The Scriptural Relationship Between Justification and Sanctification
THE SCRIPTURAL RELATION BETWEEN JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION
by Rev. P. R. Bloedel
Seattle , Washington
This essay has to do with a subject the perversion of which has caused numerous sects to arise in external Christendom and has brought about divisions and offenses even in the so-called Lutheran camp. Yet it is a subject which is so plainly and so thoroughly set forth in the sacred Scriptures that it requires no intensive exegetical study on the basis of the original languages to make its consideration profitable and edifying. In order, however, properly to present the Scriptural Relation Between Justification and Sanctification a good understanding of the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is imperative. Every Lutheran communicant member should be able to identify the Law as those passages of Scripture which tell us how we are to be, what we are to do and not do; which show us our sins and the wrath of God over against sin. And every Lutheran communicant should be able to identify the Gospel as those portions of Scripture which tell us the good news of our salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, which teach what our God has done and is still doing for our salvation; which show us our Savior and God’s grace. Every Lutheran communicant member should recognize the fact that the Law must be preached to all people especially to the impenitent sinners and that the Gospel must be preached to those who are troubled in their minds because of their sins. This is what is set forth in our Small Catechism, pages 42 and 43.Dr. Walther points out that Law and Gospel differ:
1) with regard to the manner in which they are revealed to men, the law having been originally written into man’s heart and consequently not altogether unfamiliar to man, and the Gospel being made known to man only through an act of the Holy Spirit who inspired its message and who revealed to man that which it would have been impossible for man to discover;
2) with regard to their respective contents, the Law speaks about our works and the Gospel about the works of God” the law issues commands and demands and the Gospel makes offers, and bestows gifts;
3) with regard to their respective promises, the law promises salvation only on the basis of certain conditions , namely, that we fulfill the Law perfectly, and the Gospel promises grace and salvation freely, completely and unconditionally;
4) with regard to threats, the Law contains nothing but threats while the Gospel contains no threats at all but only comfort and consolation;
5) with regard to the respective effects of these two doctrines, the law increases the desire to sin, hurls man into despair, uncovers sin and produces contrition but offers no comfort while the Gospel actually produces saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, removes terror, fear and anguish and fills the heart with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, requires and demands nothing but gives all, plants love into man’s heart and gives him the power to perform works pleasing to God;
6) with regard to the persons to whom either the one doctrine or the other must be preached, the Law is to be preached to secure sinners and the Gospel to alarmed sinners.It is important to remember that every passage in the Bible is either Law or Gospel or may contain both Law and Gospel or serves the Law or serves the Gospel or may serve both. Both Law and Gospel are necessary for man’s salvation for without the Law there can be no Gospel and without the Gospel the Law cannot benefit us. Therefore, although the Law and Gospel are direct opposites they nevertheless work together in the most perfect harmony for the eternal salvation of man. It will become increasingly evident, as we continue on in this essay, how the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is vitally Important for the purpose of establishing and applying the Scriptural relation between Justification and Sanctification,I will proceed in the treatment of this subject by briefly presenting:
I. What the Bible teaches about Justification;
II. What the Bible teaches about Sanctification;
III. The Relation between Justification and Sanctification by means of comparison, contrast and application.
May God the Holy Ghost bless the consideration of His Word.
