Justification and Beyond!

As a second grader walking home from school with a couple of other boys, for some reason I cannot explain, I thought it would be a good idea to throw some rocks at a car parked near a house. The lady in the house ran outside and demanded that I go get my mother and tell her what I did and come back there. I was surprised this lady “knew” my mother, but since she did I had no choice but to get her. It took several decades for me to finally realize I fell for this lady’s bluff, as my mother had never seen her before. That night I felt terrible for what I had done, and asked my dad to pray with me. He prayed a simple prayer,


Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

“If we confess our sins, you are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Wow was it that easy? By claiming that Bible promise I experienced both forgiveness and a cleansing from my foolishness earlier that afternoon. The promise of 1 John 1:9 cleared and cleansed me of all guilt, and I have never since thrown a rock at a car.

So what happened that moment I claimed 1 John 1:9? Justification? Sanctification? Both? Before we get all hung up on labels and jargon, let’s consider,

Many commit the error of trying to define minutely the fine points of distinction between justification and sanctification. Into the definitions of these two terms they often bring their own ideas and speculations. Why try to be more minute than is Inspiration on the vital question of righteousness by faith? (Ellen White, Christ Triumphant, p. 150)

I was only a second grader, and while I had not studied words like “justification” and “sanctification,” I did know that I was forgiven, and that as far as God was concerned it had never happened. I remember getting up off my knees and watching my father go back to his regular routine as if it had never happened. He never spoke of it again. The lady never did either. If it existed at all, it only existed in my mind.

This forgiveness was amazing, but I also knew Jesus died on the cross to forgive me, and that I did not want to break His heart again by doing something so foolish! Since then I have read and studied more about forgiveness and justification and sanctification. While I have a better understanding then when I was in the second grade, and have never thrown a rock at another car, I have also experienced all too often what Ellen White described in Steps to Christ, p. 64.

We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes, but we are not to be discouraged. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God. No; Christ is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Said the beloved John, “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1.

Justification is “me in Jesus.” While I do not have a perfect life to offer because I have sinned, I have lived a perfect life in Jesus.

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:10 NLT)

I am not only justified by Christ’s death but also by His life. His life stands in the place of my life. Again justification is “me in Jesus.” This is my title to heaven and my deliverance from the penalty of sin. I may not be perfect, but the moment I sense my heart need of Jesus to forgive my guilt, mine is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

So to recap, justification is “me in Jesus.” It is my title to heaven and the deliverance from the penalty of sin. But it is not God’s will that I enter heaven as a barely pardoned criminal.

The plan of redemption is not merely a way of escape from the penalty of transgression, but through it the sinner is forgiven his sins, and will be finally received into heaven − not as a forgiven culprit pardoned and released from captivity … but welcomed as a child, and taken back into fullest confidence. (Ellen White, S.D.A. Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 950)

In the prayer I prayed with my dad that afternoon, I asked Jesus to come into my heart. This process leads us to sanctification which is “Jesus in me.” The book of Ephesians is an excellent book to help us understand the gospel. The first half is about justification, “me in Jesus.” Ephesians 1:6 tells me I am accepted “in the beloved,” and Ephesians 2:6 tells me I am sitting in heavenly places “in Christ Jesus.”

Midway through the book Paul explains sanctification, which is “Jesus in me.” Ephesians 3:17 tells me that Jesus dwells in my heart by faith, and Ephesians 3:19 tells that me I am filled with all the fullness of God! Paul then goes on and tells us Christians how to walk “worthy of the vocation in which we have been called.” So in the first half part of  Ephesians I have justification.

