Tag Archives: Gospel

Faithful Explains Saving Grace

Faithful: A work of grace in the soul discovers itself, either to him that has it, or to standers by.

To him that has it thus: It gives him conviction of sin, especially of the defilement of his nature and the sin of unbelief, (for the sake of which he is sure to be damned, if he does not find mercy at God’s hand, by faith in Jesus Christ). This sight and sense of things works in him sorrow and shame for sin; he finds, moreover, revealed in him the Savior of the world, and the absolute necessity of closing with him for life, at the which he finds hungerings and thirstings after him; to which hungerings, and etc., the promise is made. Now, according to the strength or weakness of his faith in his Savior, so is his joy and peace, so is his love to holiness, so are his desires to know him more, and also to serve him in this world. But though I say it discovers itself thus unto him, yet it is but seldom that he is able to conclude that this is a work of grace; because his corruptions now, and his abused reason, make his mind to misjudge in this matter; therefore, in him that has this work, there is required a very sound judgment before he can, with steadiness, conclude that this is a work of grace.

To others, it is thus discovered:

1. By an experimental confession of his faith in Christ.

2. By a life answerable to that confession; to wit, a life of holiness, heart-holiness, family-holiness, (if he has a family), and by conversation-holiness in the world which, in the general, teaches him, inwardly, to abhor his sin, and himself for that, in secret; to suppress it in his family and to promote holiness in the world; not by talk only, as a hypocrite or talkative person may do, but by a practical subjection, in faith and love, to the power of the Word. And now, Sir, as to this brief description of the work of grace, and also the discovery of it, if you have aught to object, object. If not, then give me leave to propound to you a second question.

Talkative: Nay, my part is not now to object, but to hear; let me, therefore, have your second question.

Faithful: It is this: Do you experience this first part of this description of it? and does your life and conversation testify the same? Or does your religion stand in word or in tongue, and not in deed and truth? Pray, if you incline to answer me in this, say no more than you know the God above will say Amen to; and also nothing but what your conscience can justify you in; for not he that commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. Besides, to say I am thus and thus, when my conversation, and all my neighbors, tell me I lie, is great wickedness.

In the last post Faithful confronted Talkative and attempted to engage him in a serious conversation about his soul. Talkative is dangerously deceived. He professes to follow Christ and knows a lot of doctrine, but his life betrays his profession. Now Faithful presses him with truth and tries to help him see the deception. Faithful’s counsel to Talkative is insightful. He not only clearly explains truth; he makes an urgent appeal to apply truth.

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Faithful had raised the question: What are the evidences of saving grace in the heart? How do we know that “God has begun a good work” in us (Philippians 1:6)? Talkative answered, “a great outcry against sin” and “great knowledge of gospel mysteries.” But saving grace compels us to do more than just denounce sin with our words and delight in truth with our minds. True saving grace causes a change of heart that is made evident in a changed life.

Faithful explains that saving grace in the heart is evident both to the person in whom that grace is at work and to those around him.

To the person who has saving grace:

1. He feels the weight of his sin. The Spirit works in his heart convicting him “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). He grieves over his sin and is convinced of the certainty of impending judgment due his sin. He believes God’s Word that “he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). He senses his great need for rescue and relief. He cries out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Romans 7:24) and with David, “For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin” (Psalm 38:18).

2. He turns away from sin and looks to Christ for hope and forgiveness. He repents and believes in Christ alone to save Him. He has no hope in himself or in any other. Jesus has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). He believes God’s Word and trusts in the promises given to us in Christ in the gospel. We are “justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law” (Galatians 2:16).

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:11–13).

3. He has a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Saving grace changes his desires. He learns to love what God loves and hate what God hates. He desires to live a life pleasing to God. He pursues holiness and obedience to the Word of God.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

“And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Revelation 21:6).

“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).

4. He finds his joy and peace in knowing Christ and living for Him. He is humbled and grateful for all Christ has done for him. He is indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works in his heart to produce fruits of righteousness and break old patterns of sin. His life is no longer marked by selfishness and vain ambition. His joy and delight is to serve the Lord.

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men” (Romans 14:17–18).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22–25).

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Saving grace is evident to the person who has it, though he may not always be able to discern these evidences because of the ongoing struggle with remaining sin. This is one reason why we need others to walk with us in the Christian life—to help us see how far we have come, to encourage us along the way, and continue to exhort us to press on, flee from sin and follow Christ.

Saving grace is evident to others around the one in whom that grace is at work:

1. By an experimental confession of his faith in Christ. Others will be able to observe the person and see that the bent of his life is in line with what he is professing. They won’t just hear words confessing faith in Christ, they will see the fruits of that confession borne out in a changed life.

2. By a life answerable to that confession. Others will see his life and hold him accountable. They will pray for him and encourage him. He will live before God, himself and others with integrity and humility. Beginning in the privacy of his own heart, he will seek to live a life of holiness, fleeing from sin and resting in Christ. Salvation is more than speaking true words. It involves both mouth and heart. It is a confession with the lips and a transformation of the heart.

“… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9–10).

His change of heart will be made visible in a changed life. His faith in Christ will be evident in his relationships in the home (with his family) and in the world. His love for Christ will be manifest in his choices and conduct before others.

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:27).

“If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).

“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God”
(Psalm 50:23)

True saving grace is made evident not just in our words but in our walk. In salvation we are both justified and sanctified.

We are justified—we are declared righteous. In Christ we are completely forgiven and perfected forever. He has taken our sin upon Himself and paid our debt on the cross, so that we may no longer fear condemnation. He has given us His righteousness, so that when God looks upon us, He sees not a sinner, but a son and a daughter, adopted and brought into His family.

And we are also sanctified—we are given a desire for obedience and delight in God’s Law. We love to walk in His ways. We are conformed more and more to the image of Christ.

The result of justification is a decree by God that we are made righteous. That decree is made in the courts of heaven and is unseen. But the result of sanctification is a changed life that can be seen by all.

