Christian: And what did you do then?
Hopeful: Do! I could not tell what to do, until I brake my mind to Faithful, for he and I were well acquainted. And he told me, that unless I could obtain the righteousness of a man that never had sinned, neither mine own, nor all the righteousness of the world could save me.
Christian: And did you think he spoke true?
Hopeful: Had he told me so when I was pleased and satisfied with mine own amendment, I had called him fool for his pains; but now, since I see mine own infirmity, and the sin that cleaves to my best performance, I have been forced to be of his opinion.
Christian: But did you think, when at first he suggested it to you, that there was such a man to be found, of whom it might justly be said that he never committed sin?
Hopeful: I must confess the words at first sounded strangely, but after a little more talk and company with him, I had full conviction about it.
Christian: And did you ask him what man this was, and how you must be justified by him?
Hopeful: Yes, and he told me it was the Lord Jesus, that dwelleth on the right hand of the Most High. And thus, said he, you must be justified by him, even by trusting to what he hath done by himself, in the days of his flesh, and suffered when he did hang on the tree. I asked him further, how that man’s righteousness could be of that efficacy to justify another before God? And he told me he was the mighty God, and did what he did, and died the death also, not for himself, but for me; to whom his doings, and the worthiness of them, should be imputed, if I believed on him.
Hopeful came to realize that he had no hope in himself. He had no righteousness of his own that was fit for the presence of God and not stained with sin. He knew he was guilty, but he was unable to escape conviction, either by attempting to ignore his sin or by trying to make amends for his sin. So, in his desperation he sought out one whom he thought could help. He shared his distress with Faithful, and Faithful faithfully pointed him to Christ.
Hopeful was acquainted with Faithful and knew of his testimony. When Christian and Faithful first came to Vanity Fair, Hopeful thought them to be fools for condemning evil and preaching against sin. But when he saw the evils of his own heart, and felt the weight of condemnation due his sin, he was compelled to agree with them. He sought their counsel, and though the message of the gospel “sounded strangely” to him at first, the more he heard, the more he was convinced that it was true.
Faithful told Hopeful that the only way he could be right with God was to attain a perfect righteousness. He needed to be holy.
In the Old Testament God told Israel in Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” His standard has not changed in the New Testament. Peter writes to the church:
but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15–16).
We need holiness. We need righteousness. But where can we find it? We cannot attain such holiness on our own. We cannot earn righteousness by keeping the Law and doing good works. If such righteousness is to be ours, it must be gained by another and granted to us by grace. This righteousness is only found in One Person—Christ Jesus alone.
This is the good news of the gospel. God has provided the righteousness we need in Christ.
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21–26).
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith (Philippians 3:7–9).
If we are to be holy and righteous, we must have Christ! If we are to be cleansed and forgiven, we must have Christ! If we are to escape death, the wages of sin, we must have Christ!
In Christ there is no more condemnation for sin.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1).
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (Romans 8:34).
In Christ there is eternal life.
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3).
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
In Christ there is hope, joy, and salvation.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3–5).
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
It is through Christ’s shed blood that we are cleansed, redeemed, and forgiven.
knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:18–21).
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13–14).
He alone can make us acceptable and fit for God’s presence.
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19–22).
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence (Ephesians 1:4–8).
He alone can make us righteous and holy.
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight (Colossians 1:21–22).
But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:12–14).
Because of Jesus’ death, we who are in Him are made perfect. In Him we are justified. God imputes the blame and guilt of our sin to Christ. Though we are deserving of death, God takes the punishment due our sin and charges it to Christ’s account. He pours out His wrath and judgment upon Him, so that by Christ’s death on the cross, we are acquitted, cleansed, and forgiven. But that is not all! God also credits Christ’s righteousness to us. Only Jesus has perfectly kept God’s Word (John 8:55) and always done what is pleasing to God (John 8:29). God imputes Christ’s perfect righteousness to us so that we might be accepted in Him and declared holy and blameless. We are credited with His obedience, treated as sons and daughters, and brought near to God. In Christ, we stand before God forgiven and declared righteous.
Hopeful’s testimony highlights our need to look to Christ alone for rescue from sin and relief from guilt and condemnation. But it also highlights our need to always be ready to point others to the hope we have in Christ.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15).
There are many around us who are ensnared by sin and in need of hope. Like Hopeful, some have initially rejected the gospel and are attempting to excuse their sin. Some have placed their confidence in themselves and are futilely attempting to do enough good to amend for their sin. But God can dissolve unfounded excuses and shatter false confidence. He can bring sinners low, to a point of crisis—where they reach the end of themselves, where they have no more answers, where they don’t know what to do.
God is at work in the lives of others around us and we need to be attentive and ready to serve them. Hopeful was drawn to Faithful in a time of crisis. He was intrigued with Faithful’s confidence and remembered Faithful’s message. Would Faithful’s experience be ours as well? Ask yourself:
- Are you aware of others around you—their challenges and struggles, hopes and dreams?
- Is your life accessible to others? Do you have time or make time to make a difference in the lives of others?
- Is your life marked by integrity, compassion, and confidence in God? In times of crisis and conviction, would those around you be compelled to seek your counsel and comfort?
- Are you fluent with the gospel? Do you know God’s Word? Do you speak to others about their need for Christ? Are you willing and ready to share your faith?
- Are you looking for opportunities to serve others and point them to Christ?
Without Christ, this world has no hope.
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
We must be faithful to hold fast to Christ and implore others to do so as well. He alone has the righteousness we need.
My only hope and plea,
That Jesus came and lived and bled
And died and rose for me.”
(from Unchanging Righteousness by Ken Puls)
A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary
The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.