God knows us; He knows what we are, He knows what He meant us to be, and He sees the vast difference between these two things. God’s testimony concerning man is that he is a sinner: “there is none righteous, no, not one…. There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12). God declares man to be a lost one, a stray one, a rebel, a hater of God. Man is not a sinner occasionally, but a sinner always; not a sinner in part, with many good things about him, but wholly a sinner, with no compensating goodness. He is evil in heart as well as life, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
When the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the soul it sees this judgment is true. Conviction of sin is just the sinner seeing himself as he is—the way that God has seen him all along. Then every fond idea of self-goodness vanishes away. The things in him that once seemed good appear empty, and the bad things so very bad, that every hope of being saved because of something in his own character is taken away. He sees that he cannot save himself, nor even help God to save him. He is lost, and he is helpless.
Doings, feelings, strivings, prayings, givings, abstainings, and the like, are found to be no relief from a sense of guilt, and, therefore, no resting-place for a troubled heart. If sin was just a disease or a misfortune, religious deeds might be seen as favorable symptoms of returning health. But sin is more than a disease, and the sinner is not merely sick, but condemned by the righteous Judge. None of these goodnesses can give him peace, for they cannot assure him of a complete and righteous pardon.
The question, “How can I be made fit to come before the Lord?” cannot be answered with an appeal to personal character, or goodness of life, or prayers, or performances of religion. The sinner’s peace with God does not come from within. No grounds of peace or elements of reconciliation can be extracted from himself. His one qualification for peace is that he needs it.
A sinner’s peace can only come from God, and it is in knowing God that he gets it: “Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace” (Job 22:21). God Himself is the fountainhead of our peace. His revealed truth in the Bible is the channel through which this peace finds its way into us, and His Holy Spirit is the great interpreter of that truth to us.
God has declared Himself to be gracious, and has told us that this grace is for the ungodly, the unholy, the unfit, the dead in sin. He has embodied this grace in the person and work of His beloved Son. Turn your eye to the cross and see these two things: the crucifiers and the Crucified. The crucifiers, the haters of God and His Son, represent us. The Crucified is God Himself—incarnate love. It is the God who made you, suffering and dying for the ungodly.
Hear the word of the Lord concerning this finished work:
- “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
- “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5).
- “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28).
- “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
- “His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).
These expressions speak of something more than love. The deep, true, real love of God is in each of them, but so are justice and holiness. If we were going to be saved from eternal death, there was the need of a death; righteousness demands this. To meet this terrible necessity, the Son of God became a man and died! Love led Him down to the cradle; love led Him up to the cross! He died as the sinner’s substitute. He died to make it a righteous thing for God to cancel the sinner’s guilt and annul the penalty of his everlasting death.
Had it not been for His death, grace and guilt could not have looked each other in the face. God and the sinner could not have been brought together; righteousness would have forbidden reconciliation. As we know, righteousness is as divine and real a thing as love. Without this perfect sacrifice, it would not have been right for God to receive the sinner, nor safe for the sinner to come.
What peace there is for the stricken conscience in the truth that Christ died for the ungodly! The cross is the payment of the sinner’s penalty, the extinction of his debt, and the tearing up of the charges which were against us. Just as the cross is the payment, so is the resurrection God’s receipt—for the full amount—signed with His own hand.
The sinner may well ask: “How can I come before God, and stand in His presence, with happy confidence on my part, and gracious acceptance on His?” He wants you to come to Him exactly as you are, without even one vain thought that by a little waiting, or working, or praying, you can make yourself ready, or persuade Him to make you fit to receive salvation.
Faith is the link, the one link, between the sinner and the Sin-bearer. Faith is not a work or exercise of our minds, which must be properly performed in order to qualify or fit us for pardon. Faith is not a religious duty, which must be gone through according to certain rules, in order to induce Christ to give us the benefits of his work. Faith is simply receiving the divine record concerning the Son of God, recognizing the completeness of His great sacrifice for sin, and the trueness of the Father’s testimony to that completeness.
Here are just a few examples of what God has spoken about faith:
- “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11:6).
- “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).
- “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
- “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5).
- “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).
- “This is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23).
These are some of the many texts which show that it is our belief of God’s testimony concerning His own free love, and the work of his Son, that makes us partakers of the blessings which that testimony reveals. They show us that it is the object of faith—the person, or thing, or truth of which faith lays hold—that is the soul’s peace and consolation. They also announce most solemnly the necessity of believing, and the greatness of the sin of unbelief.
God can never be satisfied with you on account of any goodness about you, so why should you attempt to be satisfied with anything which will not satisfy Him? There is just one thing with which He is entirely satisfied—the person and work of His only begotten Son. It is with Him that He wants you to be satisfied. How much better would it be to take God’s way at once, and be satisfied with Christ? Then pardon and peace will be given without delay.
“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
—Condensed from God’s Way of Peace by Horatius Bonar.
Every one who has peace with God knows that his sins are gone forever, that he is standing in God’s eternal favor, and that the glory of God awaits him in the future. Happy is the soul that lives in the enjoyment of this blessed knowledge! —Edward Dennett