Among Evangelicals there are subtle differences in emphasis on how justification relates to sanctification (e.g., Ordo Salutis vs. Historia Salutis).1 My question is not about those subtle differences.

How does a person's being justified and sanctified2 relate to that person's salvation? If salvation is solely related to justification, would sanctification be merely accidental to it, or is sanctification necessary for salvation?

Please leave comments

1 Both Lutherans and Calvinists do teach the order of salvation, but the former prioritize justification first by locating sanctification consequently second in the logical sequence while the later prioritize mystical union with Christ whereby both justification and sanctification happened simultaneously in the person justified.
2 While Lutherans emphasized that sanctification follows justification and Calvinists emphasized both justification and sanctification follow mystical union with Christ. This question treat the two views neutrally by not asking how the two relate to one another. But instead it asks how the two relate to salvation? Which is a neutral question given the two groups would differ on how are justification and sanctification relate to one another.

  • Sanctification is the proof of justification. Justification, if not followed by sanctification is worthless.
    – One Face
    Mar 26, 2015 at 5:13
  • That's correct, no one, neither Catholic nor Orthodox would deny that. The question is not about the relationship between two natures of salvation: justification and sanctification, but about how the two relate with salvation. You can think of this question as analogous to how the two natures of Christ relate to the person of the Logos. This question is aimed to further our understanding on the doctrine of justification especially among Evangelicals (Federal Vision included), Catholics, and Orthodox. Mar 26, 2015 at 19:03
  • I assume from context we are talking about progressive sanctification? The Calvinist tends to use sanctification in different senses depending upon context, for example we might use to simply mean 'set aside to be holy unto God' (as in Jude 1:1). Mar 27, 2015 at 9:23
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    Are you asking specifically for a comparison of Lutheran and Calvinist views? Mar 27, 2015 at 21:09
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    @AdithiaKusno I am well aware of the reformed understanding of sanctification the reason I am asking for clarity from you is because to answer your question properly the terms being used need to be carefully defined - the quagmire of theological misunderstanding usually begins with the way key words are understood differently and salvation, justification and sanctification are key words Mar 27, 2015 at 22:46

2 Answers 2



Think of justification as a legal term, which is--in a sense--what it is.

God, the judge of all humankind, has every right to demand satisfaction for our having broken his laws. We are culpable, each one of us, and as the Scripture says,

"Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.


"The soul that sinneth, it shall die . The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezekiel 18:4; and 18:20 KJV).

Each of us, therefore, has what might fairly be called a sin debt. We deserve to be cast into debtor's prison until someone pays our debt. The good news is that Jesus, through his cross-death, burial, and resurrection, paid our sin debt in full. The bill of particulars against us was nailed, as it were, to the cross where God's Lamb bore away the sin of the world. When we believe in our heart that Jesus died for our sins, God declares us righteous.

In other words, the judge of all humankind says to us,

"Not guilty! Your debt has been paid in full!"

By being declared righteous in God's sight (which is what justification is), our sins are imputed to Christ, and his righteousness is imputed to us. This "double imputation" is perhaps what the apostle Paul was thinking of in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

"[God] made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (NASB, Updated).

Justification, then, is a work of God, from beginning to end. All we need do on our part is believe it is so. When we do, we are then saved by faith. I guess you could say that justification is for each of us the starting point of salvation.


Whether or not we can pinpoint the exact date and time of our conversion, saving faith is the first step through the narrow gate and onto the narrow path leading to life (see Matthew 7:13-14). The narrow gate is a metaphor for saving faith, in part because one of the requirements of entering by that narrow gate is repentance. Repentance is hard but worth it. I think Jesus likens saving faith to a narrow gate because repentance requires us to become small in our estimation--which is the essence of humility--so that God's grace and mercy can loom large.

Once we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, we can be assured that God will exalt us, if not in time, then in eternity. Positionally, in fact, once we are saved, God has

"made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:5b-7 ESV).

We are seated together with Christ because the work of salvation was accomplished when Jesus cried out with a loud voice from the cross:

"It is finished!" (John 19:30, where the phrase is one word in Greek; namely tetelestai--finished, accomplished).

In other words, there is nothing else Jesus needs to do, nor is there anything else we need to do to be saved, for Jesus has done it all. He and we are therefore seated, which is to say we are at rest. No more struggling is needed on our part to earn God's salvation, since we already possess it freely by faith. Our standing in Christ is assured.


The "narrow path" Jesus referred to in Matthew chapter 7 is the working out of our faith through the process of sanctification. As Paul put it,

". . . work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).

Centuries ago, the Reformers were known to say:

"Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone."

While Christians cannot ADD a whit to the salvation God proffered to us, he does expect us to

"be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds" (Romans 12:2).

The goal of this transformation is conformity to Christ.

"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29 NASB Updated).

This renewal is a life-long process through which we become more Christ-like. God does not expect us to become clones of his Beloved Son; rather, he wants us to

". . . put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and [not to] give thought to the flesh to do its desires" (Romans 13:14 BBE, my emphasis).

