There are two words that are used throughout scripture that are really important for Christians to understand and not confuse. Understanding these words correctly frees us from insecurity and protects us from false teachings.
Justification refers to our legal position before God. Justification is something that occurs at a specific point in time.
Two specific points in time actually.
- We are justified by Christ’s death and when he who was without sin was made sin in our place. All believers were justified by Christ’s Death.
- That justification is applied to each person specifically when we repent and put our faith in Jesus.
Justification means that all our sins, past, present and future, are covered by the blood of Christ and we will stand blameless before God on the day of judgement. That’s why all believers are referred to as saints by the writers of the epistles.
No one loses their justification. God doesn’t take it back when we mess up and return it to us when we ask forgiveness.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~Romans 5:1 (ESV)
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” ~Romans 5:9 (ESV)
“he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but faccording to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs laccording to the hope of eternal life.” ~Titus 3:5-7 (ESV)
Sanctification is the setting apart of believers for Christ. It is being made holy. Reading through the Old Testament there is a lot of talk about items being sanctified for use in the temple; that is, being set apart for a holy purpose.
We are sanctified (set apart) when we repent, but then we undergo sanctification throughout our lives. It is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, in the heart and life of the believer, to conform them to the image of Christ and to purify us as we submit ourselves to God and he gives us right desires. When people speak about spiritual growth, they’re really speaking about sanctification.
The cleansing of our lives and a change in heart and attitude is a sign that we have been justified.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” ~Romans 6:22 (ESV)
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing of water through the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV)
“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” ~Hebrews 10:14
If you’re not seeing ongoing sanctification in your life, that is, a increasing hatred of sin and growing love for God and desire for holiness, then perhaps it is a time to question your justification. However, if you are concerned about a lack of sanctification, it’s unlikely that you’re not justified, because the very fact that you care is a sign that your heart is being conformed. However, I can’t make that judgement, because that is between you and God.
If you someone who is plagued by feeling insecure in your salvation, or just don’t know, then ask yourself this: Have you repented of your sin and put faith in Jesus Christ to save you? I’m not asking if you said the sinners prayer, or asked Jesus into your heart or raised your hand or walked the aisle at a church service at some point in your life; I’m asking if you have repented of your sin (apologized to God, and turned away from your sin) and put your faith in Jesus Christ to save you (not putting your faith in a decision you made or the things you do). If not, then what are you waiting for? Now, is the hour of your salvation.