What is the difference between Justification and Santification?


I have no idea why, but the difference between these two terms confuses me. :blush: Could someone explain to me in simple terms what justification and sanctification means? Also, don’t include links. I understand much better when people on this site give their explanations then when I try to read off site articles.

I think that I must just be very dense.:shrug: :blush:


It is a bit confusing isn’t it? I’ll give it a stab.

Justification is the process of transforming the sinner to a state of holiness. So when the Protestant says they are justified by faith alone, they are saying that it is their act of faith that has made them holy in the eyes of God and thus now eligible to be claimed by Him. Catholics would say faith is certainly required but so are works and participation in the sacraments.

This claiming process by God is sanctification. Sanctifying grace can be thought of as the substance of sanctification. Again, the Protestant would say that one’s faith alone would get him the sanctifying grace that he could never lose. Catholics would say that such grace is indeed able to be lost by our actions, most especially the commitment of mortal sin, but that Christ has given us the sacraments as a means to again receive sanctification.

There’s some pretty good tracks on Newadvent.org that cover both of these terms.


Thank you. I will look at Newadvent.org. :slight_smile:



CCC 1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism:

But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

CCC 1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.

CCC 1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.

CCC 1990 Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God’s merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals.

CCC 1991 Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or “justice”) here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.

CCC 1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

CCC 1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight.

CCC 1994 Justification is the most excellent work of God’s love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St. Augustine that “the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of heaven and earth,” because “heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect . . . will not pass away.” He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy.

CCC 1995 The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth to the “inner man,” justification entails the sanctification of his whole being:

Just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. . . . But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.



CCC 1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

CCC 1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an “adopted son” he can henceforth call God “Father,” in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

CCC 1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.

CCC 1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:

Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.

CCC 2000 Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.

CCC 2001 The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:”

Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing.

CCC 2002 God’s free initiative demands man’s free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. The promises of “eternal life” respond, beyond all hope, to this desire:

If at the end of your very good works . . ., you rested on the seventh day, it was to foretell by the voice of your book that at the end of our works, which are indeed “very good” since you have given them to us, we shall also rest in you on the sabbath of eternal life.

CCC 2003 Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning “favor,” “gratuitous gift,” “benefit.” Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.

CCC 2004 Among the special graces ought to be mentioned the graces of state that accompany the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and of the ministries within the Church:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

CCC 2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord’s words “Thus you will know them by their fruits” - reflection on God’s blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges: "Asked if she knew that she was in God’s grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.


Justification and Sanctification do not mean “precisely” the same thing but there is not a clear separation between the two. Please note all of the following verses. You can actually interchange the word justify and sanctify or justification and sanctification with one another without saying anything heretical. Try substituting one for the other as is suitable in the following verses and you will see what I mean.

1Cor 6:11 And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Heb 13:12
Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood.

Acts 20:32
And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified.

Acts 26:18
to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

1Cor 1:2
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Rom 6:22
But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.

Heb 2:11
For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,

HEB 10:9
And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Heb 10:29
How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?

1Peter 1:2
who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:

2 Thess 2:13
But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

Rom 6:7
7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. (Greek uses the word justified; no wall of separation between justification and sanctification.)


What Father commands is sanctification and by doing what He commands is justification.Study allegory and anagogy this helps with directions given by Bible.


Justification is the imputation of righteousness (thru the merits of Christ) to a person. Sanctification (act of the Holy Spirit) is the hallowing of the person who was made righteous. So a person sanctified is a person justified. In human terms, justification precedes sanctification but in divine terms, we cannot be clear cut on the issue of precedence.It can be said that justification and sanctification are simultaneous.


Actually, the Catholic position on justification isn’t merely being imputed (applied to us or simply covering us with Christs righteousness) but moreover the righteousness of Christ being infused into our souls (2 Cor 5:17) where we are actually changed ontologically (in our being) into new creations; starting with our initial justification by a Trinitarian baptism where the Holy Spirit makes an indelible mark on our souls, (John 3:5,Acts 2:38) :slight_smile:


Deb 1 -

You are not dense. This is actually a fantastic question that lies at the heart and center of the Catholic/Protestant debate. The answer to this question has not only confused you, but also RCC Popes, Priests, theologians, and laypeople for centuries. It is the watershed that distinguishes two different religions, one true and one false.

However, Jesus Christ, NT authors, church fathers, and the Reformers were very clear on the difference between these terms.

Justification, in its biblical context, means “to declare righteous.” It is something God does to the believer, instantaneously, and apart from any merit in that person. “A man is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3:28).