Faithful is diligent to teach Talkative the Word of God and give him a more accurate understanding of what it means to be saved by grace. But he is not satisfied with simply explaining the truth. Were the conversation to consist of mere explanation, Talkative would be quite content. But Faithful presses him with application by raising a second question. He asks him plainly, Is this your experience? Does your life and conduct fit your talk and confession? Is your religion in word and tongue only, or is it in deed and truth? He implores Talkative to be honest.

If we are to help others truly understand and lay hold of truth, we must not stop short, content with mere explanation. We must drive for application. Faithful calls Talkative to account. In the next post we will see how Talkative responds.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2016 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Confronted by Apollyon

But now, in this Valley of Humiliation, poor Christian was hard put to it; for he had gone but a little way, before he espied a foul fiend coming over the field to meet him; his name is Apollyon. Then did Christian begin to be afraid, and to cast in his mind whether to go back or to stand his ground. But he considered again that he had no armor for his back; and therefore thought that to turn the back to him might give him the greater advantage with ease to pierce him with his darts.

Therefore he resolved to venture and stand his ground; for, thought he, had I no more in mine eye than the saving of my life, it would be the best way to stand.

So he went on, and Apollyon met him. Now the monster was hideous to behold; he was clothed with scales, like a fish, (and they are his pride,) he had wings like a dragon, feet like a bear, and out of his belly came fire and smoke, and his mouth was as the mouth of a lion. When he was come up to Christian, he beheld him with a disdainful countenance, and thus began to question with him.

Apollyon: Whence come you? And whither are you bound?

Christian: I am come from the City of Destruction, which is the place of all evil, and am going to the City of Zion.

Apollyon: By this I perceive you are one of my subjects, for all that country is mine, and I am the prince and god of it. How is it, then, that you have run away from your king? Were it not that I hope you may do me more service, I would strike you now, at one blow, to the ground.

Christian: I was born, indeed, in your dominions, but your service was hard, and your wages such as a man could not live on, “for the wages of sin is death.” Therefore, when I was come to years, I did, as other considerate persons do, look out, if, perhaps, I might mend myself.

Apollyon: There is no prince that will thus lightly lose his subjects, neither will I as yet lose you; but since you complain of your service and wages, be content to go back: what our country will afford, I do here promise to give you.

Christian: But I have let myself to another, even to the King of princes; and how can I, with fairness, go back with you?

Apollyon: You have done in this, according to the proverb, “Changed a bad for a worse”; but it is ordinary for those who have professed themselves his servants, after a while to give him the slip, and return again to me. Do you so too, and all shall be well.

Christian: I have given him my faith, and sworn my allegiance to him; how, then, can I go back from this, and not be hanged as a traitor?

Apollyon: You did the same to me, and yet I am willing to pass by all, if now you will yet turn again and go back.

Christian: What I promised you was in my nonage; and, besides, I count the Prince under whose banner now I stand is able to absolve me; yea, and to pardon also what I did as to my compliance with you; and besides, O you destroying Apollyon! to speak truth, I like his service, his wages, his servants, his government, his company, and country, better than yours; and, therefore, leave off to persuade me further; I am his servant, and I will follow him.

Apollyon: Consider, again, when you are in cool blood, what you are like to meet with in the way that you are going. You know that, for the most part, his servants come to an ill end, because they are transgressors against me and my ways. How many of them have been put to shameful deaths! And, besides, you count his service better than mine, whereas he never came yet from the place where he is to deliver any that served him out of their hands. But as for me, how many times, as all the world very well knows, have I delivered, either by power, or fraud, those that have faithfully served me, from him and his, though taken by them; and so I will deliver you.

Christian: His forbearing at present to deliver them is on purpose to try their love, whether they will cleave to him to the end; and as for the ill end you say they come to, that is most glorious in their account; for, for present deliverance, they do not much expect it, for they stay for their glory, and then they shall have it when their Prince comes in his and the glory of the angels.

Apollyon: You have already been unfaithful in your service to him; and how do you think to receive wages of him?

Christian: Wherein, O Apollyon! have I been unfaithful to him?

Apollyon: You did faint at first setting out, when you were almost choked in the Gulf of Despond. You did attempt wrong ways to be rid of your burden, whereas you should have stayed till your Prince had taken it off. You did sinfully sleep and lose your choice thing. You were, also, almost persuaded to go back at the sight of the lions. And when you talk of your journey, and of what you have heard and seen, you are inwardly desirous of vain-glory in all that you say or do.

Christian: All this is true, and much more which you have left out; but the Prince whom I serve and honor is merciful, and ready to forgive. But, besides, these infirmities possessed me in your country, for there I sucked them in; and I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my Prince.

Then Apollyon broke out into a grievous rage, saying, I am an enemy to this Prince; I hate his person, his laws, and people; I am come out on purpose to withstand thee.

Christian and ApollyonChristian does not go far in the Valley of Humiliation until he meets with danger. Across the field he sees a frightening monster coming toward him. The name of the “foul fiend” is Apollyon, which means “Destroyer.” Bunyan draws both the name and description of the beast from Scripture. In the book of Revelation Apollyon is a fallen angel who leads a destructive force of demons.

And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon (Revelation 9:11).

Bunyan’s description of Apollyon in the allegory comes from the Job’s account of the monster Leviathan:

His rows of scales are his pride,
Shut up tightly as with a seal;
One is so near another
That no air can come between them;
They are joined one to another,
They stick together and cannot be parted.
His sneezings flash forth light,
And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
Out of his mouth go burning lights;
Sparks of fire shoot out.
Smoke goes out of his nostrils,
As from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
His breath kindles coals,
And a flame goes out of his mouth.
(Job 41:15–21)

And John’s account of the dragon and the beast in Revelation:

So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him (Revelation 12:9).

Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority (Revelation 13:2).

Apollyon represents the Devil and the spiritual forces of evil that oppose God and seek to destroy and diminish God’s work and God’s glory. He has come to confront Christian and turn him away from following Christ. He begins his challenge by asking Christian where he is from and where he is going. Christian tells him that he is from the City of Destruction but on his way to the City of Zion. Apollyon then replies by claiming Christian as one of his subjects and asking him why he is running away from his king.

Apollyon’s reply may not be fully understood in our day, especially in the context of the political framework we have in the United States. Bunyan was born in 1628 during the reign of Charles I. He was later imprisoned (for the first time in 1660) after the monarchy had been restored under Charles II. In Bunyan’s day the subjects of the kingdom were considered the property of the Crown. They were owned by the one who ruled. Because of this it was against the law for a subject to leave the country and travel outside the king’s realm without first petitioning and receiving permission from the king. Today we think nothing of traveling if we so desire. But in Bunyan’s day it was treason to sneak out of the country. So Apollyon, claiming to be a prince and a god, asks why Christian has run from his king.

The dialog that follows is one of the most insightful passages in all of The Pilgrim’s Progress. In it Bunyan offers several lessons on spiritual warfare: both ploys that the devil uses to lure Christians away from following Christ, and ways that Christians can resist and stand against the devil in spiritual warfare.

Note first the schemes that Apollyon uses to attempt to weaken Christian’s resolve and turn him back:

Ploys of the Devil

1. He tries to make sin look promising, prosperous and alluring.

The devil would have us believe that our sins are more pleasurable and desirable than the joys and riches we have in Christ. If Christian goes back, he promises to give him “what our country will afford” as if that can satisfy Christian’s heart. But Christian understands that Apollyon’s service is hard and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Satan is an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) who can, for a time, make bondage seem like freedom, and ruin feel like happiness. From the beginning he has been a deceiver and a liar (Genesis 3:13; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9, 20:10). We must be on guard against the deadly error of believing that we can find true satisfaction and contentment in yielding to and living in sin.

2. He points to the apostasy and hypocrisy of others.

Apollyon assures Christian: “But it is ordinary for those who have professed themselves his servants, after a while to give him the slip, and return again to me. Do you so too, and all shall be well.” Here Bunyan uses a play on words. Slip means to fall or lose your balance, but it can also mean to desert or sneak away—to slip out. Christian lost his footing and slipped on the way down into the valley. We learn in Part 2 of the allegory that it was these slips (his struggles with his pride) that caused this confrontation with Apollyon:

Then said Mr. Great-heart, We need not to be so afraid of this Valley, for here is nothing to hurt us, unless we procure it to ourselves. It is true, Christian did here meet with Apollyon, with whom he also had a sore combat; but that fray was the fruit of those slips that he got in his going down the hill; for they that get slips there, must look for combats here. And hence it is, that this Valley has got so hard a name.

Apollyon points to others who have given Christ the slip in an attempt to sway Christian into thinking that he is already on the way to desertion because of his own slips coming down in the Valley. The Devil is “the accuser” (Revelation 12:10) and we must be wary of his schemes to dissuade us from looking to Christ.

3. He points to the trials and hardships of following Christ.

He describes those who have suffered and died for the sake of Christ. To those who walk by sight, it appears that they have been defeated and let down by God. But “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Those who walk by faith are as Christian “pilgrims on the earth” who “desire a better, that is, a heavenly country (Hebrews 11:13–16). Christian does not fall for Apollyon’s false promises of deliverance, but trusts that, no matter how difficult the circumstances may be, no matter how dark the outcome may appear, his King will safely bring him to glory.

4. He points to Christian’s own failings and sin.

Apollyon now makes the attack personal. He begins to accuse Christian of all the ways he has failed to follow his King: when he fell into the Slough of Despond; when he followed the advise of Worldly Wiseman and left the Way to find relief from his burden in the town of Morality; when he fell asleep in the Arbor on Hill Difficulty; and when he lost heart and almost turned back at the sight of the lions at the entrance to House Beautiful. With each reminder of these failing Apollyon attempts to discourage Christian of any hope of reaching his destination.

5. Finally he attacks Christian’s motives for following Christ.

As a final blow to conclude his argument, Apollyon attempts to cast suspicion on the very motive for Christian seeking the City of Zion. He accuses Christian of venturing to Zion for selfish reasons—for vain-glory. Christian is not living to honor and glorify God, but for the hope of reward and pleasure.

So how does Christian resist the Devil and engage in spiritual warfare? Take note of three important lessons:

Resisting the Devil

1. Christian stands his ground.

When Christian first sees the approaching fiend, he resolves to venture forward and stay in the Way. He realizes that he has no armor for his back. If he chooses to forsake the Way and go back, he will make himself even more vulnerable and open to attack. We must learn to stand our ground and stay in the fight against sin and temptation. We must not turn back from following Christ when the Way is hard and standing for truth is difficult. To go back is Destruction and to play into the devil’s hand.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world (1 Peter 5:8–9).

2. Christian speaks most often of his King, not of himself.

Notice in the exchange with Apollyon that Christian does not dwell on his sin or his circumstances or himself. Rather, as Apollyon continues to press him, he over and over again speaks of his King. He tells Apollyon: “But I have let myself to another, even to the King of princes;” “I have given him my faith, and sworn my allegiance to him;” “I count the Prince under whose banner now I stand is able to absolve me;” “I like his service, his wages, his servants, his government, his company, and country;” and “I am his servant, and I will follow him.”

In the midst of temptation, Christian does not set his attention on himself, his foe or his struggle. He sets it firmly on His King. What causes most Christians to stumble in the Valley of Humiliation is pride; they exalt themselves in their thinking rather than Christ. Tom Ascol offers this helpful definition of pride: “What is pride but being full of yourself? It is thinking too much of yourself or thinking of yourself too much” (from a sermon given November 7, 2010 on 1 Corinthians 8:1–3). We can fall into pride when we are overconfident of our own strength and boast in ourselves. Or we can fall into pride when we despair and speak only of our struggles and failures. In both cases we lose sight of Christ and make ourselves spiritually vulnerable. We must learn from Christian’s example to take our eyes (and our conversation) off ourselves and fix them on Christ.

