Justification and Sanctification

Some believe they are "justified" for salvation because of their belief or "acceptance" of Jesus' death. They are taught to believe that God has provided Jesus as atonement for every sin they would ever commit, making them righteous at the cost of Jesus' life. Furthermore, their only duty is to "believe and accept" this wonderful mercy bestowed on them. They are to accept the fact that they are sinners, and God has fixed everything. They have no power to ensure their salvation because ". . . all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). This doctrine may provide these believers a warm, comfortable, and secure environment. Yet, inevitably, a wise mind knowledgeable in God's word will have questions. For instance, is salvation really complete with one's mental and "heartfelt" acceptance of this doctrine? Why would our "righteousnesses" be filthy rags to God? Doesn't this doctrine make it easy for many to have salvation? If this doctrine is true, then why is the gate narrow and the path difficult that leads to eternal life? Why will there be only "a few who are saved" (Mt. 7:14)? Also, does not the Bible tell us that we must be sanctified by the Spirit for salvation (2 Th. 2:13)? God's word, in the context as He meant it, will answer these questions and clear up any misconceptions. The following is enlightenment on justification and sanctification.

Justification, as applied to salvation, has two aspects. The first is God's justification and pertains to vindication of our sins. God provided justification because of His love for us and His desire to have us live with Him forever in the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Ro. 3:23), they must suffer the penalty for sin - death (Ro. 6:23). This includes even the righteous (those who sincerely seek and love doing the will of God). How can we suffer death and still live forever with God? God provided the solution. He gave Jesus, His Son, as the redeemer for our sins (Ro. 3,4:25; He. 9:15). Jesus suffered death for us, making our resurrection possible. This is God's justification - the penalty for man's sins fulfilled through Jesus. Justice has been served on our sins. Now, we are approachable and reconcilable to God. We can make requests and supplications to God and receive forgiveness for our sins (forgiveness is obtained through sincere humbleness and sorrow toward God). As a result, the righteous may die but will only be asleep in God's eyes. On the Last Day, they will awaken to their reward of eternal life. Only the unrighteous (those who lived for self or were full of darkness) will receive the penalty of death.

The second aspect of justification, man's justification, is the basis or grounds which affects the way we live our lives. Our faith establishes this aspect of justification (Ro. 5:2). Faith is having belief, trust, and confidence in something. Our faith is our beliefs in the gospel of Christ, particularly the teachings of Jesus, His death and resurrection, and the eternal reward for those who live by the gospel. We "accept" the gospel through faith because we were not witnesses during the time of Jesus. Jesus foretold this when He said - "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (Jn. 20:29). We accept the opportunity to receive forgiveness of sins and the resurrection to life. Still, the gospel teaches us we must do more than just "accept." We must change our hearts, put on a new nature, and endure until the end. When we believe in something, we obey and act upon our beliefs. If we claim we believe Christ's gospel, we will thoroughly set our minds on His gospel and change our hearts to live as it requires - "for with the heart one believes unto righteousness" (Ro. 10:10). We will conform our lives to the will of God, trusting His word to be completed as He has spoken. In short, our belief in the gospel is the root of our faith. Our faith gives birth to a new way of life - living according to the word of God. Therefore, our faith justifies us and initiates the process of sanctification.

Sanctification is the process of becoming holy and pure in the will of God. It involves converting our self-seeking and sinful heart and mind to that which seeks to serve God in sincerity and purity. After hearing God's word and believing it, we acknowledge that our lives are sinful and independent of God. Then, convicted of the darkness within us, we desire to replace it with the light of God. We start living to please God. As we gain knowledge of His truth, we will conform our lives to His will. Our changing nature and conformity is demonstrated through righteous thoughts and righteous deeds. These show that our faith is real because "faith without works is dead" (Ja. 2:17,22,26). Also, knowing that God tests the hearts of men (Ps. 7:9), we can prove our faith by our actions (Ja. 2:18). Therefore, our righteous deeds are very important in sanctification. "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?" (Ja. 2:14). Furthermore, "righteousnesses" should be done sincerely. In Isaiah 64:6, Israel's acts of righteousness were not done sincerely, and Israel was continuing in sin (vs. 5,7). Israel was unclean and their deeds were in pretense. That is why their "righteousnesses" were like filthy rags.

