Text- Romans 5:18-19
Justification & Sanctification
Today’s sermon is a continuation of what we started last time, since justification & sanctification dealt with law & gospel, which were the topics of the last sermon. Understanding the difference between justification and sanctification can be as important as understanding the difference between salvation and damnation. Rightly dividing between the two is of crucial importance. When you understand what they are, you can then draw a line in the sand and say, “This is what saves, and this is not what saves.”
Justification is the work of God where the righteousness of
Sanctification is the process of being set apart for God’s work and being conformed to the image of Christ. This conforming to Christ involves the work of the person, but it is still God working in the believer to produce more of a Godly character and life in the person who has already been justified according to Philippians 2:13. Sanctification is not instantaneous because it is not the work of God alone. The justified person is actively involved in submitting to God’s will, resisting sin, seeking holiness, and working to be more godly according to Galatians 5:22-23. Significantly, sanctification has no bearing on justification. That is, even if we don’t live a perfect life, we are still justified.
Where justification is a legal declaration that is instantaneous, sanctification is a process. Where justification comes from outside of us from God, sanctification comes from within us by the work of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the Bible. In other words, we contribute to sanctification through our efforts. In contrast, we do not contribute to our justification through our efforts.
Now, there is one more point of clarification. To sanctify also means to set apart for holy use. Therefore, we can have verses that talk about us being sanctified already because God has set us apart for holy use (see John 10:36, Romans 15:16, 1 Corinthians 1:2 7 6:11, 1 Timothy 4:4-5, and Hebrews 2:11). So you see, all that we need is given to us in Christ and there is one in which we are not yet completely formed into the image of Christ (sanctification of being made like Jesus), yet in another sense we are, because we are seen as “in Christ”, set apart for holy use where all of where all our spiritual needs and purposes are met through Jesus.
Part One: The Curse & The Cure
The near-fatal Apollo 13 mission in 1970 has become part ofAmerica’s national memory. It has gripped people’s attention at the time, and its events were later turned into a successful film. Apollo 13 astronaut James Lovell once said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” This quote now enjoys proverbial status as the Apollo 13 mission has had a happy ending. However, since that narrowly averted disaster, the world has witnessed a number of tragedies on an enormous scale: genocide, terrorism, and natural disasters, just to name a few. Anyone who opens a newspaper will almost surely conclude that we do indeed have a problem.
So my first question is, does this mean that those justified by grace can sin as much as they want? To answer that, the answer is NO according to Romans 6:1-2 and 1 Thessalonians 4:7. The scriptures teach us that we are to live holy lives and avoid sin according to Colossians 1:5-11. Just because we are saved and eternally justified before God (see John 10:28), that is no excuse to continue in the sin from which we were saved. Of course, we all sin according to Romans 3:23, but the war between the saved and sin is continuous according to Romans 7:14-24, and it won’t be until the return of Jesus that we’ll be delivered from this body of death. To seek sin continually and use God’s grace to excuse it later is to trample the blood of Christ underfoot according to Hebrews 10:29 and to reveal the person’s true sinful, unsaved nature (see 1 John 2:4-19, Hebrews 12:14, and 1 Peter 1:14-16 & 2:21-22).
The following have a biblical way of diagnosing the disease of sin: Genesis 1:27-31 & 3:14-17, Deuteronomy 11:26-28, Galatians 3:10-13, Romans 5:12-14, Leviticus 11:44, and 1 Peter 1:14-16. On the other hand, 1 John 1:8-9 and Luke 18:9-14 talk about rejoicing in the cure. So you see, the doctrine of original sin is impossible to grasp without the aid of divine revelation. However, for most people, it is also extremely offensive, but the proclamation of the Gospel, which is the forgiveness of sin, only makes sense if one is first made aware of one’s own need for forgiveness. That is why the Law, which accuses individuals of sin, must also be proclaimed. Therefore, the Law is never to be the last word. Nevertheless, only after the curse has been diagnosed can the cure be appreciated in all its sweetness.
