The Difference Between Sanctification And Justification



I didn’t really understand the meaning of these two words until after I had been a Christian for several years. I heard the words “justification” and “sanctification” spoken about often by preachers, but their explanations always made me feel that neither word was something that I (being only a normal person) would ever be able to attain.


I thought that the only people who could ever be justified or sanctified were great preachers or missionaries who had given their all on the mission field, etc.

When I think back, I wonder now if my pastors really understood the meaning. Maybe that is why they didn’t make it very clear – they didn’t know themselves.

Hopefully the next two sentences will clear things up for you if you happen to be having the same kind of trouble I did in understanding what these words mean:


Justification is all about our right standing with God.


Sanctification refers to our ongoing relationship with Him.


Jesus died on the cross so that we could have that right standing with God and be able to go to Him directly to get forgiveness of our sins. If you have asked Jesus to be your Savior and recognize Him as the only way to Heaven, then you are justified before God and can have a deep and personal relationship with Him. You are fully justified to bring your every need to Him with Jesus now in the role as Intercessor on your behalf.

Sanctification does not mean that you are forced to totally withdraw from the world so that you can live without sin by trying to be perfect all the time. God never meant for you to have that mission in life. He wants to give you HIS ability and supernatural power to engage with the world but not become a part of the world by letting them drag you down. God wants you to be the one that lives in such a way that they will want what you have.

True righteousness can only be found in Christ and His work alone. Nothing can be added to or taken away from what Jesus accomplished on the cross when He died for our salvation. Our faith must be only in Him and not in anything of ourselves.

You can have a passionate zeal to live a clean and holy life, but you will never be able to accomplish it in your own power.

True sanctification can never be accomplished through daily performance of a certain ritual. It is accomplished only by being continually cleansed and made into God’s image through Christ.

For many years after the Temple was built, the Israelites were very accomplished at keeping all the laws, even though there were a great many of them. This was their everyday life, and any devout Israelite would have done everything possible not to purposely break even the tiniest of laws.

The Israelites had a zeal for holiness that few of us have today, but they missed the mark because they had turned their religion into a huge weight that hung around their necks in everything they did. They lived in bitter bondage to it, and by the time Jesus started his ministry their religious bondage was so heavy that this new life He was teaching them about must have seemed extremely refreshing and liberating. Maybe that is why the common people so readily accepted what He had to say. His words meant TRUE LIFE AND LIBERATION to them.

Just having a zeal for following God, though, is not enough or the Israelites would have succeeded wildly in their mission.

We tend to think badly of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, but how would we treat them in our churches today if they could transcend time and join us?


Would we think of them as some of the holiest people we know?


Would we immediately ask them to be a leader in the church?


Would we ask them to teach our children or young adults because of their perceived holiness, and consider ourselves lucky if they would agree to teach?


In Romans 10: 2 Paul said, “They have a zeal for God” and we think that someone who is excited and zealous to serve God is one who has totally surrendered their life to Him.

It is not enough to have a zeal for God and a zeal to do the right thing. You absolutely must find out the truth and follow it, no matter what your feelings tell you.

When you find the truth and walk in obedience to it, only then can God use you to accomplish great things for His Kingdom. It won’t be about your own desires or dreams, but only about God’s.

I know this is a radical way to live, but it is the only way that you can truly be set free from the bondage that enslaves. Put away your own dreams and desires, and let your life be an open book for God to use to write upon however He chooses.

This is what true freedom in Christ is all about!

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God has radically changed my life, and I want to share the awesome things I am learning with you. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life.


This post written by Cathy Deaton.

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About Cathy Deaton


My name is Cathy Deaton, Owner of Fan the Flame Ministries. God has radically changed my life, and He has shown me that I am to share the awesome things I am learning with the Millennial Generation (1981 – 1996), but I love connecting with Christians of all ages.  I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life. You truly can make a difference for God in an uncertain world.