New City Catechism – Week 32

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Worship Guide
“Before the Throne of God Above”
(Hymn #187 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q32: What do justification and sanctification mean? 

A32: Justification means our declared righteousness before God, made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection for us. Sanctification means our gradual, growing righteousness, made possible by the Spirit’s work in us.

Justification and sanctification are related aspects of our salvation in Christ. They may sound complicated, but let’s make it simple.

Justification is related to the word “just” and “justice”. Justification is the act in which God declares us “just”. We are declared righteous.

When you hear the word “sanctified” you may relate it to the word “sanctuary”. The sanctuary is an area of the church that we have set-apart (holy) for the purpose of worshipping God. Sanctification is similar. It is the ongoing work of Christ in us by the Holy Spirit that sets us apart as holy unto God.

Justification is to be declared “just” (righteous and holy).

Sanctification is the process by which holiness shapes how we live.

Justification is instantaneous at the moment of our salvation when we put our faith in Christ.

Sanctification begins from justification onward, and continues progressively throughout our earthly lives.

Justification is by grace through faith. It is a work of God in which we contribute nothing. We are justified entirely through the grace of the gospel of Christ. We do not earn it. We do not deserve it.

Sanctification is also a work of God, but we are to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and make every effort in Christ to grow in holiness.

Justification is positional. We have Christ’s righteousness credited to our account.

Sanctification is practical. We see genuine growth in holy living. We are conformed into the image of Christ.

As you see, the words “justification” and “sanctification” are not hard to understand. But understanding their meaning is meaningless if we have not entered the reality of them.

Are you justified? Have you repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus Christ and Him alone for salvation. Are you now a justified sinner?

Are you growing in holiness? Are you growing in conformity with the image of Christ? Every true Christian should see evidence of the ongoing work of sanctification. Every true Christian should give himself or herself over to that process.

Justification and sanctification, though different are paired together. They cannot be separated. If a person claims to be justified, there should be evidence of accompanying sanctification.

Scripture passages concerning justification: Romans 3:23-31; 4:1-5; 5:1, 9, 16, 18; 10:10; 1Cor 6:11, Galatians 2:6; 3:8, 11, Titus 3:7

Scripture concerning sanctification: 1Thess 4:3; 5:23, 1Peter 1:2, 14, Romans 6:11-14, 12:1-2; 8:13, 1Peter 2:2; 2Peter 1:5, 3:18, Philippians 2:13-14.

*Sanctification is also used in some passages to mean that we have been set apart for God to God. When used in this way it is regarded as already accomplished, cf., Acts 26:18, Hebrews 10:10.


-Pastor Jay