Justification and Sanctification

by Patrick Ramsey

Obadiah Sedgwick (c. 1600-1658) was a noted puritan preacher and a member of the Westminster Assembly from 1643 to 1649. Some of his works have been recently reprinted, including The Anatomy of Secret Sins and The Doubting Believer. His work on covenant theology entitled, The Bowels of Tender Mercy Sealed in the Everlasting Covenant, hasn’t seen the light of day, although it is now available on Google Books. In this rather lengthy book, Sedgwick tackles the relationship between justification and sanctification (see pp. 488-493). My goal is to present some of what he says on this topic in three articles.  
In expounding the stated doctrine that God promises to sanctify and justify his people, Sedgwick first lists six differences between these “two distinct or several gifts [see also WLC 77].”
  1. Justification is a change of the state—the person transitions from a state of “death and wrath” to a state of “life and love”—whereas sanctification is a change of heart—he who was unholy is now made holy.
  2. Justification is concerned with the guilt of sin and delivers us from condemnation, whereas sanctification deals with the “filth of sin” and delivers us from the dominion of sin.
  3. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us in justification and depends upon the merit of Christ, but in sanctification “there is grace infused into us, by which we made conformable unto the image of Christ,” and depends upon the Spirit of Christ.
  4. “The matter of justification,” that is, Christ’s personal righteousness by which we are justified, is perfect, whereas the “matter of our sanctification,” that is, our own personal righteousness, is imperfect. This difference demonstrates the need for the imputation of the righteousness of Christ in justification.  Only perfect righteousness is able to stand before the just judgment of God.
  5. There is no difference among believers with respect to justification since all “are justified alike.” One Christian is not more justified than another because they all have the full remission of their sins and they all have the same righteousness imputed to them. However, there is a difference regarding sanctification as “some are stronger and higher, and some are weaker and lower in grace.”
  6. The remaining sin in the believer does not affect his justification but “there is something of sin remaining in the sanctified person, which is contrary to that grace which is wrought in us by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:17).”
After stating the differences between justification and sanctification, Sedgwick proceeds to discuss the connection or unity between them. He notes “a four-fold conjunction of these two great gifts of God unto his people.”
  1. The promises of justification and sanctification are joined at the hip. They are often mentioned in Scripture side by side (Jer. 33:8; Micah 7:19; Heb. 8:10, 12).
  2. Every person who is effectually called receives both gifts. Everyone is justified and sanctified; everyone partakes of mercy and grace (2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7).
  3. True Christians desire both gifts. They want to be free from the guilt and pollution of their sins, even as David cried out for pardon (Ps. 51:1) and for sanctifying grace (Ps. 51:10).
  4. Both gifts are found in Jesus, the head of his church and the mediator of the covenant (Eph. 5:23, 26; Titus 2:19; 1 Pet. 2:24).
The third point is the reasons God promises “these two great Gifts of holiness and forgiveness; to sanctifie his people as well as to justifie them.” There are six of them.
The first is that we need both gifts in order to be saved. We cannot be saved unless we are justified (Rom. 8:30; Mark 16:16); and we cannot be saved unless we are sanctified (John 3:5; Heb. 12:14). Sedgwick notes that we tend to think that we only need to have our sins forgiven in order to be saved. However, when we think or act that way “we are deceived; for as forgiveness is necessary, so is holiness necessary to our salvation; as no unpardoned person, so no unsanctified person shall be saved.”
The second reason we need to be justified and sanctified is because we stand in need of both gifts. These two gifts address the two-fold problem of all sinners: the guilt of sin and the pollution of sin. The former binds us over to wrath and curse, is comparable to debt and renders us in need of mercy. The latter stains and defiles us, is comparable to a disease and renders us in need of grace. Consequently, we need pardoning mercy and sanctifying mercy to fully address our sinful condition. In the words of an 18th century Anglican, we need the death of Christ to “be of sin the double cure” and cleanse us “from its guilt and power.” This double need of ours is analogous to the double need of a “sick Malefactor [criminal]” who needs to be pardoned and cured.
