Tag Archives: Law

Teach Me O Lord Thy Way of Truth

Open God's Word

If we are to know truth, we must abide in God’s Word. If we are to follow Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), we must know and obey God’s Word. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32).

But truth is not something we can comprehend on our own. One thing we must always do when we open God’s Word, is pray that His Spirit would illumine our understanding and help us rightly apply truth. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that without the Spirit, we cannot understand the Word. To those who are dead in sin and have no spiritual life, the truth of God’s Word, in fact, appears to be foolishness. Any time we read the Bible, or hear it taught and preached, we should pray that God would teach us, give us understanding, and help us walk in truth.

This is how God instructs us to pray in His Word. The book of Psalms serves as the Bible’s inspired songbook, providing us divinely prescribed instruction on how we must sing and pray and worship the Lord. In Psalm 119:33–40 the psalmist prays:

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.
Establish Your word to Your servant,
Who is devoted to fearing You.
Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your judgments are good.
Behold, I long for Your precepts;
Revive me in Your righteousness.
(Psalm 119:33–40, NKJV)

The following setting of this portion of Psalm 119 is from The Psalter, 1912. Take time to read (and sing) the words. And make this your prayer as you look to God’s Word and seek to walk in its light.

Teach Me O Lord Thy Way of Truth

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end” (Psalm 119:33).

  1. Teach me O Lord Thy way of truth,
    And from it I will not depart;
    That I may steadfastly obey,
    Give me an understanding heart.
  2. In Thy commandments make me walk,
    For in Thy law my joy shall be;
    Give me a heart that loves Thy will,
    From discontent and envy free.
  3. Turn Thou mine eyes from vanity,
    And cause me in Thy ways to tread;
    O let Thy servant prove Thy Word,
    And thus to godly fear be led.
  4. Turn Thou away reproach and fear;
    Thy righteous judgments I confess;
    To know Thy precepts I desire;
    Revive me in Thy righteousness.

“Teach Me O Lord Thy Way of Truth”
Words from Psalm 119:33–40, The Psalter, 1912
Tune: CROSLAND (L.M.)
Music by Tom Wells, 2001
Words ©Public Domain
Music ©2001 Tom Wells (Used by Permission)

Tom Wells (Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas) composed an excellent tune for this setting of Psalm 119:33–40. Download free sheet music (PDF), including a guitar chord chart, an arrangement of the hymn tune CROSLAND for classical guitar.

More Hymns from History

More hymns arranged for Classical Guitar

 

A Song Book That Begins With Words of Wisdom

The Book of Psalms

The Book of Psalms is an important collection of songs in Scripture for the worship of God. These songs are commanded to be sung by God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments.

In the Old Testament they comprise the songbook of the Temple. God appointed the Levites to sing and teach the people to sing psalms to God in worship. As the people gathered in Jerusalem and brought their sacrifices, these were the songs being sung and heard in the congregation.

In the New Testament Paul sets the psalms at the forefront of church music, exhorting us in Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. The psalms speak of Christ, point us to Christ, and find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ (Luke 24:44).

When you think of the book of Psalms, and remember the purpose and use of the psalms, its beginning may at first surprise you. It might not be what you would expect.

The psalms are about our communion with God in worship.

How then would you expect such a collection of songs to begin?

What opening words do you envision?

  • A lofty song of praise?
  • A hymn exalting the attributes of God?
  • A call to God’s people to come to the Temple and enter into His presence?
  • A call to God, asking Him to hear His people as they lift their voices?

All of these are songs you will find in abundance in the Psalter, but not at the beginning.

Let’s go to the Word of God and read how the Psalms begin:

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Psalm 1:1–6)

God opens His hymnal with a psalm of wisdom—a psalm for teaching that portrays a striking contrast between two groups of people: the ungodly and the righteous—those who are committed to walking according to the ways of God, and those who have forsaken that way.

For the righteous, the psalm offers a promise;
For the ungodly it declares a warning.

Continue reading this sermon from  Psalm 1 entitled “Two Paths and Two Ends.”

See more Sermons and Articles by Ken Puls

Above Image by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

O Father Make Us Like the Son

Church Reflection

As Christians, how are we to relate to God’s Law? We know that our obedience to God’s commands could never make us right with God. The Law reveals our sin and shows us our great need of salvation. But the Law cannot save us. Yet, we are called to follow Christ, who is both the great Law-giver and Law-keeper. We are called to be imitators of Christ. Paul encouraged the church:

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma (Ephesians 5:1–2).

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Matthew 16:24).

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 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. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17–20).

How then, especially in light of Jesus’ teaching and fulfillment of the Law, are we to relate to the Law as Christians?

