Righteous Status and Growth in Holiness
It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Justifying grace is God’s undeserved, loving commitment to rescue us from his wrath and judgment. In Christ, God delivers us from sin and transports us into his loving kingdom of forgiveness. Justifying grace calls us to trust Jesus Christ as our savior, the one who has taken all our sin and just judgment upon himself. When we trust Christ by faith, his work of forgiveness begins by releasing us from our debt, transforming our hearts, and freeing us to live for him.
When we look to Christ in faith and believe that his death was our death and that his punishment was our judgment, we receive by God’s grace his righteousness. This righteous declaration is forensic in that the legal charges against us have been dropped and we have been declared in right standing with God. To be credited as righteous is to be conferred a legal standing of being forgiven and no longer liable to punishment.
Sanctifying grace is Jesus being the desire, ability, and power in us to respond to every life situation according to the will of God. Jesus is our desire for he works in us a hunger for holiness. Jesus is our ability for he enables us to make godly choices. Jesus is our power for he strengthens us to overcome the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. Grace is the person, Jesus, living his life in and through us empowering us to live a righteous and holy life (2 Cor. 9:8, 2 Cor. 12:1-10, Titus 2:11-14). Sanctifying grace is Jesus living his life in us: this is the normal Christian life (1 Jn. 4:9).
Justification describes the position of acceptance with God which he gives us when we trust in Christ as our Saviour. It is a legal term, borrowed from the lawcourts, and its opposite is condemnation. To justify is to acquit, to declare an accused person to be just, not guilty. So the divine judge, because his Son has borne our condemnation, justifies us, pronouncing us righteous in his sight. ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1).
Sanctification, on the other hand, describes the process by which justified Christians are changed into the likeness of Christ. When God justifies us, he *declares* us righteous through Christ’s death for us; when he sanctifies us, he *makes* us righteous through the power of his Holy Spirit within us.
Justification concerns our outward status of acceptance with God; sanctification concerns our inward growth in holiness of character. Further, whereas our justification is sudden and complete, so that we shall never be more justified than we were on the day of our conversion, our sanctification is gradual and incomplete. It takes a few moments only in court for a judge to pronounce his verdict and for the accused to be acquitted; it takes a lifetime even to approach Christlikeness. (paragraph editing mine)
John Stott, Your Confirmation, rev. edn. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1991), 38.