Salvation and sanctification

Salvation and sanctification are central to Christianity. But if we get them mixed up, it can mess with our thinking.

Salvation is being made right with God, both in this life and the next. When you believe in Jesus and what he has done for you on the cross (dying in your place and paying the price for your sin), you receive forgiveness and peace with God. You are reconciled—which is very, very good news! As Ephesians 2:8 reminds us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.”

Let’s be clear. You can’t earn salvation. It’s not based on what you have done but on what Christ has done on your behalf. It’s God’s free gift!

Sanctification, on the other hand, is a fancy word which means ‘being made holy.’ It is becoming more like Jesus. God’s Spirit works within us for this to happen. After believing in Christ we seek to be more like him and to be his hands and feet in the world. “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). We do this out of faithfulness, gratitude and obedience.

Here’s where some people struggle. Since they continue to wrestle with sin—and therefore don’t feel very holy—they can doubt their salvation.

I’m here to tell you that all Christians struggle with sin to some degree or another, myself included. None of us are perfect. But this struggle does not negate your salvation.

J.I. Packer says that we are “brought low in repentance and raised high in assurance.”* In other words, we are humbled because of our ongoing sin and need for repentance, but we are also, at the same time, confident members of God’s very household and forever family!

Be humble. Be confident. Continue to grow. Rely on God. 

Yes, we are brought low in repentance, but we are also raised high in assurance.


–“True repentance: Create in me a clean heart.” Sermon on Psalm 51. May 21, 2023. Click here to watch or listen.

–* *J.I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2021), 2nd ed., 174.

–Bible quotes are from the NIV.

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