3. Christian owns his sin and rests in mercy of his King.

When Apollyon tries to shame Christian by accusing him of sin and unfaithfulness, notice how Christian responds. He doesn’t try to rationalize his sin. He doesn’t downplay or deny his sin. He doesn’t blame others or make excuses. He confesses, “All this is true and much more that you have left out.” And then he casts himself on the mercy and kindness of his King: “But the Prince whom I serve and honor is merciful and ready to forgive.” Christian humbles himself and remembers what God did to rescue him from certain Destruction. The shamefulness of his sins, more numerous than Apollyon can enumerate, had already been put on display—his Savior was nailed to a cross. But at the cross the abundance of God’s mercy was displayed as well—his Savior died in his place that he might know true forgiveness and peace. It is this humbling and liberating truth of the gospel that enables Christian to stand and resist the ploys of the devil. He is a great sinner, but Christ is a greater Savior with grace and mercy in abundance.

Christian’s answer sends Apollyon into a fierce rage. In the next post we will examine the battle that ensues and draw out more lessons on engaging in spiritual warfare.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Into the Valley of Humiliation

Now he bethought himself of setting forward, and they were willing he should. But first, said they, let us go again into the armory. So they did; and when they came there, they harnessed him from head to foot with what was of proof, lest, perhaps, he should meet with assaults in the way. He being, therefore, thus accoutered, walked out with his friends to the gate, and there he asked the Porter if he saw any pilgrims pass by. Then the Porter answered, Yes.

Christian: Pray, did you know him? said he.

Porter: I asked him his name, and he told me it was Faithful.

Oh, said Christian, I know him. He is my townsman, my near neighbor. He comes from the place where I was born. How far do you think he may be before?

Porter: He is got by this time below the hill.

Well, said Christian, good Porter, the Lord be with you, and add to all your blessings much increase, for the kindness that you have shown to me.

Then he began to go forward; but Discretion, Piety, Charity, and Prudence would accompany him down to the foot of the hill. So they went on together, reiterating their former discourses, till they came to go down the hill. Then said Christian: As it was difficult coming up, so, so far as I can see, it is dangerous going down. Yes, said Prudence, so it is, for it is a hard matter for a man to go down into the Valley of Humiliation, as you are doing now, and to catch no slip by the way; therefore, said they, are we come out to accompany you down the hill. So he began to go down, but very warily; yet he caught a slip or two.

Then I saw in my dream that these good companions, when Christian was gone to the bottom of the hill, gave him a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, and a cluster of raisins; and then he went on his way.

In this final scene at Palace Beautiful Bunyan highlights another important role of the church in the life of a believer. It is in the house of God that we are equipped and made ready to face the trials and temptations of this life. This world is a spiritual battlefield, and before Christian departs to resume his journey, the family takes him again to the armory to be sure he is properly fit and dressed in the armor of the Lord (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Palace Beautiful has been a high point in Christian’s journey. Here for a time he has found refuge, refreshment and great encouragement. Now he is going down into the Valley of Humiliation. As Christian descends, take note:

1. Christian learns from the Porter of another pilgrim who recently passed by. This traveler spoke with the Porter and told him his name was Faithful. Christian has learned the value of fellowship and walking together in the church. He is encouraged by the news and inquires about Faithful’s whereabouts. Perhaps Faithful is still close enough in the Way for Christian to overtake and join in the journey.

2. As Christian leaves he thanks the Porter (one of several characters in the allegory who represents the work of a pastor) for his kindness in serving him. We should as well take time to thank and pray for our pastors who watch over and care for us.

Valley of Humiliation3. Christian does not go down the hill alone. He is accompanied by some of the family members: Discretion, Piety, Charity and Prudence. As they make the descent, they rehearse and remind Christian of the truth and promises of God’s Word. Bunyan’s point is clear. We need the company and support of God’s people when we go down into spiritual valleys and face times of difficulty and distress. We need their encouragements and admonitions. We need the spiritual qualities of discretion, piety, charity and prudence to guide us and help us make wise choices.

4. Christian is warned to be cautious going down. He notes that it was difficult coming up (he passed through the lions when he gained entrance to the Palace) and it is dangerous going down. This warning may at first seem out of place at this point in the story. After all, Christian has been strengthened and armed for battle. Certainly he is more prepared now than at any point in his journey thus far to face danger. Yet we must take note: Descending is a much harder task than ascending. “Coming down” after times of great spiritual victory and refreshment, when the realities of the world around us rush in and over us, can be surprisingly “dangerous.” Spiritual pride can convince us to presume and spiritual fatigue can cause us to let down our guard. It is at times like these when we are more susceptible to catch a slip or two. William Mason, in his commentary on The Pilgrim’s Progress, explains:

Thus it is, after a pilgrim has been favored with any special and peculiar blessings, there is danger of his being puffed up by them, and exalted on account of them; so was even holy Paul; therefore, the messenger of Satan was permitted to buffet him (2 Cor. 12:7). In our present mixed state, the Lord knows it would not be best for us always to dwell on the mount of spiritual joy; therefore, for the good of the soul, the flesh must be humbled, and kept low lest spiritual pride prevail. It is hard going down into the Valley of Humiliation, without slipping into murmuring and discontent, and calling in question the dealings of God with us.

These slips can take many forms: fear, doubt, restlessness, grumbling, impatience, self-indulgence, carelessness, to name a few. Later in the allegory, when Christian tells his story to Hopeful, he identifies three villains who tried to cause him to stumble at the entrance to the valley: Faint-Heart, Mistrust and Guilt.

