Differences Between Justification and Sanctification

Below is a “cheat sheet” I created a few years when I was asked to explain the differences between justification and sanctification.


Justification: from the Hebrew and Greek words which mean “to release from punishment or obligation”; a legal term related to the divine act whereby God makes humans, who are sinful and therefore worthy of condemnation, acceptable before a God who is holy and righteous

Sanctification: from the Hebrew and Greek words which mean “to be set apart” or “to be made holy”; the process by which we are made holy – through Christ – striving to be like Him through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit until they reach perfect conformity to Him

Their Similarities

  • Both proceed originally from the free grace of God.
  • Both are part of His great work of salvation, which Christ has undertaken on behalf of His people.
  • Those who are justified are always sanctified; those who are sanctified are always justified.
  • Both begin at the same time: the moment of salvation.
  • Both are necessary for salvation.

Their Differences

The reckoning and counting a man to be righteous The actual making a man inwardly righteous
Not our own, but the perfect righteousness our Mediator imputed to us and made our own Our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Spirit
Our own works have no place at all. Our own works are of vast importance.
Perfect and complete work at the moment a man believes Imperfect work never completed until man reaches heaven
Eternal and changes their standing Internal and changes the believer’s state
A one-time work A progressive work
Special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and deliverance from guilt Special reference to our natures and the moral renewal of our hearts
Given us our title to heaven and boldness to enter in Gives us our meetness for heaven and prepares us for when we dwell there
Entirely the work of God Requires faithful obedience through God’s enabling
The act of God about us The work of God within us

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