Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, 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. 1 Peter 1:1-2
Words are powerful. They give us understanding and a way to communicate. They have the power to encourage us or to discourage us. We cannot underestimate the power of words. Many scholars have discouraged pastors from using big theological words because they may confuse the church member. There are some words people use to sound intelligent, but then there are other words that are powerful in helping illumine our Christian experience. It is important to understand two key theological terms that frame the entire Christian life on earth: justification and sanctification.
Justification is to be declared righteous or just in the sight of God. Justification was wrought for us through faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. He became the scapegoat for our sin by dying as our perfect sacrifice. Through faith His death becomes our death and we are declared righteous as we are united with Him. We are declared not guilty because our guilt was laid on Christ (Is. 53:10). This is our justification.
Sanctification is the process with which one becomes holy or righteous. While justification declares what we are, sanctification is the process where we grow into the reality of our new identity in Christ.
Philippians 3:16 (NIV 1994), “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
Ephesians 4:1, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”
Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
Notice how all of these verses speak of the past tense of our being justified (attained, called, perfected) and the continual process of living in view of that new reality (live up to, walk in a manner worthy of, are being sanctified). We are new creations in Christ therefore we need to grow into our new identity. This is our sanctification. As Pastor John Piper says, “We spend a lifetime becoming what we already are.”
Justification and sanctification are two big theological words that I believe are extremely important to know. We do not have to earn God’s acceptance by our good works, because we have already been accepted through Christ (justification). We strive to grow in grace as evidence to our own souls and to the world that we have already been accepted (sanctification). Our continual growth in Christ (sanctification) proves that God has already perfected us (justification).
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
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