A clear understanding of the Scriptural doctrine of Justification cannot he attained without first having a knowledge of our Savior’s Redemptive Work. A study of what the Bible teaches about Justification will naturally lead a person into the study of what the Bible teaches about our redemption.We are taught by God from Holy Writ that since the fall of Adam the whole human race was subject to the wrath of God and eternal damnation and that no man could reconcile God (i.e. no man could bring about a peaceful relationship between God and man) by making amends for his sins, by avoiding sin in thought, word and deed, and by performing the works required of mankind in God’s Law, It was, still is, and always will be impossible for man to bring about his salvation. The guilt of our first parents’ deliberate transgression of God’s command was charged to all people. St. Paul writes: “By the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation,” Rom. 5:17, and again: “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners,” Rom. 5:19: All people as they are born into this world are not able to perform anything pleasing to God, they are capable only of doing that which is evil and wicked in God’s sight, they are enemies of God, unable to earn salvation for themselves or to merit the grace and mercy of God. Scripture teaches that “there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not,” Eccl. 7:20, and “there is none that doeth good, no not one,” Ps.14:3.All people, then, by nature are under the bondage of sin! All people, because of sin, are by nature hopelessly indebted to God; they are infected with guilt; deserving of eternal punishment from their mother’s womb; permeated and saturated with sin and unrighteousness, With man redemption is impossible!But with God the redemption of mankind was not an impossibility. Already in the Garden of Eden God promised a Redeemer Gen. 3:15, and “when the fulness of the time was come God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law to redeem them that were under the Law,” Gal, 4:4,5; to “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” 1 Cor. 15:57; to “abolish death,” 2 Tim. 1:10; to “destroy the works of the devil,” 1 John 3:8; to “bear our sins,” 1 Pet. 2: 24, and to “redeem us from the curse of the Law,” Gal. 3:13.All that Jesus did in His active obedience and all that He suffered in His passive obedience; His perfect righteousness and His bitter suffering and death; His perfect fulfilment of the law and His bearing of the Law’s curse, was for us and for all people that He might stand before God as our Substitute, having, rendered full and complete satisfaction to God’s justice for all mankind. This is REDEMPTION! It is described by Luther in the words: “I believe that Jesus Christ… has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with His holy precious blood, and by His innocent suffering and death.” (Catechism, explanation to the Second Article of the Apostle’s Creed.)JUSTIFICATION, on the other hand, is spoken of by Luther in his explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed where we read that “God daily and richly forgives all sins.” Justification naturally follows redemption. As naturally as the cancellation of a debt follows the payment of the bill. Justification is the result of redemption just as in court an acquittal and freedom is the result of an establishment of innocence. Thus, in Redemption Jesus has bought us back; in Justification God gives us the credit. In Redemption Jesus has born our guilt; in Justification God declares us free from guilt. In Redemption Jesus has suffered our punishment; in Justification God declares us free from punishment. In Redemption Jesus overcame Satan for us; in Justification God declares us free from the devil’s accusations. In Redemption Jesus took upon Himself our sins; in Justification God declares us holy. In Redemption Jesus kept the Law perfectly for us and in our stead; in Justification God declares us righteous. Our Justification is therefore brought about in and through and because of our Savior’s work of Redemption.Modernistic theology insists that the righteousness of one cannot be transferred to another but that which the modernists insist cannot be done is plainly taught in the Bible As having been done, namely, that God ascribes Christ’s righteousness to us and to all people; that He does not charge our sins against us but forgives them for Christ’s sake and declares the whole world righteous as the result of our Savior’s redemption of all lost and condemned mankind. We call this general or objective Justification and such an objective Justification of all people is plainly set forth in such passages as 2 Cor. 5:19 which reads: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Rom. 5:18, 19 where we read: “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto Justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many mere made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous,” and again in Rom. 3:23,24 we read: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” and in the fifth verse of the 4th chapter of Romans, God is spoken of as One who “justifieth the ungodly” Justification is therefore a judicial or forensic act of God through which He pronounces the forgiveness of sins upon all people and declares the whole world righteous through Christ.And as our Savior’s work of redemption was an act of God’s grace alone so also the Justification of the sinner is brought about only by the unmerited or undeserved grace and favor of God through the sacrifice of His Son. And so the justification of all people is only by God’s grace (undeserved kindness) for Christ’s sake.But the objective justification of the whole world does not mean that now every individual person will be taken to heaven because God has declared the whole world righteous and has forgiven the sins of the whole world in Christ. In fact the very opposite is the case according to the Word of God! Comparatively few, a “little flock” (Luke 12:32) will rejoice in the blissful presence of God