I suggest that when we "put on Christ" we in effect put to death our fleshly desires. As we allow the life of Christ to inform and shape our lives through our yieldedness to the Holy Spirit, we begin to reflect Christ's character, attitudes, and perspectives, and we find ourselves engaging in some of the "greater works" of which Jesus spoke (see John 14:12).

James, Jesus' half-brother, in the letter bearing his name, struck the correct balance when he said under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,

"faith without works is dead" (2:26).

Christians are saved by faith. As we grow from spiritual babies into fully grown adults in the faith, however, God expects us to prove that we have saving faith. Think of the good works in which we engage as fruit of the Spirit of Christ who indwells us (see John 15:1-5). Simply put: works do not save us; they simply prove we are saved. Moreover, even our good works are of no avail if they are done in the power of the flesh. Jesus reminds us,

". . . for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5b).

In order to qualify for rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, and 2 Corinthians 5:10), our works' motives must first be tested by the purifying fire of God's judgment. The wood, hay, and weeds will be burned up. Those are the works done in the power of the flesh or for the glorification of us and not God (see Matthew 6:2, 5, and 16). The works which survive the flames of judgment are the gold, silver, and precious stones. Those are the works done in the power of the Spirit and for the glory of God.


In conclusion, salvation is a gift of God's grace. It is received by faith, and it is "worked out" by faith. The working out of our faith contributes not one scintilla to God's salvation. If it did, we would have grounds for boasting (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our sanctification, on the other hand, is a lifelong process of transformation, and when submit consistently and faithfully to the sanctifying work of the Spirit of Christ within us, we are assured that our

"entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to [us]" (2 Peter 1:10-11 NAS).

That will be our reward for sanctification: an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom; or as other versions put it, a "rich entrance" into God's kingdom. In that sense, then, God's salvation has a future aspect or component to it. That is, salvation is not only a once and for all transaction between us and God (i.e., our sin for his righteousness, our old things for his new creation, and our death for his life), but it is also

"a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:5).

At that time, according to the apostle's Peter's long view of salvation, we will be

"obtaining as the outcome of [our] faith the salvation of [our] souls" (1 Peter 1:9)

Until then, through all the highs and lows of life, which include the occasional and even "besetting" sin (Hebrews 12:1), the continually maturing Christian believer, who is a mere clay pot, is nevertheless being transformed into a vessel which is both fit for the master's use and also a thing of beauty. As Paul put it,

"All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18 CEB).


"Now in a great house there are not only articles of gold and silver, but also others of wood and of earthenware; and some are for specially honourable, and others for common use. If therefore a man keeps himself clear of these latter, he himself will be for specially honourable use, consecrated, fit for the Master's service, and fully equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 2:20-21 WNT).

  • Thanks for your edit on my question but you changed my question substantially. The reason I put an explicit "consequently/simultaneously" terminology is because Lutheran and Calvinist differ on this matter. Catholic and Orthodox are closer to Calvinist that there is no logical priority between justification and sanctification. Your answer is a typical classic view of Protestantism. You might want to include Edwards' evangelical obedience and Gaffin's eschatological justification. It seems to me that you locate salvation in justification whereby sanctification is accidental, a bonus that follow Mar 28, 2015 at 16:37
  • @AdithiaKusno: Feel free to re-insert your "consequently/simultaneously" terminology. I won't be offended! As for sanctification being "accidental," I'd have to think about that. Now if you substituted the word "proactive" or "deliberate" for "accidental," I might agree with you. I could even agree with "value-added bonus," since ANY reward beyond salvation is "gravy" (or "icing on the cake"), not to mention undeserved. "So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'" (Luke 17:10 ESV). Mar 28, 2015 at 16:46
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    Accidental is a theological terminology. It means sanctification has no intrinsic value for our salvation. It only relate to salvation as a "value-added bonus" after being saved in justification. Of course without divorcing justification from sanctification, which no Lutheran or Calvinist would do. Let me put it this way, would you consider St. Augustine's teaching on human meritorious works compatible with Evangelicals? Our good works is not our own no one can boast but it's meritoriously given because he said, "He crown His own gifts." It has intrinsic value and not accidental. Gracious gift Mar 28, 2015 at 17:08
  • rhetorician could you add "value-added bonus" and "accidental" in your description on how sanctification relate to salvation in Evangelical's theology? Thank you. Apr 1, 2015 at 19:56
  • @AdithiaKusno: Feel free to do it yourself in an edit. You have my permission! Don Apr 2, 2015 at 1:55

I think the question is highly important and misleading at the same time. Luther and Calvin's and indeed the Protestant Reformation's main point is that sanctification can't in any sense removed the 'curse of God's moral law', you need 'justification' for that otherwise salvation is by works. Therefore a kind of order is set in the logical sequence regardless of what wording is used.

Let me first explain why the questions was misleading for me. Then I will briefly summarize an answer directed at the specific subject you are questioning but not fitting the assumptions you have made.

First, you mention ‘Ordo salutis’ I would argue that neither Luther or Calvin would be so pedantic as to make such detailed logical orders of Salvation, aside from the main order already in scripture. (Rom 8:30).

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. [(The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 8:29–30).]