In the second part of Ephesians Paul explains sanctification. Sanctification is “Jesus in me.” Ephesians 3:16-20 Sanctification is my deliverance from the power of sin, and fitness for heaven. Ephesians 4:17-24

“Sanctification is the progressive work of a lifetime.” (Ellen White, Manuscript Release, Vol.4, p. 351)

That does not mean that it takes a lifetime to become “sanctified.” Sanctification is a process, rather than a goal. It is progressive throughout my lifetime. I may have done perfect math when I was in the 2nd grade, but when I got to the sixth grade more was expected and I had to keep growing. What was considered perfection in the second grade was nowhere close to perfection in the sixth.

 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. (1 John 4:17 NLT)

What needs perfecting is my love. A legalistic record of every deed of my life will not help me perfect my love.

The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts. (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 57)

True sanctification comes through the working out of the principle of love. “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” 1 John 4:16 (Ellen White, Reflecting Christ, p. 81)

Love, not keeping score of my good and bad deeds, is the principle of sanctification. God is love, and as “I dwell in God” I am justified, and as “God dwells in me” I am sanctified. Both my justification and sanctification are real. They are also both gifts. The reality of my power over sin is just as much a gift of God as the reality of my deliverance from the penalty of sin. Thanks to both justification and sanctification we can enter heaven not as barely pardoned criminals but as children of God who have overcome.

David did not throw a rock at a car. He slept with someone else’s wife and killed her husband! in Psalms 51:1-19 David experiences true repentance, justification, and sanctification. We don’t see David going back making the same mistakes over and over, thank God! As I read Psalms 51, I believe David’s heart was truly broken, and he was motivated by the principle of love instead of selfish pride. Still, I want to leave with a thought from Psalms 51:17 NLT

 You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Friend, if you have found yourself failing again and again, let me share something with you. While I totally believe God can and will free you from any sin and also believe there is no excuse for sin, I also believe Psalms 51:17 does not describe a one-time offer. God will not reject a broken heart, no matter how many times sin has already broken that heart.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. Psalms 130:3-4 NLT

God is not watching your mistakes, so He can destroy you. He is watching your tears, longing to save you.


12 comment(s) for this post:

  1. Chris Moore:

    17 May 2014
    It bothers me when people say that justification is our ticket to heaven and sanctification is our fitness for heaven as I most often hear. I am grateful that this author has not done so. He seems to understand it is a journey and not a destination. That sanctification is a work of a lifetime demonstrates that we never arrive or it could be described as the work of six hours or sixty years. The evidence of sanctification is how bad we feel about our success as believers. The more clearly we see the Ideal, the farther we will see ourselves from it. Both Paul and the thief on the cross died on the path.
  2. Emil pustea:

    18 May 2014
    My worry is about the end time when we will have to live without sin because we won’t have Jesus anymore as mediator. Can you expand about that time?
  3. Inge Anderson:

    18 May 2014
    Hi Emil,

    If we now focus on developing our relationship with Jesus, we will never have to live without Him or His Holy Spirit. Jesus will no longer work as Mediator, because all decisions for or against Him have been made. He is quite able to keep us from falling. (Jude 1:24) If we make a habit of following Him, we are His sheep, and He said quite clearly that no one is able to snatch His sheep out of His Father’s hand.

    So rather than worrying about the end of time, spend time now with Jesus. Then you will always be close to Him.

  4. Tyler Cluthe:

    18 May 2014
    Emil, I think the advice Inge gives is excellent. Just in case I would like to add that just because we are righteous by faith doesn’t mean that we won’t have trouble. All we have to do is to look at Jesus in Gethsemane and the problems he had on the cross to realize that and He was as perfect as perfect gets.
  5. Thomas Gigliotti:

    19 May 2014
    Emil, when close of probation takes place it is impossible for anyone to change their stance. When Jesus declares ” let him who is righteous be righteous still and him who is filthy be filthy still and so On” If we say that we can fall after that it means Jesus made a mistake in His Judgement. After the close of probation we can no more fall than a wicked man can be saved.
    We want to be amongst the ones that He declares Righteous at the close of probation, to be there we need to be on His side now, and as He said” no one will be able to snatch us out of HIs Hand!!!”
  6. Tyler Cluthe:

    19 May 2014
    Thomas, when we say that when probation closes then we cannot change it is the same as saying that after all the decisions are made in Heaven there will be no more freedom. As far as I am concerned that is advocating pure dictatorship and to me there are few ideas that are so at odds with the reveled will of God in scripture. The whole great controversy happened because God wanted free moral agents to choose to love Him, not because of fear or political pressure but because they would see that God is love and that His government was all for us and not against us (Rom 8:31-39).

