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Difference between Justification and Sanctification

Difference between Justification and Sanctification

To understand the concept of justification and sanctification, as well as the differences between the two terms, you must first know the Biblical background. According to the Bible, everyone has sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God, (1) and the consequence of sinning is death.(2) Comparable to the justice system in our present society where law breakers are brought before a court, tried, and judged, God judges each individual and finds each one guilty and, therefore, punishable by death.

Given that everyone has sinned and is destined for death, can you be saved? Or, can your salvation come from good works? The answers to these questions will help you make sense of justification and sanctification.


Simply put, justification is God’s act of pardoning the sinner and declares the sinner as righteous in His sight. This is possible through the sinner’s faith in Jesus Christ,(3)(4) who was punished for the sins of everyone so that anyone who believes in him will no longer suffer the consequences of sin.(5) In other words, Christ became the sinner in your place so that you will become righteous in the sight of God,(6) which makes you justified by God’s standards.

So to answer the question, “Can you be saved?” Yes, through faith in Jesus Christ and what He did.(7) Your justification or being made right with God is through the obedience of Christ(8), and not through your good works(9). Because of Christ’s obedience and death on the cross, your past, present, and future sins are forgiven, and you are no longer subject to the punishment that was once due.(10)


Sanctification means “to be set apart.” Morally, to be sanctified means to be pure or holy while spiritually, to be sanctified means to be set apart for God. God set you apart from wrongdoings to be more like Him and Jesus Christ. Although a sinner is forgiven and made righteous by justification through faith in Christ, sin continues to remain but it is one thing for sin to remain in you and quite another for you to remain in sin. This is where sanctification comes in.

Sanctification begins with justification. But, while justification is God’s act of forgiving your sins and counting you righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, sanctification is the continual work of the Holy Spirit in the believer in order for you to conform to the image of Christ, who is God’s son. And, while justification is a one-time act of God, sanctification is a continual process until you are taken to be with the Lord.

Once the sinner is justified through faith in Jesus Christ, the faith must produce outward results, which is good works.(11) Actions or good works that come from having faith in Christ is what sets real faith apart from a mere profession of faith.(12) While your good works will not justify or make you right with God, good works are the evidence of your faith in Christ as well as in God.

So, how can you produce good works? The Holy Spirit is the believer’s helper as He works within you to conquer sinful desires and inclinations as well as produce fruits of right actions or righteousness.(13) This is the process of sanctification.

Summary of differences:

  • Justification is a one-time act of God, which makes it complete and finished.(14) Sanctification is a continual process since a believer is not completely freed from sin until the day of resurrection.
  • Justification addresses the sinner’s guilt for committing sins. Sanctification addresses sin’s power and corruption over a believer’s life.
  • Justification is God’s declaration that a sinner is righteous through the work of Jesus Christ. Sanctification is God’s transformation of a believer’s whole being, that is the mind, will, behaviors, and affections through the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • To be justified, your good works are immaterial. To be sanctified, your good works are a necessary evidence of your faith in Christ, which the Holy Spirit enables you to do as you continually die everyday in your sin.
  • Justification gives you the privilege as well as the boldness to enter heaven. Sanctification gives you the meekness for heaven, and allows you to fully take joy in abiding there.

Understanding the differences between justification and sanctification may seem like an academic study of religion that could intimidate believers of the Christian faith, whether new or old. However, learning the distinction between the two terms could help you strengthen your faith and grow in your Christian walk.

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  1. This is a really good article explaining the difference. I was trying to explain this to my wife and, although I was close, close isn’t always good enough when wanting to speak the truth.

  2. This article has helped me put my fears to rest in Jesus in regards to my family’s walk with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.. I do see their love for our Lord but in areas I feel they may be spiritually dead and stagment in their walk any suggestions on what to do to spice up their following in our Lord. Please pray for a blast of excitement and renewal in their walk. And any other suggestions on what I should be praying for them would be greatful. Pray for my walk as well. Thank you and God Bless you all who read this as well as those who made this web page possible. Thanks. Joan.

