This is a crucial issue in the body of Christ today. Why? Because there is so much teaching out there that either asserts or implies that if you are not sanctified you cannot continue to be justified! The Bible teaches the exact opposite- that without justification you can never be sanctified.
We have already seen how the Lord justified Abraham through faith, reckoning him righteous on the basis of his faith in God's promise to him. And in Romans 4 the apostle Paul used God's justification of Abraham as an example of how God "justifies the ungodly" (verse 5).
More extensive study of Romans 4 and of the rest of Paul's writings will make it obvious to you that God's justification of Abraham through faith became Paul's model for saving faith for all Abraham's life further, using even the subsequent sequence of events in God's dealings with Abraham to teach us the necessary sequence of events in God's dealings with us. Let's examine this sequence of events in terms of justification and sanctification.
First, we know that Abraham was justified by faith. Second, it is of utmost importance to understand that any outworking of God's sanctification in Abraham's life was subsequent to, and therefore did not cause, Abraham's justification by faith. Look at the sequence of events as recounted by Paul:
Is this blessing then upon the circumcised or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, "Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness." How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised……For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:9-11, 13).
In Paul's mind, to understand the gospel, it is extremely important for you to see first that Abraham did not have the circumcision and he did not have the law (the Ten commandments) when he was reckoned righteous (justified) by faith. The law was given hundreds of years later through Moses, one of Abraham's descendants. Therefore right standing before God did not come through the law, even in the Old Testament. Please let this fact sink into you.
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