Throughout church history there has been a blurring of lines between three essential aspects of salvation, which results in confusion concerning how we actually become holy in our daily experience of the Christian life. Below is a simple chart that I use to teach our congregation, which I also use in my counseling classes. Perhaps you will find it helpful too.
|ASPECT||TIME||REFERS TO||MEANING||MY RESPONSIBILITY|
|Justification||Past||My position in Christ||I am saved from the penalty of sin — Rom 5:1-9, 17; 8:1, 29-30; 1 Cor 6:11.||To receive the gift of God’s grace by empty-handed faith, having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit alone (Jn 3; Rom 5:1).|
|Sanctification||Present||My condition of becoming like Christ||I am being saved from the power of sin — Rom 6; Titus 2:11-14.||To daily die to sin and live to righteousness, applying all diligence in my faith by disciplining three areas of my life: thoughts of my mind, lusts of my heart, and habits of my life (1 Pet 1:13-16; 2:1-3).|
|Glorification||Future||My expectation to be like Christ||I will be saved from the presence of sin — Phil 1:6; 1 Thess 5:23; 1 Jn 3:1-3; Rev 21:4; 22:14-15||To persevere in hope and holiness (James 1:12; 1 Jn 2:28).|
Keeping Our Definitions Clear
JUSTIFICATION is the act whereby God declares a sinner righteous on the basis of faith. It is not a figment of God’s imagination, but rather a judicial reality in the “courtroom of heaven.” There sinners receive the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. In other words, the righteousness of Christ is placed on the believer’s account thus making him—a sinner—legally righteous. This is the believer’s standing before God, i.e. he is “not guilty” (because Christ took all his guilt on the cross) and “righteous” (because Christ gave him His own righteousness as a gift of grace).
SANCTIFICATION is the process whereby God the Holy Spirit transforms the believer into the image and likeness of Christ. It is the progressive outworking of the new life that was planted at the moment of regeneration, i.e. the new birth. This is the cooperative work of the Holy Spirit and the believer.
GLORIFICATION is the day that the believer’s standing and his present state become one, being completely and forever holy on that day in Glory.
Here’s how I summarized it in the book, Counseling One Another: A Theology of Inter-Personal Discipleship.
The believer’s sanctification is threefold: sanctification is positional, in that it refers to God’s calling apart a sinner to Himself (Gal. 1:6); it is progressive, in that it refers to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, conforming him or her to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10); and is ultimate (glorification), in that it refers to the day when the believer’s standing and present state become one, being completely holy on that day in glory (1 John 3:2; 1 Thes. 5:23).