into all eternity. The vast majority of mankind will writhe with the devil and his angels in everlasting misery and torment. In the light of objective or general justification it is therefore correct to say that even the damned in hell enter that place of eternal anguish with their sins forgiven but which fact they did not accept and consequently fall under the condemnation of that Word of God which says: “He that believeth not shall be damned,” Mark 16:16.Personal, individual or subjective justification by which a person is saved requires acceptance of the fact that in Christ God has declared all people righteous. If there were no objective justification an individual would forever be in doubt as to whether or not his sins are actually forgiven. But since God assures us that He has forgiven the sins of the whole world in Christ every person has that upon which he can firmly base his faith and be certain of the fact that also are his sins are forgiven, that the righteousness of Christ is imputed or accredited also to him and that in Christ God has also declared him free from sin, death, the power of the devil and eternal condemnation. “Therefore we conclude,” writes the Apostle Paul, “that a man is justified BY FAITH,” Rom. 3:28. and such justifying faith is an act which is humanly impossible, which is not a work of the Law, but a creation of God in the human heart through the power of the Gospel.We are then justified alone by God’s grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith without any works, merits, or conditions of our own. In Ephesians 2:8,9, we read: “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” Commenting on this passage, Dr. Walther says: “This sounds as if the apostle felt that he was not saying enough to keep men from being led astray into self- righteousness. First he says: ‘By grace are ye saved’; next, he adds ‘through faith.’ Lest some one think he had achieved this feat by his faith, the apostle continues: ‘and that not of yourselves.’ Whence, then is it? ‘It is the gift of God’; and to head off any thought of a person’s own merit, he adds: ‘not of works,’ such as a person’s love, or charity, would be. He winds up with the statement: ‘Lest any man should boast.’ Whoever imagines that there is a little glory that he my claim as his own is still without faith that justifies, is still blind, and is not walking in the way of salvation, but is headed straight for perdition.” (Walther, Law and Gospel, pp.224 and 225.) We have no righteousness of our own but we do have that righteousness which God credits to us by faith in Jesus as our Savior. How plainly the Apostle Paul teaches this when he says: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung that I may win Christ and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” Phil. 3:8,9. Again in Romans 4:5 the Apostle Paul discounts works altogether and establishes personal justification by faith, for there we read: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”And we must be careful not to regard faith as a work because of which we are justified as though some good quality in our faith merits righteousness and salvation. The Bible simply speaks of faith as that which receives the grace of God and the merits of Christ, To be saved by faith means to be saved without works by God’s grace alone, for Christ’s sake. Personal justification by grace is justification by faith, and justification by faith is justification by grace. The one must necessarily include the other as St, Paul writes in Romans 4:16, “Therefore it is of faith that it might be by grace.” On the other hand works are always excluded and are set in opposition to faith and grace, for example, “by faith, without the deeds of the Law” (Rom. 3:28); “by grace…through faith; … not of yourselves,…not of works.” (Eph. 2:8,9); “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ,” (Gal. 2:16). “If by grace, then it is no more of works,” St. Paul writes, “otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” (Rom. 11:6).Inasmuch as faith does not justify because of its quality, it goes without saying that a weak faith obtains the same righteousness, the same justification, the same forgiveness of sins as does a strong faith. Everything, however, depends on the OBJECT of faith; everything depends on what faith receives or apprehends. The only true faith, the only saving faith, the only justifying faith has but ONE object and this one object which such faith receives is designated in Scripture by various expressions, such as, faith in Jesus Christ, faith in God, faith in Christ’s righteousness, faith in Christ’s blood and death, faith in the resurrection of Christ, faith in Christ’s name, faith in the cross of Christ, faith in God’s witness of His Son, faith in the Gospel and the like. But no matter by what terms the object of faith is described in Scripture, it always remains the same, namely, justification or the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake. And it is this faith alone which makes a person a Christian, not his orthodoxy or heterodoxy, not the strength or the weakness of his faith, not his excellent or deficient knowledge of the Bible and its teachings, not his virtues or his vices. All true Christians believe that God forgives their sins by His grace, for Christ’s sake, without any merit of their own. Thus Luther writes: “The faith that we obtain the forgiveness of sins solely for Christ’s sake by faith has been the faith of the Fathers and prophets and all saints from the beginning of the world; and it has been the doctrine and teaching of Christ and the Apostles, who were commissioned to spread it in all the world. And it is to this day, and will be to the end , the unanimous understanding and voice of the whole Christian Church, which always in one mind and with one accord has confessed and fought for this article , that only in the name of the Lord Jesus forgiveness of sins is obtained and received. And in this faith they have been justified before God and saved.” (St, L. XII:495f, quoted in Pieper, Vol. II, p. 518.)