We must be on guard when we look back on spiritual progress and success, lest we fall when we think we should stand. The prophet Elijah was bold on Mount Caramel (1 Kings 18:20-40), at a high point in his stand for truth. But he was running for his life in fear of Jezebel in the following chapter (1 Kings 19:1-3) and crying in lament: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4). If we are not careful to keep watch (for ourselves and for others), we can too easily fall prey to doubt and sin. With every advancement Satan would threaten to cast a dark cloud over all the spiritual good and progress we have made. And when we do catch a slip, we must remember the help and mercy of the Lord is always there to lift us up:

Unless the LORD had been my help,
My soul would soon have settled in silence.
If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up.
(Psalm 94:17-18)

5. Christian is given provisions for the journey. The family of the Palace provides him with bread, wine and a cluster of raisins. Bunyan alludes here to an account the Old Testament. These were the provisions sent to refresh David and his men when they were in the wilderness.

When David was a little past the top of the mountain, there was Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, who met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred clusters of raisins, one hundred summer fruits, and a skin of wine. And the king said to Ziba, “What do you mean to do with these?” So Ziba said, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who are faint in the wilderness to drink” (2 Samuel 16:1-2).

These provisions remind us of God’s abundant supply of grace and mercy in Christ. Though Christian has feasted on the rich truth of the gospel at Palace Beautiful, he must now take what he has learned and continue to feed on Christ as he continues in the Way. He will soon be put to the test. He will need to draw on the wisdom he has gained, wield the sword he has been given, and stand firm in the truth he has grasped. In Christ we have all we need to fight the fight of faith and complete the journey.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Instruction at Palace Beautiful

So in the morning they all got up; and, after some more discourse, they told him that he should not depart till they had shown him the rarities of that place. And first they had him into the study, where they showed him records of the greatest antiquity; in which, as I remember my dream, they showed him first the pedigree of the Lord of the hill, that He was the Son of the Ancient of Days, and came by that eternal generation. Here also was more fully recorded the acts that He had done, and the names of many hundreds that He had taken into his service; and how He had placed them in such habitations that could neither by length of days, nor decays of nature, be dissolved.

Then they read to him some of the worthy acts that some of His servants had done: as, how they had “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”

They then read again, in another part of the records of the house, where it was showed how willing their Lord was to receive into His favor any, even any, though they in time past had offered great affronts to his person and proceedings. Here also were several other histories of many other famous things, of all which Christian had a view; as of things both ancient and modern; together with prophecies and predictions of things that have their certain accomplishment, both to the dread and amazement of enemies, and the comfort and solace of pilgrims.

Instruction at Palace BeautifulAfter a restful night in the chamber of Peace, Christian awakes to discover more of the joys of Palace Beautiful. Before Christian departs to continue his journey, the members of the household desire him to see “the rarities of that place” (the valuables and treasures of the house). They take him first into the study. The study represents the preaching and teaching ministry of the church and the “records of the greatest antiquity” are the Word of God.

Scripture is a true treasure to pilgrims.

I rejoice at Your word
As one who finds great treasure.
(Psalm 119:162)

The study of Scripture is vital to the life of a pilgrim. Christian learned this lesson earlier in his pilgrimage when he spent time at the House of the Interpreter (Bunyan’s depiction of the Bible and the Spirit’s work to illumine the Bible to our understanding). At the Interpreter’s House Christian was also encouraged to stay longer and not depart until he had seen and learned valuable lessons that would serve him on his journey.

In the study at Palace Beautiful Christian sits under the instruction of God’s Word. He hears the message of the gospel: who Jesus is, what He has done, and why that matters.

Jesus is the Son of the Ancient of Days, a reference to Daniel 7:

I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
(Daniel 7:13)

He is the only begotten of the Father, who has come to rescue sinners from death and give them everlasting life.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

In Christ God has “qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Colossians 1:12). In Christ “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13).

It is Christ who is preeminent in all things and Head of the church.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence (Colossians 1:15-18).

As the instruction at Palace Beautiful continues, the family reads from the book of Hebrews. Christian is comforted by the testimonies of God’s people who walked by faith and believed God’s Word.

And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth (Hebrews 11:32-38).

And Christian hears again the marvelous invitation of the gospel. God has grace and mercy for sinners because of Christ.

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).

Jesus welcomes and is willing to receive all who come to Him for life and forgiveness!

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:37).

This is the good news of the gospel. God has grace in abundance. The Gospel of grace in Christ Jesus is the treasure cherished at Palace Beautiful. It is the message of hope and salvation we proclaim. The Gospel is a unique treasure. We are made richer by sharing it. May we ever walk in its light by faith and freely share it with all who will hear and come.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Supper at Palace Beautiful

Now I saw in my dream, that thus they sat talking together until supper was ready. So when they had made ready, they sat down to meat. Now the table was furnished “with fat things, and with wine that was well refined.” And all their talk at the table was about the Lord of the hill; as, namely, about what He had done, and wherefore He did what He did, and why He had built that house. And by what they said, I perceived that He had been a great warrior, and had fought with and slain “him that had the power of death,” but not without great danger to Himself, which made me love Him the more.

For, as they said, and as I believe (said Christian), He did it with the loss of much blood; but that which put glory of grace into all He did, was, that He did it out of pure love to His country. And besides, there were some of them of the household that said they had been and spoke with him since He did die on the cross; and they have attested that they had it from His own lips, that He is such a lover of poor pilgrims, that the like is not to be found from the east to the west.

They, moreover, gave an instance of what they affirmed, and that was, he had stripped Himself of His glory, that He might do this for the poor; and that they heard Him say and affirm, “that He would not dwell in the mountain of Zion alone.” They said, moreover, that He had made many pilgrims princes, though by nature they were beggars born, and their original had been the dunghill.

Supper at House BeautifulAfter Prudence, Piety and Charity question Christian and examine his life and testimony, the family comes together for a meal. From its earliest days the church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). The meal at Palace Beautiful represents the fellowship that believers share together in Christ, especially in the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper.

