Tag Archives: Sanctification

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.

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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.

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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.

Now May the God of Peace

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23, ESV).

A Prayer of sanctification that God would deepen our repentance and strengthen our faith in the daily battle against remaining sin.

Lord, I desire Your will
My heart yearns to obey
Though daily I am faced with sin
Enticing me away

So, help me rise each day
Battle and war with sin
Until I see You face to face
And final vict’ry win

Lord, You have so designed
Sin to remain in me
That as I struggle, watch and pray
I learn humility

So, help me to obey
Holiness to pursue
Deepen repentance when I fail
Strengthen my faith in You

I rest within the hope
Your Spirit dwells in me
Completing that which was begun
So holy I may be

Now may the God of Peace
Sanctify me wholly
And keep me blameless ’til the day
Christ comes in victory

Words ©1992, 2015 Kenneth A Puls

Read more about how this hymn came to be written and download free sheet music (PDF), including chord charts for acoustic guitar, an arrangement of the tune for Classical Guitar, and an arrangement of the tune for Instrumental Ensemble.

—Ken Puls

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.

Run in with Adam the First

Christian: Did you meet with no other assault as you came?

Faithful: When I came to the foot of the hill called Difficulty, I met with a very aged man, who asked me what I was, and whither bound. I told him that I am a pilgrim, going to the Celestial City. Then said the old man, You look like an honest fellow; would you be content to dwell with me for the wages that I shall give you? Then I asked him his name, and where he dwelt. He said his name was Adam the First, and that he dwelt in the town of Deceit. I asked him then what was his work, and what the wages he would give. He told me that his work was many delights; and his wages that I should be his heir at last. I further asked him what house he kept, and what other servants he had. So he told me that his house was maintained with all the dainties in the world; and that his servants were those of his own begetting. Then I asked if he had any children. He said that he had but three daughters: The Lust of the Flesh, The Lust of the Eyes, and The Pride of Life, and that I should marry them all if I would. Then I asked how long time he would have me live with him? And he told me, As long as he lived himself.

Christian: Well, and what conclusion came the old man and you to at last?

Faithful: Why, at first, I found myself somewhat inclinable to go with the man, for I thought he spoke very fair; but looking in his forehead, as I talked with him, I saw there written, “Put off the old man with his deeds.”

Christian: And how then?

Faithful: Then it came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me for a slave. So I bid him forbear to talk, for I would not come near the door of his house. Then he reviled me, and told me that he would send such a one after me, that should make my way bitter to my soul. So I turned to go away from him; but just as I turned myself to go thence, I felt him take hold of my flesh, and give me such a deadly twitch back, that I thought he had pulled part of me after himself. This made me cry, “O wretched man!” So I went on my way up the hill.

Faithful and Adam the FirstChristian is eager to hear more about how Faithful has faired in his journey. As the two converse Faithful begins to recount his troubles at Hill Difficulty. Christian was familiar with this Hill. He had encountered it earlier in the story and had struggled to reach its summit. When Faithful arrived at the foot of the Hill, he met a very aged man named Adam the First. The old man at first attempted to lure Faithful to his home. He promised to make Faithful his heir and claimed that his house was “maintained with all the dainties in the world.” But when Faithful saw through the ruse and resisted the invitation, the old man lashed out and abused and attacked him.

Who then is Adam the First and why is he at Hill Difficulty?

Adam is of course a reference to the first man created by God (Genesis 2:20; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45). He stands at the head of creation as the representative of mankind. Hill Difficulty, as we saw earlier in Bunyan’s story, denotes the trials and difficulties we must face in this life. These trials and difficulties are designed to make us keenly aware of our need for God’s strength and help. They are also meant by God’s kind providence for our good. By confronting them we are tried (as gold is tried in a furnace to remove the dross) and sanctified (taught not to sin and made holy).

Faithful’s encounter with Adam the First at Hill Difficulty highlights an important reality. One of the greatest difficulties we must face in our pursuit of holiness is the treachery of our own sinfulness. The most dangerous sin that threatens us is not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside.

Adam the First represents our struggle with our old nature that has been corrupted by sin. Though we are saved by grace, sin still indwells us. Though we are rescued from sin’s dominion and penalty, we still feel some of its power and presence. What often makes sin so difficult to recognize and resist is that it wells up from within us.

Adam the First is from the town of Deceit. Sin is deceitful (Romans 7:11); its pleasures are fleeting (Hebrews 11:25). Sin can never deliver the satisfaction it promises. It lures us with delight, but its wages is death (Romans 6:23). It boasts to empower us, but intends to enslave us (Romans 6:6, 17).

Faithful is almost enticed to go with Adam the First, but then he sees him for who he is—a cheat and a liar. He recognizes sin through the lens of Scripture, remembering Paul’s instruction to turn away from our former way of life and put off the old man:

But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:20–24).

The Bible warns as well not to be taken in by the “three daughters” of the old man:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15–17).

As Faithful learns, resisting the old man is hard. Fighting the sin inside us can feel like we are being torn apart. In Romans 7 Paul describes his own struggle with remaining sin. He laments:

For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:22–24)

Paul asks an important question at the end of verse 24. Who is able to deliver him? The answer is in the following verses:

I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 7:25 – 8:1).

Only Christ can free us from the power and penalty of sin. He alone can bring life and lasting joy.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

Christ did what Adam the First could not do. It was through Adam’s fall that sin entered the world. In his failure to obey he brought condemnation on all men and left us an inheritance of a sinful nature. Because of Adam we are born sinners, born blind and dead in sin.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).

But Christ by His perfect obedience saves by His grace all who come and trust in Him. His inheritance for His people is righteousness and life.

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous (Romans 5:17–19).

It is Christ alone who can rescue us from sin. We must learn to love Him and value Him more than anything this world can offer us. We must recognize sin for what it is—deceitful and deadly—and flee from it. Sin will lie to us; Christ speaks truth. Sin will destroy us; Christ brings us life.

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 Prayer for God’s Presence Throughout the Day

We sang this hymn today in our morning service at Grace Baptist Church. It’s a reminder of God’s faithful and abiding presence with us at all times, and the free access we have, because of the shed blood of Christ, to come boldly to throne of grace with our prayers and praise.

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Lord, as I begin to wake,
Just as I become aware,
Draw my waking thoughts to You;
Stir my heart to praise and prayer.
Then as I arise from sleep,
Stand to face another day,
Let Your Word be my delight,
Guiding all I do and say.

Help me, Lord to meditate
And apply the truth I know;
As I preach to my own soul,
Grant that I may heed and grow.
As I walk throughout this day,
Help me cast away all fear;
Let me not forget or doubt
Your abiding presence near.

When the day gets busy, Lord,
Let my walk not stray from You;
Fix my heart and mind and will
On Your promises anew.
Many times throughout this day
Bring remembrance of Your Word.
Guard my heart from unbelief;
Keep my faith in You, O Lord.

When temptations rise and rage
Show me, Lord, the way to flee;
Lest I fall, teach me to pray:
Lord, uphold and strengthen me.
Ever, Lord, You are with me!
Keep this truth before my eyes.
May it guard my path from sin,
Comfort me and make me wise.

Lord, You are my joy and strength,
Through each hour, in ev’ry place.
Be there happiness or grief,
You uphold me by Your grace.
And when I lie down to sleep,
Lift my heart again to pray;
Let my thoughts to You return
In thanksgiving end the day.

Words ©2000 Kenneth A Puls

View / Download the lyrics and sheet music to this hymn.