The Meaning of Sanctification and the Meaning of Justification (Online Bible Dictionary)

The Meaning of Sanctification and the Meaning of Justification (Online Bible Dictionary)

Understanding the meaning of sanctification and the meaning of justification and the subtle but substantial difference between the two is essential to intentional spiritual growth...

Tags: online bible dictionary, sanctification, justification, meaning of sanctification, meaning of justification

Sanctification and Justification are related terms, but carry important differences that are critical to understand.

Both terms profess our standing with God and both involve work. However, the tactical application of each term is slightly unique.

The Meaning of Sanctification

Webster’s defines ”SANCTIFICATION” as ”the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion.”

While this is a good definition, it benefits from a little more context. Even the first half of the definition seems a bit contradictory. Specifically, a “state” implies a single, unchanging circumstance while “growing” implies movement or change over time. Thus, it bears a bit more explanation.

The Meaning of Justification

To be honest, my understanding of sanctification is made much more clear only in the context of understanding another key Christian term - "JUSTIFICATION."

Webster’s says that “justification” is the the act, process, or state of being justified by God.

So what does “being justified” mean? Actually, here is some amazing news. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you have already been justified. Christ’s gift to us on the cross was a gift of justification. This means that on our day of judgement for our sins, Christ will stand in our place. And guess what… He was perfect. Thus, we have no wrong for which we will be held accountable!

Justification happened in an instant and all believer are accordingly ”justified in Christ.”

Sanctification Revisited

So that brings us back to sanctification. Whereas justification is something that occurred in an instant, sanctification is much more of a process. We are sanctified only as we become more and more Christlike in our attitudes and actions each and every day.

Of course, this is a difficult process because we are so rooted in sin. Nonetheless, over time, we are motivated and empowered to become more like Christ actually was through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Truly, that empowerment from the Holy Spirit only comes through lots and lots of hard work and effort through spiritual disciplines that include Bible study, prayer time, service for others, and more.

The bottom line is that sanctification is a state that all we Christians (should) embrace in modeling Christ to the world around us.


We have looked at the similarities and differences of two common Christian terms - sanctification and justification.

We have seen how sanctification is much more of a process of becoming right with God than justification, which was work accomplished by Christ on the cross for us already.

Our personal work to continually walk the road of sanctification can help us further appreciate the gift of Christ when he justified us in sacrificing his own life for our sin.

I hope this article helps strengthen your understanding and application of both terms in your Christian walk. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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