Description: Almost all of us have a sense that we are falling short in life. How can we be all that God wants us to be?
Justification and Sanctification – #1
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We’ve been studying dear ones, the explanation of reality that Christianity gives. We’ve been
studying it as it’s outlined in that letter that Paul wrote to the Romans in 57 A.D. This morning
we’re looking at Romans 5:2. “Through him”, that is Jesus, “we have obtained access to this grace in
which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.”
A lot of us have found that we have had a real sense of discontent in our own lives. Most things
have been going well for us and many people might even look upon us as being successful. But deep
down we sort of felt that somehow we weren’t quite hitting life. We weren’t quite making it. And
there was a kind of restlessness inside us. Many of us took two alternatives. In one we rationalize
the feeling away by saying it wasn’t real, we didn’t really feel this restlessness, life couldn’t be
any better than it was and most people were feeling the same half-hearted satisfaction as we felt.
On the other hand we identified it with having the wrong job or the wrong wife or the wrong house or
the wrong vacation or the wrong salary. And we gave ourselves to trying harder at all these things
to try to make those things right thinking that life itself would get right too. Now, what we’ve
been saying over the past Sundays here is that down through the centuries, outstanding men have
consistently pointed to one reason for that sense of restlessness and that sense of uncertainty. For
instance, Moses wrote it in Genesis if you would like to look at it, Genesis 1:26. Moses must have
written this 1400 maybe 1500 B.C., about three and half thousand years ago.
Gen 1:26, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Moses said God’s plan
for you was that you would be like Him — made in His image. Paul wrote it another way in Romans
8:29 maybe 1500 years later. I suppose about 1900 years ago.
Romans 8:29: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his
Son.” And again you see that God planned for us to be like himself — actually to be like Jesus. And
the reason we have so often a sense of restlessness and a feeling that we’ve missed the mark somehow
and we’re not quite hitting life as it should be is because really we’re not like this man Jesus.
And there’s something that continually moves inside our conscience and keeps making us realize that.
That is the spirit of reality inside us that makes us feel we’re not quite hitting it. There’s
something in life at which we have not yet arrived. Many of us go on 40, 50, 60 years and we never
get to the place where we feel we’ve arrived.
These men say the reason is because you’re not fulfilling the plan that your Creator had when he
made you. We keep thinking it’s because we haven’t all the social security settled or we haven’t the
life insurance settled or we haven’t the house finished or decorated or we haven’t the children at
college. We keep attributing it to some other unfinished task. But really, what the people who have
spoken of God have said, is that the real reason we feel we haven’t arrived is that we’re not
fulfilling the plan that God had for us when he first made us.
Now, in what way are we not like God? Well, you know lots of ways if you just look at some of the
events in Jesus’ life. You’ll see it in Luke 2:51. “And he (Jesus) went down with them and came to
Nazareth, and was obedient to them,” (that’s his parents) and his mother kept all these things in
her heart.” And in that way, many of us have not fulfilled God’s plan for us. We have either
resented our parents or we have put up with them. But really we haven’t been to them what Jesus was
to his parents. We haven’t honored them and loved them. Many of us have not even accepted them.
Maybe many of us have just rejected our parents all through our lives. And because we have not
entered into the plan that God had for us, we have a constant sense of falling short.
That’s really the way the Bible puts it, “All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of
God.” Well, the glory of God is Jesus. You remember it says in John, “We beheld his glory, glory as
of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The reason we have this sense of
uncertainty and not having arrived in life is because we have fallen short of the glory of God.
We’re not like Jesus.
All of us in this theater this morning, we’re made to be like Jesus. Your parents were intended to
experience Jesus in their homes — a Jesus who would love them, who would bless them and accept them
when they did make mistakes and who would build them up by the respect that you give them. But many
of us have not been like that and so God witnesses that in our hearts by a sense of restlessness, a
sense of having fallen short. And we keep thinking, “Oh, it’s because we haven’t achieved all we
want to achieve.” It’s just because we haven’t achieved one thing, we’re not like Jesus.
