Tag Archives: Sanctification

Translating Christianese, Part 4

Translating Christianese 4Last week, in discussing atonement, I quoted Charles Spurgeon, a preacher from the 1800’s who described Christ’s atoning sacrifice as the “just Ruler dying for the unjust rebel”. The week before, I looked at righteousness, which can be defined as justness. What then do Christians mean when we talk of “justification”? Justification comes from the Greek word δικαίωσις (dikaiosis, meaning “the act of pronouncing righteous”[1]),  and can be defined as “an instantaneous legal act of God in which He a) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and b) declares us to be righteous in His sight.”[2] We can draw some important points out of this definition. First, this is something God does, not us. Only the judge has the authority to declare someone condemned or pardoned. The defendant has no say in the decision. Second, it’s a judicial declaration, not based on us earning it by good deeds. Third, declaring someone right is not the same as making them right. We are not made morally perfect people by this action, but rather declared as such in God’s sight because of us placing our trust (faith) in Jesus Christ to save us from the death sentence we were under, by virtue of Christ’s perfect righteousness. But if God is just, how can He ignore our guilt and simply declare us righteous?  One result of Christ’s substitutionary atonement discussed last week is “imputed righteousness”. Imputation is a “transfer of benefit or harm from one individual to another”.[3]  Imputation isn’t a common term, but there are some common examples of it in our daily lives. The actions of an employee breaking the law in the course of his job duties may be imputed to his employer. A friend’s accident in your car can be imputed to you. Below is an example from one state’s laws regarding imputation of driving negligence:

“Any negligence of a minor … when driving any motor vehicle upon a highway, shall be imputed to the person who signed the application of the minor for the license. That person shall be jointly and severally liable with the minor for any damages caused by the negligence.”

And so our sins were imputed to Christ, and He was held fully liable for them, while His perfection was imputed to us, in a merciful exchange that satisfied God’s justice even though we deserved punishment.

Going back to that important distinction earlier about God declaring us righteous versus making us righteous, one might wonder if we can simply continue on our selfish, sinful life journey after this atoning, justifying encounter with our Creator. That brings us to the term “sanctification”. Sanctification is “a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.”[4]  This definition brings up several points. First, this is a separate process from justification. While our efforts can never justify us, they do contribute toward making us holy, or “set apart”. Second, this is a cooperative work. We cannot do it without the power of God’s Holy Spirit in us, but He also won’t let us be lazy or apathetic and say that we can’t change or that we’re just waiting on God to change us. Third, it is a continual process. God uses our life events and our responses to them to mold us into who He destined us to be in this life, and to prepare us for an eternity in heaven. So this process won’t stop until the day we die. Fourth, this should not be an abstract concept, but should have actual results that others can observe and see there is something different about us. Read Corrie ten Boom’s account of the behavior of her sister Bessie in the Nazi concentration camps they were at, and you will get a beautiful picture of what someone farther down the journey of sanctification looks like. Fifth, because of our role in it, it will vary from person to person. I have had the honor of knowing some saintly people over the years, who, while not perfect, reflected Christ far closer than I ever have, and likely ever will. My humble prayer is that I could be half the servant of God they were. Sixth, becoming more like Christ will affect every facet of our lives. There can be no holdouts, no secrets, no private pleasures. But when we do yield those up to Him, He takes away our cherished mud pies and replaces them with gems of joy we didn’t think possible.

Today was a summary of a few of the many things that could be said on these two concepts. Tune in next week as we tie some of these ideas together and look at probably the 2 most common Christian terms: “saved” and “born again”. Enjoy!


[1] dikaiosis, www.Biblehub.com/greek, accessed 2015/02/08.
[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1994), p.723.
[3] “Imputation”, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, by Grenz, Guretzki, & Nordling, (Downers Grove, Intervarsity Press, 1999).
[4] Wayne Grudem, ibid., p 746.