Vol.XVI No.XII Pg.7
February 1980

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

What, if any, is the difference in justification and Sanctification? RM


The querist knows, of course, that the terms have different meaning. Justification refers to a judicial declaration that one is "free of guilt," while Sanctification refers to the "setting apart" of one, on the basis of holiness. (Use Concordance, Word Studies, etc., for details.) The Corinthians had been thieves, drunkards, etc., "but ye were washed (washed yourselves, f.n.), but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). Both justification (forgiveness of their sins), and sanctification (set apart from the world on the basis of this cleansing) took place when they were converted.

Both were made possible to sin stained man by God-provided means. He loved us, gave His Son to die for us, and revealed the good news by His Holy Spirit. Having sinned, man can not free himself from guilt, nor make himself holy. We must throw ourselves on the mercy of God— "by Grace are ye saved.' But God's grace, expressed in Christ, while offered for the whole world (Jn. 3:16), is effectual only to those individuals who put their trust in Him (1 Tim. 4:10). Man is capable of being taught, and can come to God (Jn. 6:45). The Spirit operates upon free-agent man with His sword, the word of God (Acts 2:37; 41; Eph. 6.17).

There is no validity in the "evangelical" concept that the Holy Spirit must operate directly or immediately upon the alien sinner — most of our brethren readily agree to that. But there is a growing acceptance of the equally false concept that there must be some "apart from the word" indwelling, to "enable" the Christian to remain and grow in holiness (sanctification). The K.C. Moser books fostered this idea, and later writers give it impetus. We can not call that consistent theology. If they deny total depravity of man, and think he is capable of coming to God, by what logic do they conclude the saint must be mystically "enabled" to stay with Him?

Truth is, man can only become justified (free from guilt) through forgiveness; and man can only remain sanctified (set apart, holy) through further forgiveness. Whatever man must do to have sins forgiven initially, that is what he must do to be justified, and sanctified initially. And as Abraham's "righteousness" was not static (once-for-all-time achieved) but repeatedly reaffirmed on the basis of continued faithfulness (Rom. 4: 3,22; Jas. 2:23); so our righteousness. The progressive sanctification which follows one's coming to Christ is the result of spiritual growth toward maturity — man follows the way set before him by divine revelation. But he is no more self-sufficient here than in his initial obedience. Walking in light, he prays without ceasing, confessing his dependence upon Christ and asking forgiveness for his sins.

Until finally, through the mercies which God extends to the faithful in Christ Jesus, justified man is wholly sanctified in heaven (1 Thes. 5:23).