This was the question I had in mind when I wrote the hymn “O Father Make Us Like the Son.”

The hymn had its beginning on Thursday morning, April 16, 1992 at the Grandy’s on Seminary Drive in Fort Worth, Texas. Several men from Heritage Baptist Church had gathered for Field Education and breakfast with our pastor, Dr. Fred Malone. That morning we studied chapter 8 from John Murray’s book, Principles of Conduct on the Law and Grace. I was especially intrigued with the truth that God is at work conforming us to the image of His Son.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).

We are called to be like our Savior. One day when Jesus returns and we see Him face to face, we shall be like Him.

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2–3).

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

It is our hope and aim to be like Jesus. How then can we be made like our Savior, without loving God’s Law? To be like Jesus is to obey God’s commands and delight in doing His will. Certainly, we are not bound by all the ceremonial and civil laws that foreshadowed and prepared the way for Christ’s coming. But God’s Moral Law, especially manifest in the Ten Commandments, is to be a rule of life for all Christians. Jesus died to free us from the Law’s curse and condemnation, but not from its blessing and benefits. We are not to see the Law as a rigorous covenant of works to gain God’s favor and acceptance, but as a rule of life revealing God’s character, holiness, and goodness. Our efforts to obey the Law are done in gratitude and love to Christ, who has perfectly fulfilled and exemplified it for us.

I finished writing the hymn early in the morning on the Lord’s Day, April 19, 1992 and sang it in the morning worship service at Heritage. The hymn is prayer that God would work in us and conform us to the image of Christ.

O Father Make Us Like the Son!

O Father, make us like the Son
That we may walk as He,
Delighting in the Law of God
And bringing praise to Thee.

Our Lord’s great joy was loving God,
Obeying His commands.
He lived a holy, perfect life,
Fulfill’d the Law’s demands.

O Father, clothe us in the Son
His righteousness we need
That we might be declared as “just”
From condemnation freed.

O Father, we adore the Son;
He is our righteousness!
For we can now obey with hearts
Of love and thankfulness.

O Father, may we love Thy Law
And walk within its light,
And love the Gospel that can turn
Its rigor to delight.

We long to be made like our Lord,
Arrayed in truth and grace,
And we long for the day when we
Shall see Him face to face.

O Father, finish in each heart
The work that was begun.
Prepare us for the Lord’s return,
O make us like the Son!

Words ©1992, 2017 Kenneth A Puls

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune ST. MAGNUS for classical guitar.

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

More Hymn tunes arranged for classical guitar

Send the Law Before the Gospel

Light on Mountain

I have many books in my library that I value and return to often. Books I especially value are ones that have helped me understand and apply God’s Word. The book that first helped me grasp the vital connection between the Law and the Gospel is Walt Chantry’s God’s Righteous Kingdom (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1980). While reading the book, I was intrigued by the use of the Law in evangelism, as it serves along side the Gospel. It is the Law that exposes our sin and shows us our great need of a Savior. We need to taste the bad news (“for the wages of sin is death”) so we can savor the sweetness of the good news (“but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” —Romans 6:23). God has called us to preach both Law and Gospel:

Our Lord predicted a surge of evangelistic power when the Spirit would come. “When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). Next to communion with God and worship of his name, nothing will hold a greater interest for children of the kingdom than this amazing work of the Spirit in transforming souls. In the task of bringing men into the kingdom, the moral law and the gospel are the two major instruments in the arsenal of the Spirit” (God’s Righteous Kingdom, 89–90).

When I first read God’s Righteous Kingdom, I sought to summarize the content of the book in a hymn. I wrote the hymn 30 years ago on November 7, 1986 as an expression of praise for the uses of the Law in the life of a believer.

Send the Law before the Gospel,
Shine the Light revealing sin!
Men will see they need a Savior
As their hearts are bared within.
Weep you sinners under judgement;
See yourself before God’s Law!
Full deserving condemnation,
Dread the wrath of God in awe.

Come you sinners and take comfort,
You convicted and dismayed,
For God’s love is only sown in
Furrows that His Law has made.
Come you sinners, look to Jesus!
He’s fulfilled the Law’s demands.
Christ will turn your dread and sorrow
Into love for God’s commands.

Praise to God for such instruction,
Sent to show us our great need.
We must place our hope in Jesus
And in Him we shall be freed.
O believer, be encouraged!
Christ died suff’ring in our place;
Bore the sins of all His children,
That we shall come unto grace.

On the cross was Christ afflicted,
There endur’d the wrath of God.
Now the Law no more condemns us,
Satisfied by His shed blood.
God has set His Law before us;
Let His Word be our delight!
As we travel unto glory,
Persevering in His light.

