God and being obedient to Him are key factors in us becoming more like Jesus. We should continually ask Him for help as we walk the path of sanctification this side of Heaven.
- Romans 10:9-10“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
- Romans 5:8“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
- Romans 3:26“It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
- 2 Thessalonians 2:13But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters love by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”
- Ephesians 1:13“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,”
- Hebrews 10:14“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
The Horizontal Truth in Love – What does this truth mean in my relationship with humanity?
It is important for us to be aware of the spiritual state of those we are interacting with. Those who don’t know Jesus have a need to be justified by God before being held accountable to Christian living. Also, we should not shy away from gracious and Spirit-led accountability with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are one body and we help each other become more like Christ as we love each other through the sanctification process.
- Colossians 4:5-6“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone,”
- Galatians 6:1-5“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.”
- Ephesians 4:32“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
- Luke 17:3“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,”
- Proverbs 27:17Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
Practical Truth in Action – How can I put this truth into action?
I often need to remind myself that I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. Because of this I need to be “transformed by the renewing of my mind”, so that I operate out of my spirit man rather than my flesh. Knowing our identity is key. Another key learning point for me has been to accept the grace of God when I’m not perfect like Jesus. It felt really weird typing that, but if we’re honest, sometimes we beat ourselves up because we are not perfect, and we mistakenly think God is mad at us when we aren’t perfect. The truth is God sees us as perfect if we have confessed Jesus as our Savior. He is interested in us taking steps forward with Him rather than expecting perfection from us by a certain deadline. The mystery in this for me is this: God sees me as righteous yet is simultaneously making me more like Jesus day by day in specific areas of my life that don’t look like Jesus. You and I have the privilege to partner with God in sanctification as we say “yes” to the big and small things he asks us to do, think and be.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”
- Romans 12:2“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
- Hebrews 4:16“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
- 2 Peter 1:2“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
- 2 Corinthians 12:8-10“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Note to readers
New City Catechism is a tool intended to spark family discussions and to inspire pursuits of greater understanding and spiritual growth. Gain greater insights by reading referenced scriptures in context and/or full chapters in your Bible. As a part of your prayers, ask the Lord for wisdom and understanding. The Bible reads, in James 1:5, “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
More Questions & Answers:
Q31: What do we believe by true faith? A: Everything taught to us in the gospel. The Apostles’ Creed expresses what we believe in these words: We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was...