When we consider what it means to have faith in Christ and how that plays out in our lives, two words come up. The first is salvation and the second is sanctification. These two words identify two separate but related concepts in what it means to follow Jesus. Unfortunately, sometimes we blur these two ideas together and end up with some wrong ideas about what it means to be saved, and what it means to live the life Jesus wants us to live. Let’s take a look at these two terms and see how they apply to the Christian life.
So What Is Salvation?
We are most familiar with this idea from John 3:16 where Jesus said we need to believe in Him to have eternal life. This was from a conversation He was having with Nicodemus, where Jesus told him he must be born again. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and savior, we become children of God (John. 1:12). That means we are “saved” or have experienced salvation. We didn’t have to do anything to earn it, nor can we. This was the free gift God offered us (Romans 6:23), since we are sinners and were condemned.
What Is Sanctification?
Once we are God’s children through Christ, we are “born again.” That gives us a picture of what we are. We are children and children need to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Since when we are newly saved, we are spiritual babies. We need to grow in our new faith. Paul describes this in Romans 12:1-2 where he tells us to present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices, which is our reasonable service of worship. We are no longer to be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This happens through our interaction with God’s word, adopting God’s principles for living, rather than what we see and hear from the world around us. In other words, we need to listen to God, not everybody else. Sanctification is the process of growing in our faith and becoming mature Christians.
What’s the Confusion?
Many times we think that the activities we do to help grow our faith have something to do with our salvation. The idea that we need to do something to gain God’s approval or keep Him from changing His mind and kicking us out of His presence can come across or thoughts on a regular basis. We have accepted Jesus and we are God’s children, but we somehow think we need to continue to earn it so we don’t lose it. Let me encourage you. God made it plain that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). The best way I can explain this is to use an example I am sure many of us have experienced. Like any analogy, this is not an exact parallel, but it will give you an idea of the process I described.
How Can We Understand?
Let’s say you were looking for a job. You found an opening and applied. Things went well and you got the job. Once you got the job, you began training and learned what you were supposed to do. As time passed, you got good at your new job and became very successful. Now, let’s think about the process. What did you have to do to get hired? You applied. When you were a new-hire, were you expected to know exactly how to do the job instantly? Of course not, you needed to be trained. As you started doing your new job, did you have to go back and apply again just to make sure you were still hired? No, you didn’t. Once you were hired, you didn’t have to reapply. You may make mistakes along the way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose your job. The bottom line is, sanctification is a fancy way of identifying growing in our faith and becoming mature believers. It is a result of salvation, not the cause of it.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.