You get it you know, if you look at his attitude to his friends, in Matthew 6:14-15. “For if you
forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive
men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Many of us have failed to
do that. In regard to our friends, we hold grudges. Many of us have treasured resentments over years
and years. Many of us have relationships at the moment that are poisoned because a root of
bitterness has grown up in our heart.
Some of our friends did something to us or said something to us. At one vital time they let us down
and we have allowed a root of bitterness and resentment to grow up in relationship to them. Our
lives are not open to them at all. When we meet them there’s a kind of a haze over our eyes because
we can’t be open, we can’t be honest with them. We can’t really look them straight in the face.
That’s another way you see in which we’ve fallen short of God’s glory and it’s that that makes us
feel that we haven’t really arrived.
It’s not all the other things about economic success and professional success, it’s just that we
haven’t really achieved God’s plan for us. Or, if you’d like to look at just one other verse in Luke
22:42 — “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine
be done.” And one of the marks of Jesus’ life was that whenever it came to God’s will over his, he
always yielded his. He always yielded his own personal rights. But we, (and you know it yourself)
have fallen short of Jesus again and again in that. We will not yield our personal rights.
Of course we have a right to express our own personal opinion whenever we want to. We feel that is a
democratic principle that we ought to be able to do that. We wouldn’t dream of yielding that right.
It doesn’t matter who it hurts. It doesn’t matter what situation it confuses. We are very reluctant
to yield our own personal rights. We’re very reluctant to yield our right to our own will to do
something at a certain time for the sake of somebody else or even for the sake of God. We’re very
reluctant to yield our own right to earn money and spend money as we want to. There are many other
ways we won’t yield our personal rights. And so we’re falling short of God’s plan for us.
Now, that’s really why so many of us feel dissatisfied in our lives. In relationship to the only
significant other in the universe, (i.e. the Father of the whole creation who is alone able to do
anything finally for any of us), we have a feeling of falling short, a feeling of hiding from him
and not meeting all the plans that he had for us. It’s because of that that we have this sense of
falling short and of failing. Many of us won’t admit this and that’s why so many of us have all
kinds of physical tension and emotional tension in our lives.
God pointed it out in one of the Psalms. Psalm 32:3-4. Really, many of us even when we hear this
diagnosis won’t accept it or won’t admit it. It’s a refusal to admit God’s account of reality that
brings the kind of physical troubles that we have. Falling short of God’s glory is just sin you see,
it’s just independence of him.
Psalm 32:3-4, “When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For
day and night thy hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” And it’s stupid that so many of us take
tranquilizers and think what we need is more sleep and more rest or what we need is a vacation – if
we can only get another vacation. And really our strength is being dried up as the heat of summer
and our face is growing pale and our body is becoming weak because we’re disagreeing with the one
significant other in the universe, God.
Brothers and sisters, that’s the situation in which many of us find ourselves. We try to sort it out
by sensitivity groups, by another book on psychology or maybe by taking a degree in psychology. But
somehow we still are under this problem of feeling that we haven’t arrived. And really as far as
God’s plan for us is concerned, we haven’t arrived. What I’d like you to see this morning is that it
really makes a difficulty for God.
Now, I think first of all, to understand justification, you have to see that the difficulty here is
not only on our side but there’s a great problem that this makes for God. I’ll show you it in just a
couple of verses. The problem is that God is a just God. Now, that’s in Romans 2:6-11. “For he will
render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory
and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey
the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress
for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace
for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.”
That is the first problem God has. He is a just God. He is the director of the universe. He is the
final arbiter as far as morality is concerned. He has to hold to what he said, “That anyone who sins
against me or who falls short of my glory must die. I must destroy them; otherwise they will destroy
my universe.” God is a just God and he is bound by His justice.