Part Two: Stumbling Stone and Cornerstone
Despite their occasional protestations to the contrary, pop stars are not typically those we should consider to be “just like us”. Frequently enough, musicians and entertainers achieve popularity precisely because they so accurately reflect the thoughts and feelings of a great many people. Madonna once quoted, “Justify my love”, which may as well be taken as a case in point. The question is, how often are we given to believe that love must somehow be justified? That is, love must be earned, merited, or deserved by the one who receives it. Of course, this partially reflects that our society rarely think of love except in the terms of its romance, but think for a moment about the higher forms of love. Are there people in your life for whom you cannot justify your love, yet whom you love nonetheless?
Romans 3:10-20 & 5:10 has a lot to say regarding the universal human condition, but what implications does this have for our ability to justify God’s love for us? What do Romans 5:6-8 and Ephesians 2:4-5 say about God’s love, despite our inability to justify or merit it? For answers to clarify this, please read Hebrews 4:15 & 9:14, Isaiah 53:6-12 & 55:11, 1 Peter 2:6-8 & 24, and 1 Corinthians 1:23-24. Also read up on the centrality of the cross in John 15:13, 1 John 3:16, Galatians 6:14, and 1 Corinthians 2:2.
Part Three: Just Words
Although we use words everyday, and indeed cannot get by without them, it is not uncommon to hear “mere words” being denigrated. For example, each of us has probably thought or said that “actions speak louder than words.” Children still regularly repeat the schoolyard that, unlike sticks and stones, “words can never hurt me.” In a political age characterized by what the pundits call spin, it has become increasingly easy to dismiss even the announcement of good news as just words, but do these clichés actually reflect the truth? Read my sermon entitled “Right words at the Right Time” for further understanding.
Romans 1:16 and 1 Corinthians 1:18 recalls Paul explaining the power of God for salvation, and in John 6:63 and 12:50, Jesus has much to say about the power and benefit of the divine word. So how do the graphic descriptions of Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12 highlight the power wielded by God’s Word? See also Acts 13:38-41.
According to Ephesians 5:25-26 & 1 Peter 3:21, what means of grace is also associated with God’s Word? Also, what is described in Matthew 26:26-28, and what benefit do this and the Word of God share? For this answer, read John 20:22-23. So despite our many clichés about “mere words”, it is clear that even human words are even powerful and effective. Few people would envy a marriage where the words “I Love You” are never spoken. Indeed, even one who knows he or she is loved will want and need to hear those words repeated often. How much more then can the bride of Christ, the church, rejoice in the fact that her Bridegroom so often and so variously proclaims his words of love? The answer is in 1 Corinthians 1:18 & Matthew 7.
Part Four: Creeds, Deeds, and Needs
The misguided but still popular slogan “deeds, not creeds” is sometimes heard within the church. The point made by this phrase is that Christians should focus less on what they believe and confess and more on the manner in which they lead their lives. However, since that which Christians believe first and foremost is the Good News of justification and since the manner in which Christians live pertains to sanctification, the slogan quoted above seems to imply that sanctification rather than justification is the essence of Christianity.
In fact, what does one need to be a Christian? Is the Law even necessary for those who have faith? If one is already justified, does one also need to be sanctified? These are a few of the questions we will examine in this part; but first, why do you suppose a phrase like “creeds, not deeds” was coined, and why might it remain popular in some circles today? To answer that, read 1Thessalonians 4:3-8 to learn what Paul says is God’s will for the Christian, which consists of sanctification. Then read the episode in Luke 10: 38-42 and compare that with Ephesians 2:8-9 and determine for yourself what is necessary for salvation (see also 1 Corinthians 13:2, James 2:14-17, Titus 3:1-8, Matthew 7:17-18, and John 15:3-5). Also read Galatians 2:20 where Paul vividly describes the manner in which is faith and life are related and tells why his statement is true of every Christian.
Part Five: Dying to Live
Tennyson was said, “No life that breathes with human breath has ever truly longed for death.” At first glance, Tennyson’s observation might seem self-evident. The dying day is something people attempt to postpone for as long as possible; it is not an event to be longed for. Yet, even a passing familiarity with current affairs reveals that some apparently do long for death, whether they are suicide bombers or terminally ill advocates of euthanasia.
It is the Christian confession, however, that death is not simply the natural and inevitable end of life. Death is the final consequence and final condemnation of sin, but it seems for many others, it welcomes or even embraces death as good. What reasons can you think of why people might view death as good, rather than as the final consequence of evil? If you need help, simply read James 2:26, Ephesians 2:5-10, Ezekiel 36:27, John 15:5, Philippians 2:12-13, Galatians 5:22-24, John 17:17, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and 1 Peter 2:5.