The table displays God’s abundant provision for us in Christ. It is described as rich and sumptuous, “furnished with fat things, and with wine that was well refined.” Bunyan draws his imagery from Isaiah:

And in this mountain
The LORD of hosts will make for all people
A feast of choice pieces,
A feast of wines on the lees,
Of fat things full of marrow,
Of well-refined wines on the lees.
(Isaiah 25:6)

The conversation at the table centers on Christ, “the Lord of the Hill.” It is all about the gospel: who Jesus is, what He has done, and why that matters. Bunyan highlights several truths of the gospel from Scripture in his description:

It is in Jesus, coming to save us, where we see the glory of God’s grace displayed:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Jesus is the Master Builder of Palace Beautiful (Matthew 16:18) and its Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). He is the Great Warrior who took on flesh and stood in our place, defeating death and triumphing over the evil one.

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:14-15).

At the supper we are reminded that it is Jesus who redeemed us by His shed blood and broken body on the cross.

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20).

It is Jesus who brings us near to God.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).

We have the testimony of Paul and others of the household of faith who saw Jesus raised from the dead that this gospel is true:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

It is the testimony of those gathered at the table that our Savior is “a lover of poor pilgrims.” Christ “loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). The Apostle John records:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end (John 13:1).

Christ is building His church “and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The success of His mission is assured. He will “not dwell in the mountain of Zion alone.”

For God will save Zion
And build the cities of Judah,
That they may dwell there and possess it.
(Psalms 69:35)

He is able to raise up a beggar to be a prince.

He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S,
And He has set the world upon them.
(1 Samuel 2:8)

He raises the poor out of the dust,
And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
That He may seat him with princes—
With the princes of His people.
(Psalm 113:7-8)

At every point in Bunyan’s description of the supper at Palace Beautiful our attention is drawn to Christ. Jesus is at the heart of the love and joy we share together in the church. Our fellowship is in Him (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3). It is He who rescues us from sin and makes us sons and daughters of His Kingdom. Our lives display the power of His gospel as trophies of His grace and mercy. The table reminds us that we never get beyond our need for the gospel. We need to keep it on our lips and ringing in our ears. It is Jesus we remember as we proclaim His death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:25-26).

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Conversation with Charity

Then said Charity to Christian, Have you a family? Are you a married man?

Christian: I have a wife and four small children.

Charity: And why did you not bring them along with you?

Christian: Then Christian wept, and said, Oh, how willingly would I have done it! But they were all of them utterly averse to my going on pilgrimage.

Charity: But you should have talked to them, and have endeavored to show them the danger of being behind.

Christian: So I did; and told them also of what God had shown to me of the destruction of our city; “but I seemed to them as one that mocked,” and they did not believe me.

Charity: And did you pray to God that he would bless your counsel to them?

Christian: Yes, and that with much affection. For you must think that my wife and poor children were very dear unto me.

Charity: But did you tell them of your own sorrow, and fear of destruction? For I suppose that destruction was visible enough to you.

Christian: Yes, over, and over, and over. They might also see my fears in my countenance, in my tears, and also in my trembling under the apprehension of the judgment that did hang over our heads; but all was not sufficient to prevail with them to come with me.

Charity: But what could they say for themselves, why they did not come?

Christian: Why, my wife was afraid of losing this world, and my children were given to the foolish delights of youth. So what by one thing, and what by another, they left me to wander in this manner alone.

Charity: But did you not, with your vain life, damp all that you by words used by way of persuasion to bring them away with you?

Christian: Indeed, I cannot commend my life; for I am conscious to myself of many failings therein; I know also that a man by his conversation may soon overthrow what by argument or persuasion he does labor to fasten upon others for their good. Yet this I can say, I was very wary of giving them occasion, by any unseemly action, to make them averse to going on pilgrimage. Yea, for this very thing they would tell me I was too precise, and that I denied myself of things, for their sakes, in which they saw no evil. Nay, I think I may say, that if what they saw in me did hinder them, it was my great tenderness in sinning against God, or of doing any wrong to my neighbor.

Charity: Indeed Cain hated his brother, “because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” And if your wife and children have been offended with you for this, they thereby show themselves to be implacable to good, and “you have delivered your soul from their blood.”

Charity now joins in the conversation and she begins to question Christian about his home and family. Charity represents our compassion and love for others. She is highly commended in Scripture. Paul teaches:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1, KJV).
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (1 Corinthians 13:13, KJV).

Conversation with CharityChristian arrived at House Beautiful alone and Charity voices her concern for his wife and sons. Christian tells her that his family was opposed to him going on a pilgrimage. Though he warned them “over and over and over” and tried to tell them of the danger of staying behind, they would not listen. Though he was brokenhearted, they rejected his pleas and mock his efforts to persuade them. Christian quotes from Genesis 19:14, comparing the response of his family to that of Lot’s family when he warned them to flee Sodom:

So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking (Genesis 19:14).

In the dialog between Charity and Christian, Bunyan offers some helpful lessons in how we should respond to loved-ones who reject the gospel and become offended with us who so desperately want to see them come to Christ.

1. We must pray for and plead with those we love to come to Christ, knowing that God alone can change their hearts.

Christiana was afraid of losing this world. The children were ensnared by the foolish delights of youth. Though Christian loved them, nothing he did could convince them to join him and escape Destruction. In their rejection we see the blindness and darkness of being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). They walked, as Paul describes, “in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Ephesians 4:17-18). Christian told them the gospel. He prayed for them. He lived before them. They could see his fears and tears for their sake, yet none of these prevailed. Their blindness was like that of Israel in the Old Testament. Israel saw the hand of God bring them out of Egypt. They saw Pharaoh’s army crushed in the sea. They saw the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, yet many died in unbelief. Even in the days when Jesus walked the earth, many heard the Savior teach and saw Him work miracles. They saw Him crucified, yet did not believe.

