Salvation, Justification, and Sanctification

“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” – 1 John 2:6

Not “should”, but “must,” or else you betray that you’re not in Him at all (1 John 2:3-5).

Im going to try and be as precise as I can here because it’s getting into some deep doctrinal waters, but listen: we must not reduce salvation to merely our justification.

To be justified before God means that God no longer sees us as guilty of our sin, but as innocent of all the wrong we’ve ever done. This is made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus’ perfect life in our place for the sins we’ve committed. And it is made effectual by our repenting of our sin and placing our hope and faith for salvation in the work of Christ alone.

Justification happens at and marks the beginning of our salvation, but it does not mark the end of salvation’s daily transformative work in our lives.

For example, sanctification. Sanctification is the process of being conformed more and more into the image of Jesus. It means we become more like Him. Slowly, over time, as we learn more of Him and commune with Him, we begin to take on His posture, His attitudes, His behaviors and characteristics, all in increasing measure. This is all wrought by the Holy Spirit who indwells us (2 Corinthians 3:18-19). In fact, this transformation is the very thing God saved you for (Romans 8:29).

So a lack of sanctification in your life betrays a lack of understanding about what salvation actually is. Salvation, in the fullness of how the Bible speaks of it, is something that happens in a moment, is maintained and worked out in various ways throughout our lives, and is ultimately brought to completion at the end of our lives, provided we stay firm until the end (Hebrews 3:14).

Our soteriology (what we believe about salvation) greatly affects our entire lives. If we view the goal of our salvation as merely just getting us into heaven, or merely just escaping hell, then we may run the risk of concentrating only on conversions and ignore the necessity of discipleship , which our Lord claimed to be essential in addition to faith (John 8:31-32).

But if we understand that salvation is a holistic, all-of-life experience, that the Gospel is something that we “have received, in which we stand, and in which we are being saved” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2), then we’ll be more theologically and doctrinally urged to pursue this kind of transformation and lifestyle that the beloved Apostle said “must” be true of our lives, and the necessity of sanctification won’t sound so strange to us, but will be welcomed and understood to be the very goal of the Christian life.

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