Good Deeds, Bad Deeds, and God’s Grace (Bunyan)

John Bunyan made a great point about saving grace in the following excerpt from “Saved by Grace.” I was going to summarize it here, but I’ll just let you read it and think about it on your own. The English is a little dated, but it’s a great truth! Here’s Bunyan:

Are men saved by grace? Then here you may see the reason why conversion runs at this rate among the sons of men: that none are converted for their good deeds, nor rejected for their bad, but even so many of both, and only so many, are brought home to God as grace is pleased to bring home to him.

1. None are received for their good deeds; for then they would not be saved by grace, but by works. Works and grace, as I have showed, are in this matter opposite each to other; if he be saved by works, then not by grace; if by grace, then not by works (Rom 11). That none are received of God for their good deeds is evident, not only because God declares his abhorrence of the supposition of such a thing, but hath also rejected the persons that have at any time attempted to present themselves to Himself in their own good deeds for justification. This I have showed you before.

2. Men are not rejected for their bad deeds. This is evident by Manasseh, by the murderers of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the men that you read of in the nineteenth of the Acts, with many others, whose sins were of as deep a dye as the sins of the worst of men (2 Chron 33:2, 13; Acts 2:23, 41; 19:19).

Grace respecteth, in the salvation of a sinner, chiefly the purpose of God; wherefore those that it findeth under that purpose, those it justifies freely, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. At Saul’s conversion, Ananias of Damascus brought in a most dreadful charge against him to the Lord Jesus Christ, saying, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.” But what said the Lord unto him? “Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto me” (Acts 9:13–15). This man’s cruelty and outrage must not hinder his conversion, because he was a chosen vessel. Men’s good deeds are no argument with God to convert them; men’s bad deeds are no argument with him to reject them. I mean, those that come to Christ, [come] by the drawing of the Father; besides, Christ also saith, “I will in no wise cast” such “out.” (John 6:37–44).

John Bunyan, Saved by Grace, p.356. (Note: I’ve edited the above quote very slightly)

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015