Reflecting on Truth #32
New City Catechism Question 31
Q: What do justification and sanctification mean?
A: Justification means our declared righteousness before God, made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection for us. Sanctification means our gradual, growing righteousness, made possible by the Spirit’s work in us.
To those who are elect exiles . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:1-2)
Why does this matter?
Justification means our declared righteousness before God - made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection for us.
Sanctification means our gradual, growing righteousness - made possible by the Spirit’s work in us.
The above presentation of the catechism answer highlights 2 thoughts that struck me as I read this catechism.
The first was this - Both our justification and sanctification are only made possible by the gracious work of the Triune God. Our justification is made possible by Christ’s death, and our sanctification is made possible by the Spirit’s work in us - both according to the Father’s sovereign purposes.
The second was this - Both justification and sanctification have to do with our righteousness. But on first read, it sounds a bit paradoxical, doesn't it? We are both, at the same time, already fully justified (declared righteous before God) and still gradually being sanctified (growing in righteousness). How does that work?
What does this mean for us?
The knowledge that I will stand fully righteous before God shouldn’t lead me to spiritual apathy and a non-pursuit of sanctification. As Pastor John Piper says: “the evidence that we stand perfected in Christ is that we hate our sin, and we daily, by faith in his promises, strive to overcome the imperfections that exist”.
I also shouldn’t be thinking that God will only grant me full righteousness in Christ if I reach a certain standard of sanctification. I am already justified, declared fully righteous before God in Christ!
How a reconciliation of already being justified and still continually being sanctified looks like is…
A confident and assured pursuit of sanctification in this life, with the knowledge that
1) the Spirit is doing that work in me, and
2) in Christ, I will stand fully righteous before God.
“God reckons us as acceptable, makes us his children, counts us as righteous; and because of that righteousness we then spend a lifetime becoming what we already are.” - John Piper
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