Salvation: Our Sanctification

Tuesday I posted about the aspect of our salvation that we call our justification. Justification is the act of God whereby He pardons our sins and declares us righteous in His sight with the righteousness of our federal head, Jesus Christ, through faith in Him alone. The second aspect of our salvation which has to do with our being “saved” from the power of sin in our daily life is called our sanctification. It is defined by the Shorter Catechism as “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” (WSC Q. 35)

That definition reminds us of several important facts. First of all, the catechism calls sanctification a “work” of God’s grace, rather than an “act” of God’s grace. In other words, this event does not take place at a point in time such as our justification, but it is a work of progression throughout our life here on earth. Granted, it sometimes seems to us to be three steps forward and two steps back, but through the work of the Holy Spirit the general trend will be in the direction of the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:14)

It is also a work of “grace” which connotes that its foundation is the finished work of Christ, and that it is “God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) Furthermore, God has “predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29) and by the ordinary means of grace (the Word, Sacrament, and Prayer), He continually is enabling us to a greater and greater degree to “die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”

Sanctification is not justification and the two should never be conflated into one, but all those who have been justified, will be sanctified. So, saint of God, take comfort in the fact that God is working in you and that He will finish the work that He has started: 

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

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