Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sanctification and Justification Part 1

In recent conversations with a Non-Catholic commenter, we started discussing Justification and Sanctification.  I think that he did a fair job in summarizing the Non-Catholic belief of how Sanctification and Justification are seperate - sanctification being a result of justification.

I told him that was going to start a new blog post where we can discuss this matter further.  In order to start this post, I am going to give a response to his last comment.  His responses will be in blue.  He says...

Justification is the work of God where the righteousness of Jesus is reckoned to the sinner so the sinner is declared by God as being righteous under the Law (Rom. 4:3; 5:1,9; Gal. 2:16; 3:11). 

My brother in Christ and I agree that Justification is the work of God.  God through grace is the cause of our justification.  It is a free gift that is available for us, if we choose to accept it.  Where we may disagree in this statement is the declaration of righteousness.

If by declaration, he means that we are only declared righteous, without an internal change through the Grace of God, then this is not what the Bible teaches us.  Instead of spending time in this post, sharing the Biblical evidence for infused righteousness as oppose to merely imputed / declared righteousness, I would suggest reading my last post (Infused vs. Imputed Righteousness) on this subject.

This righteousness is not earned or retained by any effort of the saved. Justification is an instantaneous occurrence with the result being eternal life.

This statement, I can completely understand the rationale behind.  You see, in history, there was a heresy called Pelagianism.  The Pelegians believed that you can earn your own salvation through your own efforts, completely without the grace of God.  This is the true works-based righteousness, that Catholics often get accused of.  I find it ironic that it was the Catholic Church that stamped out the Pelegian heresy, so why it is being accused of it now could only be due to confusion.  There was also another heresy that attempted to combine the teachings of Pelagianism and St. Augustine of Hippo that taught that man, of his own free will, can turn toward God, and the increase in faith is actually the work of God.  The Catholic Church stamped this heresy out as well, saying:

If anyone asserts that we can, by our natural powers, think as  we  ought,  or  choose  any  good  pertaining  to  the salvation of eternal  life  .  .  . without  the  illumination and inspiration  of  the  Holy  Spirit  .  .  .  he  is  misled  by  a heretical  spirit  .  .  .  [the  canon  later  cites  John  15:5,  2 Corinthians 3:5] Council of Orange

Note:  I am sharing this to show what Catholics really believe, as oppose to what we are accused of believing.

Falling into the trap of believing the Pelagian heresy, is cause for caution. At the same time, falling into the trap of believing that there is nothing required of you, as a servant of God is also a dangerous belief as well.  Many would make it appear as though if you do anything more than lay on the ground and accept Jesus Christ, then you are attempting to work your way to heaven.  This is a very extreme view, and not at all in agreement with Scripture.

I agree that righteousness is not earned, but I disagree that it is not retained by the effort of the saved.  If it is not retained by our actions, then the next conclusion must be that it cannot be lost by our actions.  Think about it.  If there is nothing that we can do to retain our salvation, then logically, there must not be anything that we can do to lose our salvation.  However, I believe that scripture is clear that our actions do affect our salvation:

You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. Romans 11:19-23

Here we see St. Paul telling the Gentile believers that they are the wild branches who were grafted into the faith, due to the unbelief of the natural branches - the Jewish people.  Because of the unbelief of the Jewish people in Jesus Christ, we Gentiles become heirs of the salvation that was meant for them.  St. Paul also tells us that this kindness that we are shown, by God, is not unconditional.  In order to continue in our present state of being grafted into the root of faith, we must continue in His kindness, Otherwise, we will also be cut off.  

What does it mean to be cutoff?  Remember the Jews were cutoff because of their unbelief.  If unbelief was the cause of them being cut off, and the result of us not reamining in His kindness will be to be cut off, can we say that there is absolutely nothing that we do, within the grace of God, to affect our salvation?

Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. 1 Timothy 1:18-19 

St. Paul is telling Timothy to hold on to the instructions that he has given him, so that by following them, he will hold on to the faith.  In other words, by being obedient, he will hold onto the faith.  We know that is what St. Paul means because in contradiction, he tells us the result of not holding on to the instructions.  Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.  How did they shipwreck their faith?  They shipwrecked it by not being obedient to the instructions that St. Paul had given.

Another example that is worth mentioning, where our actions do have impact on our justification is:

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 1 Cor 15:1-2

Here we see that St. Paul is telling his audience that by the message that he preached to them, they are saved, without any other condition placed on them whatsoever....right?  No.  In fact, it says that it is conditional.  We know that it is conditional because of the word if.  It is like someone took a paint brush that is dipped in the if paint, and took broad strokes in the Bible, spreading if all over the place.  When St. Paul says if here, he says that salvation is theirs if they hold firmly to the word that he preached to them.  What happens if they don't hold firmly?  Their belief would have been in vain.  This means that their hope and reason for believing would have counted for nothing.

What about the instantaneous occurrence of Justification?  I don't see any evidence of some one point in time of justification within scriptures.  Instead, I see that justification is a process.  It is a process that occurs over a lifetime.  Sure, there are examples of justification spoken of in the past tense.  There are also examples in scripture of Justification being talked in the present and future tense (1 Cor. 1:8, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12)

It is based completely and solely upon Jesus' sacrifice on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24) and is received by faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9)

I agree with every part of this - except of course, the alone part.  The only reason why we have hope in salvation is because of Christ and his eternal sacrifice.  It is received by faith, but never is it received by faith alone.  The scriptures do not show that, especially the ones that I have shown.

