"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Friday, February 20, 2009

Are justification and sanctification separate?

As a follow up to my reflection on justification, adoption and sanctification I thought I would also share Larger Catechism Question 77. Often, Reformation Christianity is criticized by Arminians and Catholics alike as dividing justification and sanctification. This accusation, at least in formal confessional theology, is a slander. The Reformed faith distinguishes, but does not divide justification and sanctification. But one might protest that a distinction and a division are the same thing. Are they?

As R.C. Sproul says, one of the most important things to learn in theology is the difference between a division and a distinction. It is quite important to a person whether I distinguish between your body and your spirit, for then I have done you no harm, or if I divide your body and spirit, for then I have killed you.

In viewing salvation, the difference is important too. A division between justification and sanctification results in antinomianism, a definition of salvation grasped by a faith that may be exercised by natural man. A confusion of justification and sanctification results in legalism, where one believes one is forgiven on the basis of the progress made in religious duty. A distinction, however, avoids a definition of salvation involving a faith without effect in life, as well as a definition of faith as an effect in life with no guarantee of salvation. The distinction informs us that the merit of salvation is Christ’s, and its effect is real in life, but that salvation is not on the basis of the effect, but results in it.

Question 77: Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?

Answer: Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, in that God in justification imputes the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuses grace, and enables to the exercise thereof; in the former [justification], sin is pardoned; in the other [sanctification], it is subdued: the one [justification] does equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other [sanctification] is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.


Steve martin said...

I am always reminded of the late Dr, Gerhard Forde's quote:

"Sanctification is just getting used to your justification."

His 'On Being a Theologian of the Cross' is a must read for anyone concerned about the questions that you have raised.

Here is a taste:


Jared Nelson said...

Thanks for the link. I need a better understanding of the Lutheran point of view.