The third reason is that both gifts are necessary for God to accomplish his goal of having an everlasting communion or fellowship with his people (1 John 1:3). There are two obstacles that keep sinners from communing with God: “enmity” and “inconformity.” True fellowship cannot exist between two enemies and a holy God cannot dwell in the midst of unholy sinners. Indeed, “the heart of man is so sinfull, that God cannot endure us, being of purer eyes than to behold sin.” Communion with God, therefore, requires the removal of the enmity and the inconformity by means of the twin gifts of justification and sanctification.
The fourth reason is that we need to be sanctified in order to glorify God. God is able to glorify himself towards us but we are not able to glorify him if we are unholy. We can’t glorify God in our hearts “for what glory can God have by an unbelieving, impenitent, hardened, sensual, ignorant, proud, ungodly heart?” And we can’t glorify God in our actions “for they are as our hearts are; the fruit is as the tree is, etc. What can a dead or a sick man do for service?”
The fifth reason is so that we might have comfort and peace. Justification alone would bring us “small comfort and peace” because the domination of sin would “make our life uncomfortable.”
Finally, Christians are children of God and they should be like their Father in heaven. Sedgwick wrote, “Are not the people of the Covenant his children? And would you have the holy Father to be the Father of unholy children? Is this to be born of the Spirit (John 3:6)?”
I will now take a look at three uses of this doctrine.
The first use is that it reproves people who teach the importance of justification but not that of sanctification. Sedgwick speaks of people who “would have men to be believers of Christ, but they would not have men to be holy.” The reason these people emphasize justification by faith to the exclusion of sanctification is because “holiness cannot justifie us.” In this scheme, justification is equated with salvation and thus if something does not contribute to our justification then it is at best superfluous and at worst to be rejected. The problem with this, as Sedgwick points out, is that justification is not the whole of our salvation. God would not have made Christ our sanctification if our holiness wasn’t an integral component of our salvation.  
The second use is that it reproves people who presume that all they need is forgiveness in order to be saved. These people, Sedgwick says, speak often about mercy for pardon of sins, even in affectionate terms, but they have no time for pursuing holiness. Indeed, they “oppose holiness, and scoff, and scorn at holiness.” Once again, the problem with this is that justification is not the whole of our salvation. Sanctification is equally necessary for salvation. “You must have your sins pardoned, or else you cannot be saved; and so you must have your hearts sanctified, or else you cannot be saved.”
Sedgwick suggests that there are two possible reasons people are eager for justification but shy away from sanctification. The first is that holiness goes against the grain of our sinful nature. Although mercy (justification) and holiness both “relieve the sinner,” the latter does so in a way that is abrasive to our “sinfull love” because “it fights against our sins, and doth purge, and work them out from our hearts, and will not suffer sin to bear Rule there.” In this sense, justification is like soothing ointment on a nasty cut, whereas sanctification is like rubbing alcohol. One is pleasant and the other is not. The other possible reason people balk at holiness is that they do not view it as “the way to heaven (see this post).”  Instead, they see it as the way of hardship and thus something to be avoided.
The third use of this doctrine is that Christians should not be content with only justification. Justification provides us with a right and title to heaven and sanctification makes us fit for heaven. Both are necessary, therefore, for entering heaven. Moreover, God never gives one without the other. If God justifies you then he also sanctifies you; and if you are not sanctified, then you are certainly not justified. In order to support his point that God always gives both gifts together to his people, Sedgwick turns to union with Christ. He writes: “when you are by Faith united to Christ, your communion immediately falls in for sanctification as well for Righteousness.” Faith binds us to Christ and in Christ we are both sanctified and justified. Sanctification, therefore, doesn’t flow from justification. Rather, both justification and sanctification flow together from union with Christ. Sedgwick notes, however, that not everyone agrees with this. He says that “Some hold that sanctification is an inseparable effect of justification.” Unfortunately, Sedgwick doesn’t tell us who the “some” are (Lutherans?) but he does go on and say that sanctification is “unquestionably” a “companion” of justification. They flow together hand in hand from union with Christ.

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