As much as the above is made clear, Christians do not hold the positive view of death that some have. A “Dead” faith is condemned, and whiles we were “dead” in sin, Christ “made us alive” in justification. We are now “living stones” with which Christ builds his church, but death is not always bad. It is for our good that our sinful nature is “crucified”. Indeed, the sanctified life is described as one of both dying and rising. In fact, we die in order to live according to Romans 6:1-4 & 2 Corinthians 4:10-11.
We may not look forward to death, but given the frustrations and difficulties that beset us in this world, even life may look less than appealing. Therefore, we can rejoice in the fact that, whether we live or die, we do so with Christ being our Savior. So then, how would you respond to this question: Who is responsible for your sanctification? As you live the often difficult life of Christian sanctification, what comfort can you take from this? Read Romans 6:4 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-17.
Part Six: Holy, Wholly, Holy
In our often narcissistic and image-conscious society, it is not uncommon to hear people expressing a desire for a perfect body. An abundance of industries, from tanning salons to fitness centers to plastic surgery clinics, have sprouted up to fulfill that desire. Less obvious, but not so less true, is that a host of individuals and organizations now also promise assistance in the perfection of the soul. From popular self-help seminars to the cult teachings of Scientology, we are increasingly being told that we can acquire a pure soul and reach a state of perfect spirituality. I now ask you, is our desire for perfection, whether physical or spiritual, healthy or unhealthy?
While you’re pondering an answer, I invite everyone to check out Leviticus 11:45 and 1 Peter 1:15-16 where we learn about God’s explicit desire for his people. Hebrews 10:12-14 also asks the question, “What does Christ’s death have to do with our holiness and perfection?” Do Paul’s word in Romans 7:15-23 sound like those of one has been made perfectly holy? To find out, read 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, 1 Corinthians 15:47-49, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, and Philippians 1:21-23.
Many Christians will even be unlikely to be seduced by the naive promises of radical plastic surgeons or the bizarre claims of modern cults. Sadly enough some have succumbed to the erroneous idea that people are, in this life, capable of perfection. So-called “faith-healers”, for instance, imply that illness and disease will be cured if one simply believes hard enough. John Wesley, the founder of theMethodistChurch, preached a doctrine of Christian perfectionism that suggested sanctified believers can live without sin. I am hear to tell you that God has never guaranteed us perfection in this life, but read 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 to find out what we have been promised and how that has been guaranteed.
Today I shall close with the question, “What do the cults do with justification and sanctification?” The cults consistently blur the meanings of these two terms and misapply the truths taught in God’s Word. The result is a theology of works righteousness, of earning their salvation, which only leads to damnation. This is because by the works of the Law, shall no flesh be justified according to Galatians 2:16. According to Galatians 5:1-8, man cannot contribute to his salvation, and according to Isaiah 64:6, man is sinful and even his best deeds are stained and filthy before God. Therefore, making a person right before God can only be God’s work according to Galatians 2:20.
Typically, in cult theologies, a person is not justified or declared righteous in God’s eyes until the final Day of Judgment when his or her works are weighed and a reward is given, or he/she are found worthy of their place with God. Thus, a person with this errant theology cannot claim 1 John 5:13 has their own which says, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Contextually, “these things” refers to loving God, being obedient to him. Belief in Christ, and eternal life in Jesus. Therefore, 1 John 5:13 can be considered a test. If you are believing and doing the right things, then you’ll know if you have eternal life. So can a cultist know he or she has eternal life? No, he or can cannot, but a Christian can.
You see, people in cults don’t understand the difference between justification and sanctification. Therefore, they must depend upon a cooperative effort with God to have their sins forgiven, which is essentially combining the filthy works of man with the holy work of God, which do not and cannot mix according to Isaiah 64:6. Henceforth, salvation is only given by grace through faith alone. To believe anything else is to miss salvation. So to sum all this up, if you live you life contrary to what the Bible actually says, you will do yourself a great injustice and I honestly don’t think you can afford to do that. So do yourself a favor and see what the Bible actually says for yourself and don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. Have a great day and honor your mother.
Written by Erik E. Strunk on 13 May 2012