I live in an area where there are many people who try to make sanctification their justification. They think and teach that your separation from the world is what makes you right with God. The idea is that if you can resist modern conveniences and live life in a very hard way, you are shunning the world and living for God. Under this view, it is hoped that, on judgment day, God will be merciful and will add just the right amount of the righteousness of Jesus to your earnings so that you can be admitted to eternal bliss. There is never any real assurance of salvation in this life and to think that there is, and especially that one has it, is the height of arrogance.
I have heard that same view in varying degrees even among those who profess to believe in grace. These people are not so concerned with modern conveniences but the perseverance of the saints is so presented that it becomes the effective reason why God allows sinners into heaven. Saints persevere in holiness and faith, however they themselves may define those terms, so that they will go to heaven someday. This is simply a more refined view of the one stated previously. When all is said and done salvation depends on performance.
The fact is, God declares as righteous, ungodly people when they come to the end of their own resources and rely wholly upon Him to save them out of His grace (Rom. 4:5; Rom. 4:16; Rom. 5:1-2; Rom. 5:6-8; Rom. 5:9-10). Of course we understand that this grace of God is based on the gracious work of Christ on the cross as a substitute for sinners. Yet it is grace through faith that brings one into a righteous relationship with God and that proposition is totally devoid of works.
Having said that, there are many, many who claim forgiveness of sins and a title to heaven who live lifestyles of wickedness. They seem to believe that God doesn’t care about their sin. Their favorite verses are “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” (Mat. 7:1) and the last half of Romans 6:14 where the Bible says “…for ye are not under law, but under grace.” These folks believe that grace is a free ticket into heaven period. It doesn’t change them in any way. It doesn’t make them love holiness and hate sin. It doesn’t have an inward principle that curtails sin. They are free to be bound to their most wretched lusts without even the desire to be made free.
This view too is a twisted doctrine. It makes grace the enabler of sin. I believe the correct view is the biblical view. God’s grace involves a two-fold work. When someone is justified though faith in Christ, that means that God declares him righteousness and his sins will never be remembered against him as far as his standing before God is concerned. But the twin action of regeneration also takes place in the person so that a new kind of life is implanted in him. It is called the new man who after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24). This new man hates sin. He loves righteousness and holiness and he grows in both of those attributes. Those who say that grace makes them free from sin’s consequences have forgotten (or maybe never knew) that the same God who said that we were not under law but under grace said, “Marvel not that I say unto you, ye must be born again (John 3:7).
In justification, God acts as a Judge who, on the basis of Christ’s blood, declares believers righteous before Him.
In sanctification, God acts as a Father who chastens His children “…that we might be partakers of His holiness (Heb. 12:10). And if God is not working Christ in us daily, then there is the absolute assurance that He has not justified us before Him.
You can try to be justified by your supposed sanctification but it never works. You can claim to be justified without God’s work of sanctification in your life but it is a hollow claim. Justification and Sanctification are siamese twins. You can’t separate them and expect either one to be alive without the other…. but you must keep them in the correct order. God justifies first and and He sanctifies second, all that come to Him through Jesus Christ.