Justified? or Sanctified?

Reformed theology has a term: monergism. The Century Dictionary defines it as follows:

"In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration - that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration."

We are slaves to sin, nobody comes to the Father unless the Father calls them. Through regeneration, we are given the ability to have faith, to repent, to turn to Christ - all of this is a gift, it is not of ourselves.

The other part of the equation is also not of ourselves - grace, salvation and justification.

What we all know is that salvation is the beginning of God's work in our life. At salvation we are justified - declared right with God. Beyond that, God continues to work in our life, to "grow" us, make us mature - we are being sanctified. This is what the James (the New Testament writer) means when he says, "faith without works is dead".

Justified: dikaioo {dik-ah-yo'-o}

1) to render righteous or such he ought to be

2) to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered

3) to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous, or such as he ought to be

Romans 3:28
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Sanctified: hagiazo {hag-ee-ad'-zo}

1) to render or acknowledge, or to be venerable or hallow

2) to separate from profane things and dedicate to God

a) consecrate things to God

b) dedicate people to God

3) to purify

a) to cleanse externally

b) to purify by expiation: free from the guilt of sin

c) to purify internally by renewing of the soul

Hebrews 10:14
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

What are these things - what is the difference?

To be justified

(in secular terms) means to be declared free of blame, absolved, to be freed of the guilt and penalty attached to grievous sin. Used of God. (answers.com).It is if we are standing in a court room and Christ is our mediator. He stand before the judge and declares us freed of the guilt and penalty of our sin. We ARE justified - a proclamation!

There is another definition (and one that fits with Strong's as well) for "justified". " To assure the certainty or validity of" - Strong's says "to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered".

In some ways, the book of James appears to contradict salvation by faith - what happens if we use this definition written out (although a close paraphrase will need to be used, for grammar's sake)?

"Was not Abraham our father 'assured of the certainty' by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?"

I have to ask a couple of questions

- Who was assured? Not God - He knew what the outcome would be.
- Assured of what? Not only was Abraham assured that he (Abraham) would stand, he was also assured that God would provide.

HERE IS A VERY IMPORTANT POINT: When we think about which defintion to use ("freed of guilt" vs. "to assure the certainty of"), remember this:

  • This was not a salvation experience. God was not declaring Abraham righteous, He was announcing Abraham's obedience.
  • Abraham's "salvation experience" had happened more than a decade earlier, when the Abrahamic Covenant was sealed.

In a very real way, Abraham's faith was declared/vindicated/proven/assured on that day. We each go through these experiences, when our faith is proven - to ourselves and to others. They are most often not as dramatic as Abraham's experience on that mountain, but to us, they are just as real.

To be Sanctified

There is no secular definition that I could find - but from reading the definitions from Strong's - it is an ongoing process. Read the verse I gave - "Those who are being sanctified."

Let's go back to monergism. God will not regenerate, save, justify us and then just leave us to our own devices! No! Of course not.

He continues to work in our lives.

Benjamin Warfield says,

" Sanctification (from Lat. sanctificatio [deriv, of sanctificare, sanctify; sanctus, holy + facere, make], trans. of Gr. hagiazien, hallow, make holy, deny, of hagios, holy) is the work of God’s grace by which those who believe in Christ are freed from sin and built up in holiness. In Protestant theology it is distinguished from justification and regeneration, both of which lie at its root, and from neither of which is it separable in fact; inasmuch as the term justification is confined to the judicial act or sentence of God, by which the sinner is declared to be entitled, in consideration of what Christ has done in his behalf, to the favor of God, and of which sanctification is the efficient execution; and the term regeneration is confined to the initial efficient act by which the new life is imparted, of which sanctification is the progressive development. Both regeneration and justification are momentary acts, and acts of God in which the sinner is passive; sanctification, on the other hand, is a progressive work of God, in which the sinner co-operates.

Sanctification, therefore, is the process by which the Holy Spirit does His work in our hearts and lives to make us sanctified. I am a long, long way from "there" - but Jesus works in me daily.

This means that I AM SAVED. Period. And yet, that is not all there is. If my faith is real, if I am "regenerate", there will be more - God continues.

As James said, "Faith without works is dead" - I have a live faith and I am justified and I am being sanctified.

The same article by Warfield tells us that the Reformed and Lutheran views of sanctification include:

    (1) We are still dependent on God, yet we are able to co-operate with Him.

    (2) The means of sanctification are either internal, Through such as faith and the co-operation of the regenerated will with grace, or external, such as the word of God, sacraments, prayer, Christian fellowship, doing good works, and the providential discipline of our heavenly Father.

    (3) Through sanctification, the Spirit gradually completes the work of moral purification commenced in regeneration. The work has two sides: (a) the cleansing of the soul from sin and (b) the spiritual growth of the Christian.

    (4) The work proceeds with various degrees of thoroughness during life, but is never finished this side of the grave.

There are denominations/theories that do not agree with this view.

1. Pelagianism says that a man is perfect who obeys the laws of God to the measure of his present natural ability. This means that if you are doing your best, that is good enough. This leaves God out of the equation.

2. Mysticism tells us that perfection consists of "becoming one with God" - this may be attained by anyone through persistent detachment of self and meditation on God.

3. Roman Catholicism and similar denominations (it appears to me) seek to see justification and sanctification as parts of the whole. They teach an initial grace, after that salvation must be earned, with conformity to the law of God; attained by means of meritorious works and penances, prayers, fasts, acts of voluntary self-denial, and ecclesiastical obedience and we can merit this perfection for ourselves.

4. The Wesleyan/Arminian theory of sanctification - I am not sure that I agree with the article, primarily because within Arminianism/Wesleyanism there is a broad range of views on this. What I can tell you is that whenever sanctification is seen as a work of human hearts and not the work of the Holy Spirit, legalism abounds.


We cannot have sanctification unless we are first justified. If we go through life without growth (sanctification) our justification was not real.

Justification and sanctification are two very different things, and yet they go hand in hand in the lives of believers. You cannot have one without the other.

Another link to read: John Piper.

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