    • Remember beloved that where you or your family’s walk in (Christ Jesus) is stagnant the Holy Spirit is performing the work of Justification, (forgiveness of sins) and bringing the belever to a place of freedom and strenthening from sin thst we cannot. see. During this challenging time in their sin & walk with the Lord God we need to pray for wisdom & understanding how we can respond as an instrument of LOVE, God’s love to them and not be critical to them bnb or their spiritua frowth as God through Jesus Christ renews their faith, obedience and moved you and them closer in himself in their freedom anbn d yours to walk closer with Jesus in victory! May God’s
      Light & truth abide in us all richly unto suffering, yeilding & obedience! From a woman who was given in adultry!

    • Consecration through Prayer and Fasting. Fasting is good for the spirit.

      Purifies and fine tune the believer. One can hear the Lord and know the voice of the Lord as well as being delivered from doing the desires of the flesh when given oneself into prayer and fasting.

      There are books on Amazon that can aide in understanding fasting.

      • Ms Juli,
        When God through Jesus made us His sons(daughters), shall we have to approach Him for any blessings by “fasting”?
        In the Old Testament times, they did not have the relationship(God as Father- humans as His children). Jesus expressed it by His lesson on prayer (Matt 6:9-13) and in His discourses as well.
        Now God never insists/ demands any “Fastings” and our fasting never influence Him for granting our requests!
        The prayers present in OT are not necessarily for the believers in Christ.

    • Hi Joan,

      It is one thing to recognise God’s existence and profess your belief in him and another thing to understand that he must be served. It is not a lack of excitement that holds people back, instead it is a lack of understanding that keeps people from pressing into God’s word and his presence. Once people understand what God requires and change their own focus accordingly the resultant spiritual shift leads to greater freedom, purity, joy, hope and love.

      Romans 8:14 says “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” To be led you must be able to discern Holy Spirits voice, to know His voice you need to spend time in His presence. Know Him, hear Him, honour Him as He uses you to glorify Jesus our wonderful King of Kings.

      I don’t intend to be presumptuous, however may I suggest a prayer petitioning Father God that the blinders fall from your families eyes so they may see His truth. And that knowledge, understanding and wisdom would increase in their lives.

      I hope that you find some of this information useful in your circumstances and that faith in Jesus Christ will cause your entire family to rise above all the hollow excitement that the world offers. Bless you!

    • There is nothing sweeter than making a soul relevant in God’s idea for living.I will like to say Thank you on Christ’s behalf.You are doing a great Job.

      These are my tips:

      Continue to Pray for them as the easiest way to bring God’s attention to a soul is when you place them on the alter for rememberance of daily offerings.

      Don’t Force them to do anything just show them by your own living.The Gospel is more effective when we are the examples ourselves

      Love and Light is the greatest weapon against emotional connection to sin and rebellion to God.If you love without holding back they will see your light who is Jesus.

      I hope and Pray these helps.


  3. This is great, but in your summary, I think you meant to say “Sanctification is a continual process since a believer is NOT completely freed from sin until the day of resurrection.”

  4. This was so helpful!!

  5. Hallelujah to know that my mom is justified before God……?. WHSY VOULD BE BETTER?!!!

  6. Justification always comes first in presenting the gospel, as in the book of Romans. But God gives his gifts with both hands. He justifies no one he does not sanctify. He sanctifies no one he hasn’t justified. We must keep them united but distinct. Why distinct? Because your justification is perfect and your sanctification never is.

    You are 100% in the sight of God. Justification is perfect – it is imputed, reckoned, put to your account. It is a gift and it is perfect.

    Our sanctification is never perfect in this life. Sanctification is the beginning of a life-long transformation. It’s like crawling backward over broken necked bottles a centimetre at a time. That is what the way of sanctification is like. It is crucifying the flesh. It is taking up the cross. When Christ calls a person he calls that person to come and die and to die daily to selfishness, to self-centeredness.

