This is the final installment on Ryle’s chapter on Sanctification where he compares and contrasts justification and sanctification. The inability to distinguish them has led to many a departure from biblical Christianity. This is a very important topic.
So… how are they alike?
- “Both proceed originally from the free grace of God.” It all comes back to grace, sovereignly administered by God. He owes no one, and is free to give grace to whomsoever He will.
- “Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people.” Often problems arise from equating justification with salvation. Salvation encompasses justification, but is more than justification. It includes the graces of regeneration, adoption, sanctification and glorification. Therefore, the Scriptures talk about us having been saved (justification), being saved (sanctification) and will be saved (glorification). All are rooted in grace purchased by Christ’s work on our behalf.
- ”Both are to be found in the same person.” At the risk of being crass, but it is like one of those special buys on TV… “wait, there’s more.” If you buy the bamboo steamer you also get everything else. Those who are justified are also being sanctified. No truly justified person will not be sanctified. No one can be sanctified unless they are first justified. We can distinguish these graces, but cannot separate them. Just as we can distinguish between the two natures of Christ, but cannot separate them since the Incarnation.
- “Both begin at the same time.” The act of justification marks the beginning of sanctification. You may not feel very sanctified, or at all, but you are.
- “Both are alike necessary to salvation.” They are a package deal, by grace. All inclusive! All purchased by Jesus’ obedience and sacrifice.
How are they different?
- “Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.” One is instantaneous and declarative. The other is progressive and actual.
- “The righteousness we have by justification is not our own, but the everlasting righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.”
- “In justification our own works have no place at all … . In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us to fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labor.” Justification is monergisitic (God does it all) but sanctification is synergistic (God works in us so that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling).
- “Justification is a finished, complete work … . Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.”
- “Justification admits of no growth or increase. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man live.”
- “Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.” In other words, justification is positional, and sanctification is experiential.
- “Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.” Justification is like a green card, allowing you to legally enter the country. Sanctification is preparing you to live there- language skills, clothing, manners etc.
- “Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.” You can’t look at someone and know they are justified. But whether or not you are sanctified should become apparent as someone watches your actions.
Many of the reasons that Ryle went to such pains to lay this out hold true today. We have many of the same problems. There were many false professors of Christ in his day. They claimed to be Christians, but there was no manifestation of regeneration in godly living. Such false professors needed to awaken to their true condition that they might repent and believe, and receive the all-encompassing salvation that God offers in Christ Jesus.
As Peter writes we are to “make our calling and election sure.” First, do we believe? The first question is do we trust in Christ Jesus as he is presented to us in the gospel. Then we ask if it is reasonable to believe that. Do we show signs in how we live that confirm that we do trust Christ (do we repent when we sin, do we long to obey, are we growing in the fruit of the Spirit, etc.) We start with faith because we begin with Christ. Justification precedes sanctification, and we are justified by faith. “The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ. We must first live and then work.”
Sanctification is a continuation of how we began (Galatians 3). It is the further application of Christ’s work received by faith. Knowing what we have looked into should drive us to see our continual need of sanctifying grace.
We also see that we should not expect too much in terms of sanctification. It will be imperfect, at times barely noticable. We experience great struggle, and false understandings of santification are often “over-realized”- or perfectionistic.
D.A. Carson tells of a story reputed to be authentic. Spurgeon was at a conference and heard a perfectionistic speaker instruct the attendees. His students expected the great Spurgeon to rise of up and defend the truth. He didn’t. The next morning, while the man sat eating, Spurgeon approached him from behind an poured a pitcher of milk on his head. The man sputtered and cursed, filled with rage. Spurgeon instantly exposed the falsehood of this man’s theology.
As we come to know more about sanctification we will be humbled. We will expect it, but not perfection. We will learn more about how we are progressively transformed, and pursue it. We will be realistic in our approach to others who also struggle to live godly lives. We’ll call sin, sin- and offer mercy as we have received mercy.