Forgiveness, Justification and Sanctification

 •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The precious truth of God as to these three subjects is most blessed to know and to enjoy as given to us in the Word of God. We would like, with the Lord's help, to look into them in dependence on Him to teach us by His Spirit, and then to live in the good of them day by day. The knowledge of the truth is precious, and to live in the enjoyment of our portion is the blessed and happy path.
We will begin with the truth of forgiveness in its various aspects, for it is spoken of in different ways in Scripture; judicial, governmental, restorative, personal, and assembly forgiveness.
Until the finished work of Christ on the cross was accomplished, an Old Testament believer could not say, "I stand before God a forgiven sinner, justified from all things and made the righteousness of God in Christ." All this awaited the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross where the whole question of sin was taken up and settled for God's glory, and for the knowledge and enjoyment of the simplest believer.
We might also say that to declare God's righteousness "for the remission of sins that are past" (Rom. 3:2525Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (Romans 3:25)); refers to all the sins of those believers who lived and died before the cross. These were all borne by the Lord Jesus at Calvary and a righteous payment was made by His glorious work. The blood of bulls and goats could never put away sin, but it taught the people that "without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:2222And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22)). Those sacrifices were required as a picture of what would take place at Calvary where the one perfect sacrifice for sin has been made by the Lord Jesus (Heb. 10:10-1410By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:10‑14)).
The knowledge of the forgiveness of all our sins, borne by the Lord Jesus on Calvary's cross can be enjoyed now by all who receive Him as their Savior (2 Cor. 5:2121For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21), 1 John 2:1212I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. (1 John 2:12)). Our sins were all future when He died on Calvary's cross, and He is not going to die again (Rom. 6:1010For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. (Romans 6:10)). The work is finished, redemption has been accomplished "once for all." God has been glorified in the full payment that was made (Heb. 9:26,10:10). The sinner who believes can rejoice he will never have to meet God as a Judge for when he accepts the Lord Jesus as his Savior he is "made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:2121For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)).
It is spoken of prophetically in Isa. 53:66All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6) and its fulfillment is spoken of in 1 Peter 1:18,2:24. Our present perfect standing before God is declared in 1 John 4:1717Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17) where we are told "we have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world." The little hymn expresses it so nicely.
"I stand upon His merit,
I know no safer stand,
Not e'en where glory dwelleth,
In Emmanuel's land."
We often speak of this as our standing before God.
Now, as we remarked before, there are other ways in which forgiveness for the believer is spoken of in the Scripture. The next one we will consider could be called governmental and restorative forgiveness.
As we have learned from the Word of God, we as believers have been brought into the family of God by new birth. We now know God as our Father (Gal. 4:5,65To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:5‑6)) and we will never have to do with God as a Judge. But God our Father is a holy Father and there is a governmental order in the family of God. If I sin as a child of God I will come under this government of a holy Father, just as in our natural families we may come under family discipline (Heb. 12:9-119Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:9‑11)). In an earthly family, a disobedient child is still a child, but he or she needs to be restored. The father may punish his child to maintain order in the home but when there is true repentance, he or she is restored to the happy enjoyment of the family times and fellowship together.
This, as we have noticed, often takes place, in the family of God, and when we have failed as children of God we need to own our sin to God our Father (1 John 1:99If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)) and be restored to Him. We sometimes need to acknowledge our faults to one another (James 5:1616Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16)).
There is also another aspect of forgiveness in the Scripture and that is assembly forgiveness, and we have an example of this in 1 Cor. 5. There was a brother in the assembly of God at Corinth who fell into serious moral sin in his life, and the assembly had to deal with him and put him away from the Lord's table (1 Cor. 5:1313But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:13)). This man was a true believer and the Spirit of God wrought a work of repentance in his heart and he was restored to the Lord personally.