As the doctrine of justification treats of the Christian’s faith so the doctrine of sanctification (in the narrower sense) treats of the Christian life.In the wider sense the word sanctification, is used in the Bible with reference to the entire work of the Holy Ghost which includes calling us by the Gospel, bringing us to faith (conversion or regeneration), renewing our hearts and lives, keeping us in the true faith, renewing the image of God in us completely and perfectly on Judgment Day. Sanctification in the wider sense, therefore, also includes justification. The word sanctification is used or referred to in the wider sense in the following passages: 2 Thess. 2:13, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”; 1 Pet.1:2, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ“; 1 Cor. 6-11 “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God“; Ephesians 5:25,26. “Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word“; Heb. 10:10, “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Thus it is clear that the word sanctification is at times used in Scripture in a wide sense which included everything that the Holy Ghost works in us.At other times, however, and perhaps more frequently the word sanctification or a synonymous expression is used in the Bible to designate the new spiritual nature (the new man) which is created in the believer and the good works which flow from this new spiritual nature. As a direct result of justifying faith the heart of an individual (out of which, by nature, proceeds evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, Matt. 15-19) is renewed, and because of such renewal the Christian begins to avoid sin and perform works pleasing to God. This we refer to as sanctification in the narrow sense. It is spoken of in such passages as 1 Thess. 4:3-7 where we read: “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication . . . that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter . . . for God hath not called. us unto uncleaness, but unto holiness“; 1 Thess. 5:23, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly”; 1 Thess. 3:12, 13, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end.He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God“; 2 Cor. 7:1, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God”; Eph. 4,24, “Put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” In this manner the Bible speaks of a sanctification which refers specifically to the renewed spiritual nature of the Christian and the good works which flow forth from this new man. This is sanctification in the narrower sense and it is this sanctification which our topic treats when we consider the Scriptural relation between justification and sanctification. We will then proceed to discuss more thoroughly sanctification in the narrow sense.When the Holy Ghost, through the Gospel, causes a person to believe that his sins are forgiven by grace alone, for Christ’s sake, through faith, a new spiritual nature is created. This new spiritual nature is spoken of in the Bible as the “new man“, the “spirit” or the “inward man” as distinguished from the old sinful nature which is spoken of in the Bible as the “old man“. the “old Adam.” the “outward man,” the “body of sin,” or the “flesh.” According to the new man a Christian’s will agrees perfectly with the will of God. St. Paul writes: “I delight in the Law of God after the inward man,” Rom. 7:22. As far as the new man is concerned a Christian is perfectly holy. St. Paul writes in Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God.” In his life here on earth a Christian, however, still has his sinful nature, the old Adam, which is corrupt under the rule of sin, in whom dwelleth no good thing and which engages in a constant struggle against the new man. In Gal. 5:17 we read: “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” Sanctification is then brought about in this way that a Christian, according to his new spiritual nature, prevails over the sinful wishes and conduct of his old Adam. In sanctification there is a putting off of the old man and a putting on of the new man. as St. Paul describes it in Eph. 4:22-24, there is a conquering of the temptations of the devil, the world and the flesh; there is an overcoming of the works of the flesh, of the sins which so easily beset us, of our pet sins and vices.In sanctification there is constant development and growth, but this growth in holiness will continue to remain imperfect for the Christian in this life. There will remain with the Christian until the end of his life here on earth his sinful flesh with its evil desires and lusts. Only in heaven will perfect holiness be attained. But until then a Christian must grow in sanctification for if a Christian refuses to go forward in his personal battle against sin, if he refuses to increase his efforts in the performance of those things which are pleasing to God, he denies his Christianity. Dr, Walther writes: “As in nature, so in the Kingdom of Grace there is no standing still. The Christian who refuses to go forward does not only not stand still, as he supposes, but in reality is going backward. As a child when it stops growing is sick and a tree when it stops sprouting is nearing death, so a Christian is spiritually sick and on the verge of spiritual death if he does not grow in divine knowledge, in newness of life, and in zeal unto good works.” (Sermon Illustrations, P. 373) It