Sanctification vs. Justification

At salvation, several different things occur. We are born again in the image of God, adopted into the family of God, seated in the Heavenly places in Christ, predestined to be conformed to the image of His dear Son, and we are Sanctified and Justified.

Many religious groups misunderstand the difference between these two occurrences, leading to problems with the doctrine of Eternal Security or the Two Natures of the believer. For instance:

•Some Pentecostals believe that a believer doesn’t sin
•Many denominations believe that one can lose their Salvation
•Many groups believe that one has to work for their Salvation
•The Church of Christ believes that one has to be Baptized

These issues arise when people confuse the difference between these two operations that occur at Salvation.


sanctify |ˈsa ng (k)təˌfī|
verb ( -fies, -fied) [ trans. ]
set apart as or declare holy; consecrate : a small Christian shrine was built to sanctify the site.
• (often be sanctified) make legitimate or binding by religious sanction : they see their love sanctified by the sacrament of marriage.

  • free from sin; purify.

Sanctification is a setting apart of something for a holy purpose.

I Corinthians 1:2: Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that aresanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

Those of us that are Saved have been called to be holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16), and have been set apart for God’s use.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

When we are Sanctified, we get God’s righteousness imputed unto us.

Romans 4:1-25

Abraham’s Sanctification occurred at the time when he believed God (Gen. 15:4-6). God imputed His righteousness to Abraham because of Abraham’s faith.


Justification is a separate operation that occurs, for us today, at the same time as our Sanctification, at the moment of Salvation.

However, Justification is a very different occurrence, as we will see.

justify |ˈjəstəˌfī|
verb ( -fies, -fied) [ trans. ]
1 show or prove to be right or reasonable : the person appointed has fully justified our confidence.
• be a good reason for : the situation was grave enough to justify further investigation.
2 Theology declare or make righteous in the sight of God.

Whereas Sanctification is to make holy or set apart, Justification is the action whereby a person is declared righteous. This is where God declares our works righteous, and this is based at different times on different requirements.

Justification is always God’s operation: it is based on our actions, but the decision is always up to God.

Let’s look at some examples of Justification in the Bible.

James 2:21-25

Both Abraham and Rahab were justified by God because of their works. As we saw in Romans 4, Abraham was Sanctified by faith, but he was clearly Justified by his works.

God’s requirements are always plain, as we will see later as we get into Dispensational Doctrine, but they differ from time period to time period.

Today, we are Sanctified at the same time that we are Justified, for the same reason. At other times, God had different requirements for these different operations, as in Abraham’s case.

I Corinthians 6:11: And such were some of you: 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.

Galatians 2:16: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. [note verb tense]

Galatians 3:24: Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Titus 3:7: That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.