Shouldn’t justification lead to transformation?

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By BibleAsk Team


The concept of justification is central to Christian theology, representing a foundational aspect of salvation. It raises questions about the nature of salvation, the role of faith and works, and the relationship between divine grace and human responsibility. This essay will explore the nature of justification and Sanctification supported by references from the Bible.

Understanding Justification

  1. Definition of Justification: Justification, in theological terms, refers to the instant act of God declaring a sinner righteous in His sight. It involves the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers. This legal declaration is not based on human merit or performance but on the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
  2. Legal Aspect of Justification:
    • Romans 3:24:”being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”
    • Romans 5:1: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
    • Ephesians 2:8,9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” These verses emphasize the legal nature of justification, highlighting that it is a result of God’s grace and redemption accomplished through Christ. It is received by faith, apart from works of the law.

Sanctification and Transformation

God is not concerned merely with forgiving past sins through justification. He is chiefly concerned with man’s transformation. The work of restoration to God’s image is called “sanctification” which takes place when a person is -being saved- from the power of sin as he surrenders daily to God and walks in obedience to His word. Sanctification is a life long process of change.

Paul wrote, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

Sanctification takes place when a person holds on Christ daily (by study of the Word and prayer) and cooperates with God’s power (1 Timothy 4:5). The Christian allows the Lord to do His will in his life. The only way this process stops is when a believer cuts himself off deliberately from the Lord.

Justification initiates a process of renewal and growth that leads to conformity to the image of Christ. This character change is not the cause of justification but its consequence.

  1. Character Change by the Holy Spirit:
    • 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
    These verses highlight the changing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. Justification marks the beginning of this transformation, leading to a renewal of the mind and a new way of living.
  2. Fruit of Justification:
    • Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”Ephesians 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
    These verses illustrate that the transformed life, characterized by the fruit of the Spirit and good works, flows from the reality of justification. Sanctification is a divine work that produces observable changes in the believer’s life.

Theological Reflections

  1. Grace and Works:
    • Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”Titus 3:5: “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,”
    Justification is solely by grace through faith, apart from works. However, true faith inevitably produces good works as evidence of the transformed life.
  2. Holiness and Righteousness:
    • 1 Peter 1:15-16: “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.'”Matthew 5:48: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
    Justification leads to a life of sanctification, which is a pursuit of holiness and righteousness in the life of the believer. Believers are called to strive for perfection as they are being conformed to the image of Christ day by day. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Christ has made available to His children all the grace necessary to have full victory over every sin in this life (Philippians 4:13).

Practical Implications for Believers

  1. Gratitude and Humility:
    • Recognizing that justification is solely by grace cultivates gratitude and humility in the believer’s heart. There is no room for boasting or self-righteousness (1 Corinthians 15:57).
  2. Pursuit of Holiness:
    • Justification motivates believers to pursue sanctification or holiness and righteousness, not as a means of earning salvation but as a response to God’s grace and love (1 Peter 1:16).
  3. Faithfulness in Obedience:
    • Faith in Christ empowers believers to walk in obedience to God’s commands (Exodus 20:1-17; John 14:15), relying on the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance.

Conclusion

Justification is an instant legal declaration of righteousness to the believer who has faith in Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Justification is followed up by sanctification which is a life long transformative process of renewal and character transformation. While justification is received by faith alone, it inevitably leads to a transformed life characterized by holiness, good works, and conformity to the image of Christ as the fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, who abides daily in Christ.

Understanding the relationship between justification and sanctification is crucial for believers to grasp the fullness of God’s redemptive work in their lives and to walk in obedience and faithfulness. As believers continue to grow in their walk with God, may they change into the likeness to Christ, reflecting His love and grace to the world around them.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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