What is the difference between sanctification and justification?
These two terms are critically important to rightly comprehend the Bible and our relationship with Yahweh. Justification derives from the Greek dikaiosis. Strong’s defines it as an acquittal, i.e., an exoneration or release from sin. Sanctification derives from the Greek hagiasmos and means, “…purification, i.e. (the state) purity; concretely (by Hebraism) a purifier.”
In essence, justification is when we are redeemed or cleansed of our sins and sanctification is a living a life set apart to our Heavenly Father according to His standards, which implies obedience to His commandments.
It’s important to understand that justification is not earned or received on one’s own merits. Paul explains that justification is not of deeds or works.
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” Romans 3:28.
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before Elohim. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed Elohim, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the wicked, his faith is counted for righteousness,” Romans 4:1-5.
In these examples, Paul confirms that a man is justified through faith apart from debt or good works. Therefore, Scripture is clear that justification or redemption is something we do not earn by obedience. It is an expression of Yahweh’s grace or unmerited favor. As Paul verifies in the fourth chapter of Romans, even Abraham was found righteous or justified, through his faith.
However, once a person is justified they have an obligation to live a sanctified life by obeying the commandments, which is the standard of Yahweh’s righteousness. Even though Abraham was justified or found righteous through faith, he later obeyed and followed the commandments: “And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws,” Genesis 26:4-5.
Even though Abraham was justified by faith, this passage confirms that he and his seed were blessed because he obeyed the commandments. As a side note, this also verifies that the law was known before Moses.
Also, as we see in the tenth chapter of Hebrews, once we come to the Truth we must not willfully transgress: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of Elohim, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” verses 26-29.
It’s important here to understand sin. According to 1John 3:4, sin is the transgression of the law or commandments. Therefore, once we are justified and come to the knowledge of Truth, we must live a sanctified life by obeying the commandments. Since Yahweh’s law reflects His own ethics and morals, it’s essential that we comply with the commandments after being justified and enlightened with His Word.
The New Testament provides many examples that the commandments are still obligatory for believers today. Consider the following:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:17-19.
“And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, Elohim: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments,” Matthew 19:17.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments,” John 14:15.
“Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not: yea, we establish the law,” Romans 3:31.
“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? …Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good,” Romans 7:1, 12.
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of Yahweh, and have the testimony of Yahshua Messiah,” Revelation 12:17.
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of Yahweh, and the faith of Yahshua,” Revelation 14:12.
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city,” Revelation 22:14.
Based on the above New Testament passages, there should be no debate whether obedience and the keeping of the commandments are required for believers today. Yahshua in the fifth chapter of Matthew confirmed that it was not His intent to destroy or abolish the commandments.
In summary, justification is the act of being washed or redeemed from one’s sins, while sanctification is living a set-apart or righteous life by obeying the commandments. While we do not earn salvation through good works, we can lose it by living a life of sin or transgressing Yahweh’s commandments