Do we cooperate with God for our justification and sanctification? The answer is yes and no, or in this case, no and yes. Let’s take a look. As far as justification goes, we do nothing to earn it in any way. But sanctification is something we are very involved with. Justification is a legal declaration of righteousness. It is when the righteousness of God is given to us by faith (Phil. 3:9; Rom. 3:28; 4:1-5; Gal. 2:16, 21). We do not cooperate with God to be justified. In other words, justification is not through our works, faithfulness, goodness, or sincerity. Justification is the action of God upon us. We receive it by faith. But does that mean that if we believe we are cooperating with God? No, that is not what is meant by ‘cooperating.’ God grants that we believe Phil. 1:29) and that the faith He grants us is in Christ (John 6:29). So, even though we believe, God enables us to believe.
Monergism good. Synergism Bad
When it comes to salvation, it is God alone who saves by faith alone in Christ alone (monergism). We do not cooperate with God to maintain our justification as false religions teach (synergism). Justification is a legal act that occurs once. It is not an ongoing process that we maintain through our cooperative effort with God’s requirements.
On the other hand, we are very involved in our sanctification. Sanctification is a process we go through to be more like Jesus. So it is up to us to read the word of God, attend church, turn from sin, seek Christ, confess our sins, pray, etc. In these things, over a long period of time, we become more like Jesus in our attitudes and actions. In this, we cooperate with God.
Justification and Sanctification compared.
There is a difference between justification and sanctification. Justification is completely God’s work. Sanctification involves our work. Justification is a legal declaration. Sanctification is a transformation into godly behavior. Justification is by the imputed righteousness of God by faith alone in Christ alone. Sanctification occurs over one’s lifetime to become a Christian.
Based on what Jesus did
Based on what we do
Completely God’s work
God and people work together
Happens when we believe
Happens over the course of our whole life
Justification happens to you – from God
Sanctification happens within you – with the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:13)
Not legal action
Declaration of righteousness (Rom. 4:1-6 Phil. 3:9)
Gradual increase in being more like Jesus, morally
It happens from outside – God to you.
It happens inside of you.
The Greek word for justification is δικαιόω, dikaioō. It occurs 40 times in the New Testament (Matt. 12:37; Luke 10:29; Romans 3:20; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; 5:4; Titus 3:7, etc.). The word for sanctification is ἁγιασμός, hagiasmos. It occurs 10 times in the New Testament (Rom. 6:22; 1 Cor. 1:30; 1 Thess. 4:7; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:2, etc.)
“justification (Gr. dikaioō; Lat. iustificatio, “a reckoning or counting as righteous”) God’s declaring a sinful person to be “just” on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:24–26; 4:25; 5:16–21). The result is God’s peace (Rom. 5:1), God’s Spirit (8:4), and thus “salvation.” (McKim, Donald K.. The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition: Revised and Expanded (p. 174). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.)
“sanctification (Gr. hagiasmos, Lat. sanctificatio) The process or result of God’s continuing work in Christian believers through the power of the Holy Spirit. In Protestant theology this occurs after justification and is growth in grace and holiness of life marked by good works.” (McKim, Donald K.. The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition: Revised and Expanded (pp. 279-280). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.)
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