Justification and sanctification are two really big theological words. The definitions of these two terms, while helpful, can often cause confusion. Erik Raymond lists some helpful bullet points differentiating the two terms in an article for The Gospel Coalition entitled What Is the Difference between Justification and Sanctification? I share these as a helpful tool for distinguishing between justification and sanctification.
- Justification happens outside of you, you are declared righteous.
- Sanctification happens inside of you, you are made righteous.
- Justification is a one-time event, and sanctification is a continual process. When we are justified, we are declared righteous positionally (that is, before God we are righteous). However, while we are positionally righteous, we are practically not perfectly righteous. While doubtless growing in grace, we are still, when compared to Christ, unrighteous. Sanctification then is the gradual conformity to the likeness of Christ. In other words, sanctification is the gradual process of becoming practically what we are positionally (righteous).
- Justification is not being made righteous.
- Justification is not based upon what we do.
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.