This week we begin with Question 32 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 2 (questions 21-35), which focuses on Christ, redemption, and grace.
Question 32: What do justification and sanctification mean?
Answer: Justification means our declared righteousness before God, made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection for us. Sanctification means our gradual, growing righteousness, made possible by the Spirit’s work in us.
The saving work of Christ affects two things about us: our standing with God and our personal condition. Salvation entails being put in right standing with God (justification) as well as being transformed to reflect the image of Christ (sanctification). The reason for this twofold work is because the effects of sin include both condemnation and personal corruption. Adam’s sin has left us liable to God’s judgment, and it has left our hearts corrupted so that we desire sin instead of righteousness. Christ’s saving work addresses both realities.
Through the work of justification, God declares us righteous. By faith alone, we are joined to Christ, and so our sins are counted to him, and his righteousness is counted to us. Because of Christ alone, we have right standing with God. Through the work of sanctification, God makes us righteous. By the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we are transformed from loving and desiring sin to loving God and neighbor more and more. Having declared us righteous, God also makes us righteous, perfecting us ultimately on the day of resurrection.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: 1 Corinthians 1:30. In what sense is Christ our righteousness? In what sense is he our sanctification and redemption?