Sanctification is the process that follows justification by which the believer is set apart, or made holy. It is the ongoing process we often refer to as “spritual growth.” “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit soul body be preserved blameless.” (1thes 5;23)


It is not confusing in the NT. Justification has nothing to do with process. In fact, it has nothing to do with transformation! (at least, not directly). It is a judicial term. A legal situation where the sinner is declared righteous.

Rom 8:33 It is God who justifies.
5:1 Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God

The term usually occurs in the Greek aorist tense, which is like a “snapshot,” whereas sanctification often occurs in the Greek imperfect tense, which is more like a video. Both are similar in that God does the work, but justification is instant, fixed and complete, whereas sanctification is an ongoing process that will only be completed at glorification, when we are completed in Heaven.


Actually, this is not what we believe, nor is this what the NT teaches. Justification, techinically, does nothing to make the sinner holy. It is a legal declaration by which God declares the sinner righteous. It is God’s sovereign choice based on his own sovereign will.

Think of it like a judge who pardons a criminal. If the judge declares the sinner innocent, he has not done anything to make that criminal any better. He is just saying the criminal is no longer guilty in the eyes of the court. It doesn’t necessarily mean the criminal becomes a better person.

The process of being made holy is wound up in sanctification. This occurs after a man is justified. It is a result of justification that a sinner begins the process of sanctification.


This is certainly what Catholics would say, but this is not what the NT teaches. The NT teaches:

Rom 3:28 A man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law

Gal 2:15 A man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified

Rom 5:1 having been justified by faith, we have peace with God

1 Cor 6:11 you were justified in teh name of the Lord Jesus and by teh Spirit of our God

It is all active on God’s part, passive on man’s part. The only cooperation or participation necessary is to receive the free gift by faith.


Again, not necessarily any 'cleansing" involved at justification, only sovereign, gracious, “legal declaration” at this point…


“detaches man from sin”…okay I guess :o “purifies his heart of sin”… no. that’s sanctification. “frees from teh enslavement to sin” no. that’s sanctification too.

The Catechism is rather sloppy (sorry) in the way it loosely interchanges justificaion and sanctification. It’d be like a surgeon using a butter knife and a scalpel interchangably. Same idea (sorta) but in the long run, gets pretty ugly…


This is getting there…although I wouldn’t say that last part about simultaneous. Sinners do not need to go on continually being justified. This occurs once. Instantaneously. Forever locked in and can never be lost.

Sanctification is ongoing, can fluctuate (Rom 7:14ff), but overall is a positive curve and results in fruitful victory.


The teaching of James is more comprehensive. You read James 2:17-26. Reread and focus on James 2:24. It is KJV translation: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” That’s the whole teaching of the NT on justification.

Justification and sanctification to be meaningful should finally lead you to eternal salvation–that is entering the kingdom of heaven. Focus on Christ’s teaching: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).”

What are the works of the law that cannot justify? These are the laws that are not part of the 10 Commandments of God, e.g. circumcision. The law on circumcision is what the first council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem, rejected as a requirement for salvation (Acts 15:1-11). Instead St. Peter declared “We believe it is through the **grace of our Lord Jesus **that we are saved, just as they are.”

Therefore, justification, sanctification, and eternal salvation are God’s grace in different operations which are just one and the same Divine Love operating in every human soul who are willing cooperators, actors, and doers of Divine Law.

I do not mean to stop you from going further but do not forget to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” And, that’s Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians (Philippians 2:12-13). Passivity is never a Christian virtue.

SALVATION? WE HAVE TO WORK IT OUT not lightly but in FEAR AND TREMBLING. Do not just sit down there contemplating justification by faith alone. That’s not what Christ taught. That’s misinterpretation of Paul’s mind on justification by Martin Luther who, by the way, added “alone”. Whom do you want to believe Christ or Martin Luther? I believe in Christ who alone can save. Amen.


So the moment we are justified, we do not automatically experience a “cleansing?”

What does “born again” mean to you and what is it’s relationship to justification?

God Bless,


Is the person actually righteous when declared righteous?


No. justification is simply a declaration or pronouncement respecting the relation of the person to the law which he, the judge, is required to administer. It is often contrasted in Scripture with condemnatinon (Rom 8;33). WHen a judge “condemns” a sinner it does not make him more sinful, it is simply a legal declaration by which a judge announces the sinner is guilty, or found to be at fault.

Justification is a loving act the Father does for His elect/ His own. It sets believers free from accusation, from a prosecutor such as the devil.

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