A very helpful book I’ve gone through recently is one by J.C. Ryle, titled, Holiness. It has opened my eyes to better understand what true, practical, biblical holiness means. It’s not a fluff book like many authors today. You can find dudes like Ryle preaching more objective, concrete truths without making you read a long story about an event in someone’s life. I usually skip the stories. This particular book, on the other hand, is the stuff I’m hungry for. Throughout it, Ryle hits on something I think people today get confused on. It’s the difference between justification and sanctification.
I’m unable to expound on the lowest depths of these two doctrines here; however, I can give you enough to make a clear point. My goal is to give you some rest. Reading Holiness has given me enough inspiration to write a blog about it. You need to know that these two doctrines are vital to understand. If you don’t know what these these big words mean, then welcome! After this, it’s going to put you at ease big time because you may be one of many that mix these two up. Lacking clear understanding of the distinctions between sanctification and justification can result in uncertainty of salvation and other insecurities.
In summary, to be “justified” is to be made right with God. It is ultimately a big word for being saved. We know that we are saved by grace, through faith, in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-10). Another gospel than this is a false gospel (Gal. 1:7). We step into eternal security once we place our faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:13). So it is a one-and-done thing. It happens and cannot unhappen. Salvation is not something you lose (Heb. 6:4-6). You cannot go deeper and deeper into being justified. It’s not really a process, but an event.
Sanctification, on the other hand, is something you progress at. You can go deeper and deeper in practical holiness. We never reach a perfect, complete sanctification in this life. No one is perfectly sanctified in daily living. We all stumble and sin until we reach heaven. Anyone who says he has no sin anymore is a liar (1 John 1:8). We make choices in our day to be holy or not holy in a situation. We grow and grow in our Christ-likeness. It is something we work at because we have been justified by God’s grace.
Do you see the difference?
My featured image for this blog post is some random dude’s truck and camper. I snapped it at the lake last weekend in order to give a quick, shallow picture to help illustrate the difference between justification and sanctification. I have no idea whose truck this is but it works for me. The truck would be like justification and the camper being pulled is like sanctification. Hang with me. I know it is imperfect, but it may help a tad.
It is possible in a time to be in the truck (justified) without pulling the camper trailer (being sanctified), but you cannot pull this camper trailer unless you’re justified first. Also, Ryle would tell you that if you are really justified, you will grow in sanctification because true justification leads to that and that’s what God does. I agree. Eventually you will be sanctified but it may take a second. Eventually you will hook up that camper. But it will be after Jesus throws you in the truck first and drives you to the Father.
Look, my hope is that you can discern the difference between justification and sanctification just like you can tell the difference between this truck and camper trailer. They are two separate doctrines that work together and are meant to work together but they are not the same thing.
When you hear a preacher’s statement, or have an experience, you need to ask yourself, “Is this on the topic of obtaining right standing with God (justification), or to grow in practical holiness out of obedience because I’ve been made right through Christ (sanctification)?.” Is it this or that? Getting these two doctrines in the right place can spare needless heartache. You won’t have to question your salvation anymore once you understand that justification is once and for all, and sanctification is endless and imperfect until we reach glory.
Ryle puts it like this.
”Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach Heaven… Justification gives us our title to heaven and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our fitness for Heaven and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.”
This is huge for the young pups. Know that it is by grace, through faith, in Christ alone that we are saved. Nothing can change that! Hallelujah. But then, after we are born again, we are to grow and progress in holiness. This is not to keep saved, but is evidence of the salvation that has already happened, and to produce fruit. We are striving to be like Christ because of what he did for us. We are to be sanctified out of love for God. We are not to be confused with whether or not we are talking about the truck or the camper trailer. Otherwise, you’ll be confused when you read Scripture or listen to your pastor preach.
Hopefully this has helped you. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me. I want to keep growing in understanding. There’s more for me to learn. Let me know what you think. Maybe you have a much better way of explaining the two. Share these thoughts you have below! Let’s connect.
 J.C. Ryle. Holiness. First Rate Publishers, pg 35.