Now, that would be no problem for God if he was just a just God. But would you look at the other
part of God’s character in 2 Peter 3:9. “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count
slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should
reach repentance.” The real problem is that God is merciful. God is not willing that any of us
should perish. Yet, because he is a just God, he is committed to destroying all of us who have
fallen short of his plan. Now that is the difficulty that God is in.
You can see what he can do. He can, for instance, just establish his mercy — just establish his
mercy without any concern for justice. Or, he can establish his justice without any concern for
mercy. Now that’s what de did you remember way back at the time of the Flood if you look at it in
Genesis 7:23. That’s what God did initially. He decided, all right, I’ll establish my justice. They
have fallen short of what I wanted them to be. They’ll obviously destroy my universe so I will
simply destroy them. Genesis 7:23 is really an event that is reinforced by geologists, by the
discovery they have made of the sedimentary rock.
Genesis 7:23. “He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the ground, man and
animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth.” God there
established his justice. Without justice everything would collapse into chaos, you know that.
Without justice we would all do whatever we wanted and the thing would be chaos. Therefore in order
to prevent that, God established his justice.
Or you see he could just establish his mercy and this he did too in Genesis 9:15. “I will remember
my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall
never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” God could simply have established his mercy and
said, “Look, do what you want. I won’t harm you in any way. Live just the way you want, prostitute
if you want, be amoral if you want, spread venereal disease if you want, do whatever you want.
Pollute the air, pollute the water, and kill each other. I am showing my mercy to you. I am letting
you do what you want.”
You can see, loved ones, that real love does not express only justice, which is not concerned with
the individual. Nor does it only express mercy, which is not concerned with the order in which
people live. Real love includes forgiveness and mercy. And you know that’s very difficult to
establish them both, isn’t it? Every mom and dad finds the problem, don’t you? Every one of us who
own anything that we control, find the old problem of how do you mirror your justice to them and yet
how do you show your mercy to them? You can see that mercy without any concern for sin is not mercy
If sin isn’t important enough to be punished then it isn’t serious enough to forgive, all you do is
overlook it. But if justice is not tinged at all with love for individuals then justice itself is
something harsh, unreal and impersonal. You can see that God’s problem was inside his own nature.
“How do I really forgive these dear ones that I love, and yet declare to them that I hate their sin?
I detest it and can’t bear it near me in my own heaven.”
The answer was found in God realizing that if part of himself was punished for our sin, then we
would suddenly realize that he hated sin more than he loved Himself. If part of himself was punished
for our sin we would suddenly see, “Yes, sin does means everything to God. It means so much that he
would destroy his own family for that sin.” And we would in no wise be easy about our attitude to
sin. Yet God himself would be able to remain just and punish sin and yet be able to extend his mercy
Now, that’s really what God did you remember in Jesus. Maybe you’d just look at it because it’s the
heart of justification. It’s Romans 3:25-26. “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; (he had not destroyed the world again by a flood. He had
passed over the former sin) it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous (that
he’s still a righteous and just God) and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.”
In other words, when Jesus died, it made it possible for God to be merciful to us and yet to retain
his just attitude to sin. That’s what this present verse that we’re studying this morning is saying
in Romans 5:2. “Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.” In other
words, we stand in a broad and sunlit place now with God because he has no reason to destroy us in
order to show forth his antagonism to sin. He is free and able to look upon us with love. Now,
that’s what justification is, dear ones.
Justification is when God treats you and me as if we had never sinned even though we have sinned. He
treats us as if we had never sinned not because he has had any problems wanting to do that. He has
always wanted to do that. He has always loved us with all his heart. His problem before was how to
do that without seeming to be indifferent to sin. But ever since Jesus died for that sin, we can
have no doubt of God’s antagonism to sin. If he destroyed his own Son in order to establish his
attitude to sin, then we know sin means a lot to God and he will not tolerate it. Because of our
belief in that, God treats us as holy people and that’s what justification is.
It’s God treating us as being holy and righteous people even though we have not been, simply because
Jesus has died for us. Now, it might be good to look at one or two things about justification just
to be sure of it. Do you see that it’s not a subjective feeling to be felt? Do you see that? It’s
not a feeling to be felt. It’s an object of fact about God’s character that you believe. You’re not
asked this morning to feel God’s love in justification. You’re not asked, “Do I feel I am
justified?” You’re asked to believe a fact that has taken place in time and space and has enabled
God to be merciful towards us even though he still remains just.
In other words, justification is based on our belief in an objective fact that Jesus’ blood has been
presented before the Father for us. Now it’s not a subjective feeling to be felt. So if I ask you
this morning, “Do you feel justified?” You can’t feel justified. You can’t feel justified. If I say
to you, “Now listen, because of what you did to me last week — I am having nothing more to do with
you.” Then a friend of yours comes along, explains the whole thing to me, makes it right, and I say,
“Okay, because of what your friend explained to me, I really love you. I just accept you as my
Now that’s not something you have to feel. It’s something you have to believe. You say, “Okay. If
you say my friend came to you and made things right, all right, I believe it. I may not feel it. I
may still come to you and wonder, do you still hate me? Do you still not accept me as your friend?
But I believe that my friend has made things right.”
It’s an objective fact to be believed. That’s why you see it says in Romans 5:9, “Since therefore we
are now justified by his blood”. You’re justified in remaining alive here in God’s world without
being destroyed by a flood because Jesus has been destroyed in your place. You’re justified and
remain alive. And because Jesus has allowed God to punish sin in him, God is justified in allowing
us to remain alive. Now that is an objective fact based on Jesus’ sacrifice.
You can see an instance of it in Exodus. It is the effect of the outpoured life before God. It’s the
effect that the blood of Jesus has on God and the way we are to appreciate it in justification. You
remember God explained, “Kill a lamb, and put the blood on your doorpost. When the angel of death
passes over all the other houses, he’ll see the blood on your doorpost and he’ll pass over and not
destroy your children.” Do you remember that?
Exodus 12:23. “For the LORD will pass through to slay the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood on
the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not allow the
destroyer to enter your houses to slay you.” When God saw the blood, he did not destroy the people.
The people did not sit in their houses saying, “Do I feel that God is going to do this? Can I feel
the effect of the blood on my doorpost? Can I feel that God is going to forgive me?” No, they sat
inside and said, “God told us to put the blood on the doorpost. He is going to pass over and not
destroy us. We rest on that fact. It doesn’t matter whether we feel it or not, we believe it.”
Now do you see it’s the same with Jesus? Many of us get into trouble with our justification because
we want to feel the blood of Jesus. We want to feel what God feels. That’s not what you’re asked to
do. You’re asked to believe that the blood of Jesus means your forgiveness to God so you have to
accept the meaning of the blood as God accepts. If God treats the blood of Jesus as taking the place
of your death, then you’ve to do the same. You’ve to rate things the same way God rates them. You’ve
not to try to feel that blood applied, that’s the first thing. Justification is not a feeling to be
Secondly, you can never be more justified than you are when you first become a Christian. Do you see
that? The blood of Jesus can never justify you any more than it does when you first become a
Christian. So, you can never become more justified. You can become the Pope if you want to. You can
become the most saintly person that ever lived. But do you see you will never be more acceptable to
God than when you first became a Christian and believed that Jesus had died for you. That’s because
at the end of the day God accepts us all because Jesus has died for us — not because we’re good or
Now it’s good, you see, to establish that because I’d like you to see that that’s justification. You
can never be more justified than you are when you first become a Christian because you’re justified
in God’s eyes not by how good you are but by Jesus’ death for you. Now would you move over with me
to this other big experience that we’re beginning to talk about in Romans, the experience of
You remember that the reason God was antagonistic to us was because we’d fallen short of his glory.