Now these things that we are doing, these works, are not ours either.  It is the work of God within us, through his grace.  I know that I have mentioned this before, but just in case, it is definitely worth mentioning again.  I think that St. Augustine said it best:

What merit of man  is  there before grace by which he can achieve grace, as only grace works every one of our good merits  in  us,  and  as  God,  when  He  crowns  our merits, crowns nothing  else but His own gifts? St. Augustine.

Note: Before someone gets caught up with the use of the word merit, understand that it is completely biblical (Matthew 5:12, 19:17,21,29, 25:21, 25:34  ff., Luke 6:38, Romans 2:6, 1 Corinthians 3:8, 9:17, Colossians  3:24, Hebrews 6:10, 10:35, 11:6, 2 Timothy 4:8, Ephesians 6:8)

I feel as though I have only scratched the surface of this discussion, but in the interest of keeping things digestible, I am going to set this up into separate blog posts.  However, I will leave with this statement:

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14

With this verse alone, it would seem as though justification and sanctification are complimentary linked and not as separate as many fellow Christians would have us believe.


Anonymous said...

I don't think I have anything to add to the discussion, but just wanted to say keep it up! I really enjoy reading and learning what you and the Catholic Church believe about our faith.

Anonymous said...

And your "Non-Catholic" friend was correct. Scripture speaks for itself. The only righteousness we have is the Righteousness of Christ imputed to us because we have trusted in what God has done to secure the salvation of those who believe.

Sanctification, pursuing holiness in our lives, will take place in the life of the one who has been truly saved.

Justification and sanctification are connected but are not Siamese twins as false Catholic doctrine would have you believe in order to make you a slave of the "Church".

Carlus Henry said...


Thanks for the motivation booster to keep this thing going.

I really enjoy reading and learning what you and the Catholic Church believe about our faith.

You couldn't have said it any better. This is not just my faith or the faith of the Catholic Church, it is our faith. It is the same faith that has been passed down through the years starting with Jesus Christ to the Apostles to the church today.

God bless...

Carlus Henry said...


And your "Non-Catholic" friend was correct.

Based on what do you believe that my "Non-Catholic" friend was correct? You showed no evidence from scripture in your comment.

Scripture speaks for itself.

Exactly. I have shown what scripture actually says as oppose to what people think that it says.

The only righteousness we have is the Righteousness of Christ imputed to us because we have trusted in what God has done to secure the salvation of those who believe.

We almost agree. The only righteousness we have is the work of Christ on the Cross. On that part we agree. The idea of this imputed righteousness, is where we fall apart.

Imputed righteousness is an exterior declaration, outside only. Clearly, this is not all that is done. Christ causes a true interior sanctification through His Grace. Or do you really believe that our God who died for our sins on the Cross is only capable of an outward imputation of righteousness? I believe that He is the cause of our sanctification inwardly, without which no one will see the Kingdom of God (Hebrews 12:14)

Sanctification, pursuing holiness in our lives, will take place in the life of the one who has been truly saved.

I completely agree 100%. Now I am confused. This statement is saying that if you are truly saved, as oppose to not really saved, you will be sanctified. If that is the case, how can righteousness (someone who is truly saved) and sanctification (pursuit and attainment of holiness through the Grace of God) be separate as you are proposing? My answer of course is that they are not.

Justification and sanctification are connected but are not Siamese twins as false Catholic doctrine would have you believe in order to make you a slave of the "Church".

I agree, Justification and Sanctification are connected. They are two sides of the same coin. Justification means what makes us in right standing with God which will eventually lead to eternal life with Him. Sanctification seems to imply that without it, no one will see God (Heb 12:14). So, can you be justified (join God in heaven), without really being sanctified? It is not I that disagrees with you, it is Scripture and the faith.

Is the Catholic doctrine false? No. It is widely misunderstood (even by me at times), but it is always true.

I am not a slave of the Church. I am a slave of Christ. If Christ has lead me to the Catholic Church, I would be a fool to disobey. Christ revealed to me, trust me, I did not have any plans on becoming Catholic, that He did not create a Book. He established a Church. Through the Church, the Book (Holy Bible) was created. Christ has been at work in the faith for almost 2000 years. He said that he would lead the Apostles into all areas of truth. He said that He would never leave us. I believe firmly in what Christ has promised.

My post included many scripture references, none of which you have commented on. I would be interested in hearing more about how the theological stance that I shared falls short of truth.

Also, if you are able, show me scripture and verse where holiness / sanctification has nothing to do with making it to heaven and seeing our Lord (justification). Show me the scripture evidence that supports your position.

God bless...

Anonymous said...

It looks to me like you have been provided a lot of scripture refuting your Catholic "doctrine", on several levels and concerning several topics, but you choose to ignore it or twist it around to make it fit with Catholic theology. You also have an uncanny ability to twist the words of those who would make a point directly from scripture, redefine it, and then refute the erroneous redefinition.

Further discussion would probably be a waste of God's time.

Carlus Henry said...


Suit yourself.

God bless you on your journey of faith.