is correct then to say: “If I am not a better Christian today than I was yesterday, and tomorrow than I am today, then I must take heed lest I have fallen from grace and am no longer a child of God.” As it is natural for a child to take nourishment and to grow, so it is natural that we “as newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the Word, that we may grow thereby,” (1 Peter 2:2).In order that we might not boast of our progress or growth in sanctification as though we ourselves must deserve the credit for our Christian life of obedience to the will of the Lord, we must never lose sight of the fact that it is God which worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure, Phil. 2:13. God must give us the willingness and the power to conquer sin and to persevere in good works. In the Thorough Declaration of the Formula of Concord we read that “the converted man does good to such an extent and so long as God by His Holy Spirit rules, guides, and leads him, and that as soon as God would withdraw His gracious hand from him, he could not for a moment persevere in obedience to God.” (Triglotta, p. 907) Even every good thought which enters a Christian’s mind must be traced to God as its Author, for the Apostle Paul writes: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” (2 Cor. 3:5) Therefore when the Christian fights against the devil, the world and his flesh; when he confesses his sins with heartfelt contrition; when he joyfully praises and glorifies the name of his precious Redeemer; when he pours out his heart in prayer before the Lord; when he is given to hospitality and is eager to help his neighbor; when he is filled with zeal for the work of the Lord; when he exercises loving patience with his fellowmen; when he gives liberally and cheerfully for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom; when he gathers his children around him for family devotion; when he gladly hears and learns God’s Word of these and innumerable other beautiful virtues are created in us, strengthened in us and developed in us by the Holy Ghost.And the Holy Ghost does this not by means of the Law but by the Gosel, for only the Gospel continuously, throughout the Christian’s life, spells death for the old sinful nature and gives strength and power to the new man. (Rom.8: 10; 2 Cor. 3:6) Only by means of the Gospel is the Christian enabled to do good works and avoid that which is evil. St. Paul writes: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, (by the Gospel), that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Rom. 12: 1. The Christians are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” Eph. 2:10. The only thing which is able to create the love of God in us is the fact that “He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19, and this ought also to motivate us to “love one another,” 1 John 4:11.The Law, however, has its place in sanctification. Since the old Adam is always inclined to minimize sin, the Christian must constantly be reminded of his sinfulness and damnableness by the Law, for where the knowledge of sin has ceased there also faith ceases to exist and the Gospel, which alone produces sanctification, ceases to be effective. Because of his old Adam the Christian is inclined to follow his own ideas as to what is pleasing or displeasing to God. He is therefore, constantly in need of the Law to show him how God would have him to be, and what God would have him to do and not do. But the Law does not furnish the power or ability to obey its precepts. Only the Holy Ghost, who is given and received, not through the Law, but through the preaching of the Gospel renews the heart and sanctifies the life of the Christian.We have stated before that it is impossible for a Christian to attain perfect righteousness of life here on earth. (Phil 3:12; 1 Tim. 1:15) In this respect however it is important to emphasize the fact that God nevertheless requires of the believers PERFECT sanctification. This is set forth so strongly in Scripture that there are those who teach that a complete and perfect sanctification is attainable in this life, but such a notion cannot be held in the heart of a Christian who must daily ask God for the forgiveness of his sins and is even taught so in the Lord’s Prayer. The Roman Church even teaches that there are certain individuals who have more holiness than they need for themselves and that their surplus holiness which they call “works of supererogation” are included in the treasury of the church and may be sold or dispensed to others through the church. But the Bible denounces such perfectionism as deception and a gross lie. Scripture tells us. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8, and in still stronger language, Scripture declares: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us,” 1 John 8-10.But as perfectionism is an evil and wicked teaching so also just as evil and just as wicked is an attitude of indifference toward sanctification which is found in the hearts of many who call themselves Christians. They want to be known as followers of Jesus but do not want to walk in His ways. They want to follow Christ and at the same time they want to follow the world and its allurements. But God says to all such: “This ye know that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be ye not therefore partakers with them,” Eph. 5:5-7. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon,” Math. 6:24 “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple,” Luke 14:33. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me,”‘ Matt. 16:24. O, may we then never excuse ourselves for our neglect of sanctification, for our indifference with regard to following the Word of the Lord. It is God’s will and the will of every true Christian earnestly and persistently to strive after perfection. God wants us to be fruitful, not merely in some, but in ALL good works, “that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work,” the Apostle writes in Col. 1:10. Again in Phil. 4:8 we read: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers” Christians are therefore earnestly admonished in Scripture to abound in sanctification, in every good word and work, in the work of the Lord, in the knowledge of God, in all patience and longsuffering, in the love of the brethren and of all people, in doing those things which please the Lord. And in order to abound in sanctification a Christian must not take this matter lightly but must severely discipline himself, even as St. Paul writes: “I keep under my body and bring it into subjection lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway,” 1 Cor. 9:27.The more earnestly a Christian strives for perfection, the more conscious he becomes of his sins, frailties and failings, and the more diligently he acknowledges his sins before God, and the more he rejoices in the grace of God which is not dependant upon the good works of the Christian. Here the proper separation between Law and Gospel is extremely vital for on the one hand the Christian must be fully assured of God’s grace and salvation and on the other hand he must require of himself perfection in sanctification. And since the Christian’s life is motivated by the Gospel and not by the Law he renews, every day, his struggle to attain perfect sanctification to rid himself of sin and to serve God alone in all his works, deploring his many failings, crying out with the Apostle Paul, “O wretched man that I am!” but at the same time being assured of a glorious victory through Christ, and again he is filled with the compelling desire to live unto Him who died for all. Let us, then, who love the Savior, not sit at home and wait to be pushed into the doing of those works which are pleasing to God but rather go out and seek opportunities to serve the Lord in our lives, being “zealous of good works,” Titus 2:14, “not being weary in well doing,”Galatians 6:9. Being a Christian is not a hobby, but it is a calling. Serving the Lord is not an avocation but a vocation for which the Christian should make the very most of their time here on earth. Happy should those Christians be whose pastors properly and without any fear or faltering urge them to become “rich in good works“; “by the mercies of God” to present their bodies “a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God.” Dr. Walther writes: “Sincere Christians, though weak in many respects, do not mean to reject the Word of God; they desire to live unto Him who died for them,” (quoted in Christian Dogmatics, Pieper, vol. III, P. 49.)The words of Zacharias should be in every Christian heart: “That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.” Luke 1:74-75. The Law is therefore the rule for the Christian’s life; it is the path which the Christian follows and upon which the Christian walks in his life of sanctification, not in order that he might be saved thereby, but because through Christ he has been saved; not in order that his sins might be forgiven thereby, but because his sins have been forgiven. What a wonderful way for us to show our appreciation and to express our gratitude to the Lord! What an opportunity to show our love for Him who first loved us! What a privilege to speak to Him in prayer; to sit at His feet and hear His Word; to spread the message of salvation to others; to reach out to those who are still sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death; to labor for Him and for His Kingdom in the pulpit or in the parsonage, in the field or in the kitchen, in the factory or in the office, in our work or in our recreation, in the street or in the market; to serve one another by love and to delight ourselves in the Lord! And although the Christian earns nothing from God by his life of sanctification, yet God rewards the Christians richly for their good works. St. Paul writes: “Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour,” 1 Cor. 3: 8. Jesus says: “Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great,” Luke 6:35. “When thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just,” Luke 14:13,14. In 1 Timothy 4:8, we read: “Godliness is profitable unto all things,having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” The Bible therefore teaches that God indeed rewards the good works of Christians here in time and, particularly in eternity. (see also Eph. 6:2, “The first commandment with promise“; Gal. 6:9, “In due season we shall reap, if we faint not”.) The Bible, however, makes it very clear that this reward which God bestows upon the good works of the Christian is, from beginning to end, a reward of grace and not a reward of merit. He who insists that God reward him for his good works is not a Christian but places himself outside of God’s Kingdom of Grace. Such a request is impossible inasmuch as all of the Christian’s works are tainted with sin which unless forgiven will