John Bunyan from England, author of the best-selling book Pilgrims Progress, lived in the 17th century. After a long hard struggle he finally came to faith in Christ. The account of his conversion is given in the book Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. He speaks of the event that so changed his life as being a result of "the exceeding mercy of God in Christ to him; namely, in taking him out of the dunghill, and converting him to the faith of His blessed Son, Jesus Christ." John Bunyan was born in humble circumstances and as a tinker (a traveling metal-smith) he was not among the nobility of earth. But God saved him and, like Paul the apostle, he always felt indebted to the grace that was so abounding to the "chief of sinners." Saul of Tarsus was arrested on the road to Damascus as he went to arrest and persecute Christians. He had been rebelling against God by trying to stamp out the name of Jesus and His followers from the earth. The Lord intervened in his life in a very direct way, with the light of His presence and a call from heaven: "Why persecutest thou Me?" This confirmed his nagging fears and assured Saul that Jesus had risen from the dead and was in fact the Lord Himself. Given the extent of Sauls zeal in opposing God he later refers to himself as "the chief of sinners" (1 Tim 1:15). But to him "the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 1:15).
Paul unfolds the amazing tapestry of divine grace in the book of Romans. Weighed in the balances of divine justice, the whole world is found guilty as charged before God (3:19). There is no difference or distinction in humanity, both in the reality of guilt and in the only remedy found in Christ. Mans only hope and plea is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (v 24). God has found a payment in the death of Christ to satisfy the highest court of heaven. The death penalty for sin is paid in full by the death of Christ, and God is free to justify the guilty who will simply believe that when Jesus died, He died for me the sinner. Therefore as a believer, my sin-debt before God is cancelled and God declares me to be just or righteous in His sight. All of this is without any effort on the part of man, but all by the grace of the God against Whom we have sinned. "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom 3:28). The law of God that cries we are guilty and highlights the enormity of our sinfulness has been silenced, because Christ has redeemed us from its curse (Gal 3:13) and has brought us into full favor and acceptance with God (Eph 1:6-7). "Grace did much more abound" (Rom 5:20)in the wonderful plan of redemption, and every believer is the undeserving recipient of it.
So, dear reader, can you take it in? That same grace is abounding enough to take you in, to remove the guilty sins of a lifetime, no matter how deep and dark they may be. The work of Christ in satisfying Gods justice by taking the judgment against us is finished, and God will justify you when by faith you claim Him as your substitute and Savior.