Of course Luther and Calvin understood that glorification intended the final salvation of the soul and body in heaven and that salvation of the soul was gradual on earth while still living I the body. The main point is that Luther and Calvin both put predestination first, then justification by faith, then sanctification and glorification. You find people arguing about this but as a person who does not spend much time reading what others think about great theologians but rather prefer to just read them directly myself, I would simply counter argue their claims.

Regarding the term ‘Historia Salutis’ I had to look it up and I it does not seem to be logically expressed in opposition to ‘Ordo salutis’. For a seemingly reputable definition of these terms, this seems a god source. [http://www.reformedbaptistinstitute.org/?p=340] however I fail to see the value of using them and to much precision confuses people.

Second, your question additionally assumes ‘While Lutherans emphasized that sanctification follows justification and Calvinists emphasized both justification and sanctification follow mystical union with Christ’. This is simply not true at least with respect to Luther and Calvin. Luther is also like Calvin in viewing justification followed by sanctification as an effect of a mystical union with Christ by faith. I will prove this by grabbing one of many possible quotes from Luther:

Through faith in Christ, therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; rather, he himself becomes ours. Therefore the Apostle calls it “the righteousness of God” in Rom. 1[:17]: For in the gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed …; as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by his faith.’ ” Finally, in the same epistle, chapter 3[:28], such a faith is called”the righteousness of God”: “We hold that a man is justified by faith.” This is an infinite righteousness, and one that swallows up all sins in a moment, for it is impossible that sin should exist in Christ. On the contrary, he who trusts in Christ exists in Christ; he is one with Christ, having the same righteousness as he. It is therefore impossible that sin should remain in him. This righteousness is primary; it is the basis, the cause, the source of all our own actual righteousness. For this is the righteousness given in place of the original righteousness lost in Adam. It accomplishes the same as that original righteousness would have accomplished; rather, it accomplishes more. Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 31, pp. 298–299). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

So you see Luther, just like Calvin, considered justification as something resulting from a mystical union in Christ so that it is actually Christ’s righteousness. Bothe Calvin and Luther have this mystical union in mind, not because they thought of it themselves, but naturally from a verse such as:

30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. [The New International Version. (2011). (1 Co 1:30). ]

Now that we have hopefully removed the confusion of imagining Luther and Calvin disagree on the matter (admitting there will be those who argue that they do) I can try to answer the question as both Luther and Calvin would.

How are justification and sanctification related to salvation?

Well, both Luther and Calvin would say something along this line:

Man sinned and became guilty and therefore subject to God’s curse under his moral law. Those born from Adam inherited that guilt, and therefore curse unto a sinful nature. The law was added by Moses to highlight man’s inability to perform his own righteousness while also figuratively pointed to a predicted Messiah. A Messiah, God himself took upon human nature in the womb of a virgin, in order to live a life of perfect human righteousness under the law. He alone was able to live that righteous life, as he was also divine. This perfect righteousness he lived in order to provide a means to sinners to become free from the curse of that law. He also was made flesh in order to pay for the penalties of all the transgressions men had made under that law, therefore he could both remove the negative transgression and fulfill the positive requirements of the perfect holy and unforgiving law of God.

Salvation is restoring the sinner to paradise without sin and without guilt. When a sinner is receives Christ by faith they are mystically united into Christ receiving the benefits of his death and resurrection. There sins are taken and his righteousness is provided, raising them up into new life. Now here is where you question fits in.

The moment of justification/sanctification is under Calvin and Luther logically though not necessary distinguished in time for it happens together very important. Logically before a sinner can enjoy sanctification, which implies ‘prior acceptance’ by God into communion, he must be justified, that is the curse of the law must first be removed before the blessing of communion with the Father can be enjoyed. It is a misunderstanding of Calvin to think that only Luther considers an external justification before sanctification can logically occur. Bothe Luther and Calvin are agreed on this point. In addition both Luther and Calvin agree that Romans 7, describing a man with two natures, sinful and good, working in the soul is a description of the sanctified state after justification. In other words in Catholic terms, Protestants belief that a person is justified and perfectly righteous apart from works while at the same time potentially sinning in ways that Catholics would believe their state of grace is temporarily lost until confession. Naturally then both Luther and Calvin opposed Catholic beliefs on this matter more then any other theological subject. Catholics use the term justification as an initial stage of sanctification but Luther and Calvin’s main theological point was to put justification apart from works. This means for both Luther and Calvin sanctification or Christian works must also be excluded from justification, otherwise the term has no meaning and salvation is reduced back into works, regardless of how one might argue it from mystical unions, gracious helps, etc. Actually as formal dogma of the Catholic church, Luther and Calvin's teaching on justification is heresy. The notion of Protestant Justification is not to be found in Catholic or Orthodox theology.

So, in simple terms justification is needed to satisfy the demands of the law of God, remove it’s curse and put one in a righteous state before God. Sanctification is describing the blessed communion with God as a result of that law with its curse being taken away. The logical order for both Calvin and Luther is precisely because the law and its wrath must first be removed in our justification before our reconciliation with the father can be provided, even though in time both occur together through union into Christ’s mystical body by faith.

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