Then he desired to be restored to his place at the Lord's table. The assembly at Corinth had acted with God-given administrative authority to put him away from the Lord's table (Matt. 18:1818Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18), 1 Cor. 5:1313But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:13)). Now when true self judgment was manifested they could, with this same administrative authority, forgive him and restore him to the Lord's table and to happy fellowship with his brethren (2 Cor. 2:6-116Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 10To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; 11Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Corinthians 2:6‑11)). This could be called administrative forgiveness. The man was judicially forgiven when he was saved (Acts 13:38,3938Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38‑39)). He was governmentally and restoratively forgiven when he owned it to the Lord (1 John 1:99If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)), and then he was administratively forgiven by the assembly at Corinth.
We now come to personal forgiveness and this is a very important subject. It seems so easy to come to the Lord as a guilty lost sinner and to receive this judicial forgiveness, and to know that all our sins are washed away in the precious blood of Christ, yet we find it very hard to forgive some person who has done some unkind thing to us. The Lord has forgiven us many many horrible sins and it cost Him more than we shall ever know to bear the wrath of God on Calvary's cross when He was forsaken of God while bearing our sins so that we might be forgiven. We were, as the Scripture says, like the man who owed ten thousand talents, and when he had nothing to pay his debt, his creditor was moved with compassion and forgave him the whole debt and we are not even told that he said "Thank-you" (see Matt. 18:23-2723Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. (Matthew 18:23‑27)).
This same man had a creditor who owed him one hundred pence, and he took him by the throat saying, "Pay me that thou owest." His creditor asked him to have patience and he would pay him in full. He would not wait, however, but put him in prison till he would pay the debt.
His creditor who had forgiven him for his great debt was very angry, and "delivered him to the tormentors" (Matt. 18:3434And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. (Matthew 18:34)). Had he forgotten his own full debt that had been forgiven him? There are many true Christians who are rejoicing in the knowledge of being fully forgiven for all their sins by the Lord Jesus, who will not forgive someone who has done a wrong to them. They are most unhappy and "tormented" by this bitter unforgiving attitude. What a solemn message to any of us as believers who hold these bitter feelings, especially when we think of how much the Lord has forgiven us. How can we be happy in thinking of the Lord's great love to us, and what it cost Him to forgive us, and not "from our hearts" (Matt. 18:3535So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Matthew 18:35)) forgive others who have wronged us?
Justification
Let us look now at another blessed truth revealed to us in the Word of God. The one who believes the gospel, is not only judicially forgiven but is "justified from all things" (Acts 13:3939And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:39)).
What does it mean to be "justified?" Some will say, "Just say the word quickly-just as if I had never sinned," but that is not the real meaning of the word. That would only be to put us in the same place as Adam before he sinned. Thank God when He justifies us, He puts us in a more wonderful position than Adam was in before he sinned. The Scripture speaks of "justification of life" (Rom. 5:1818Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:18)). When a person is truly saved he is fully forgiven because the Lord Jesus bore the judgment for every one of our sins on the cross (Isa. 53:66All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6), 1 Peter 2:2424Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)). We receive a new life, the very life of Christ (Col. 3:44When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)) and we stand before God in that new life, made "the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:1717Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) and 21). So the Apostle John could say, "As He (Christ) is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:1717Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17)). How wonderful to know and enjoy this new position God has brought us into now, judicially forgiven and before God in Christ in a new life that has never sinned and cannot sin because Christ Himself is our life (Col. 3:44When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)). This is what Scripture calls "justification of life" (Rom. 5:1818Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:18)).
Sanctification
We now come to another blessed truth revealed in the Word of God to be enjoyed by the family of God. It is the truth of sanctification, first as to our position before God and then to its practical effect in our lives.
Sanctification means to set apart. We were once part of this world and its system, but when we were saved God set us apart as no longer part of the world system, as the Lord Jesus said of His disciples, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:1616They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)). It tells us in Gal. 1:44Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4) that the Lord Jesus "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father." It tells us in Heb. 10:1010By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10), "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
When you buy something and pay for it, it is set apart for you, even though it may remain in the store for a time with your name on it. In that sense it is in a new position bearing your name. When you pick it up and start home with it, it becomes yours in a practical way, no longer mixed with other similar things.