God has given His commandments;
They shall never pass away.
On our hearts His Spirit writes them,
That we can through grace obey.
May His Law forever guide us
In the paths of righteousness,
As we seek His will most holy,
All our efforts He shall bless!

Words ©1987 Ken Puls
Listen to this hymn and download free sheet music.

Read more on the Founders Blog:
Hymns and God’s Law as a Rule of Life
Hymns and God’s Law as a Tutor to Christ

God’s Law Made Precious

New Covenant

One of the amazing results of God’s grace is that it changes our relationship to God’s Law. The Law “is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). This Law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, reveals the character and glory of God. It it sets forth a rule of life, teaching us to love God first and foremost, and to love others. We should walk in it with delight (Psalm 119:35) for it defines what we were created to do as image-bearers of God.

But if we are not in Christ, the Law offers no satisfaction; it can only condemn us. We can never fulfill its exacting demands. The Law weighs us down as a heavy yoke. It shows us clearly that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It beats us down and threatens us with the punishment of death due our sin (Romans 6:23).

The Law cannot save us, nor can it offer us a way to find joy and favor with God. If we are to walk in the Law with delight, we must have Christ. It is Christ alone who makes us right with God. In Christ the Law no more condemns us (Romans 8:1). His death paid the wages due our sin. His life provided for us a perfect righteousness. We are not saved by works or attempts at obedience (Ephesians 2:9) to God’s Law. In Christ our obedience to the Law is rooted in grace and expressed in gratitude.

The Law in the Old Covenant was engraved on tablets of stone; now in the New God writes it on our hearts:

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).

The Law in the Old Covenant was a “ministry of death” (2 Corinthians 3:7); now in the New it is our great delight, made precious by the shed blood of Christ.

“For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man” (Romans 7:22).

The Law That Once Was Placed by God

1. The Law that once was placed by God
On tablets made of stone
Is now engrav’d on ev’ry heart
Whom Christ has called His own.
These Words that once condemned for sins
And showed the wrath of God
Are now the Christian’s great delight,
Made precious by the blood.

2. The Lord is God and He alone
Is worthy of our love;
For He has raised us from the pit
To dwell with Him above.
The Lord is jealous of our love;
All idols He abhors,
But those, in Spirit and in Truth,
Who seek Him He adores.

3. How precious are the Names of God,
His nature they declare;
But those who use His Name in vain,
The wrath of God will bear.
And precious is the Sabbath Day,
The gath’ring of the church,
Who come expectant of their Lord,
His Word to know and search.

4. The Lord has said that we must love
And honor we must give
To fathers, mothers He has giv’n
To teach us how to live.
All murder, theft, adultery,
All coveting and lies;
These sins the Christian must forsake,
Lest him God will chastise.

5. All those who cast aside these Words
And spurn them in this day
Do show that they are not of God,
Despite what they may say.
For what are these Ten Words but this:
The will of God revealed?
For unto love to God and man
The saints are saved and sealed.

Words ©1992 Ken Puls
Download free sheet music (PDF) for this hymn and an arrangement of the hymn tune ALL SAINTS NEW for classical guitar.

More Hymns and Songs by Ken Puls
More hymns arranged for Classical Guitar

Run in with Moses

Now when I had got about half-way up, I looked behind, and saw one coming after me, swift as the wind; so he overtook me just about the place where the settle stands.

Christian: Just there, said Christian, did I sit down to rest me; but being overcome with sleep, I there lost this roll out of my bosom.

Faithful: But, good brother, hear me out. So soon as the man overtook me, he was but a word and a blow, for down he knocked me, and laid me for dead. But when I was a little come to myself again, I asked him wherefore he served me so. He said, because of my secret inclining to Adam the First; and with that he struck me another deadly blow on the breast, and beat me down backward; so I lay at his foot as dead as before. So, when I came to myself again, I cried him mercy; but he said, I know not how to show mercy; and with that he knocked me down again. He had doubtless made an end of me, but that one came by, and bid him forbear.

Christian: Who was that that bid him forbear?

Faithful: I did not know him at first, but as he went by, I perceived the holes in his hands and in his side; then I concluded that he was our Lord. So I went up the hill.

Christian: That man that overtook you was Moses. He spares none, neither does he know how to show mercy to those that transgress his law.

Faithful: I know it very well; it was not the first time that he has met with me. It was he that came to me when I dwelt securely at home, and that told me he would burn my house over my head if I stayed there.

Christian: But did you not see the house that stood there on the top of the hill, on the side of which Moses met you?

