Sanctification Does Not Cause Justification

Sanctification and justification

There is so much teaching out there that either asserts or implies that if you are not sanctified you cannot continue to be justified! The Bible teaches the exact opposite — that without justification you can never be sanctified.

Following is the final sample chapter from the book, Grace Plus Nothing, 1 by Jeff Harkin. The book itself has 123 chapters.

Sanctification Does Not Cause Justification.

This is a crucial issue in the body of Christ today. Why? Because there is so much teaching out there that either asserts or implies that if you are not sanctified you cannot continue to be justified! The Bible teaches the exact opposite — that without justification you can never be sanctified.

We have already seen how the Lord justified Abraham through faith, reckoning him righteous on the basis of his faith in God’s promise to him. And in Romans 4 the apostle Paul used God’s justification of Abraham as an example of how God “justifies the ungodly” (verse 5).

More extensive study of Romans 4 and of the rest of Paul’s writings will make it obvious to you that God’s justification of Abraham through faith became Paul’s model for saving faith for all Abraham’s life further, using even the subsequent sequence of events in God’s dealings with Abraham to teach us the necessary sequence of events in God’s dealings with us. Let’s examine this sequence of events in terms of justification and sanctification.



First, we know that Abraham was justified by faith. Second, it is of utmost importance to understand that any outworking of God’s sanctification in Abraham’s life was subsequent to, and therefore did not cause, Abraham’s justification by faith. Look at the sequence of events as recounted by Paul:

Is this blessing then upon the circumcised or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised……For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:9-11, 13)

In Paul’s mind, to understand the gospel, it is extremely important for you to see first that Abraham did not have the circumcision and he did not have the law (the Ten commandments) when he was reckoned righteous (justified) by faith. The law was given hundreds of years later through Moses, one of Abraham’s descendants. Therefore right standing before God did not come through the law, even in the Old Testament. Please let this fact sink into you.

And regarding circumcision, Abraham did not receive the “sign” of circumcision until after he was reckoned righteous (justified) by faith. Then he was circumcised as “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised” (verse 11). This is the crucial sequence of events that becomes our model.

Circumcision, the cutting off of the male foreskin, had significance beyond its use as a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham and beyond its practical health and hygiene considerations. It was intended by God to foreshadow or to prefigure for us the removal of our carnal flesh “by the circumcision of Christ.” Therefore, circumcision prefigured and presently symbolizes a very important aspect of sanctification:

And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made with out hands [not physical], in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11).

Note carefully what circumcision symbolizes to every Christian: The removal of the flesh, which is a very important aspect of our sanctification. Now, we know that Abraham received circumcision as a sign and a seal-as a result, if you will, of justification by faith. Never, never is it taught that Abraham’s circumcision preceded or caused his right standing before God. Just the opposite is true: Abraham’s circumcision was a “sign” of his right standing before God.

Abraham could not have been justified either by the law or by his own circumcision because both events occurred after he was reckoned righteous through faith.
Never, never is it taught that the removal of the carnal nature proceeds or causes justification by faith. Exactly the reverse is true.
Likewise, the circumcision you have in Christ-that is, the removal of your flesh, the defeat of your carnal, sinful, fleshly nature- is always and only the result, never the cause, of right standing before God. Never, never is it taught that the removal of the carnal nature proceeds or causes justification by faith. Exactly the reverse is true.

The “rules” never change: justification, then sanctification. It always works that way. Getting your cart before your horse (trying to justify yourself through sanctification) can only lead to vexation and frustration. Remember, the Bible does not teach that you are supposed to grow out of justification by faith, but rather that you are to grow in it.

The Bible teaches clearly that in order to be sanctified it is necessary to be justified, that apart from justification by faith sanctification is impossible. Teaching to the contrary contradicts Scripture and brings much condemnation and confusion in the body of Christ.


Author and Copyright

This is an excerpt from “Grace Plus Nothing” — Paperback | Kindle — by Jeff Harkin.

Copyright, Jeff Harkin. All Rights Reserved. Sample chapters published at Apologetics Index by permission of the author. Do not copy and republish the text.

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Notes:

  1. Jeff Harkin, “Grace Plus Nothing,” Paperback | Kindle edition

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