sentence him to eternal damnation. Such a request is also out of the question because not the Christian but God is the author of the Christian’s good works. The fact that even our best works are mixed with sin is entirely our doing, but, insofar as our works are good, they are God’s work in us. By pronouncing a reward upon the works of the Christian God is thereby crowning His own gift in us. He is rewarding His own work in us and He does this not because He owes us anything but because of His mercy and grace in Christ Jesus for the strengthening of our faith and for our comfort in the performance of His will. St. Paul therefore admonishes the Christian: “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise,” Heb. 10:35.In conclusion of this section it is well, in summary fashion, to remind ourselves of the importance of the value of sanctification:1) By our good works we are performing the will of the Lord.2) By our good works we are glorifying the God of our salvation.3) By our good works we are bringing before God a thankoffering for His grace and mercy.4) By our good works our fellowmen are incited to glorify God.5) By our good works we lead others to the Word of God and to eternal life.6) By our good works we prove the genuiness of our faith.7) By our good works we have God’s own testimony for our state of grace.8) By our good works we make our calling and election sure.9) On account of our good works God bestows upon us rich rewards of grace.10) By our good works we fulfil the chief purpose of our lives here on earth as Christians.
Now that we have reviewed what the Bible teaches about justification and sanctification, we will proceed briefly to consider the Scriptural relation between these two doctrines which will involve comparisons and contrasts both with regard to how they are to be taught and applied.1. There is a relationship between justification and sanctification brought out in Scripture when the Bible refers to a justification by works. Jesus says In Matthew 12:37: “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Here Jesus is speaking of a justification which takes place visibly and before men. Justification before God is this, that a person is justified by God’s grace alone, for Christ’s sake, through faith, without works. But before Christians a person is justified by his works, for in the eyes of men works prove the faith which is in the heart. Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples if ye have love one to another.” In Luke 7:36-50 we have the incident of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus while he was attending a banquet in the home of Simon the Pharisee. To Simon, Jesus said concerning this woman: “I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; FOR SHE LOVED MUCH.” Her acts of love and devotion for her Savior proved the faith which was in her heart and consequently justified her before men. But God, who looks into the heart, justifies by faith that it might be by grace. Jesus, as God and Lord, turns to the woman and says: “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” Commenting on the words of Jesus to Simon, Dr. Luther writes: “In the Church the sinners are publicly absolved in the same manner when they produce the true fruits of repentance. For those dare not publicly be absolved who manifestly persist in their sins and do not show that they have repented.” (St. L. VII:1460, quoted in Pieper, Vol. II, p. 542). Dr. Pieper then continues: “The Church must demand of its members that they prove the faith of the heart by good works. The Church insists on a justification by works. The further a Christian congregation departs from this practice, the more will license abound in her midst, the less will she fulfil her calling of being a light to the world and a salt of the earth.” And again, Pieper writes: “In the terminology of Luther there are ‘two kinds’ of forgiveness of sins, or of justification, the ‘internal’ and the ‘external.’ The internal justification takes place through the gracious promise of the Gospel and through faith which lays hold of this promise. External justification takes place through the good works of Christians, which, as the consequence and fruit of the internal justification, prove to men that internal justification is there.” In this may the individual Christian is able to examine himself with regard to his justification. St. Paul writes in 2 Cor. 13:5, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” St. James writes: “Shew me thy faith without thyworks, and I will shew thee my faith by my works,” James 2:18. In 1 John 3:14 we read, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Again the Apostle John writes: “Hereby we do know that we know Him if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” 1 John 2:3,4. In 2 Peter 1:10 the Christians are admonished: “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.”2. Both justification and sanctification are brought about by the divine operation of the Holy Ghost with this essential difference: In justification an ungodly man is pronounced clean, righteous and holy as the result of Christ’s substitutional satisfaction which is proclaimed and offered in the Gospel and which is received by faith. It is therefore a divine act which takes place outside of man. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a divine work which takes place within man for in sanctification a person’s heart is renewed and he is enabled to avoid sin and to perform works pleasing to God, It is therefore not imputed righteousness as in justification but a moral transformation in which works of righteousness are able to be accomplished by man as God’s instrument. In justification man is passive. He merely receives that which God offers in the Gospel. In sanctification man is active in the performance of good works. And these good works are not merely external works performed by words and deeds but also internal works, such as love and good will. it may be said in this respect that man cooperates with God in sanctification, never in justification.3. Both justification and sanctification are brought about or effected only by means of the Gospel and the Law serves the Gospel both in justification and in sanctification, but with this essential difference: In justification the Law serves the Gospel by working in man a knowledge of sin and terrors of conscience (as a mirror), whereas in sanctification the Law serves the Gospel not only as a mirror by constantly reminding the Christian of his sinfulness and damnableness but also as a rule to show the Christian what works are truly pleasing to God. However in sanctification the strength and power to overcome sin and to do good works is furnished only by the Gospel as also in justification the power to accept the proffered grace of God, in Christ Jesus is given to man only through the Gospel.4. Justification is a pronouncement or declaration which a person receives at once by faith. There are no degrees of justification. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a gradual process, a slow and progressive development which continues throughout the life of the Christian. Justification is therefore complete and perfect in this world whereas sanctification will be complete and perfect only in heaven where the image of God (lost by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) will be fully restored.5. Justification and sanctification are inseparably related in the Christian. They may be separated mentally, or when they are presented topically, and in reality they are not the same but as far as the actual fact of Justification and the actual fact of sanctification is concerned they are inseparably joined. In other words wherever there is Justification by faith there must also be sanctification of life, and wherever there is sanctification it must be in connection with justification for where there are no good works there is also no faith. Justification, therefore cannot exist without sanctification, and sanctification cannot exist without justification. Sanctification begins the very moment a person is justified by faith.6. Sanctification, however, must never be placed before justification and although it occurs at the same time it must nevertheless, always retain its proper place as the product or fruit of justification. Justification is always the cause of sanctification, and sanctification is always the effect of justification. Justification always sanctifies but sanctification never justifies before God. Actually the sole purpose of justification is sanctification. (Example: Just as heat proceeds from fire, so sanctification proceeds from justification.)
In conclusion and in order to bring this topic into still sharper focus we will note by means of very brief antithetical statements how the Scriptural Relation Between Justification and Sanctification is perverted. The Scriptural Relation Between Justification and Sanctification is perverted:1. When Justification is preached alone, so that the Scriptural connection between justification and sanctification is broken, (Antinomians)2. When it is taught that faith justifies because it sanctifies.3. When it is taught that an unbeliever can perform God pleasing works.4. When the reward of sanctification is taught as a reward of merit.5. When anyone endeavors to enforce sanctification by the Law.6. When faith is taught as a good work because of which a person is justified. (Compare also: “in view of faith” in the doctrine of predestination.)7. When it is taught that the presence of good works is necessary to obtain justification.8. When a person believes that he is justified before God by faith and works.9. When a Christian credits himself for his good works.10. When justification is taught as an act of God which occurs only on Judgment Day.11. When a person bases his justification on his feelings.12. When the term “grace” in justification is taught as being a gift of grace which is infused in man.13. When it is taught that there are degrees of justification.14. When it is taught that by following the teachings of Christ a person is able to make himself righteous,15. When all sorts of conditions, warnings or threats are added to the doctrine of justification.16. When it is taught that man, of his own free will, is able to accent the righteousness of Christ.
Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone And rests in Him unceasing; And by its fruits true faith is known, With love and hope increasing. Yet faith alone doth justify, Works serve thy neighbor and supply The proof that faith is living.
All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise To Father, Son, and Spirit, The God that saved us by His grace,– All glory to His merit! O Triune God in heaven above. Who hast revealed Thy saving love, Thy blessed name be hallowed. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria