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.
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”
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
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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.