What do justification and sanctification mean?
Justification means our declared righteousness before God. Sanctification means our gradual, growing righteousness.
To those who are elect exiles . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:1-2)
God justifies those whom He has chosen and sanctifies His chosen people.
Outline for lesson
- Open in prayer: Loving God, thank you that you have justified me. I praise you that you are sanctifying me through the power of the Holy Spirit. Please help me long to be more like Jesus and be obedient to you for your glory. Grant understanding to the children who will hear this lesson. May they understand the significance of justification and long for the work of sanctification in their individual lives. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
- Introduction: You will need two boxes and gift wrap. Print the word justification on one sheet of Paper and sanctification on another, and place one in each box. Wrap the boxes up and stick a number one on one box and a number two on the other. Place the two boxes at the front of the room and ask if they’re excited to see what’s inside.
Explain that the boxes contain words that describe two of God’s great gifts to humans. Tell them the boxes must be opened in a certain order, though! Invite a child to open box number one and pull out the word justification.
Tell them that justification is God’s declaration that someone is righteous before him. Only God can justify, and the only reason he can justify is because Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment that was due to guilty sinners. Justification is an amazing gift from God!
Invite another child to open the second box, and remind them that the boxes had to be opened in a special order. Pull out the word sanctification.
Explain that sanctification only happens after justification. When people are justified by God and saved from the punishment they deserve, the Holy Spirit comes to live in them. As he lives in them, the Holy Spirit makes them more and more like Jesus. Sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus.
Introduce Question 32: “What do justification and sanctification mean?” Tell them this lesson will help them understand the act of justification and process of sanctification further.
- Lesson: Begin the teaching time by asking for God’s help. Ask that the lesson would be taught faithfully and that the children might listen well.
Ask why the gift-wrapped boxes needed to be opened in a certain order. Remind them that only after a person is justified by God, through Christ, does the Holy Spirit comes and live in him or her and begins the process of sanctification. Trying to simply live a good life or become more like Jesus without being justified will never make anyone right with God. The process of sanctification begins after God has justified.
Ask if they often get asked what they want to be when they grow up. Explain that there are lots of wonderful things to do and become in God’s world, but the greatest desire Christians can have is to glorify God as they become more like Jesus.
Ask how they think adults might respond if they answered the “what to do you want to be when you grow up” question with “more like Jesus”? Read 1 Peter 1:1—2. Provide Bibles for the children to read along with you. Explain that the apostle Peter is writing a special letter to Christians who are scattered abroad in different places and who are being persecuted because they love Jesus. Explain that Peter is trying to encourage them by reminding them that they are very special to God. He refers to three works of God in the salvation of each believer:
Invite them to look at the two verses to see if they can identify what God the Father does, what God the Son does, and what God the Holy Spirit does.
a. Election: God the Father
b. Justification: God the Son
c. Sanctification: God the Holy Spirit
Remind the children of Question 27 and the fact that God chose which people he would justify and sanctify. is what Peter is referring to when he addresses the exiled Christians as the “elect.” They are the ones that God chose to be his holy people. Peter is comforting the Christians who are being rejected for their faith by reminding them that they have been elected—chosen—by God!
In verse 2, Peter highlights the fact that the exiled Christians have been justified by God through the blood of Jesus. (Romans 5:9 may be a useful verse to refer to at this point in the lesson.) Christians are those who have been declared righteous once and for all. Their sin is fully dealt with. Help them to imagine a court scene in which a criminal is standing before a judge in fear and trepidation, but the judge declares the criminal “not guilty.” Remind them that’s exactly what happens to a Christian. Jesus the Redeemer pays the price for sin, and God declares the repentant sinner not guilty. The righteousness of Christ is given to the repentant sinner in exchange for his or her sin.
Peter also tells the exiled Christians that they are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Ask if they can remember what sanctification is. Sanctification means our gradual, growing righteousness. Ask who does the work of sanctification in the lives of Christians. It is the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts of Christians to make them more like Jesus.
Explain that sanctification is a lifelong process! They won’t suddenly wake up one morning and be fully like Jesus. The Holy Spirit will be at work in the heart of Christians until the day they go to be with Jesus.
Ask if they can think of why it might be a bad thing to mix up the order of justification and sanctification. Help them to see that if sanctification comes before justification, then they will be trying to work their way into heaven rather than relying on the righteousness of Christ.
The exiled Christians would have received much comfort from this reminder from Peter, and that’s exactly what he intended! He concludes verse 2 by saying “may grace and peace be multiplied to you,” reminding them that being a Christian and the recipient of God’s election, justification, and sanctification brings continued grace and peace.
Conclude the teaching time by helping them commit Question 32 and the answer to memory. (These notes are just for guidance. Please expand or amend them to suit your own children and context. Write out your talk in your own words and include illustrations and applications that you know will connect with your children.)
- Activity: You will need a large sheet of paper, such as wallpaper or butcher paper. You’ll also need plenty of markers.
Write “Becoming more like Jesus” across the top of a large sheet of paper.
Remind the children that sanctification is the process of being set apart to become more like Jesus and that it begins after people have been justified.
Ask them to write or draw things on the sheet of paper that signify what Jesus is like. Encourage them to portray Jesus’s qualities that we can also have (for example, “loving” rather than “all-knowing.”) After a short period of time invite them to discuss some of the things they’ve written or drawn on the paper. Explain that Jesus is fully righteous and the process of sanctification is all about becoming righteous.
Remind them that for all Christians, the purpose of life is to glorify God as we become more like Jesus. Now is a great time to pray so they can ask God to help them to become more like Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit.
- Recite: Help children memorize this week’s verse, question and answer.