Our best efforts cannot break through the hardness and oppression of sin. As Bonar reminds us in the hymn Not What My Hands Have Done, “all my prayers and sighs and tears” will avail nothing without divine strength and power. We can strongly desire the salvation of those we love, but only God can change their hearts. Paul reminds us that it is God in love who triumphs over death and brings life.
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), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).
And so, we must pray and plead, as Charity compels us, looking to God that He would do what we cannot do—that He would reach down and graciously save.

2. As we pray and plead, we must live before others in a way that commends the gospel and does not discredit it.

We must live the gospel ourselves. We must show love and be quick to repent and ready to forgive. Too easily our own sin trips us up and threatens to undo others around us. Our sin can dampen our testimony and our efforts to bring the gospel to others.
Charity asks: “But did you not, with your vain life, damp all that you by words used by way of persuasion to bring them away with you?” A hundred sound words and wise instructions can be washed away in one slip where we do not heed instruction and follow wisdom ourselves, and fail to live the gospel by repenting and asking forgiveness. We will never live before others perfectly in this life. But even our failings can strengthen our testimony when we respond to sin in right ways: confessing and owning our sin, repenting and seeking reconciliation, and loving and forgiving those who sin against us.

3. We must never give up praying for and pleading with those we love to come to Christ.

Charity commends Christian for following Christ and doing what was right, even though it made him offensive in the eyes of his loved-ones. Charity quotes from 1 John 3:12, comparing their response to that of Cain who was ensnared by “the wicked one and murdered his brother.” Christian did what was right and followed Christ, though it set him at odds with his family. The world is at enmity with God, even when that world is bound up in the hearts of those we love. Though Christian’s family was dear to him, he did not hold back his love to God in order to keep their approval. Rather, he did what was most compassionate and loving toward them. Their souls were in danger of Destruction, so he continued to warn them and plead with them to go with him.

Charity concludes with a quote from Ezekiel 3:19 reminding us of the role of a watchman:

Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul (Ezekiel 3:19).

We must stay at the wall and sound the alarm, whether our warnings are heeded or not. We must not give up, not step down, not keep quiet so not to cause offense. If the danger is real—and it is—we must continue to plead and to pray. We do not know how or when God may choose to use our testimony and answer our prayers.
Concerning Christian’s wife and sons, Bunyan relates the rest of the story in Part 2 of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Though Christian came to the end of his journey and died without seeing his family repent and come to Christ, his testimony remained. His family remembered his faith in Christ and his love for them. His prayers were, in God’s time, answered. In Part 2 Christiana and her four sons are convicted by their sin and how badly they treated Christian. They flee Destruction to follow Christ and make their own pilgrimage to the Celestial City.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Conversation with Piety

So when he was come in and sat down, they gave him something to drink, and consented together, that until supper was ready, some of them should have some particular discourse with Christian, for the best improvement of time; and they appointed Piety, and Prudence, and Charity to discourse with him; and thus they began:

Piety: Come, good Christian, since we have been so loving to you, to receive you in our house this night, let us, if perhaps we may better ourselves thereby, talk with you of all things that have happened to you in your pilgrimage.
Christian: With a very good will, and I am glad that you are so well disposed.
Piety: What moved you at first to betake yourself to a pilgrim’s life?
Christian: I was driven out of my native country by a dreadful sound that was in mine ears: to wit, that unavoidable destruction did attend me, if I abode in that place where I was.
Piety: But how did it happen that you came out of your country this way?
Christian: It was as God would have it; for when I was under the fears of destruction, I did not know whither to go; but by chance there came a man, even to me, as I was trembling and weeping, whose name is Evangelist, and he directed me to the wicket-gate, which else I should never have found, and so set me into the way that has led me directly to this house.
Piety: But did you not come by the house of the Interpreter?
Christian: Yes, and did see such things there, the remembrance of which will stick by me as long as I live; especially three things: to wit, how Christ, in despite of Satan, maintains His work of grace in the heart; how the man had sinned himself quite out of hopes of God’s mercy; and also the dream of him that thought in his sleep the day of judgment was come.
Piety: Why, did you hear him tell his dream?
Christian: Yes, and a dreadful one it was. I thought it made my heart ache as he was telling of it; but yet I am glad I heard it.
Piety: Was that all that you saw at the house of the Interpreter?
Christian: No; he took me and had me where he showed me a stately palace, and how the people were clad in gold that were in it; and how there came a venturous man and cut his way through the armed men that stood in the door to keep him out, and how he was bid to come in, and win eternal glory. I thought those things did ravish my heart! I would have stayed at that good man’s house a twelvemonth, but that I knew I had further to go.
Piety: And what else did you see in the way?
Christian: Saw! Why, I went but a little further, and I saw one, as I thought in my mind, hang bleeding upon the tree; and the very sight of Him made my burden fall off my back, (for I groaned under a very heavy burden,) but then it fell down from off me. It was a strange thing to me, for I never saw such a thing before; yea, and while I stood looking up, for then I could not forbear looking, three Shining Ones came to me. One of them testified that my sins were forgiven me; another stripped me of my rags, and gave me this broidered coat which you see; and the third set the mark which you see in my forehead, and gave me this sealed roll. (And with that he plucked it out of his bosom.)
Piety: But you saw more than this, did you not?
Christian: The things that I have told you were the best; yet some other matters I saw, as, namely: I saw three men, Simple, Sloth, and Presumption, lie asleep a little out of the way, as I came, with irons upon their heels; but do you think I could awake them? I also saw Formality and Hypocrisy come tumbling over the wall, to go, as they pretended, to Zion, but they were quickly lost, even as I myself did tell them; but they would not believe. But above all, I found it hard work to get up this hill, and as hard to come by the lions’ mouths, and truly if it had not been for the good man, the porter that stands at the gate, I do not know but that after all I might have gone back again; but now I thank God I am here, and I thank you for receiving of me.

