The Difference Between Salvation and Sanctification

Article by: Nikki White

Sin. Repent. Repeat. 

It was exhausting.  

Sin. Repent. Repeat. 

I was stuck in an endless cycle of failures before my Lord with the same playlist of offenses.

After each transgression, I would cry. I would berate myself. I would analyze. I would pray. 

I would furiously flip the pages in my Bible, trying to crack the victory “code.”

Yet, regardless of my best efforts and intentions, I ended up back at the same place every single time. 

I was a miserable sinner.

This spiritual merry-go-round ride was made even more unbearable by my upbringing. Ever since I was small, I was surrounded by Christians.  

Despite the endless hours that I sat in the pew covered with praying hands and loud amens, I left childhood with a faulty theology.

A belief-system that whispered in my ear, “a person who had truly received salvation would not be experiencing this perpetual problem.”

Therefore, I must not be saved after all.

After years of carrying this shameful suspicion that separated me from my God and His people, I finally found freedom in the beautiful and simple truths of Scripture.

Here are four biblical principles that saved me from the cycle of sin and transformed me into an overcomer.Click to Tweet
Woman studying the Bible and learning more about the difference between salvation and sanctification

Here are four biblical principles that saved me from the cycle of sin and transformed me into an overcomer. 

1 – Salvation is a one-time gift given to us by God.

“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)

God’s grace goes against everything our secular culture teaches us. The world tells us that we must earn what we keep. 

However, when we align our thinking to our Creator’s, we discover that He earned it and He will keep it for us.

“And we have a priceless inheritance – an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. “ 1 Peter 1:4-5 (NLT)

Our faith may waver in seasons of spiritual hardship, but the hope of our salvation will not. 

Our faith may waver in seasons of spiritual hardship, but the hope of our salvation will not.Click to Tweet

God guards our salvation with His power. 

With this same strength, He holds us securely. We are His.

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28 (NIV)

Our salvation relies on His goodness and perfection, not our own.

Christian woman praying on the couch in her living room, asking God to help her understand more about her salvation

2 – Sanctification is a lifelong process.

Our salvation is a one-time event. Our sanctification, on the other hand, is a moment-by-moment process that does not end until we leave this earth.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

From the moment we receive God’s gift of salvation, He begins to work in our lives through His Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus. 

From the moment we receive God’s gift of salvation, He begins to work in our lives through His Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus.Click to Tweet

Although we are called to cooperate through obedience to His instructions, it is His work through us, not ours.

For years, as God revealed the flaws in my heart, I mistook it as a sign that my foundation or blueprints I followed were faulty.

But as the Builder of our lives, God alone holds the plans and the construction schedule. 

He also holds the deed.

When the product is finally finished on the day of Christ’s return, He will rightfully receive all the credit. 

Christian woman sitting on couch reading with cup of coffee at home in the living room

3 – Struggle is inevitable.

There’s a common denominator in every Bible story. With the exception of Jesus Himself, God uses imperfect people for His purposes and glory.

“I have discovered this principle of life – that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. “ Romans 7:21-23 (NLT)

Our spirits have been made alive in Christ, but our bodies are still under the old regime. Hence, the war begins – the fight within us between good and evil.

I picture it as a serious tousle where the opponents are locked in fierce combat, but regardless of who appears on top, we are rolling up the hill of God’s grace toward inevitable victory.

“…I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)

The struggle is ongoing, friends, but there is good news in the middle of it.

Christian woman pondering the difference between salvation and sanctification

4 – Sin has already been defeated.

“He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them by the cross.”  Colossians 2:13b-15 (NLT)

In the eyes of God, our sin is defeated and nailed to the cross of His Holy Son.

As Jesus cried in triumph on that day, “It is finished!” 

And it is finished, my friend, but here on earth, this reality remains to be fully seen.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  1 John 3:2 (NIV)

One glorious day, we will fully experience this truth standing before Jesus Christ in our resurrected bodies.

In the eyes of God, our sin is defeated and nailed to the cross of His Holy Son.Click to Tweet
Our salvation is a one-time event. Our sanctification, on the other hand, is a moment-by-moment process that does not end until we leave this earth. After years of carrying this shameful suspicion that my sin separated me from my God and His people, I finally found freedom in the beautiful and simple truths of Scripture. Here are four biblical principles that saved me from the cycle of sin and transformed me into an overcomer.

Since I have clung to these principles in God’s Word, I have not achieved perfection; but I have found His peace at long last. 

For although I still fail, I know now that I am a sinner that has been saved by grace. 

I know now that one day, my eyes will clearly see the victory that has been won for me by Christ Jesus.

As His child, I can run to Him for mercy, not away from Him in shame.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.“  Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)

To God be the glory!

-Nikki White

Nikki White is a wife of 36 years, mother of two, grammy of one, and an imperfect follower of Jesus Christ.  Her love of God’s Word was planted in her heart at an early age, but it was not until she became an adult that she began to grasp the wonders of His amazing grace. She frequently runs out of Bible highlighters, lip liners, and printer ink in her desire to show the world an authentic believer.

You can read more about her discoveries at her blog: justabrokenbeliever.com. You can also find Nikki on Instagram and Facebook.

Share this Article with Friends Online!

Read More on the Living by Design Blog:

Stay Nourished

with Our Weekly Blog Posts & SOULfood Saturday E-mails​

By entering your email, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Scroll to Top

a free 3-week Philippians study

By entering your email, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.