JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION: one divine action

Excerpt from: How are we Saved? The Understanding of Salvation in the Orthodox Tradition by Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware.

By this time it will be abundantly clear that, when we Orthodox speak about salvation, we do not have in view any sharp differentiation between justification and sanctification. Indeed, Orthodox usually have little to say about justification as a distinct topic; I note, for example, that in my own work The Orthodox Church, written thirty years ago, the word “justification” does not appear in the index, although this was not a deliberate omission.

Orthodoxy links sanctification and justification together, just as St. Paul does in 1 Cor. 6:11: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” The reference to justification in the opening chapters of Romans (for example 3:20, 24, 28), we understand in the light of Romans 6:4-10, which describe our radical incorporation through baptism into Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

Salvation, as already stated, is not a single event in our past life but an ongoing process of growth in Christ. It is not simply to turn our face in the right direction and to take the first step on our journey, but it is to continue walking until by God’s grace we attain our journey’s end. We Orthodox, then, “see ‘justification’ and ‘sanctification’ as one divine action...one continuous process,” to use the words of the Common Statement issued by the Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue in North America.

As Bishop Maximos Aghiorgoussis says: “Justification is not a separate act of God but the negative aspect of salvation in Christ, which is freedom from sin, death and the devil; whereas sanctification is the positive aspect of God’s saving act, that of spiritual growth in new life in Christ communicated by God’s Holy Spirit.” The two aspects, negative and positive, form a single undivided reality.

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