Conversation at Palace BeautifulWhen Christian arrived at Palace Beautiful he was greeted and interviewed by the Porter and Discretion. When they were convinced that Christian’s testimony was sincere, they invited him into the family, into the household of faith. In this portion of the story Bunyan highlights the joys of Christian fellowship and value of church membership. At Palace Beautiful Christian is refreshed from his journey. Members of the family engage him in gospel conversations to pass the time in a profitable way.

The first to converse with Christian is Piety. Piety represents our personal devoutness and devotion to God. It is our earnest and sincere desire to love God and to remain faithful to Him. Piety asks Christian to share his testimony, all the things that have happened to him thus far on his pilgrimage. She inquires about:

    1. How he first heard the gospel and became a pilgrim
    2. What he learned in the House of the Interpreter (the Word of God)
    3. His salvation at the cross and his hope in Christ
    4. Dangers and distractions that he has faced and overcome

Piety’s interest in hearing Christian is that “perhaps we may better ourselves thereby.” In other words, by hearing Christian’s story of how he escaped Destruction and found faith in Christ, others will be strengthened in their faith and encouraged to press on in their journey. By hearing what he has learned from God’s Word, others will be edified and helped. Gospel conversation magnifies the goodness and faithfulness of God as He is at work in our lives and draws out our hope and confidence in him for the benefit of others.
In the next post the conversation will continue with Prudence.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

A Coat for Rags

Then I saw that they went on every man in his way without much conference one with another, save that these two men told Christian, that as to laws and ordinances, they doubted not but they should as conscientiously do them as he; therefore, said they, we see not wherein you differ from us but by the coat that is on your back, which was, as we trow, given you by some of your neighbors, to hide the shame of your nakedness.

Christian: By laws and ordinances you will not be saved, since you came not in by the door. And as for this coat that is on my back, it was given me by the Lord of the place whither I go; and that, as you say, to cover my nakedness with. And I take it as a token of his kindness to me; for I had nothing but rags before. And besides, thus I comfort myself as I go: Surely, think I, when I come to the gate of the city, the Lord thereof will know me for good since I have this coat on my back—a coat that he gave me freely in the day that he stripped me of my rags. I have, moreover, a mark in my forehead, of which, perhaps, you have taken no notice, which one of my Lord’s most intimate associates fixed there in the day that my burden fell off my shoulders. I will tell you, moreover, that I had then given me a roll, sealed, to comfort me by reading as I go on the way; I was also bid to give it in at the Celestial Gate, in token of my certain going in after it; all which things, I doubt, you want, and want them because you came not in at the gate.

To these things they gave him no answer; only they looked upon each other, and laughed. Then, I saw that they went on all, save that Christian kept before, who had no more talk but with himself, and that sometimes sighingly, and sometimes comfortably; also he would be often reading in the roll that one of the Shining Ones gave him, by which he was refreshed.

Last time Christian encountered two pretenders in the Way. He met up with two who had by-passed the Gate (missed Christ and the Gospel) and tumbled over the Wall (were professing faith and claiming salvation), and he tried to warn them that their souls were in danger. The two were named Formalist and Hypocrisy. They had dismissed Christian’s concern for their souls and now further show the emptiness of their profession in their observations regarding how Christian is dressed. They first speak well of themselves, claiming to obey the Laws and Ordinances of Scripture as well as Christian. They are very concerned with appearing good before others and doing the right things. Thus they are conscientious and careful in form and practice. Those who walk in formalism and hypocrisy may very well out do others around them in the externals of religion. They may attend church regularly, participate with enthusiasm, and appear quite active and engaged. But they come to church vainly dressed in their own works and deeds, believing that God and others will look favorably on their efforts and judge them to be faithful.

shiningones1blChristian, however, is dressed differently. He has on the Coat that was given to him as a gift from his Lord. At the cross Christian was stripped of his Rags and given this Change of Raiment. Just as the prodigal son returned home in filthy rags after tending pigs, and was received with joy and given a ring and the best robe by his loving father (Luke 15:22), so Christian was welcomed and clothed at the cross. The Coat represents the imputed righteousness of Christ that covers every true believer and makes us fit for the presence and service of God. The filthy rags are Christian’s own attempts at righteousness tainted by sin:

 “But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6a).

Formalist and Hypocrisy trow (think or suppose) that some neighbors had given the Coat to Christian to hide his shame. They do not realize or value its significance. Christian, however, remembers that all he had before he came to the cross was worthless rags. Now he has a Coat (imputed righteousness), a Mark (the sealing of the Holy Spirit), and a Roll (assurance of salvation) to bring him hope on his journey. Formalist and Hypocrisy lack these. They are self-clothed, self-sealed and self-confident. They do not value the gifts of Christ bestowed at the cross, because they do not value Christ as their only hope. They missed the Gate, representing Christ Himself offered in the Gospel, and have resorted to their own devises to enter the Way.

Christian tells them plainly that attempts to keep laws and ordinances cannot save them. We can never be justified by our works:

“knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

Christian learned this when he strayed from the Way, following the advise of Worldly Wiseman, and ventured toward the Village of Morality to find help to remove his burden. Nothing he could do in trying to live uprightly could make him right with God. He felt the weight and terror of God’s Law and was warned by Evangelist, who again pointed him to the Gate. Christian repented with humility and haste to return to the Way. He found relief only when he looked to the cross. Christ alone—His obedience, His righteousness—can make us right with God. And this is now Christian’s hope.

Christian is prepared to press on in the Way. He knows that both joys and trials await him. He continues on His pilgrimage sometimes sighing and sometimes comfortably. He looks often to the promises of God that assure his salvation and finds hope. He is trusting in Jesus. He is protected from pride, knowing that on his best day he is still a great sinner in need of grace and mercy. And he is protected from despair, knowing that on his worst day he still has a great Savior who is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25).

Formalist and Hypocrisy, however, continue on looking at one another and laughing. Their hope is in themselves (their outward profession and display of religion) and, as we shall soon see, they are ill prepared to face the difficulty that lies ahead.

—Ken Puls

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 ©1997 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.