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What is the difference between justification, salvation and sanctification?

Grace and faith are the only way to justification, salvation, and sanctification. So what do I myself need to do?
What is the difference between justification, salvation and sanctification?

(Click to listen to an audio recording of this article, read by the author: What is the difference between justification, salvation and sanctificationSanctification is the process by which you are transformed to have divine nature by the act of consistently putting sin to death by resisting temptation. This is what it means to cleanse the inside of the cup. (Matthew 23:26) Your sinful nature is gradually replaced by virtues – the divine nature. Romans 12:2, 2 Peter 1:4.... More?)

Justification, salvation and sanctification go hand in hand.

Justification, salvation and sanctification

Justification – forgiveness, the clearing of all of my guilt and the deserved penalty for committed sins, through faith in Jesus Christ, who took on the penalty for my sins and paid the price by dying in my stead. (Galatians 2:16) This leads to salvation.

Salvation – saved from the penalty of committed sin, but – even greater – also from the very root of sin; from the bondage I was in to the body of sin. (Hebrews 7:19, 25) The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in me and works in me, leading me to overcome sin before it is committed. I am saved from the necessity of committing sin just because I have sin – which leads to …

Sanctification – This is the result of salvation. It is the transformationThis is the process of sanctification, in which we our sinful human nature is gradually exchanged for divine nature when we in obedience to God’s will deny and put to death the sinful lusts in our flesh. (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3-4)... More from human to divine nature (2 Peter 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:15-16; Matthew 5:48); being made holy. This is a process I undergo throughout my lifetime as I, in obedience to the Spirit, put off the works of the fleshConscious sin; things we know to be sin before we do them. These are not “accidents” but deliberate sins, and they are to be repented from and “put off” at conversion: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness,... More and take on the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-16)

Of course this is all by grace. By grace God worked in my heart, calling me to repentanceRepentance is the act of regretting sincerely the sin in your past with the goal to never do it again. It is making a decision to turn away from evil and to serve God. Repentance is one of the requirements for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 2:17; Luke 15:10; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 3:19; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter... More. By grace and obedience to the faith, as a discipleA disciple is another word for a follower of Christ, one who is learning to be like his Master. As a disciple you follow Jesus Christ, who is the Master and by living like Him you become more like Him. (Matthew 16:24; 1 Peter 2:21-22)... More, I am saved, sanctified, made holy, and purified as He, my Master, Savior, and Bridegroom, is pure.

Salvation by faith

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10.

I am saved through grace and faith – that is the only way to salvation! – but “… if every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation!” Hebrews 2:3-4. In other words, there is a penalty for, having been saved, neglecting my salvation and falling back into old ways. That’s why I need to “… work out (my) own salvation with fear and trembling.” All the while knowing that it is “…. God who works in (me), both to will [this is grace] and to do [this is grace coupled with an active faith! Faith to do!].Philippians 2:12-13.

Paul wrote to Timothy: “Take heed to yourself [the truth about myself, the sin that dwells in me; pay attention and be awake to temptation] and to the doctrine [to get to know the Scriptures, which is where I will find the standard I compare my life to]. Continue in them [be obedient to do what I see needs to be done – not allowing sin to reign in my body; not obeying it in its lusts], for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:16; Romans 6:12) This makes it clear that there is something that I myself need to do with regards to my salvation.

Saved to a greater degree

I was born again of the Spirit (John 3:5-6), and now I have to continue in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). The Spirit leads me to put off the works of the fleshThe “flesh” is all of the sinful desires/temptations/lusts, etc. that dwell in human nature. It is the source of temptation, and nothing good dwells there. (Galatians 5:19-21; Romans 7:18; Galatians 5:24; Romans 8:5) Other phrases meaning the same as the flesh include: the body of sin, sinful human nature, fallen human nature, sinful nature, fallen nature The term “flesh” can... More. Yes, I have sin, against which I am powerless. But that does not mean that I have to commit sinTo commit sin is to consciously do something that you know goes against God’s will and His laws. It is when you are tempted by the lusts and desires that dwell in you and you consciously agree to act on that temptation, knowing full well that it is displeasing to God. This “act on” can occur in word, deed, or... More! (1 John 5:18; 1 John 2:3-9) For it is God who works in me both to will and to do! Do put off the works of the flesh through the Holy Spirit which works in me. These are the good works God has prepared for me beforehand, and which I am to walk in; to do. I do not see all of the works at once, but as I am faithful to be obedient to the Spirit, He can show me more and more and I can be saved to a greater and greater degree.

The Holy Spirit works in me, but the Holy Spirit Himself does not perform the works. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to deathIs to overcome the temptations to sin that arise when our lusts and desires draw us to react in ways we know to be evil (i.e. pride, hatred, evil-speaking, envy etc.) It is the act of denying those thoughts and refusing to agree with them. The lust to sin is not only suppressed, but it actually dies. (Romans 8:13; Colossians... More the deeds of the bodyDeeds of the body are things we realize are wrong only after we have done them, because the Holy Spirit points them out to us; our eyes are opened to the fact that they were wrong. Therefore, anything wrong that we do unconsciously—without our mind or our enlightened self agreeing to it—is a deed of the body. There is no... More, you will live.” Romans 8:13. It is I who have to resist the lusts and desires of the flesh as they are revealed to me, I who have to stand firm in the time of temptation, I who have to overcome sin. Not in my own strengthThis refers to a person who is attempting to put to death their sinful desires without help from God; not sinning by sheer strength of will. Some people may manage this to some degree, but ultimately it is impossible to come to total victory in one’s own strength, eventually one will come to an end of their own strength. A... More – my human strength is nothing – but through the power the Holy Spirit gives to those who are born of the Spirit.

These good works that I am to walk in are not the works of the law, but the works God prepared specifically for me, which I am prompted to do by the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-20; Romans 6:5-7)

Saved by an active, obedient faith

I am saved by faith, but not a stagnant, inanimate faith that Jesus has done everything in my place, and that there is nothing left for me to do. By an active, obedient faith I can put off the works of the flesh and put on the fruit of the Spirit. (Colossians 3:8-14) I am not bound to sinTo commit sin is to consciously do something that you know goes against God’s will. This can be in word, deed, or even thought. (James 1:14-15)... More in the flesh! I do not have to commit sin!

“And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:32.

(Read here about the difference between having and committing sin)

If I were to continue to do the works of the flesh, I would not be free. How can I say I am saved from sin if I continue to commit sin, because I am “covered by the righteousness of Jesus?”

“For he who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” Galatians 6:8.

It is God who works in me; it is His grace drawing me on paths of righteousness, so I can’t boast that I have done anything. Without this gift of grace from God I would be powerless against sin. Therefore, all the glory goes to God. That’s why we will praise Him eternally, saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen!” Revelation 7:12.

Interested in reading more? Have a look at our topic page about salvation and sanctification or read some of the selected articles below:

Salvation is a matter of the heart

Sanctification: What is it and how can I partake in it?

So great a salvation!

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So Great a Salvation

The apostle who wrote the book of Hebrews called it “a word of exhortation.” The purpose of this booklet is to amplify and expand on that exhortation, bringing faith and salvation to all those who have a heavenly calling. All those who follow the exhortation of the book of Hebrews can attain to this great salvation.

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