Posted by: davidlarkin | January 28, 2023

Justification and Sanctification: Martyn Lloyd-Jones Explains the Difference

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. For almost 30 years, he was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London. His preaching and writing have been a great inspiration to me over the years. I read his daily devotional, Walking with God Day by Day: 365 Daily Devotional Selections each day on my Amazon Kindle. I have written about Martyn Lloyd-Jones previously on this blog.

On January 24, his daily devotional explained concisely the difference between Justification and Sanctification and the importance of this distinction:

January 24


“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” 1 CORINTHIANS 1:30

Let me show you the essential difference between justification and sanctification. Look at it like this:

Justification is an act of God the Father; sanctification is essentially the work of God the Holy Spirit. There is this division of work in the blessed Persons of the Trinity. It is the Father who declares righteous and just. It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies.

Second, justification takes place outside us, as in a tribunal; sanctification takes place within us, in our inner life. I stand in the court when I am justified, and the judge pronounces that I am free; it is a statement about me, outside me. But sanctification is something that is worked and takes place within.

Third, justification removes the guilt of sin; sanctification removes the pollution of sin and renews us in the image of God. And therefore, last, by definition justification is a once-and-for-all act. It is never to be repeated because it cannot be repeated and never needs to be repeated. It is not a process but a declaration that we are pronounced just once and forever, by God. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a continuous process.

We continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord until we are perfect beyond the veil. So there is nothing quite so erroneous and confusing and unscriptural as to mistake the essential difference between justification and sanctification. That is the whole trouble with Roman Catholic teaching and all Catholic piety. If you confuse sanctification with justification, you will be doubtful as to whether you are justified or not. If you bring in your state and condition and sin that you may commit, then you are querying your justification. But if you realize that justification is forensic, external, and declaratory, you know that you are justified whatever may be true about you.

Justification removes the guilt of sin; sanctification removes the pollution of sin.

It will be 52 years this March 2023, I have been a Christian since I was saved reading the Bible for the first time when I was a philosophy student at Yale in 1971. See my Spiritual Memoir. Justified when I first believed, I became a child of God, but sanctification has been a lifelong work continuing to this day. Sin is still within and it is a daily battle to resist temptation and to build up godly habits, both spiritually and physically healthy. The words of the Lord’s Prayer each day, “. . . lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil,” carry the weight of 52 years of that battle against temptation and the weakness of the flesh. I am thankful for godly men and women like Martyn Lloyd Jones who took the time to preach and teach the Gospel and the Biblically Christian life with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I highly recommend Dr. Lloyd-Jones sermons on the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Trust website:

I listened to his over 200 sermons on the Ephesians on my exercise walks. He goes through the book verse by verse. Very rich messages and teaching.  There is an MLJ app on the Apple iPhone and Google Play. I listened to his sermons with my iPhone MLJ Trust App.

I also have read some of his books. My favorite is The Assurance of Our Salvation (Studies in John 17): Exploring the Depth of Jesus’ Prayer for His Own. He has 48 chapters, his sermons on John 17, and the higher Lord’s Prayer, his prayer for the people who the Father has given him, not a prayer for his people but solely for Jesus. This book was life-changing for me. 

Another very good book of his I have read is Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure, which Amazon summarizes as follows:

This enduring collection of twenty-one sermons by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, each originally delivered at Westminster Chapel in London, carefully and compassionately analyzes an undeniable feature of modern society from which Christians have not escaped — spiritual depression.

“Christian people,” writes Lloyd-Jones, “too often seem to be perpetually in the doldrums and too often give this appearance of unhappiness and of lack of freedom and absence of joy. There is no question at all but that this is the main reason why large numbers of people have ceased to be interested in Christianity.”

Believing the Christian joy was one of the most potent factors in the spread of Christianity in the early centuries, Lloyd-Jones not only lays bare the causes that have robbed many Christians of spiritual vitality but also points the way to the cure that is found through the mind and spirit of Christ.

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