    These thoughts are borrowed from Desmond Ford, author of many articles and books on this subject.

    • Be aware that justification is for all and that sanctification / transformation is when God calls you as a Chosen child. Then real sanctification starts to work as you have been transformed by The Holy Spirit.
      When that happens you will know it has happened because everything will be absolutely 100% clear.
      You will feel the ‘new man’ taking over your life. They scales will fall completely from your eyes and you will abhore sin
      Joseph. Evangelical Christian

  7. This explanation and differentiation of Justification and Sanctification are very very clear and simple to understand. God bless the writer. You make Heaven in Jesus name.

  8. This so well explained and clarified. Thank you and bless you! It help a great lot to explain it this way to people who ask.

  9. Most of the reading I agree with but the part about being set apart and forgiven of our past present and future sins. No we are not forgiven of our future sins if we no repent from them. There would be no need for Heaven&Hell if we were already forgotten of our future Sins!!

    • Justifucation is forgiveness of all past, present and future sin…Hell is also for those who refuse the sufficiency of Christs completed work at The Cross…Christ didn’t do enough for you ? Christs work wasn’t good enough to forgive you ?….Only your work added to what Christ did will save you ?….Catholic, JW, Mormon or any other works based religion would then be better suited to you 🙁

    • You are forgiven of all sins the moment you believe the Gospel, dont fall for another Gospel that calls for works. Paul warns us.

    • @Teresa: I think both views are right, but need a little bit more elaboration. So, the provision for the forgiveness of any sin we could possibly ever commit has already been made (Christ has died once, and will not ever need to die for us again). However, that provision can only be drawn down through repentance (as you pointed out).

    • Hell is for those who reject God’s gift of redemption Jesus Christ. John 3:38. Sin is not the issue but what do you think of Christ? Is he the lamb that takes away the sins of the world? Acts 4:12.

    • That is 100% correct.
      You just cannot go on habitually sinning.
      We will remain sinners until the day we die. However Gods Chosen will have been transformed when he call them and only then will they be constantly be fill with the Holy Spirit and absolutely hate sinning.

  10. Thank u for this great explaination it give me a good undrestanding between the two

  11. This article was so helpful in explaining the difference of justification and sanctification.

  12. Well written and comments are great too. My problem is with picture and image. Can put Sanctification please include not having idols, images orange articles of worship. 10 Commandments.

  13. I got the response to my quest through this material.

  14. Jesus didn’t become a dinner on the cross, but rather a sin offering .

  15. Thank you for this beautiful article!!!

  16. So beautifully and clearly expressed

  17. I didn’t see any references for the superscripted numbers.

  18. “Justification” is not a declaration of something which isn’t actual. You are not declared righteous without being made righteous at the same time.
    It is finished.
    Sanctification does not mean “set apart from wrong doing”, or “living a clean life”, or “doing all the things.”
    It is finished.
    Justified (aka Made Righteous) and Sanctified (Cut Clean and Washed and Set Apart) are a package deal.
    It is finished.
    You are not just “Made right with God”, you have been Made Righteous in Christ.
    You are Righteous.
    You are Holy.
    You are purified.
    You are separated.
    You are sanctified.
    Walk in it.
    It is finished.
    You have been separated. Walk separate.

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References :

[0](1) ROMANS 3:23

[1](2) ROMANS 6:23 (a)

[2](3) ROMANS 3:21-22

[3](4) ROMANS 3:24

[4](5) ROMANS 5:18-19

[5](6) 2 CORINTHIANS 5:21

[6](7) ROMANS 5:9

[7](8) PHILIPPIANS 2:8

[8](9) EPHESIANS 2:8

[9](10) ROMANS 8:1-2

[10](11) JAMES 2:14-26

[11](12) GALATIANS 5:6

[12](13) GALATIANS 5:22

[13](14) COLOSSIANS 2:13b-14


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