In other words, God’s will for us is to become like him, to become like his Son. You see that in all
kinds of places but you see it there in Genesis 3:26, you remember, “Let us make man in our own
image.” You see it again in Romans 8:29, “That we are pre-destined to be conformed to the image of
his Son.” You see it in 1 Thessalonians 4:3. This verse brings out this word “sanctification”. Maybe
we should look at it just so that we understand it plainly.
1 Thessalonians 4:3. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from
immorality.” In other words the real purpose God made us was not just to forgive us but actually to
make us like him. Now that’s what we call sanctification. Those of you who know a little Latin,
“sanctus” is “holy” — and “theo” is “to make or to be made”. Sanctification is to make up a person
holy. Justification was God treating you as holy because Jesus had died for you. Sanctification is
God making you holy.
Now many of us come into difficulty when we begin to move into sanctification. Here’s how we do it.
We see that we’re the same as the Corinthians. You get that in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. Many of us see
we’re the same as the Corinthians. Many of us see that yes, we’re Christians. A man like Paul can
call us brethren but there is some sense in which we have not entered into real sanctification. We
have not really become like God. He treats us as if we’re like Him but our own characters are not
1 Corinthians 3:1-3: “But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the
flesh, as babes in Christ.” (Many of us find we are carnal people inside. Yes, we’re children of God
but inside we’re not like God even though God treats us as if we were like him because of Jesus’
death.) “I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are
not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you
not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?”
Many of us, who have been justified by our belief in Jesus’ death for us, are still behaving like
ordinary men and women. We get jealous, we get angry, we get impatient, and we get irritable. We
haven’t really entered into this experience of sanctification that is not only a crisis event but is
also a progressive event. Many of us have not entered into that.
Do you see in that situation Satan is eager to get hold of our conscience. I’ll show you how he does
it in Galatians 5:19. Many of us see we’re like the Corinthians. We’re like these Galatians. We’re
justified but in this business of sanctification, we have not entered into it in any real sense.
Galatians 5:19: “Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness,
idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy,
drunkenness, carousing, and the like.”
Many of us who are justified — we don’t drink and we don’t carouse. But we have envy, we have
jealousy, we have dissension, we have anger, and we have hostility to other people. Then we read the
next line and this is where Satan often steels our justification from it.
Galatians 5:21. “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit
the kingdom of God.” And there our hearts drop. We want to enter into sanctification but we look at
that verse and we see, “This is the way I am. I get angry, I get jealous — so I am not going to
inherit the kingdom of God.” Then we take the next vicious step and we say, “I must produce those
things in my own life otherwise I am not going to get into the kingdom of God even though I do
believe Jesus has died for me.”
Now, loved ones that’s the wrong step because that’s the old self getting up on his hind legs and
saying, “I am going to be like God because I know Jesus has died for me. But I can see I have to
produce those things in my own life in order to get into the kingdom.” Now dear ones do you see that
that is not the attitude that God wants you to take.
God wants you to see that you are acceptable to him even though you sin seventy times seven. You are
acceptable as long as your heart is soft enough to repent and you are ready to believe that Jesus
has died for you. That’s the basis of your justification. Your sanctification is something that the
Holy Spirit begins to work in your own heart and you can trust him to work in time to get you into
the kingdom of God.
Now do you see how different that attitude that we take is to the attitude expressed in this verse
that we’re studying this morning? Romans 5:2, “Through Him (Jesus) we have obtained access to this
grace in which we stand.” And it’s the perfect tense that means we stood in this at the time we met
Jesus and we stand in it now. We stand in it as long as we believe Jesus has died for us. We stand
in it firmly. And then we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
Now that’s the attitude the Father wants us to take towards sanctification. It’s not to get into
this old self-help attitude, where we say, “I must overcome the anger in myself. I must overcome the
jealousy. I am condemned until I overcome it.” No, we rejoice in the hope of sharing the glory of
God. We have a sure and certain expectation that God through the Holy Spirit is going to share his
glory, the glory of his Son’s character with us through the Holy Spirit. And we rejoice in that and
we walk on day-by-day glad and rejoicing.