God's will is for our sanctification (1 Th. 4:3) and perfection (Mt. 5:48). From His word we know God is light and in Him there is no darkness (1 Jn. 1:5). This means there is no evil or evil intent in God, only goodness, righteousness, and truth. This is how God wants us to be. We are to walk as "children of the light" and have no fellowship with the works of darkness (Eph. 5:8,11). God requires that we change and become holy - "Pursue peace with all and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (He. 12:14). Furthermore, in upholding the will of God, we must not become complacent, embarrassed, or give in under pressure before men. This is a lifelong commitment. If we reject the instruction and will of God, we reject Him - "For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives us His Holy Spirit" (1 Th. 4:7,8). Denying Jesus before men (Mt. 10:33), forsaking righteousness under pressure or in tribulation (Mt. 10:22) and lukewarmness about our duty to God (Re. 3:16) prevents sanctification and has "grave" consequences. Remember, only "he who does the will of the Father shall enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 7:21).

Two sources exist that will help us become sanctified. The first is God's word. The word of God is the thought and expression of God and makes up the very essence of God (Jn. 1:1). The Bible is the recorded word of God. To find out what is acceptable to the Lord (Eph. 5:10) and to be wise and understand His will (Eph. 5:17), we must read and study the Bible. Obtaining knowledge through God's word will give us direction by which to live. The word of God cuts through darkness, exposing and separating it, bringing truth that convicts and gives us direction. "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of the soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4:12). Applying the information and instruction found in the Bible to our lives will bring us spiritual maturity and righteousness. The Bible is not our only source of help to fulfill that "perfect and acceptable will of God" (Ro. 12:2). Our second source is the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that a Helper would come, the Holy Spirit, who would bring "all things into remembrance" (Jn. 14:26). Furthermore, God said He would teach us Himself and put His law (or word) in our hearts and minds (He. 8:10,11). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is really God - guiding, teaching and convicting us. Through prayer, we are to call on Him for help. His Spirit will prod our conscience (Ro. 9:1) and convict our hearts. He will show us the good, the righteous, and the truth so we can make proper choices in every aspect of our lives. As we grow in knowledge of God's word and mature through life's trials and tribulations, we will recognize when God speaks to us.

God's word and His Spirit are one in our sanctification. God's Spirit will always lead us in agreement to His word. We can understand this relationship from certain verses in the Bible. In John 17:17, Jesus prays that God would sanctify us by His truth. He said God's word is truth. Therefore, God's word sanctifies us. In 1 Peter 1:2 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13 we learn that God's Spirit also sanctifies us. "Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit," and "God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." In Ephesians 6:17, we learn that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. God's word is the weapon which the Spirit uses to subdue the darkness that enters us. Therefore, God's Spirit sanctifies us through His word. By God's Spirit and word prodding our hearts and minds, we have a light for direction. We will remember His word we have received and, if willing to obey His will, we will walk the narrow path of righteousness which leads to eternal life.

The path of righteousness is narrow because there is only one way to travel it - God's way. God's way is obeying His will, living according to His standards, and seeking His guidance in every aspect of our lives. The paths of the world are many, composed of standards and traditions set and justified according to man's wisdom. In these, God's standards and will are totally disregarded or manipulated to fit man's desires. At times, the righteous path is difficult because of spiritual war - our own and that from the world around us. The lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16) along with the rationalization, the ridicule, and the oppression from those around us war against our souls. Remember, Satan walks around like a roaring lion seeking whom He may devour (1 Pe. 5:8). Nevertheless, temptation and tribulation must be over-come through prayer, God's word, and His Spirit. Those who endure to the end (Mt.10:22), remain steadfast in the faith (1 Pe.5:9), and forsake the ways of the world will abide forever (1 Jn. 2:17). We may fail at times, but the blood of Jesus will cover the sin of the one who seeks forgiveness with a humble, sincere heart and Godly sorrow (sorrow toward God).

God's justification and our faith does not complete our salvation. God has justified us for acceptance into His kingdom and our faith justifies us to live by His word. Thereafter, it takes an enduring desire within our heart to seek and live by the word of God. It will be a life long battle against sin, temptation, and tribulation. These, we must overcome and seek forgiveness when we fail. In the end, God (who knows all things) will judge our hearts. He will judge our desire for sanctification - our desire to change our ways from uncleanness and darkness to those which glorify Him. Only by obeying the will of God and applying His word to our lives can we become righteous (which is sanctification). Through our sanctification, we will find that the Lord's yoke is easy and His burden light (Mt. 11:30). Doing things His way, with a gentle and lowly heart, will prevent confrontations, dissent, and vengeance in us toward others. We will also discover the narrow gate and travel the path of righteousness which leads to eternal life. Best of all, we will know the peace which surpasses all understanding that guards our hearts and minds (Ph. 4:7).

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