Faithful: Yes, and the lions too, before I came at it: but for the lions, I think they were asleep, for it was about noon; and because I had so much of the day before me, I passed by the porter, and came down the hill.

Christian: He told me, indeed, that he saw you go by, but I wish you had called at the house, for they would have showed you so many rarities, that you would scarce have forgot them to the day of your death.

Faithful and MosesAs Faithful climbs Hill Difficulty he encounters yet more opposition. At the foot of the Hill he met Adam the First who tried to enticed him to give up his journey. Now he is assaulted by one who is more ruthless. About halfway up the Hill, Moses catches up to him, beats him severely and leaves him for dead.

This episode in Faithful’s journey raises some questions: Why was he so brutally beaten? What made him vulnerable to Moses’ attack? And why did it happen on Hill Difficulty, even near the Pleasant Arbor where Christian had sought rest?

Hill Difficulty represents our struggles and trials in this life—struggles and trials that we must endure by God’s design to strengthen our faith. Adam the First is our old sinful nature, “the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22). Putting off the old man is an essential part of our walking by faith. But Faithful was tempted and inclined to go with “the old man”—inclined to act according to the flesh. And even though he eventually saw through the deception of Adam the First and successfully escaped being made Adam’s slave, his inclination toward relying on his own strength was not entirely abated. As he reached the midpoint of his climb up Hill Difficulty, his progress may have tempted him to put too much trust in his own efforts. It is in this moment of success and progress that Faithful turns, and swift as the wind, Moses comes and takes him down. The rod was severe, but Moses teaches Faithful a valuable lesson: The flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Faithful cannot make the journey in his own strength.

Law and Grace

Moses represents the work of the Law “for the law was given through Moses” (John 1:17a). Faithful’s struggle with Moses affirms that we can never achieve or maintain a right standing before God on the basis of our own efforts of obedience. No matter how successful we have been, or how much progress we seem to make, our works can never save us. Our efforts can never satisfy God’s righteousness. Judged by God’s Law they are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We are sinners who have broken God’s Law. We don’t gain God’s favor by our own works, and we can’t keep God’s favor by our own works. Paul asks in Galatians:

This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:2–3)

The Law brings condemnation and guilt for our sin. The Law beats us down and leaves us for dead. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). But the problem is not with the Law; it is with us.

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good (Romans 7:7–12).

The Law of God serves many good purposes. It reveals the holiness and righteousness of God. It tells us what God requires of us as creatures made in Him image. And it warns us of God’s wrath and judgment when we go astray. It was the reproach of the Law that shook Faithful from his ease at home and caused him to flee from Destruction.

But the Law has limitations. The law can teach us what is right and good, but it has no power to help us do what is right and good. The law can show us where we fail and fall short, but the law has no power to forgive or cleanse our sin. The Law can only judge and condemn us. It knocks us down and leaves us bruised and battered. Our cries for mercy are met with threats of death.

We need one greater than Moses if we are to find the help we need (Hebrews 3:3). The Law cannot show us mercy or give us life, but it can point us to One who can. The Law is “our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). The Law kills; only the Spirit can give life (2 Corinthians 3:6). When Faithful was left for dead at the feet of Moses, he had no hope in himself. But God in mercy sent a Rescuer. The Lord of the Hill, Christ Jesus, came and in mercy raised up Faithful. It was only by looking to the cross that Faithful could find the grace and mercy for which he longed. Our acceptance before God can never be based on our own obedience; it must only and always be rooted in Christ and His obedience. In our sin the Law can only condemn us. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). In Christ there is life: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

Differing Trials

It is worth noting that Faithful’s experiences on the journey are not the same as Christian’s. Though both fled from Destruction and found mercy at the cross, their battles and trials were varied. Christian found a Pleasant Arbor about halfway up Hill Difficulty. Faithful was assaulted. Christian presumed upon God’s mercies, fell asleep and lost his roll (his assurance). Faithful relied too much on his own strength to make progress up the Hill and was beaten down by the Law. Christian took refuge and refreshed his soul at House Beautiful. Faithful missed the service that day and did not receive the benefit of the teaching and fellowship.

Yet here on the path, these two brothers cheer and admonish one another. We are each prone in varying degrees to different fears and temptations. We don’t all have the same strengths and weaknesses. It is the blessing of Christian discipleship that we can share our joys and struggles on the journey. We can learn much from one another as we pray for and encourage one another along the way. Let us resolve to walk together in faith and continually point one another to the hope we have in Christ alone.

