The Nature & Characteristics of Justification in Contrast to Sanctification (by Louis Berkhof)

The following is taken from Louis Berkhof’s Manual of Christian Doctrine [Reprinted 2002, 256.], which is a summary of his larger work, Systematic Theology.

Justification may be defined as that legal act of God by which He declares the sinner righteous on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.  It is not an act or process of renewal, such as regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, and does not affect the condition but the state of the sinner.  The following points of difference between justification and sanctification should be noted particularly:

  1. Justification removes the guilt of sin and restores the sinner to all the rights of a child of God, including an eternal inheritance.  Sanctification removes the pollution of sin and renews the sinner in conformity with the image of God.

  2. Justification takes place outside of the sinner in the tribunal of God, though it is appropriated by faith.  Sanctifcation takes place in the inner life of man and gradually affects his whole being.

  3. Justification takes place once for all: it is not repeated, nor is it a process; it is complete at once and for all time.  Sanctification, on the other hand, is a continuous process which is not completed in the present life.

  4. While both are fruits of the merits of Christ, the work of justification is ascribed more particularly to the Father, and that of sanctification to the Holy Spirit.

Scripture: Rom. 3:20-28; 4:5-7; 5:1; 8:13, 33-34; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:16; 3:11; 5:4; 1 Thess. 4:1-8


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