So the Lord said we are set apart because the price has been paid, and His request to the Father for us is that we would be, in our daily lives, living as a people who do not belong to this world but to the Lord Jesus. "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth" (John 17:17-1917Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:17‑19)). Also the apostle Paul prayed for the believers at Thessalonica. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" ( 1 Thess. 5:2323And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)). This is practical sanctification.
May all this precious truth which we learn as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:1818But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)), lay hold of us more and more, becoming practical in our daily lives for His glory and our blessing!
There is one more thing which we should learn in connection with these precious truths found in the Word of God. It is what is spoken of in Gal. 6:77Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7), "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Even though we are judicially forgiven, justified from all things, sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, yet there is a reaping of what we sow in our lives.
King David is a clear example of this reaping in his life. It is recorded in 2 Sam. 12, for though his sin in the matter of Bathsheba was forgiven, the prophet Nathan warned him that he would surely reap what he had sown. He told David that the sword would never depart from his house, and that the man who would do as he had done would have to pay (as David had said himself) fourfold for his sin. (2 Sam. 12:1-141And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. 2The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: 3But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. 4And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. 5And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. 7And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. 14Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. (2 Samuel 12:1‑14)). In the governmental ways of God the sword never departed from David's house, and because of this he was not given the privilege of building the house of the Lord (1 Chron. 22:88But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. (1 Chronicles 22:8)). Also four of David's children died; the baby born of Bathsheba because of David's sin (2 Sam. 12:1919But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. (2 Samuel 12:19)), then his son Amnon (2 Sam. 13:3232And Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother, answered and said, Let not my lord suppose that they have slain all the young men the king's sons; for Amnon only is dead: for by the appointment of Absalom this hath been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar. (2 Samuel 13:32)), his son Absalom (2 Sam. 18:3333And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son! (2 Samuel 18:33)), and lastly Adonijah (1 Kings 2:2525And king Solomon sent by the hand of Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he fell upon him that he died. (1 Kings 2:25)). What a solemn lesson this is for us, for we really "get away" with nothing. We reap what we sow.
Every true Christian is equally blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:33Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (Ephesians 1:3)) but we most surely come under the government of the house of God, and if we chose our own way and walk in disobedience to the Word, though we will not lose our salvation, secured to us through Christ's finished work on the cross, yet it is possible to have a saved soul but a lost life (John 12:2525He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. (John 12:25)). If we walk in obedience to the Word of God, acknowledging Him in all our ways (Prov. 3:66In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:6)) there is present blessing in this life, as His Word says, "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:88For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)). The Lord's love for His own never changes and He desires our fullest blessing (John 13:11Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. (John 13:1)). Happiness lies in obedience.
At the judgment seat of Christ for believers when our lives pass into review, we read, "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it... If any man's work abide which he bath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Cor. 3:13-1513Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:13‑15)).
It is so wonderful to be in the family of God and to be forgiven, justified, sanctified, eternally secure in Christ through His glorious finished work, and it is our privilege now to show our gratitude by living not unto ourselves but for Him (2 Cor. 5:1515And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:15)).
"I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:11I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)).
"Lord, we are Thine: Thy claims we own,
Ourselves to Thee we'd wholly give;
Reign Thou within our hearts alone,
And let us to Thy glory live;
Here let us each Thy mind display,
In all Thy gracious image shine;
And haste that long expected day
When Thou shalt own that we are Thine."
L.F. Hymn 52
Courtesy of BibleTruthPublishers.com. Most likely this text has not been proofread. Any suggestions for spelling or punctuation corrections would be warmly received. Please email them to: BTPmail@bibletruthpublishers.com.