Consider the following account from an event in the life of the Scotsman, Horatius Bonar, in the 19th century:
Instead of Me
“Many years ago, I was walking with a friend along the pleasant banks of a Scottish river. A man in rags came up to us begging. We supplied his needs somewhat, and entered into talk with him. He could not write nor read. He knew nothing of the Bible, and seemed not to care about knowing it.
“You need to be saved, don’t you?” we asked.
“Oh yes; I suppose I do,” he said.
“But do you know the way of being saved?” we inquired.
“I dare say I do,” was the reply.
“How then do you expect to be saved?”
“I have not been a very bad man; and I am doing as many good works as I can.”
“But are your good works good enough to take you to heaven?”
“I think so; and I am doing my best.”
“Don’t you know any good works better than your own?”
“I know about the good works of the saints; but how am I to get them?”
“Don’t you know of any good works better than those of the saints?”
“I don’t think there can be any better.”
“Are not the works of the Lord Jesus Christ better than the works of the saints?”
“Of course they are; but of what use are they to me?”
“They may be of great use to us, if we believe what God has told us about them.”
“How is that?”
“If God is willing to take these works of Christ instead of yours, wouldn’t that do?”
“Yes, that it would. But will He?”
“Yes, He will. For this is just what He has told us. He is willing to take all that Christ has done and suffered instead of what you could do or suffer. And He is willing to give you what Christ has deserved instead of what you have deserved.”
“Is that really the case? Is God willing to put Christ instead of me?”
“Yes, He certainly is.”
“But do I have no good works to do myself?”
“Plenty; but not to buy God’s pardon with them. You are to take what Christ did as the price to be paid for your pardon. And then, having thus got a free pardon, you will work for Him who pardons you, out of love for His love to you.”
“But how can I get this?”
“By believing the gospel, or the good news, which tells you about the Lord Jesus Christ – how He lived, how He died, how He was buried, how He rose again – all for sinful men. As the Bible says, ‘Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by Him all who believe are justified from all things’” (Acts 13:38).
The beggar stood and wondered. The thought that Another’s works would do instead of his own, and that he might get all that this Other’s works deserved, seemed to strike him.
We never met again. But the Word seemed to impact him. He seemed to take it with him as something that he had never heard before – something that seemed almost too good to be true.
The Bible declares, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not reckoning their trespasses to them…Now then…we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled unto God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5.19-21).
Could it be that God really will accept the perfect works of the Lord Jesus Christ instead of my sinful works? This is the plain teaching of the Bible. I ask then, Where is your confidence today? Is it in your own works? Or is it in the works of Another?
Surely, in your heart of hearts, you know that your works will not do. And surely it is only the grace of God that sets before you today the works of Jesus Christ – living, suffering, dying, and rising again – not for Himself, but for sinners like you and me.
Instead of me…too good to be true? No. Too true not to be believed! Flee from any false confidence in yourself and trust in Christ and His works.
THAT is the Gospel!
“We then, as fellow workers, also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain…. Behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:1-2)