Tag Archives: Justification

Hopeful’s Testimony Part 5 The Gospel of Grace

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.

Faithful and Hopeful

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.

“Unchanging Righteousness,
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.

Faithful Explains Saving Grace

Faithful: A work of grace in the soul discovers itself, either to him that has it, or to standers by.

To him that has it thus: It gives him conviction of sin, especially of the defilement of his nature and the sin of unbelief, (for the sake of which he is sure to be damned, if he does not find mercy at God’s hand, by faith in Jesus Christ). This sight and sense of things works in him sorrow and shame for sin; he finds, moreover, revealed in him the Savior of the world, and the absolute necessity of closing with him for life, at the which he finds hungerings and thirstings after him; to which hungerings, and etc., the promise is made. Now, according to the strength or weakness of his faith in his Savior, so is his joy and peace, so is his love to holiness, so are his desires to know him more, and also to serve him in this world. But though I say it discovers itself thus unto him, yet it is but seldom that he is able to conclude that this is a work of grace; because his corruptions now, and his abused reason, make his mind to misjudge in this matter; therefore, in him that has this work, there is required a very sound judgment before he can, with steadiness, conclude that this is a work of grace.

To others, it is thus discovered:

1. By an experimental confession of his faith in Christ.

2. By a life answerable to that confession; to wit, a life of holiness, heart-holiness, family-holiness, (if he has a family), and by conversation-holiness in the world which, in the general, teaches him, inwardly, to abhor his sin, and himself for that, in secret; to suppress it in his family and to promote holiness in the world; not by talk only, as a hypocrite or talkative person may do, but by a practical subjection, in faith and love, to the power of the Word. And now, Sir, as to this brief description of the work of grace, and also the discovery of it, if you have aught to object, object. If not, then give me leave to propound to you a second question.

Talkative: Nay, my part is not now to object, but to hear; let me, therefore, have your second question.

Faithful: It is this: Do you experience this first part of this description of it? and does your life and conversation testify the same? Or does your religion stand in word or in tongue, and not in deed and truth? Pray, if you incline to answer me in this, say no more than you know the God above will say Amen to; and also nothing but what your conscience can justify you in; for not he that commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. Besides, to say I am thus and thus, when my conversation, and all my neighbors, tell me I lie, is great wickedness.

In the last post Faithful confronted Talkative and attempted to engage him in a serious conversation about his soul. Talkative is dangerously deceived. He professes to follow Christ and knows a lot of doctrine, but his life betrays his profession. Now Faithful presses him with truth and tries to help him see the deception. Faithful’s counsel to Talkative is insightful. He not only clearly explains truth; he makes an urgent appeal to apply truth.

Open Bible

Faithful had raised the question: What are the evidences of saving grace in the heart? How do we know that “God has begun a good work” in us (Philippians 1:6)? Talkative answered, “a great outcry against sin” and “great knowledge of gospel mysteries.” But saving grace compels us to do more than just denounce sin with our words and delight in truth with our minds. True saving grace causes a change of heart that is made evident in a changed life.

Faithful explains that saving grace in the heart is evident both to the person in whom that grace is at work and to those around him.

To the person who has saving grace:

1. He feels the weight of his sin. The Spirit works in his heart convicting him “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). He grieves over his sin and is convinced of the certainty of impending judgment due his sin. He believes God’s Word that “he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). He senses his great need for rescue and relief. He cries out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Romans 7:24) and with David, “For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin” (Psalm 38:18).

2. He turns away from sin and looks to Christ for hope and forgiveness. He repents and believes in Christ alone to save Him. He has no hope in himself or in any other. Jesus has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). He believes God’s Word and trusts in the promises given to us in Christ in the gospel. We are “justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law” (Galatians 2:16).

“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).

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:11–13).

3. He has a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Saving grace changes his desires. He learns to love what God loves and hate what God hates. He desires to live a life pleasing to God. He pursues holiness and obedience to the Word of God.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

“And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Revelation 21:6).

“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).

4. He finds his joy and peace in knowing Christ and living for Him. He is humbled and grateful for all Christ has done for him. He is indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works in his heart to produce fruits of righteousness and break old patterns of sin. His life is no longer marked by selfishness and vain ambition. His joy and delight is to serve the Lord.

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men” (Romans 14:17–18).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22–25).

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Saving grace is evident to the person who has it, though he may not always be able to discern these evidences because of the ongoing struggle with remaining sin. This is one reason why we need others to walk with us in the Christian life—to help us see how far we have come, to encourage us along the way, and continue to exhort us to press on, flee from sin and follow Christ.

Saving grace is evident to others around the one in whom that grace is at work:

1. By an experimental confession of his faith in Christ. Others will be able to observe the person and see that the bent of his life is in line with what he is professing. They won’t just hear words confessing faith in Christ, they will see the fruits of that confession borne out in a changed life.

2. By a life answerable to that confession. Others will see his life and hold him accountable. They will pray for him and encourage him. He will live before God, himself and others with integrity and humility. Beginning in the privacy of his own heart, he will seek to live a life of holiness, fleeing from sin and resting in Christ. Salvation is more than speaking true words. It involves both mouth and heart. It is a confession with the lips and a transformation of the heart.

“… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9–10).

His change of heart will be made visible in a changed life. His faith in Christ will be evident in his relationships in the home (with his family) and in the world. His love for Christ will be manifest in his choices and conduct before others.

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:27).

“If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).

“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God”
(Psalm 50:23)

True saving grace is made evident not just in our words but in our walk. In salvation we are both justified and sanctified.

We are justified—we are declared righteous. In Christ we are completely forgiven and perfected forever. He has taken our sin upon Himself and paid our debt on the cross, so that we may no longer fear condemnation. He has given us His righteousness, so that when God looks upon us, He sees not a sinner, but a son and a daughter, adopted and brought into His family.

And we are also sanctified—we are given a desire for obedience and delight in God’s Law. We love to walk in His ways. We are conformed more and more to the image of Christ.

The result of justification is a decree by God that we are made righteous. That decree is made in the courts of heaven and is unseen. But the result of sanctification is a changed life that can be seen by all.

Faithful is diligent to teach Talkative the Word of God and give him a more accurate understanding of what it means to be saved by grace. But he is not satisfied with simply explaining the truth. Were the conversation to consist of mere explanation, Talkative would be quite content. But Faithful presses him with application by raising a second question. He asks him plainly, Is this your experience? Does your life and conduct fit your talk and confession? Is your religion in word and tongue only, or is it in deed and truth? He implores Talkative to be honest.

If we are to help others truly understand and lay hold of truth, we must not stop short, content with mere explanation. We must drive for application. Faithful calls Talkative to account. In the next post we will see how Talkative responds.

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 ©2016 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.