    “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor 3:17 NKJV).

    I think that verse above is one of the reasons why the majority of translations render Rev 22:11 as “let him be” rather than “must continue” like the NET Bible does. (But that is only one of the theological mistakes the NET Bible makes in their translation because of their philosophical bias.)

    The point of Rev 22:11 is that when probation closes everyone will have made up their minds and that nothing that can be presented to them will ever convince them enough to cause them to change the direction they have chosen. That is what the unpardonable sin is all about.

  7. Emil Pustea:

    19 May 2014
    Thanks sister, I tend to worry about myself but mostly about my children. They are young adults and their walk with Jesus is not as it should be. I will try to live by example and as you said I will concentrate on my daily walk with Jesus rather then trying to figure out the future.
  8. Emil Pustea:

    19 May 2014
    Thanks brother Tyler, when I look at Jesus I tend to be discouraged by the fact that I’m not what I should be. He promised the power for living the life He wants me to live but I’m not at that point of total surrender and total dependency on He’s leading. I’m joining Paul on his lamentation “O wretched man that I am!” and pray that by the grace of God I will be able to stand in the night of trouble together with my family.
  9. Thomas Gigliotti:

    20 May 2014
    Tyler, what you are saying is that sin can rise again the second time in heaven? because we do have the spirit of liberty, and we know that that will not happen. Simply, when Jesus pronounces that the Judgement is finished the verdicts cannot be changed.

    WE still have freedom of choice in heaven but because we know what Jesus did for us, our relationship with Him and with every other Being in Heaven will be one of love, same as every relationship in heaven is based on now. Jesus knows the heart of every man and when He decides that probation is closed there is no more changing, He will not make any mistakes in His Judgement.
    We Must trust HIM as we are told that His Judgments are righteous.

    Now is the time when we should be seeking HIM while He is mediating for us, so that our names will be found written in the Lamb’s book of life. Our freewill is used to make decisions to accept Jesus and His salvation now, as it’s going to be difficult to access the throne of grace without a mediator. It is our freewill now and It will be our freewill after the close of probation and throughout eternity to worship our Saviour and live in harmony with the principles of His Kingdom.

    When the door of the ark was closed no one could go in and no one could go out, however they had all exercised freewill to be in that position, when the flood started many would have been at the door willing to hitch a ride, But it was too late. Lets get in the ark while the door is still open because when it closes is too late to Jump ship.

  10. William Earnhardt:

    21 May 2014
    Hurford, not sure why you say Unbiblical?
  11. Tyler Cluthe:

    21 May 2014
    So you say, Thomas, that we will have freedom in everything else except to rebel against God’s government. There was a statement by one well known Chinese scientist some time ago that those in the US can criticize our government but not Darwin while in China they can criticize Darwin but not their government. In communist countries they have quite a bit of freedom but when it comes to the authority over them they are not allowed to say anything. Do we really want to equate God’s government to that kind of thing?

    This business of free choice goes well beyond the topic of perfectionism. It hits at the very roots of God’s character. In my opinion the thinking that God will not allow is very much the same as I have observed in other religious groups. For instance, Jehovah’s Witnesses for one use texts such as, “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev 19:15 NKJV) in their understanding of God as one who rules with strictness. To them God is a stern and judgmental dictator and other Christian groups also follow suit and use the cleansing of the temple along with what happened to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1-2), and Uzzah (2 Sam 6:6-7) to demonstrate their concept of God. I have even heard a few hymns in our own churches that essentially say the same thing and we think they are great.

