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Justification Comes BEFORE Sanctification, NEVER after

Posted by Stuart McCray on

Here is a helpful quote from an unknown author on the danger of getting Justification and Sanctification out of order. Theologically speaking, Justification (being declared righteous by God - by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone) comes before Sanctification (the process of being transformed more and more into Christ's image), never after. It's crucial to understand this theological truth because if you get it backwards, you will start to think that you can earn your right standing with God through your own efforts. The author is helpful in expanding on this notion.

"Too many people confuse the process of sanctification with God's declaration of justification. In other words, they think that their work at becoming holy & fighting...[sin] is what saves them. No! The process of sanctification is the result of being justified. Nothing we do in our pursuit of holiness adds to our justification.

All the necessary and important aspects of pursuing holiness don't add to our salvation; they're the response to and the result of God's finished work of justifying us. Christ died so that we could be freed from the hopeless task of trying to justify ourselves. We no longer have to grovel in obedience under the rule of our human contracts, or what John Stott calls our "systems of merit."

Our obedience cannot earn our forgiveness. Our sorrow cannot pay for our sins. Or tears cannot cover them. No amount of self-inflicted punishment can make us right before God. Even our own death is not enough.

There is only one solution: to believe in Jesus Christ. To renounce all hope in our own ability to save ourselves and to place our faith in His ability to save us."

This Biblical truth is something that we should consider preaching to ourselves every day. God wants us to know this truth so that we can be assured that our salvation is secure while doing battle with leftover indwelling sin. Let me give one quick example: having this truth in your "hip pocket" when you sin for the millionth time (maybe it's even that same repetitive sin) can encourage you when you remember that you were declared righteous by God before you ever entered into the "battle". In one very real sense, you will never be more, or less righteous than when you were first declared to be by God when you first believed in Christ. Why? Because you were gifted the perfect righteousness of Christ. What great news! You can't sin your way out of being justified because you were declared to be right on the basis of being gifted Christ's righteousness before you ever even pursued godliness. This is freeing. There is grace to move forward in the battle with leftover indwelling sin because there is rock solid assurance that your justification is eternally secure.

Tags: grace, justification, sanctification, joshua harris