Ignorance: What are good thoughts concerning God?
Christian: Even as I have said concerning ourselves, when our thoughts of God do agree with what the Word says of him; and that is, when we think of his being and attributes as the Word has taught, of which I cannot now discourse at large; but to speak of him with reference to us: Then we have right thoughts of God, when we think that he knows us better than we know ourselves, and can see sin in us when and where we can see none in ourselves; when we think he knows our inmost thoughts, and that our heart, with all its depths, is always open unto his eyes; also, when we think that all our righteousness stinks in his nostrils, and that, therefore, he cannot abide to see us stand before him in any confidence, even in all our best performances.
Ignorance was hindered from coming to faith in Christ because he did not believe the truth about himself. His heart was darkened by sin. His life was in defiance of God’s Law. He was a justly condemned sinner in need of God’s grace and mercy. But he simply could not believe that his heart was that bad. His heart told him so!
If we are to rightly understand ourselves, we must measure ourselves according to God’s Word. This is true of what we believe about ourselves and it is true of what we believe about God. Having good thoughts about God is not necessarily thinking highly of Him or hoping that He will answer our prayers just as we desire. We are not free to imagine God as we want Him to be. He is not defined by our feelings, our felt needs, or our own sense of justice. If we are to know God truly, we must know Him as He as revealed Himself in His Word.
Consider for a moment some of what the Bible says is true about God.
God is solitary. He alone is God; there is none like Him.
Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?
Now see that I, even I, am He,
And there is no God besides Me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.
No one is holy like the Lord,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
(1 Samuel 2:2)
God is holy. He alone is perfect, pure, and righteous.
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.
but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15–16).
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).
Because He is holy, He hates sin and He will judge sin.
God is a just judge,
And God is angry with the wicked every day.
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,
Nor shall evil dwell with You.
The boastful shall not stand in Your sight;
You hate all workers of iniquity.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
God is supreme. He is above all things; He is first and primary. Nothing is greater; nothing is higher. Nothing is more vital or more important.
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
And You are exalted as head over all.
(1 Chronicles 29:11)
“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3)
God is omniscient. He knows all thing. He knows everything about us down to the smallest detail. Nothing can be hidden from God. Nothing can surprise Him or catch Him off guard.
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
Known to God from eternity are all His works (Acts 15:18).
God is sovereign. He rules over all things. He is LORD and King. He directs all things and “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).
But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases
Whatever the Lord pleases He does,
In heaven and in earth,
In the seas and in all deep places.
God is immutable. He never changes.
For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17).
His Word is certain.
Forever, O Lord,
Your word is settled in heaven.
His plans are certain.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations
And His love is everlasting.
And His love is everlasting.
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
God is good. He always does what is right and just.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
God is merciful and gracious. He has provided a way of hope, forgiveness, and life in Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4–5).
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
These are only a few of God’s attributes revealed to us in Scripture (see The Attributes of God by Arthur W. Pink, 1975 for an excellent study on what the Bible teaches about God).
Ignorance thought he knew God. But he was not thinking “good thoughts concerning God.” His concept of God was shaped by his experience and imagination. Christian affirms that the only way to think rightly about God is to “think of his being and attributes as the Word has taught.”
The problem with Ignorance is not that he is dispassionate or indolent. He is devout and has walked a long way on his journey. He is intent on going to the Celestial City. He has not been dissuaded to turn aside or turn back. It’s not that he is openly rebellious or intentionally deceptive. He is sincere in what he believes. He is earnest in his conversation with Christian. His problem is the standard by which he walks. As he grapples to understand life, God, and the world around him, he looks to his heart rather than God’s Word. He has made himself the standard and believes what he wants to believe. Where Scripture affirms his fancies, he heartily agrees with it. But where Scripture confronts his notions, he readily ignores it. It is his unwillingness to submit to God in His Word that has bound him to walk in Ignorance.
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 ©2018 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.