The Journey of Salvation and Sanctification
A subject little understood by the average Christian is that of the relationship between salvation and Sanctification. What are they, and how do they relate? These are the questions I will attempt to address in this article.
First, it must be noted that Regeneration is the gateway to Sanctification. There can be no sanctification for the unregenerate. We must first be counted righteous by God (Justification), and made righteous in Regeneration. What this means is that Justification is done for us, while Regeneration is done in us. These are simultaneous benefits of the Atonement. Thus, when one is Regenerated, one is initially Sanctified. That is, we are made holy by God. Of course, these benefits are conditioned upon a sincere repentance. That is, you must be convinced that you are a sinner deserving punishment, recognize that you are powerless to save yourself and need a savior, must have true contrition, and be resolved to turn from sin and obey all that God commands.
"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven among men by which we must be saved."- Acts 4:12
"But there is no other way than this: to become acquainted with this Christ, to be washed in the fountain spoken of by Isaiah for the remission of sins, and for the rest, to live sinless lives." - Justin Martyr
While we can certainly point to a moment in time and say with confidence, "I was saved!", it is important to understand that Sanctification is an ongoing work and an integral part of our salvation experience. So, in a sense, salvation is both an experience in time and an ongoing work.
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."- I Corinthians 1:18
Sanctification requires obedience. Far too often Christians are misled to believe that they don't have to do anything more than believe in Jesus. Anything else is just "religion". The fact of the matter is, we cannot claim to be Sanctified if we do not obey all that God's Word commands. We cannot be given to acts of willful sin.
"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord', and do not do what I say?"- Luke 6:46
"Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he shall never see death."- John 8:51
Keeping the word of Jesus is obedience. We are to obey all God commands, and not use the tired and Biblically antithetical excuse, "I'm just a saved sinner."
"Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those who wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, will this be done? It will be done only by the following things: If our understanding is fixed by faith towards God. If we earnestly seek the things that are pleasing and acceptable to Him. If we do the things that are in harmony with His blameless will. And if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity."- Clement of Rome
This is precisely why the Apostle wrote:
"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but much more in my absence- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling." - Philippians 2:12
What emerges from an examination of Sacred Scripture and the writings of the early church is that, as part of our salvation experience, there is an ongoing work in us, and by us, as we move ever more toward the holiness of God- the holiness He requires of us. This doesn't mean we are saved by what we do, since we are kept only by our faith, but that the work of Sanctification naturally produces works and obedience, which are fruits of a saving faith.