This graph is an enormous help in understanding the realities of living the Christian life. The mixing up of justification and sanctification has done much to waylay Christians and the Church over the years.
Many believe we have to “work” to be saved (justified). They think we have to “be good” and “be (doing) good” (works) to be saved. But the work was done by Christ on the Cross. It was a one and done. “It is finished!” The penalty for sin has been paid in full.
What must we do? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) We believe and trust in what He has done for us that we could never do for ourselves. Then the truth of Ephesians 2:8 immediately comes to pass: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Verse nine assures us works do not play a part. BUT we like works. We want to earn our salvation; we want to justify ourselves. What is that saying? “NO CAN DO!”
Many bring that same approach to the post-justification life-long process of sanctification (being progressively transformed by the Lord into His likeness). Rather than cooperating with the Lord in the process of being made like Him; we try instead to “work” to STAY saved. But again, we can do nothing apart from Him. He must do the work in us and through us. Our part is to cooperate as vessels for the Master’s use.
I think the following verse (2:10) trips some up further – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR good works, which God prepared beforehand that we SHOULD walk in them.” I capitalized the word “for” because I believe a lot of folks replace it with “and” – seeing it as Christ Jesus “and” good works. They want to add works to the equation because again, we like works. It’s about us and what we do in our power (egocentric), not what He does in and through us in His Power (Theocentric).
I also capitalized the word “should” because it says we should walk in them. What if we don’t walk in them as we should? There will be consequences, some being: We will not experience the abundant life He promises. We will not be fruitful nor useful to our and others loss. We will not have the level of relationship nor fellowship with Him that we could possess. We will suffer the loss of reward at the Bema seat. BUT we will not lose our salvation. Our justification will not get tossed on the scrap heap along with us.
When we “back-flush” sanctification into justification, we tend to judge other believers, and even ourselves, as to whether we are saved or not. That can get us onto the slippery slope of grace lost and legalism found. That is a slope we want to avoid.