Justification, Sanctification and Transformation

by Mike Ratliff

10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 2 Peter 1:10 (NASB) 

Some “evangelical leaders” in our time will tell you that transformation is actually part of the gospel and that the evidence of salvation is how busy a person is in “working in church ministry.” No where in God’s Word is transformation given as part of the Gospel. The Gospel is based in who Jesus Christ is and what He has done to be the propitiation for the elect. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, including the elect. No one is able to do any work of any kind to deserve or earn salvation, that is, justification. However in Ephesians 1:3-23; Ephesians 2:1-10, the Apostle Paul gives us God’s solution. Notice that nowhere in these passages is the transformed life mentioned as part of being justified. Yes, Paul mentioned in Ephesians 2 that Faith was a gift and that tells us that it is a product of regeneration, and that God saves us unto good works, but that is not the same thing. Paul tells us more about the transformed life in Romans 12:1-2. Notice that this is talking about spiritual growth after salvation and is not part of our justification at all, but is part of our sanctification process. Notice also who is in control of this process. Is it a local church or a ministry or is it God?

3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 2 Peter 1:3-9 (NASB) 

Carefully read the passage above my brethren. Notice that those whom God regenerates become partakers of the divine nature. This does not make them “little gods” nor does it give them a “divine spark.” It gives them the mind of Christ. This is the gift of knowing the truth of God because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and as one lives in, studies and knows the Word of God. Those who mature in Christ this way, that is, they become transformed, will have a life that will grow more and more to be characterized by the attributes Peters lists in the passage above. These are the qualities that characterize a life partaking of the divine nature. These are virtues that are listed elsewhere in the New Testament as well (Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 12:10-11). These qualities reflect the desires and features of a truly transformed heart. This desire is part of those truly regenerated by God. This is why we must suspect the profession of faith of people who have no desire for these things and/or see transformation as something else.

This is an exhortation so this transformation is something that happens as we cooperate with God working in us to live a new life which is grounded in the divine power and promises that is granted to all believers when they come to know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Please notice again, this is not talking about our salvation. This is our sanctification which is what makes us holy after our justification, which is our salvation where we come to know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

Here are vv5-7 from the NA28 Greek text.

5 Καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦτο δὲ σπουδὴν πᾶσαν παρεισενέγκαντες ἐπιχορηγήσατε ἐν τῇ πίστει ὑμῶν τὴν ἀρετήν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ἀρετῇ τὴν γνῶσιν, 6 ἐν δὲ τῇ γνώσει τὴν ἐγκράτειαν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ἐγκρατείᾳ τὴν ὑπομονήν, ἐν δὲ τῇ ὑπομονῇ τὴν εὐσέβειαν, 7 ἐν δὲ τῇ εὐσεβείᾳ τὴν φιλαδελφίαν, ἐν δὲ τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ τὴν ἀγάπην. 2 Peter 1:5-7 (NA28)

Here is a word-for-word translation of vv5-7 from Koine Greek to English.

5 Also for this very reason, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence supply knowledge, 6 in your knowledge, self-control, in your self-control, patience, in your patience, godliness, 7 in your godliness, brotherly kindness, in your brotherly kindness, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The key to this actually is in v5 where Peter is telling all Christians to supplement your faith. We are not to merely confess faith in Christ, but actually live it. Real living faith must take concrete form in life. These virtues are the fruit of this lived out in reality.

Real Christian transformation is not getting busy in church work, but is living one’s life growing in faith and Christlikeness as we have seen here. It is God directed and in most cases, it involves a great deal of tests and trials of faith. I pray you see the difference. It can never be replaced with “works righteousness” or “self-righteousness.”

There are many in the Lordship Salvation camp who would say that much of what I shared here would be antinomianism. That is, “Where are your works that prove your salvation?”  I would counter with, “My best works are as filthy rags. The righteousness that holds me in Christ is His which was imputed to me when I was Justified.”  Please do not fall into the trap of believing that “works” prove in any way the free gift of salvation you have received by grace through faith as God’s gift.

Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “Justification, Sanctification and Transformation

  1. ‘Tis so common to conflate justification and sanctification I think it may be the most common heresy, allowing new age mysticism and old covenant works to creep in. May the God of all grace bless you and keep you, my brother.

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  2. As always, an excellent article. This question came up just yesterday in a conversation, so your article is timely as well since it is still fresh in my mind. I agree wholeheartedly with what you say, however, I am curious what your take is on Acts 26:20, with regard to doing works that are “worthy of” or “deserving of” repentance. How does this passage work into what you are saying in your article?

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  3. Bob,thank you. The works that are worthy of or deserving of repentance are bascially what Peter was talking about in the passage in this post. It is supplimenting our faith with Christian maturity and Christlikeness by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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  4. How does Ephesians 2:10 relate to this post Mike? I think this passage is where folks develop confusion along with James’ comments in James 2.

    Perhaps also you could touch on the Hebrew Roots heresy?

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  5. What are the good works James is talking about? What are the good works Paul is talking about in Ephesians 2:10? The Hebrews Roots movement says keeping the Law is our Sanctification, which is where a lot of evangelicals also get it wrong. If these works are not keeping the Law and it’s not doing Church stuff, what is it? It is what Peter said in 2 Peter 1. It is our obedience in becoming living sacrifices and being transformed through the renewing of our minds (immersing ourseleves in the Word of God and the Holy Spirit changing us through that) so that we mature unto Christ. Will we then do “good works?” Yes, but will those works be what will be the markers of our sanctification? No, our Justification rests entirely in the work and person of our Lord Jesus Christ and is a declaration and an imputation. We are also Sanctified at that moment as well. Our faith, on the other hand, needs to be matured and so we grow in faith and that is where these works come in. Works Righteousness, bah! I don’t care if anyone calls me an Antinomian. The law all genuine Chrstians keep is Christ’s law, not the Law of Moses…

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