Have you ever heard those long theological words but are unsure what they meant? I want to teach you three terms that will help you understand where you are spiritually and what that means for your personal discipleship.
To grasp the theology of what is happening in the process of discipleship, you must understand the difference between these three theological terms:
- Justification – the declaration of holiness
- Sanctification – the process of holiness
- Glorification – the completion of holiness
Justification is the moment when you are declared not guilty. As God presides over eternity’s courthouse, there was a moment when your name was called to appear before the stand. The overwhelming evidence demanded a decisive verdict. You had been caught repeatedly in sin, and your rebellion was unashamedly defiant. Upon hearing the gospel of Jesus, you trusted in his role as your substitute and were forever changed. You were converted. You were reborn.
At that moment, the gavel falls in the courtroom, and you are justified because Christ was willing to pay the sentencing for you. That means that the charges are no longer attributed to you, and Jesus has paid the penalty in full. At the moment you receive the gospel, God justifies you, and that status can never be changed since you are safely secure within his hands (John 10:28).
When justification transpires, God declares you holy. Your scandalous rap sheet has been dealt with, and you exit out of the courtroom without a trace of sin. Justification is a very, very good day.
If justification is the declaration of holiness, glorification is the completion of holiness. When you receive the gospel, you are declared holy. When you reach heaven, you are wholly holy. No percentages of holiness are allowed there. There is no more room or need to make progress. You are finally holy. You are forever glorified on that unthinkable day when you behold Jesus face to face.
The God who justified us will also glorify us (Rom. 8:30). Whether Christ comes back within my lifetime or I die to before that end, I will soon behold Jesus and be with him in glory (Col. 3:4). In that splendid instance, the veil comes off, and we can see the grandeur of the Lord fully (2 Cor. 3:18). At the realization of my heavenly citizenship, he will transform my lowly body into a glorious body like his (Phil. 3:20-21). All of the harmful, sinful things of earth will forever be barred from the gates of heaven (Rev. 21:4).
Glorification is the day when we meet Jesus face to face and don’t have to worry about sin anymore. We go to heaven and are perfect. With eternity to enjoy, we say good riddance to the unholiness of our lives and that which is present in this current world. Glorification is a very, very good day.
Justification makes my record non-guilty. Glorification finally obtains that reality. While I was legally declared holy on that day of justification, I will be realized as holy on that day of glorification.
- Justification is entirely the work of God.
- Glorification is entirely the work of God.
- Sanctification is entirely the work of God and us.
It would make sense that the one spiritual element that doesn’t happen successfully in a solitary moment would be the one in which we get some of the credit. Christians love talking about the day when we met Jesus or when we will see Jesus, but what about every other critical day when we are supposed to become like Jesus? Even our worship includes justification songs and glorification songs, but rarely do we sing about the sanctifying and struggling days in between. Yet these days are critical to the process that God is doing in our lives. We cannot abandon sanctification just because it is difficult.
We remember justification, we anticipate glorification, but we are neglecting sanctification.
Sanctification represents every critical day in between believing the gospel and beholding the Savior. It is the process of holiness that is continually worked on from the day of conversion until the moment of completion. This critical period is the time of discipleship.
- From a heavenly perspective, sanctification is God’s process of making you more holy.
- From an earthly perspective, discipleship is our effort in the process of becoming more holy.
While justification and glorification are entirely the work of the Lord, sanctification is the work of the Lord and us. Sanctification is hard work, and it will not be complete until we die. Notice that I didn’t say it happens once we die but that we complete it once we die.
After our profession of faith, we should spend the remainder of our life in the glorious pursuit of spiritual progression.