(Article for publication week of 3-26- AD 2015)
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate (homosexuals), nor abusers of themselves with mankind (sodomites), nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-11).
We see from this text the glorious truth that God saves the vilest of sinners. Dear reader, there is no sin so small that it does not deserve eternal damnation, yet there is no sin so great that it will not be forgiven them that repent. Dear reader, though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow by repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But another thing we see in our text is that justification and sanctification are always found in the same persons. You see, these two glorious doctrines are to be distinguished, but they may never be separated. These saved sinners to whom Paul writes were washed from their sins by the justifying righteousness of Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. And this is true of every sinner that God saves by His sovereign grace.
Now, as I say, justification and sanctification are to be distinguished, but not separated; yet it is vital that they be distinguished. Confusion of justification and sanctification is at the root of much, if not most theological error. Justification is an "act" of God's free grace; sanctification is a "work" of God's free grace. Justification has to do with a believer's legal standing before God; sanctification has to do with the believer's new nature. Justification is a declaration that God makes concerning the believer; sanctification is a new disposition that God works in him. Justification takes care of a sinner's bad record with God; sanctification takes care of the bad heart within the sinner. Justification is completely objective; sanctification is subjective and experimental. Justification is once for all; sanctification is progressive. Justification is by imputation of Christ's righteousness; sanctification is by impartation of a new nature (there is a great difference between imputation and impartation, but the believer is the object of both, and no one can be saved without both imputed righteousness and imparted holiness).
Augustus Toplady expressed the doctrines of justification and sanctification sublimely and succinctly in the hymn "Rock of Ages" (incidentally the favourite hymn of President Jefferson Davis and General JEB Stuart), thusly: "be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power." There it is- justification cleanses the believing sinner from the guilt of sin, and sanctification cleanses him from the power of sin. Both of these are absolutely necessary for salvation. The poor sinner must be cleansed from both the guilt and power of sin. This God does for those He saves. Dear reader, have you been saved from both the guilt and power of sin?