The Difference Between Justification and Sanctification

Difference Justification Sanctification

Q. 77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?

A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is subdued; the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection. (1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 4:6, 8; Ezek. 36:27; Rom. 3:24-25; Rom. 6:6, 14; Rom. 8:33-34; 1 John 2:12-14; Heb. 5:12-14; 1 John 1:8, 10; 2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 3:12-14).

Thomas Ridgley
Body of Divinity
Vol. 3, pp. 176-178.

This answer being principally a recapitulation of what is contained in those that have been already insisted on, wherein the doctrine of justification and sanctification are particularly explained, we shall not much enlarge on it; but since there are some who suppose that one of these graces may be attained without the other; and others confound them, as though to be justified and to be sanctified implied the same thing; we shall briefly consider:

I. That which is supposed in this answer namely, that sanctification and justification are inseparably joined together; and accordingly, no one has a warrant to claim one without the other: This appears in that they are graces that accompany salvation. When the apostle connects justification and effectual calling together, in the golden chain of our salvation (Rom. 8:30), he includes sanctification in this calling. And elsewhere, when Christ is said to be “made righteousness and redemption” to us for our justification, he is, at the same time, said to be “made wisdom and and sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:31) and we are said to be “saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Tit. 3:5), which is the beginning of the work of sanctification; “that being justified by his grace we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life“; and speaking of some who were once great sinners, and afterwards made true believers, he says, concerning them, that they were “washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). And when God promises to pardon and “pass by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage” (Micah 7:18-19), he also gives them ground to expect that he would “subdue their iniquities.” The former is done in justification, the latter in sanctification.

From the connection that there is between justification and sanctification, we infer: that no one has ground to conclude that his sins are pardoned, and that he shall be saved while he is in an unsanctified state; for as this tends to turn the grace of God into wantonness, so it separates what he has joined together, and it is a certain evidence that they who thus divide them, are neither justified nor sanctified. Let us therefore give diligence to evince the truth of our justification, by our sanctification, or that we have a right and title to Christ’s righteousness, by the life of faith, and the exercise of all those other graces that accompany or flow from it.

II. We have, in this answer, an account of some things in which justification and sanctification differ:

1. In justification God imputes the righteousness of Christ to us; whereas, in sanctification the Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof. What it is for God to impute Christ’s righteousness hath been before considered; the only thing that we shall now observe is that the righteousness, whereby we are justified, is, without us, wrought out by Christ, for us; so that it is “by his obedience,” as the apostle expresses it, that “we are made righteous” (Rom. 5:19), and that which Christ did as our Surety, is placed to our account, and accepted by the justice of God, as though it had been done by us, as has been before observed: Whereas, in sanctification, the graces of the Spirit are wrought and excited in us, we are denominated holy, and our right to eternal life is evinced, though not procured.

2. In justification sin is pardoned, in sanctification it is subdued. The former takes away the guilt thereof, the latter its reigning power. Where sin is pardoned, it shall not be our ruin; but yet it gives us daily disturbance and uneasiness, makes work for repentance, and is to be opposed by our dying to it, and living to righteousness. This is therefore sufficiently distinguished from justification, which is also to be considered as a motive or inducement leading to it.

3. They differ in that justification equally frees all believers from the avenging wrath of God, in which respect it is perfect in this life, so that a justified person shall never fall into condemnation; whereas the work of sanctification is not equal in all, nor perfect in this life, but growing up to perfection. For the understanding of which, let us consider, that when we speak of justification as perfect in this life, or say, that all are equally justified, we mean that where God forgives one sin, he forgives all; so that “there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” as the apostle says (Rom. 8:1), and he adds, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died” (Rom. 8:33-34). Were it not so, a person might be said to be justified, and not have a right to eternal life, which implies a contradiction; for though he might be acquitted, as to the guilt charged upon him by one indictment, he would be condemned by that which is contained in another.

We may from hence infer that all justified persons have an equal right to conclude themselves discharged from guilt, and the condemning sentence of the law of God, though all cannot see their right to claim this privilege by reason of the weakness of their faith. As for sanctification, that, on the other hand, is far from being equal in all, since the best of believers have reason to complain of the weakness of their faith, and the imperfection of all other graces which are wrought in them by the Spirit. If it be inquired from whence this imperfection of sanctification arises, that is the subject of the following answer [i.e. WLC Q. 78].

Herman Witsius
Economy of the Covenants
Vol. 2, Book 3, Ch. 12, pp. 6-7.

Sanctification [is] that real work of God, by which they, who are chosen, regenerated and justified, are continually more and more transformed from the turpitude of sin to the purity of the divine image.

XII. We distinguish this work of God from the first regeneration and first effectual calling to Christ. For the immediate term or effect of regeneration is a principle of spiritual life, which, in a moment, is put into the soul, by the immediate energy of the Holy Spirit. The term or effect of effectual calling is the mystical union and communion with Christ. But the term or effect of sanctification are the habits of spiritual virtues or graces, and their lively exercise; and thus sanctification follows upon regeneration and effectual calling, at least in the order of nature, and supposes those actions of God as going before it.

XIII. There is still a further difference between sanctification and justification: for justification is a judiciary act, terminating in a relative change of state; namely, a freedom from punishment and a right to life: sanctification a real work, which is performed by a supernatural influence, and which terminates in a change of state as to the quality both of habits and actions.

XIV. Yet we are to take notice, that the term sanctification is not always taken, by divines, in this strict sense; sometimes they comprehend under it regeneration and the first infusion of a new life, and take sanctification, renovation of the Spirit, regeneration, the new creature, the first resurrection for synonymous terms, as the Leyden professors, Synops. Disput. 33, §. 2. Sometimes also they include justification under the same term. “It is well known,” says the abridger of Chamierus, p. 860, “that the terms justification and sanctification are put one for the other.” Gomarus, in like manner, on 1 Pet. 1:2. Sanctification, taken in a general sense, comprises regeneration and justification. Nay sometimes the word sanctification is taken so largely, as to include the whole of man’s salvation. Polanus in Syntagm., lib. vi. c. 37: “Sometimes both appellations, viz. regeneration and sanctification are taken in a larger sense, for the whole of our salvation or beatification, if I may so speak,” as Heb. 10:10. But yet the accuracy of those is more commendable, who distinguish those terms in the manner I have explained: especially as the Scripture often distinctly mentions those benefits, and describes sanctification as a continued work of God, leading the elect gradually on to perfection, and as I do not remember to have observed it speak so of regeneration.

XV. Nor are we to omit, that sanctification is sometimes held forth as a blessing from God to man, 1 Thess. 5:23, “and the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” Sometimes as man’s duty towards God, 1 Thess. 4:3, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.” The former God powerfully works in us, according to the purpose of his gracious decree. The latter he justly requires of us by the will of his holy command. When sanctification denotes the first implantation of spiritual habits, it is a mere blessing from God, in procuring which we do not co-operate with him, but receive it from him. As it signifies the activity, or lively exercise of infused habits, and their corroboration and progress, so far we are active; but then it is as we are acted upon under God, and dependently on him; for these things can never be separated.


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