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 ©2015 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

A Coat for Rags

Then I saw that they went on every man in his way without much conference one with another, save that these two men told Christian, that as to laws and ordinances, they doubted not but they should as conscientiously do them as he; therefore, said they, we see not wherein you differ from us but by the coat that is on your back, which was, as we trow, given you by some of your neighbors, to hide the shame of your nakedness.

Christian: By laws and ordinances you will not be saved, since you came not in by the door. And as for this coat that is on my back, it was given me by the Lord of the place whither I go; and that, as you say, to cover my nakedness with. And I take it as a token of his kindness to me; for I had nothing but rags before. And besides, thus I comfort myself as I go: Surely, think I, when I come to the gate of the city, the Lord thereof will know me for good since I have this coat on my back—a coat that he gave me freely in the day that he stripped me of my rags. I have, moreover, a mark in my forehead, of which, perhaps, you have taken no notice, which one of my Lord’s most intimate associates fixed there in the day that my burden fell off my shoulders. I will tell you, moreover, that I had then given me a roll, sealed, to comfort me by reading as I go on the way; I was also bid to give it in at the Celestial Gate, in token of my certain going in after it; all which things, I doubt, you want, and want them because you came not in at the gate.

To these things they gave him no answer; only they looked upon each other, and laughed. Then, I saw that they went on all, save that Christian kept before, who had no more talk but with himself, and that sometimes sighingly, and sometimes comfortably; also he would be often reading in the roll that one of the Shining Ones gave him, by which he was refreshed.

Last time Christian encountered two pretenders in the Way. He met up with two who had by-passed the Gate (missed Christ and the Gospel) and tumbled over the Wall (were professing faith and claiming salvation), and he tried to warn them that their souls were in danger. The two were named Formalist and Hypocrisy. They had dismissed Christian’s concern for their souls and now further show the emptiness of their profession in their observations regarding how Christian is dressed. They first speak well of themselves, claiming to obey the Laws and Ordinances of Scripture as well as Christian. They are very concerned with appearing good before others and doing the right things. Thus they are conscientious and careful in form and practice. Those who walk in formalism and hypocrisy may very well out do others around them in the externals of religion. They may attend church regularly, participate with enthusiasm, and appear quite active and engaged. But they come to church vainly dressed in their own works and deeds, believing that God and others will look favorably on their efforts and judge them to be faithful.

shiningones1blChristian, however, is dressed differently. He has on the Coat that was given to him as a gift from his Lord. At the cross Christian was stripped of his Rags and given this Change of Raiment. Just as the prodigal son returned home in filthy rags after tending pigs, and was received with joy and given a ring and the best robe by his loving father (Luke 15:22), so Christian was welcomed and clothed at the cross. The Coat represents the imputed righteousness of Christ that covers every true believer and makes us fit for the presence and service of God. The filthy rags are Christian’s own attempts at righteousness tainted by sin:

 “But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6a).

Formalist and Hypocrisy trow (think or suppose) that some neighbors had given the Coat to Christian to hide his shame. They do not realize or value its significance. Christian, however, remembers that all he had before he came to the cross was worthless rags. Now he has a Coat (imputed righteousness), a Mark (the sealing of the Holy Spirit), and a Roll (assurance of salvation) to bring him hope on his journey. Formalist and Hypocrisy lack these. They are self-clothed, self-sealed and self-confident. They do not value the gifts of Christ bestowed at the cross, because they do not value Christ as their only hope. They missed the Gate, representing Christ Himself offered in the Gospel, and have resorted to their own devises to enter the Way.

Christian tells them plainly that attempts to keep laws and ordinances cannot save them. We can never be justified by our works:

“knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

Christian learned this when he strayed from the Way, following the advise of Worldly Wiseman, and ventured toward the Village of Morality to find help to remove his burden. Nothing he could do in trying to live uprightly could make him right with God. He felt the weight and terror of God’s Law and was warned by Evangelist, who again pointed him to the Gate. Christian repented with humility and haste to return to the Way. He found relief only when he looked to the cross. Christ alone—His obedience, His righteousness—can make us right with God. And this is now Christian’s hope.

Christian is prepared to press on in the Way. He knows that both joys and trials await him. He continues on His pilgrimage sometimes sighing and sometimes comfortably. He looks often to the promises of God that assure his salvation and finds hope. He is trusting in Jesus. He is protected from pride, knowing that on his best day he is still a great sinner in need of grace and mercy. And he is protected from despair, knowing that on his worst day he still has a great Savior who is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25).

Formalist and Hypocrisy, however, continue on looking at one another and laughing. Their hope is in themselves (their outward profession and display of religion) and, as we shall soon see, they are ill prepared to face the difficulty that lies ahead.

—Ken Puls

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
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The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©1997 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.