Now the other attitude is utterly depressing. The other attitude is the one whereby we come into a
situation where once again our anger is exposed. We get thoroughly irked with ourselves, thoroughly
fed up and irritated and we say, “I can do better than that.” And do you see it’s “I” saying, “I can
do better than that.”
It’s so different to God’s declaration about us that there is no good thing in us. The child of God
who is walking on in the right attitude towards sanctification is one who comes into a situation,
loses their temper and immediately says, “Father, you’re right. There is no good thing in me. I see
that you’re not accepting me because of anything good that there is in me. I can’t even live the
life you want me to live. Lord, I thank you for this situation where you’ve exposed to me again that
there’s nothing good in me. Father, I want you to show me that I am unable to produce any of the
beauty that Jesus had. The only way to do it is for you to destroy me completely on the Cross with
him and just give me his spirit through the Holy Spirit.”
But do you see it’s a totally different way. Now brothers and sisters I share it with you this
morning because I know a number of you are anxious to go on into the beauty of Christ. You and I
know that that’s what has put people off at churches. We’ve all being crying, “justification,
justification, we’re saved by the blood of Jesus” but we have not gone on into sanctification. Yet
many of you are anxious to go on into it by the old self-help method, and that isn’t God’s way.
The attitude of the child of God is “Through Jesus we have access to the grace in which we stand”.
We stand in this grace of God’s forgiveness till eternity, as long as we’re ready to believe that
Jesus has died for us. That’s why God justified us. But we also rejoice in our hope of sharing the
glory of God. We walk day-by-day grieving each moment when God exposes our own un-Christ-likeness to
We greet it as joy and we say, “Thank You, Father. I thank you that you’ve shown me I am rotten.
You’ve shown me I am absolutely hopeless. I am a selfish, miserable creature. Lord, you’re showing
me that there’s nothing that you can do but destroy this whole thing absolutely with Christ on the
Cross and then remake me completely by filling me with the Holy Spirit.” But do you see it is a
glorious trust that God is going to do this in us?
Oh loved ones, it is not a position of strain and strife. Now I agree with you, there is a glorious
desperation that we all come to where we are willing to do anything if God will fill us with the
Holy Spirit. But do you see it isn’t something that we strain into ourselves or strive into. It is a
rejoicing in a sure hope of sharing the glory of God and just look at those things. The glory is of
God. It is of God, it isn’t of your own producing. It is sharing his glory. It is the Holy Spirit
giving you the attributes of Jesus day-by-day. It is a rejoicing. It is not a sad irritation with
yourself all the time.
You’re only irritated with yourself when you’re still hoping for something good from yourself. When
you’ve really given up any hope of getting anything Christ-like out of yourself, then at last,
you’re ready to rejoice. And then it is a hope, it is a trust and quiet rest that is ready to
receive this when God finds it possible to give us — when you have entered into all the conditions.
Do you see that is the relation of justification and sanctification? If you don’t take that
attitude, you see what happens. You try to enter into sanctification. You start beating yourself
over the head. And because you’re not meeting God’s standards you fall into salvation by works and
you fall out of trust in the blood of Jesus. And so you lose everything. Now that is not God’s will
God’s will is that we as a body should walk continually day-after-day knowing that God is accepting
us because of Jesus’ death and yet walking on more and more into the fullness of the Holy Spirit
until we’re really absolutely like Jesus. That is what God wants.
I pray that those of you who are really serious about this, that you’ll back off a wee bit from
trying to produce it yourself. And that you’ll begin to hand it over to the Holy Spirit by saying,
“Holy Spirit, I am a miserable mess — so big a mess that I can’t even begin to estimate what it
will cost to put me right.” Say to the Holy Spirit, “I am such a mess Holy Spirit; I don’t know
where to begin. Now will you show me where to begin?” And let him take you step-by-step. He will
take you the whole way. Why? Because we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. God will
fulfill what he has begun in you and me. That was his purpose in beginning it.