    Freedom to choose to disobey is the cornerstone of God’s government. It is vastly different than Satan’s government that rules by intimidation, threat, and all the other brutal tactics used to control the conscious.

    To be specific, my thoughts on the subject are that freedom to choose against God will always exist but after 7000 painfully long years no one in his right mind will for one second entertain the idea of rebellion. Perhaps there is a very fine line exists between “will not” and “cannot” but to me there is a definite difference between the two. One says that God will not allow the other says that we will not allow. If it were a matter of God not allowing then there was no reason in allowing sin to happen in the first place and we would have been made to be merely automatons, nothing more than glorified robots.

    So, no, I don’t think God will take away the possibility to sin. We will simply choose not to because we have seen what sin does.

  12. Tyler Cluthe:

    21 May 2014
    Hurford, personally I think it is unfortunate that the quote from Ellen White has been used in the article without consideration of the context that it was originally given in. You even use it to criticize William’s use of certain words.

    The referenced source of the quote in the article, “Christ Triumphant” is one of several compilations that have that quote. While compilations have their place, they very rarely involve context and sometimes don’t even reference the original source. Therefore they suffer from the same problems that proof texting suffers from.

    The original was from a diary entry Ellen White made in 1891, just three years after the 1888 Minneapolis Convention that stirred up more division than anything else and concerned a talk she gave during the last meeting of the Ministerial Bible School that was attended by conference officials in the year of the diary entry. In that entry she said:

    I spoke in regard to matters that were deeply impressing my mind. I referred to the fear that had been expressed by some who were not members of the ministerial institute, and who had not been present at all the Bible classes of the school—a fear that there was danger of carrying the subject of justification by faith altogether too far, and of not dwelling enough on the law.
    Judging from the meetings that I had been privileged to attend, I could see no cause for alarm; and so I felt called upon to say that this fear was cherished by those who had not heard all the precious lessons given, and that therefore they were not warranted in coming to such a conclusion. (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p 890.2)

    Her concern that she voiced mostly centered around the problem that she felt that Christ was not given center stage in sermons (ref. paragraph 4 on the same page). That was the same issue that came up at the 1888 convention in which Waggoner and Jones presented Jesus as the center in everything but particularly in our salvation commonly referred to as righteousness by faith. She said, “Of all professed Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world. Our ministers should ever be able to direct men and women to Christ, to the One who Himself declared, “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35)” (ibid. p 891.2).

    “I have felt very sad as I have seen ministers walking and working in the light of the sparks of their own kindling; ministers who were not obtaining spiritual nourishment from Christ, the Bread of Life. Their own souls were as destitute of the heavenly manna as the hills of Gilboa were destitute of dew and rain. In their hearts Christ was not an abiding presence. How could they speak intelligently of Him whom they had never known by experimental knowledge?” (ibid. p. 894.2}
    “Genuine religion is based upon a belief in the Scriptures. God’s Word is to be believed without question. No part of it is to be cut and carved to fit certain theories. Men are not to exalt human wisdom by sitting in judgment upon God’s Word. The Bible was written by holy men of old, as they were moved upon by the Holy Spirit, and this Book contains all that we know for certain and all that we can ever hope to learn in regard to God and Christ, unless, like Paul, we are taken to the third heaven to hear “unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4) . . . Christ’s blood was shed to remit our sins.” (ibid. p. 897.1-3)

    The next paragraph begins the quote we are discussing. Such is the context of that quote. It would be of benefit to read the entire entry but particularly what she says after the quotation which is her explanation of how we are saved. It should also be noted that Ellen White wrote some 50 pages in 1 Selected Messages in a section, “Christ Our Righteousness” devoted to the subject. So while it is simple we need to remember the context, especially in the shadow of the 1888 convention.

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons