Tag Archives: standing for truth

Before the World I Now Confess

Remembering Christ died for me

For many in this world, it is costly to follow Christ. Being identified as a Christian can mean the loss of friends, loss of fortune, loss of employment, even loss of life. But Christ exhorts us:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24–25).

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38–39).

We are called to live for Christ and declare the good news of salvation in Him. We are called to follow Him and unashamedly acknowledge our sinfulness and need for His abundant grace.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

The following hymn is a confession of faith in Christ. It includes publically professing Christ through baptism (verse 3) and corporately remembering Christ in the Lord’s Supper (verse 4).

The idea for the hymn came from a message on Matthew 10:26–33 entitled “Declaring Our Allegiance to Christ” preached on Sunday, February 25, 2018 at Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, by our associate pastor, Jared Longshore.

The message began with a quote from Rosaria Butterfield’s book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into the Christian Faith. In the book she describes the cost of becoming a follower of Christ and turning away from her old lifestyle. She said, “I was driving away from the place, the life, the career, and the people that I knew and loved. But Jesus Christ was more real to me at that moment than any of these material things.” As I thought about her words, I wrote what became the final lines of the hymn:

More real to me is Jesus Christ
Than all this world can give,
More than this world, I need His grace,
For by His grace I live.

The hymn is set to a familiar tune: CLEANSING FOUNTAIN, the tune often used for “There Is a Fountain.”

Before the World I Now Confess

“So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).

Before the world I now confess
Christ Jesus as my Lord.
The scorn of men, I will not fear,
Nor danger, nor the sword.
Though friends and loved ones turn away,
Possessions all be lost,
To lose this world, if I gain Christ
Is not too great a cost.

Before the world I humbly bow
To Jesus as my King,
Acknowledging so all will know
He’s Lord of everything!
No flood so great or tear too small,
He knows my thoughts and ways,
My life I fully trust to Him
And give Him all my praise.

Baptism

Before the world I here confess
That Christ has made me new.
He gave me life, now I believe
His Word is sure and true.
Through baptism I now submit
Unto my Lord’s command,
My old life buried, new raised up,
Upon His Word I stand.

Lord’s Supper

Before the world I take my stand
With Jesus and His bride
To cleanse His church and bring us near
He suffered, bled and died.
His body broken on the cross,
His blood He freely shed,
Remembering Christ died for me,
I take this cup and bread.

Before the world I sing His praise
That all the world may hear.
I give allegiance to my King,
Whose Kingdom now is near.
More real to me is Jesus Christ
Than all this world can give,
More than this world, I need His grace,
For by His grace I live.

Words ©2018 Ken Puls
Music ©Public Domain

Download the lyrics and free sheet music for this hymn, including an arrangement of the tune CLEANSING FOUNTAIN for classical guitar.

More Hymns and Songs from Ken Puls Music

More Hymn tunes arranged for classical guitar

Faithful’s Defense

When this Pickthank had told his tale, the Judge directed his speech to the prisoner at the bar, saying, You runagate, heretic, and traitor, have you heard what these honest gentlemen have witnessed against you?

Faithful: May I speak a few words in my own defense?

Judge: Sirrah! sirrah! You deserve to live no longer, but to be slain immediately upon the place; yet, that all men may see our gentleness towards you, let us hear what you, vile runagate, have to say.

Faithful: 1. I say, then, in answer to what Mr. Envy hath spoken, I never said aught but this, That what rule, or laws, or customs, or people, were flat against the Word of God, are diametrically opposite to Christianity. If I have said amiss in this, convince me of my error, and I am ready here before you to make my recantation.

2. As to the second, to wit, Mr. Superstition, and his charge against me, I said only this, That in the worship of God there is required a Divine faith; but there can be no Divine faith without a Divine revelation of the will of God. Therefore, whatever is thrust into the worship of God that is not agreeable to Divine revelation, cannot be done but by a human faith, which faith will not be profitable to eternal life.

3. As to what Mr. Pickthank hath said, I say (avoiding terms, as that I am said to rail, and the like) that the prince of this town, with all the rabblement, his attendants, by this gentleman named, are more fit for a being in hell, than in this town and country: and so, the Lord have mercy upon me!

Faithful's DefenseAs soon as Envy, Superstition and Pickthank finish bringing their accusations against Faithful, the judge is ready to pronounce his sentence. Faithful’s guilt is assumed. Lord Hate-good speaks of the witnesses as “honest gentlemen” while derisively addressing Faithful as a “runagate, heretic, and traitor.” Yet Faithful makes a plea to speak in his own defense.

Faithful’s reply to his accusers points us to a core theme of The Pilgrim’s Progress: the centrality of God’s Word. Again and again throughout the allegory Bunyan takes us to the Bible. It is the book that Christian is reading at the beginning of the story that warns him of the coming judgment. Its promises are the “good and substantial steps” through the Slough of Despond. It is the Shining Light that shows the way to the Gate. It is the House of the Interpreter where Christian is shown “excellent things.” It is the “records of greatest antiquity” brought out for instruction at Palace Beautiful. And it is the Light of Day that helps Christian make his way to the end of the valley.

Now in Vanity Fair, the Word of God is Faithful’s strong defense. His three answers highlight the primacy of Scripture in life, worship and conscience:

I. We must judge our lives on the basis of God’s Word.

Envy is offended because the teachings of Faithful (and Christianity) are opposed to many of the customs and practices of the town. Faithful affirms that any “rule or laws or customs or people” that are contrary to God’s Word are in opposition to the Christian faith.

If we are to live and walk in ways that are pleasing to God, we can’t invent our own standards; we must look to His Word. It is the Bible that instructs us in righteousness:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

Peter exhorts us to “heed” the Scriptures “as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
(Psalm 119:105)

The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
(Psalm 119:130)

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.
(Psalm 19:7–11)

God’s Word is most valuable and most profitable to us as we journey through this life. When the world entices us to believe or do something contrary to Scripture, we must listen to God (Acts 4:19). We must continue to speak the Word “with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).

II. We must judge our worship of God on the basis of His Word.

Superstition is offended because the teachings of Faithful (and Christianity) degrade his own religious practices and ideas of how God should be worshipped. Faithful affirms that our worship must come from divine faith that grows in the light of divine revelation. We come to God by grace through faith, which is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). His Spirit enlivens and empowers us. And we come in accordance with God’s truth revealed to us in His Word. His Spirit illumines and teaches us.

If we are to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, we need the work of His Spirit and we must look to His Word for guidance and direction. We can’t invent our own ways and methods of approaching God. We must know the Scriptures and submit to the Scriptures as the Spirit brings understanding.

The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 provides a good explanation of this. This confession was written by Particular Baptists in England in 1677, a year before Bunyan first published The Pilgrim’s Progress. It was officially adopted in 1689. The first chapter of the confession is about the Scriptures. It begins by saying that we must look to God’s Word to know how to be saved from sin and walk in a way pleasing to God. The opening sentence reads: “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.”

Chapter 22 speaks specifically on worship:

“The light of nature shows that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good, and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures” (1689 London Baptist Confession, 22:1).

This is what has been called the Regulative Principle of worship. It simply means that our worship is to be regulated by the Word of God. The Bible must set the boundaries and define the way in which we are to seek God in worship.

III. We must submit our conscience to the Word of God.

Pickthank is offended because the teachings of Faithful (and Christianity) are an affront to fallen human nature. Faithful affirms that in our fallen nature we are at enmity against God.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7–8).

By insisting on the authority of God’s Word, Faithful has exposed the terrible truth that the town of Vanity will not bear to hear. Outside of Christ we stand condemned before God, deserving of wrath and hell.

Though Faithful knows that the witnesses, the judge and the town itself all stand against him, he is firm in his conviction to stand on the Word of God. He won’t violate his conscience by disowning or disavowing the truth. He concludes with the prayer “the Lord have mercy upon me!” Faithful’s prayer is echoed in church history when Martin Luther, defending his own convictions on April 18, 1521 at the Diet of Worms, declared:

“Unless I am convinced by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments that I am in error—for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves—I cannot withdraw, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise. So help me God.”

May God grant us the boldness and steadfastness of Faithful to hold true to His Word.

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 ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Trial in Vanity Fair

Then a convenient time being appointed, they brought them forth to their trial, in order to their condemnation. When the time was come, they were brought before their enemies and arraigned. The judge’s name was Lord Hate-good. Their indictment was one and the same in substance, though somewhat varying in form, the contents whereof were this:

“That they were enemies to and disturbers of their trade; that they had made commotions and divisions in the town, and had won a party to their own most dangerous opinions, in contempt of the law of their prince.”

Then Faithful began to answer, that he had only set himself against that which hath set itself against Him that is higher than the highest. And, said he, as for disturbance, I make none, being myself a man of peace; the parties that were won to us, were won by beholding our truth and innocence, and they are only turned from the worse to the better. And as to the king you talk of, since he is Beelzebub, the enemy of our Lord, I defy him and all his angels.

Now, FAITHFUL, play the man, speak for thy God:
Fear not the wicked’s malice; nor their rod:
Speak boldly, man, the truth is on thy side:
Die for it, and to life in triumph ride.

Lord Hate-GoodIn many ways The Pilgrim’s Progress is a retelling of John Bunyan’s own pilgrimage as he escaped destruction to find eternal life. His journey was not easy. Throughout his ministry he faced many hardships for the sake of the gospel, including persecution and imprisonment. Now in Vanity Fair we read of Christian and Faithful enduring persecution and imprisonment. They are brought before the judge, Lord Hate-good, to face the indictment against them. As Faithful begins his defense, Bunyan’s own resolve to stand up for truth before his accusers can be heard. Cheever notes:

Now came on the trial. And here again, as in every part of the allegory, Bunyan’s own experience served him in good stead; here again he draws his picture from real life, from his own life. Little could he have thought, when a few years ago, amidst the taunts of his enemies, he himself stood at the bar to be examined for the crime of preaching the gospel, that the providence of God was then laying up in store materials of human life and character to be used with such powerful effect in his then unconceived imagined allegory. These phases of a world at enmity against God were indelibly impressed on Bunyan’s mind; and now, in all the freshness of their coloring, he transferred them to the tablets of the Pilgrim’s Progress. (from Lectures on The Pilgrim’s Progress by G.B. Cheever)

Christian and Faithful are described in the indictment as enemies, disturbers of the peace and law-breakers. They are accused of dividing the town, swaying some to accept their views, and speaking against the established traditions and laws of the fair. As Faithful answers the charges in the indictment, he tries to make clear that he only desires what is right for the glory of God and for the good of the town:

  • He is not set against the town or its people—their souls are of value
  • He is only set against that which is opposed to “Him that is higher than the highest” — it is better “to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)
  • He did not come to bring trouble or disturbance to the town—He is a man of peace (2 Timothy 2:2)
  • He did come speaking truth—He spoke God’s Word

Those in the town who aligned themselves with Christian and Faithful did so because they saw the truth and believed the pilgrims to be innocent. Faithful notes that “they are only turned from the worse to the better.” It is always right and good to be on the side of truth.

Faithful is willing to stand for the truth, though it may cost him his life. He recognizes that the town is under seize in a spiritual battle. He defies principalities and powers that would keep the town in darkness and bondage. Though scorned and beaten down by oppressors, he is not discouraged, but emboldened. Though cursed by the world, he is blessed by his Lord. Jesus taught those who are scorned and reviled for His sake to respond with joy, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10–12).

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 ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Pilgrims Out of Place

Now, as I said, the way to the Celestial City lies just through this town where this lusty fair is kept; and he that will go to the city, and yet not go through this town, must needs go out of the world. The Prince of princes himself, when here, went through this town to his own country, and that upon a fair day too Yea, and as I think, it was Beelzebub, the chief lord of this fair, that invited him to buy of his vanities; yea, would have made him lord of the fair, would he but have done him reverence as he went through the town. Yea, because he was such a person of honor, Beelzebub had him from street to street, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a little time, that he might, if possible, allure the Blessed One to cheapen and buy some of his vanities; but he had no mind to the merchandise, and therefore left the town, without laying out so much as one farthing upon these vanities. This fair, therefore, is an ancient thing, of long standing, and a very great fair.

Now these pilgrims, as I said, must needs go through this fair. Well, so they did: but, behold, even as they entered into the fair, all the people in the fair were moved, and the town itself as it were in a hubbub about them; and that for several reasons: for:

First: The pilgrims were clothed with such kind of raiment as was diverse from the raiment of any that traded in that fair. The people, therefore, of the fair, made a great gazing upon them: some said they were fools, some they were bedlams, and some they are outlandish men.

Secondly: And as they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech; for few could understand what they said; they naturally spoke the language of Canaan, but they that kept the fair were the men of this world; so that, from one end of the fair to the other, they seemed barbarians each to the other.

Thirdly: But that which did not a little amuse the merchandisers was, that these pilgrims set very light by all their wares; they cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, and look upwards, signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven.

One chanced mockingly, beholding the carriage of the men, to say unto them, What will you buy? But they, looking gravely upon him, answered, “We buy the truth.” At that there was an occasion taken to despise the men the more; some mocking, some taunting, some speaking reproachfully, and some calling upon others to smite them. At last things came to a hubbub and great stir in the fair, insomuch that all order was confounded. Now was word presently brought to the great one of the fair, who quickly came down, and deputed some of his most trusted friends to take these men into examination, about whom the fair was almost overturned. So the men were brought to examination; and they that sat upon them, asked them whence they came, whither they went, and what they did there, in such an unusual garb? The men told them that they were pilgrims and strangers in the world, and that they were going to their own country, which was the heavenly Jerusalem, and that they had given no occasion to the men of the town, nor yet to the merchandisers, thus to abuse them, and to let them in their journey, except it was for that, when one asked them what they would buy, they said they would buy the truth. But they that were appointed to examine them did not believe them to be any other than bedlams and mad, or else such as came to put all things into a confusion in the fair. Therefore they took them and beat them, and besmeared them with dirt, and then put them into the cage, that they might be made a spectacle to all the men of the fair.

Behold Vanity Fair! the Pilgrims there
Are chain’d and stand beside:
Even so it was our Lord pass’d here,
And on Mount Calvary died.

Vanity FairThe town of Vanity is Bunyan’s depiction of the world around us—a world enamored with sin and enthralled by frivolity. It’s a world in denial of the authority of God—even the very existence of God. It is perilous to pilgrims. But passing through this town is unavoidable. We are all born in the City of Destruction and to journey to the Celestial City, “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

We can learn some valuable lessons in the town of Vanity:

1. It is God’s will that we walk through this world, though it is fallen and marred with sin.

God does not take us out of the world once He saves us. He keeps us in the world. We are to be “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). If we are to share the hope we have in Christ with the people of this world, we must live and walk in their midst.

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world (1 Corinthians 5:9–10).

We are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16), and in God’s design there may be times when we need to pass through dark and unsavory places.

2. Jesus Himself came to our broken world.

“The Prince of princes himself, when here, went through this town to his own country.” Jesus came and “dwelt among us” that we might behold His glory (John 1:14). “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10). He was “tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Matthew 4:8).

Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours” (Luke 4:5–7).

In this world we will indeed face trials and temptations, but we have a Savior who has defeated sin and death. His Word gives us comfort:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

3. If we follow Christ and seek His Kingdom, our lives will be in sharp contrast to the world around us.

Christian and Faithful stand out at the fair. They don’t fit in. They are not carried away and enthralled by the allurements of the fair that entice the citizens of the town.

Bunyan notes:

1) The pilgrims look and act differently. They had looked to Christ for salvation and that made all the difference. They were rescued from Destruction and now their “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:19–20). The town has its mind set “on earthly things,” but Christian and Faithful are eagerly pressing on to the Celestial City. Paul exhorts us:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:1–2).

Such a mindset has implication for our conduct, as Paul explains:

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them (Colossians 3:5–7).

This need to walk in contrast to the world is echoed by Peter and John:

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:11–12).

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world (1 John 2:15–16).

2) The pilgrims speak differently. Their conversation is noticeably different from that of town’s people. They are not enticed by the latest gossip or lured with profane humor. They speak “the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6–8). They speak of spiritual things (the language of Canaan) and those at the fair cannot understand them.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).

They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (1 John 4:5–6).

Having our mind set on Christ has implications for our speech. Paul goes on to explain in Colossians:

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds (Colossians 3:8–9).

3) The pilgrims are not interested in what the town has to offer. They are not tempted by temporary and fleeting pleasures. They refuse to look at the wares displayed for sale.

Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.
(Psalm 119:37)

When asked what they would buy, the pilgrims respond: “We buy the truth.”

Buy the truth, and do not sell it,
Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.
(Proverbs 23:23)

This truly enrages the town and its merchants. Christians and Faithful are mocked and mistreated. When apprehended and interrogated they say that they are pilgrims and strangers in the world and are seeking a heavenly country.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13–16).

Bunyan’s narrative of Christian and Faithful at Vanity Fair seems somewhat out of step with modern methods of evangelism. Why not set up a booth at the fair and beat the town at its own game? The church, especially in Western culture, is often more concerned about fitting in and appearing relevant to the world it is trying to reach, rather than standing out and standing for truth. Christian and Faithful are not afraid to stand for truth. Their bold testimony before the world sets them in stark contrast to the world. Yet, as we shall soon see, their testimony bears lasting fruit.

Our greatest testimony before the world is when we live like Christians and exalt Christ and His Word above all else. But living for Christ can be costly. Christian and Faithful were beaten (persecuted), besmeared with dirt (made to look contemptable), and put in a cage (restricted and constrained). In the next post we will examine further the persecution Christian and Faithful were made to endure for the sake of the gospel.

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.

Run in with Shame

Christian: Met you with nothing else in that valley?

Faithful: Yes, I met with Shame; but of all the men that I met with in my pilgrimage, he, I think, bears the wrong name. The others would be said nay, after a little argumentation, and somewhat else; but this bold-faced Shame would never have done.

Christian: Why, what did he say to you?

Faithful: What! Why, he objected against religion itself; he said it was a pitiful, low, sneaking business for a man to mind religion; he said that a tender conscience was an unmanly thing; and that for a man to watch over his words and ways, so as to tie up himself from that hectoring liberty that the brave spirits of the times accustom themselves unto, would make him the ridicule of the times. He objected also, that but few of the mighty, rich, or wise, were ever of my opinion; nor any of them neither, before they were persuaded to be fools, and to be of a voluntary fondness, to venture the loss of all, for nobody knows what. He, moreover, objected the base and low estate and condition of those that were chiefly the pilgrims of the times in which they lived: also their ignorance and want of understanding in all natural science. Yea, he did hold me to it at that rate also, about a great many more things than here I relate; as, that it was a shame to sit whining and mourning under a sermon, and a shame to come sighing and groaning home: that it was a shame to ask my neighbor forgiveness for petty faults, or to make restitution where I have taken from any. He said, also, that religion made a man grow strange to the great, because of a few vices, which he called by finer names; and made him own and respect the base, because of the same religious fraternity. And is not this, said he, a shame?

Christian: And what did you say to him?

Faithful: Say! I could not tell what to say at the first. Yea, he put me so to it, that my blood came up in my face; even this Shame fetched it up, and had almost beat me quite off. But at last I began to consider, that “that which is highly esteemed among men, is had in abomination with God.” And I thought again, this Shame tells me what men are; but it tells me nothing what God or the Word of God is. And I thought, moreover, that at the day of doom, we shall not be doomed to death or life according to the hectoring spirits of the world, but according to the wisdom and law of the Highest. Therefore, thought I, what God says is best, indeed is best, though all the men in the world are against it. Seeing, then, that God prefers his religion; seeing God prefers a tender conscience; seeing they that make themselves fools for the kingdom of heaven are wisest; and that the poor man that loves Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him; Shame, depart, you are an enemy to my salvation! Shall I entertain you against my sovereign Lord? How then shall I look Him in the face at His coming? Should I now be ashamed of His ways and servants, how can I expect the blessing? But, indeed, this Shame was a bold villain; I could scarce shake him out of my company; yea, he would be haunting of me, and continually whispering me in the ear, with some one or other of the infirmities that attend religion; but at last I told him it was but in vain to attempt further in this business; for those things that he disdained, in those did I see most glory; and so at last I got past this importunate one. And when I had shaken him off, then I began to sing—

The trials that those men do meet withal,
That are obedient to the heavenly call,
Are manifold, and suited to the flesh,
And come, and come, and come again afresh;
That now, or sometime else, we by them may
Be taken, overcome, and cast away.
Oh, let the pilgrims, let the pilgrims, then
Be vigilant, and quit themselves like men.

Christian: I am glad, my brother, that you withstood this villain so bravely. For of all, as you say, I think he has the wrong name. For he is so bold as to follow us in the streets, and to attempt to put us to shame before all men, that is, to make us ashamed of that which is good. But if he was not himself audacious, he would never attempt to do as he does. But let us still resist him, for notwithstanding all his bravadoes, he promotes the fool and none else. “The wise shall inherit glory,” said Solomon, “but shame shall be the promotion of fools.”

Faithful: I think we must cry to Him for help against Shame, who would have us to be valiant for the truth upon the earth.

Christian: You say true.

Faithful and ShameAlong with Discontent, Faithful encounters one other foe in the Valley of Humiliation. He meets one whose name is Shame. Based on their conversation, Faithful’s impression is that Shame is misnamed. His name suggests one who feels a measure of guilt or inadequacy, one who is convicted of sin or embarrassed by his actions. But Shame has no shame for himself. He is intent on disgracing others, especially those who would put their hope in God.

Shame is a champion of the world and a reviler of ways of God. He values worldly vice not heavenly virtue. He mocks those who would give serious thought and attention to God’s Word.

Shame is convinced that religion is foolish and belief in God is a weakness. Religion may be fine for the poor and those who are less fortunate, but it is unbecoming to the educated and enlightened, those who should know better. It is not seemly for those who would be mighty, rich or wise in this world to so abase themselves. He scorns those who would ask forgiveness, feel conviction, make restitution, sorrow over sin, give benevolence to the poor, or label vices as sin. He thinks it a shame that people would be so taken in.

But Shame’s belief and boast should not surprise us. God’s ways are not man’s ways. Paul tells us:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The very things that Shame would denigrate, God uses to display His power. The things that Shame would despise, God uses for His own glory. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

What the world believes is wise “is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19a). What the world highly esteems “is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Though Faithful is taken aback at first, he sees the emptiness of Shame’s objections. It is God and His Word that matter most, not man and his opinions. It is God who will one day judge the world. It is God who will receive all the glory. It is God who has highly exalted His Son “and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11). Christ is preeminent (Colossians 1:18). Having Christ is more valuable than having all the riches and accolades of this world. Paul goes on to say in Philippians:

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).

Faithful is firm in his faith, but Shame is a persistent companion. Though Faithful attempts to ward him off, he keeps coming back, trying to make the world look more reasonable, trying to make religion look more futile.

Shame is a foe that we must be on guard against as well. He is one we are likely to meet on our own pilgrimage. He is the college professor who ridicules belief in God. She is the coworker who sees no need for God. He is the skeptic who has found reason to dismiss the claims of the Bible. We see Shame in the media as the Christian faith is portrayed as backward, irrational, and discriminatory. We hear his voice getting louder in our culture as Christianity is seen more and more to be out of step with shifting social standards.
We must meet Shame with courage and steadfastness. Like Paul, we must “not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16). Jesus said:

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:38).

We must take God at His Word, count all things loss, and pray for divine help to stand firm in our faith.

Christian commends Faithful for bravely resisting Shame. And he reminds Faithful of the proverb:

The wise shall inherit glory,
But shame shall be the legacy of fools.
(Proverbs 3:35)

By scorning the gospel, the only way of salvation and life, Shame lost an inheritance of glory. His foolish choice will surely in the end lead him to shame.

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 ©2015 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Run in with Wanton

Christian: Well, neighbor Faithful, said Christian, let us leave him, and talk of things that more immediately concern ourselves. Tell me now, what you have met with in the way as you came; for I know you have met with some things, or else it may be writ for a wonder.

Faithful: I escaped the Slough that I perceived you fell into, and got up to the gate without that danger; only I met with one whose name was Wanton, who had like to have done me a mischief.

Christian: It was well you escaped her net; Joseph was hard put to it by her, and he escaped her as you did; but it had like to have cost him his life. But what did she do to you?

Faithful: You cannot think, but that you know something, what a flattering tongue she had; she lay at me hard to turn aside with her, promising me all manner of content.

Christian: Nay, she did not promise you the content of a good conscience.

Faithful: You know what I mean; all carnal and fleshly content.

Christian: Thank God you have escaped her: “The abhorred of the Lord shall fall into her ditch.”

Faithful: Nay, I know not whether I did wholly escape her or no.

Christian: Why, I trust, you did not consent to her desires?

Faithful: No, not to defile myself; for I remembered an old writing that I had seen, which said, “Her steps take hold on hell.” So I shut mine eyes, because I would not be bewitched with her looks. Then she railed on me, and I went my way.

Faithful and WantonAs Faithful continues his account of how he escaped the City of Destruction, he begins to describe some of the dangers he has faced. He escaped falling into the Slough of Despond that slowed Christian and stopped Pliable from reaching the Gate, but he came near a more perilous pit (Proverbs 22:14, 23:27). He encountered “one whose name was Wanton.”

Wanton represents sexual immorality and moral failure. Her name means licentious and loose, reckless and unrestrained, lewd and lustful, wild and wandering. She has a flattering tongue (Proverbs 2:16, 5:3, 6:24, 7:5, 21), makes persuasive and persistent overtures (Proverbs 7:13), and promises “all manner of content” (Proverbs 7:18), but her proposal is deceitful. Scripture warns:

Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,
Do not stray into her paths;
For she has cast down many wounded,
And all who were slain by her were strong men.
Her house is the way to hell,
Descending to the chambers of death.
(Proverbs 7:25-27)

The danger of falling prey to Wanton is nothing new. Christian recalls the account in Genesis 39 when Joseph was enticed by Potiphar’s wife and fled.

But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside (Genesis 39:11-13).

Faithful’s resistance to Wanton teaches us some helpful lessons in fighting temptation.

1. He does not entertain sinful thoughts, but turns away.

Faithful is determined he will not start down a treacherous path by sinning with his eyes.

“I have made a covenant with my eyes;
Why then should I look upon a young woman.”
(Job 31:1)

When his eyes see an opportunity to sin, he shuts them, and though Wanton curses him, he turns away and departs.

Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.
(Psalm 119:37)

2. He remembers and heeds God’s Word in the midst of temptation.

Faithful knows the Scriptures and preaches them to himself in time of need.

Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
(Psalm 119:11)

He remembers wise words from the Book of Proverbs:

My son, pay attention to my wisdom;
Lend your ear to my understanding,
That you may preserve discretion,
And your lips may keep knowledge.
For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey,
And her mouth is smoother than oil;
But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
Sharp as a two- edged sword.
Her feet go down to death,
Her steps lay hold of hell.
(Proverbs 5:1-5)

When Christian gives thanks for Faithful’s escape, he also quotes from Proverbs:

The mouth of an immoral woman is a deep pit;
He who is abhorred by the Lord will fall there.
(Proverbs 22:14)

Faithful is able to resist temptation because he believes and values the Word of God more than the alluring voice of Wanton. He takes refuge in the sure promises and warnings of Scripture.

3. He does not assume victory over sin by letting down his guard.

Faithful does not congratulate or commend himself for escaping from Wanton. When Christian speaks of Faithful’s escape, Faithful responds by saying: “Nay, I know not whether I did wholly escape her or no.” Though he assures Christian that he did not fall into sin, he doesn’t reassure himself with his fortitude or spiritual maturity in being able to resist sin. He understands how forceful temptation can be. He doesn’t speak of the encounter lightly. Rather, he has a healthy suspicion of his own heart and a lingering grief over the charm of sin that would so entice him. The experience has humbled him and made him more cautious, more dependent upon God’s grace. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34). It is the humble who will stand in the evil day, not the proud or self-confident.

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
(Proverbs 16:8)

Wanton remains a danger for pilgrims in our day. There have been times and places in history where Wanton was frowned upon by society. She had to sneak around to do her mischief. At other times and in other places she has found more acceptance and been more bold in her overtures. Today she is not only accepted, she is championed as a goddess of freedom. She stands beckoning on billboards and in magazines. Her snare is laid on the screens of TVs, computers and mobile devices. We must be diligent and watchful. May God help us to guard our hearts, remember His Word, and turn away from every sin.

As we have seen in Christian’s pilgrimage, his trials and lessons often prove to be preparation for even greater perils that lie ahead. Faithful has resisted sin and held to truth. Soon Christian and Faithful will encounter a place where they will feel very much out of place. They will be severely tested and enticed to forsake God’s way and buy into the pleasures of the world. They will need a strong faith to stand firm in the truth in Vanity Fair.

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 ©2015 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Faithful’s Escape from the City of Destruction

Then I saw in my dream they went very lovingly on together, and had sweet discourse of all things that had happened to them in their pilgrimage; and thus Christian began:

Christian: My honored and well-beloved brother, Faithful, I am glad that I have overtaken you; and that God has so tempered our spirits, that we can walk as companions in this so pleasant a path.

Faithful: I had thought, dear friend, to have had your company quite from our town; but you did get the start of me, wherefore I was forced to come thus much of the way alone.

Christian: How long did you stay in the City of Destruction before you set out after me on your pilgrimage?

Faithful: Till I could stay no longer; for there was great talk presently after you were gone out that our city would, in short time, with fire from heaven, be burned down to the ground.

Christian: What! Did your neighbors talk so?

Faithful: Yes, it was for a while in everybody’s mouth.

Christian: What! And did no more of them but you come out to escape the danger?

Faithful: Though there was, as I said, a great talk thereabout, yet I do not think they did firmly believe it. For in the heat of the discourse, I heard some of them deridingly speak of you and of your desperate journey, (for so they called this your pilgrimage), but I did believe, and do still, that the end of our city will be with fire and brimstone from above; and therefore I have made my escape.

Christian: Did you hear no talk of neighbor Pliable?

Faithful: Yes, Christian, I heard that he followed you till he came at the Slough of Despond, where, as some said, he fell in; but he would not be known to have so done; but I am sure he was soundly bedabbled with that kind of dirt.

Christian: And what said the neighbors to him?

Faithful: He has, since his going back, been had greatly in derision, and that among all sorts of people; some do mock and despise him; and scarce will any set him on work. He is now seven times worse than if he had never gone out of the city.

Christian: But why should they be so set against him, since they also despise the way that he forsook?

Faithful: Oh, they say, hang him, he is a turncoat! He was not true to his profession. I think God has stirred up even his enemies to hiss at him, and make him a proverb, because he has forsaken the way.

Christian: Had you no talk with him before you came out?

Faithful: I met him once in the streets, but he leered away on the other side, as one ashamed of what he had done; so I did not speak to him.

Christian: Well, at my first setting out, I had hopes of that man; but now I fear he will perish in the overthrow of the city; for it is happened to him according to the true proverb, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

Faithful: These are my fears of him too; but who can hinder that which will be?

Christian and Faithful now press on together toward the Celestial City. The two share a love and devotion to Christ and Christian is delighted to have a brother to walk with him. As they walk together they share what they have experienced in their pilgrimage. As their conversation begins, Bunyan highlights three lessons:

1. The Miracle of Christian Friendship

Christian and FaithfulChristian speaks of his joy in befriending Faithful. The Valley of the Shadow of Death was “a very solitary place” where Christian felt very much alone. The path was dark and treacherous. Now, walking in the light of day with Faithful as his friend, he finds the Way to be “so pleasant a path.” Faithful also speaks of his longing to have Christian’s company. He had hoped to flee Destruction with Christian, but Christian had left before him. The kindness of God has now brought them together and a miracle of His grace has made them companions on a pilgrimage. In the City of Destruction, Christian and Faithful might not ever have met or had anything in common. But their desire and commitment to follow Christ has “tempered their spirits” and placed them together. This is true of all Christian friendships. God has joined together hearts and lives in ways that astound the world and magnify the power of His grace and wisdom.

2. The Impact of a Changed Life

As the conversation continues, Faithful describes his escape from the City of Destruction. Christian’s departure had caused a great stir in the city. He is surprised to hear that many of neighbors were talking about him. Most did not believe him and spoke with scorn of his warnings of coming judgment. They called his pilgrimage a “desperate journey.” But God is not hindered by unbelief. The Word of God is powerful. God can prosper the gospel even when it is spoken in derision. Neighbors mocked and derided Christian, but Faithful heard and believed.

In Paul’s day there were some who preached Christ, not because they believed the gospel, but because they were trying to stir up trouble for Paul. Yet Paul could rejoice!

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice (Philippians 1:15–18).

We must be faithful to live for Christ and preach Christ, even when our testimony is likely to be scorned. We can grow weary of speaking of Christ among unbelievers as we see them respond again and again with contempt. Unsaved family members, co-workers and friends can wear us down with incessant ridicule and rejection. But we don’t know the impact our life might have on others around us. We don’t know how God may choose to use our testimony, even long after we are gone. It was Christian’s testimony that encouraged Faithful to flee Destruction, even while it was being disparaged by the world. May God keep us faithful and use our lives to point others to Christ.

3. The Danger of a Spurious Profession

Faithful also updates Christian on the outcome of Pliable. Earlier in the journey, Pliable had set out with Christian. He seemed at first to be a zealous pilgrim, hurrying Christian along, ravished with thoughts of heaven. But Pliable was discouraged when he and Christian fell into the Slough of Despond. Pliable chose to abandon his adventure with Christian and turn back. When he returned to the City of Destruction he was covered in the mud of the Slough (still marked by the shame and baseness of his sin) and met with scorn by those who saw him. He is compared to the Proverb:

As a dog returns to his own vomit,
So a fool repeats his folly.
(Proverbs 26:11)

Bunyan inserts two verses likening Pliable to Israel in the Old Testament who chose to ignore the prophets who brought them God’s Word:

This says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad. And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence; and I will deliver them to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth—to be a curse, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they have not heeded My words, says the Lord, which I sent to them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; neither would you heed, says the Lord (Jeremiah 29:17–19).

And to false teachers in the New Testament whose end is worse than their beginning:

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20–22).

Pliable turned away from God’s Word and forsook the way of righteousness. His profession of faith was spurious. Now he is in more danger than before. He is shamed by the world, seen as weak and pitiful, viewed as a hypocrite and “turncoat.” His only hope is still the gospel, yet he is too ashamed to seek the company of those who would gladly share it with him. Instead he leers away and avoids uncomfortable confrontation.

The tragic example of Pliable teaches us the peril of shame. Shame is the stain of sin on the soul. Left unwashed it is deadly, and we are powerless to remove it. It is a stain that can only be cleansed by the shed blood of Christ on the cross. Only in Christ can we find the hope and forgiveness we need. Yet shame by its very nature discourages us from looking to Christ. It wants to hide and cover itself. It keeps us downcast and resigns us to Destruction. If we are to avoid the plight of Pliable we must confess our sin and ever keep our eyes fixed upward to the cross.

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 ©2015 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Pope and Pagan

In this light, therefore, he came to the end of the valley. Now I saw in my dream, that at the end of this valley lay blood, bones, ashes, and mangled bodies of men, even of pilgrims that had gone this way formerly; and while I was musing what should be the reason, I espied a little before me a cave, where two giants, POPE and PAGAN, dwelt in old time; by whose power and tyranny the men whose bones, blood, and ashes, &c., lay there, were cruelly put to death. But by this place Christian went without much danger, whereat I somewhat wondered; but I have learnt since, that PAGAN has been dead many a day; and as for the other, though he be yet alive, he is, by reason of age, and also of the many shrewd brushes that he met with in his younger days, grown so crazy and stiff in his joints, that he can now do little more than sit in his cave’s mouth, grinning at pilgrims as they go by, and biting his nails because he cannot come at them.

So I saw that Christian went on his way; yet, at the sight of the Old Man that sat in the mouth of the cave, he could not tell what to think, especially because he spoke to him, though he could not go after him, saying, “You will never mend till more of you be burned.” But he held his peace, and set a good face on it, and so went by and caught no hurt. Then sang Christian:

O world of wonders! (I can say no less),
That I should be preserved in that distress
That I have met with here! O blessed be
That hand that from it hath deliver’d me!
Dangers in darkness, devils, hell, and sin
Did compass me, while I this vale was in:
Yea, snares, and pits, and traps, and nets, did lie
My path about, that worthless, silly I
Might have been catch’d, entangled, and cast down;
But since I live, let JESUS wear the crown.

Pope and PaganNear the end of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Christian sees strewn across the Way “blood, bones, ashes, and mangled bodies of men, even pilgrims that had gone this way formerly.” This horrific scene is the testimony of the persecuted church, those who have endured pain and trial for their faith in Christ and their stand for truth. The writer of Hebrews reminds us of those who have suffered and gained “a good testimony through faith.”

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.
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 11:32 – 12:2).

The testimony of faithful believers is an encouragement for us to press on and keep our eyes fixed upon Christ. Bunyan was aware of the cost of following Christ. He was imprisoned for his faith, even as he was writing The Pilgrim’s Progress. His faith encouraged others, and he drew encouragement from those who had suffered before him. During his imprisonment at Bedford, his two possessions were his Bible and a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

As Christian wonders at the ghastly sight before him, he sees a cave nearby. The cave represents the religious situation in England in Bunyan’s day and is home to some of the giants who menace pilgrims who seek the Celestial City. There are seven giants mentioned in The Pilgrim’s Progress (both Part 1 and Part 2) and each represents a great danger to believers. [*]

The first dweller in the cave was Pagan. England was formally a place of paganism with no light of the Gospel. Then Pope moved in and eventually Pagan died out. Giant Pope represents the Roman Catholic Church that sent missionaries to England and converted the land to its traditions. Both of these giants have been responsible for persecuting pilgrims and sending many to their death.

In Bunyan’s day, following the Protestant Reformation, with the rise of the Commonwealth and influence of the Puritans in England, the Roman Church had grown weak. Christian sees old Giant Pope sitting near the mouth of the cave taunting him as he goes past, but unable to cause him any harm. Though once powerful and formidable, the giant is now weak and feeble.

In Part 2 Pope no longer inhabits the cave and another giant, named Maul, has taken his place. Maul represents Anglicanism. He has a club that represents political power—power granted to the Church of England by the monarchy. With the club he gives blows to those who will not conform to his ways. Those blows took the form of laws passed between 1661 and 1671 in England designed to legalize persecution and suppress all meetings for non-conformists. Maul is defeated in Part 2 by Great Heart (an allusion to the Declaration of Liberty in 1672 and Act of Toleration in 1689).

Christian’s progress even in the face of giants is a reminder of God’s ultimate power and sovereignty over all our trials. God’s plan and purposes are always good, and they include every trial as well as every triumph. It is through trials that our faith is strengthened and our deliverance is made sweet. The Valley of the Shadow of Death was dark and difficult, yet Christian learned to trust God more fully and now leaves the valley with praises and singing. May God grant us such grace that we would learn to trust and praise Him in and through every trial.

* The seven giants in Bunyan’s allegory are Pagan, Pope and Maul (these three made their home in the cave), Despair and his wife Diffidence (whom Christian will encounter later in Part 1 at Doubting Castle), Slay-good (who terrorizes the land near the Inn of Gaius in Part 2), and Grim or Bloody-man (who lurks near Palace Beautiful in Part 2).

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 ©2015 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Battle with Apollyon

Apollyon: 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 you.

Christian: Apollyon, beware what you do; for I am in the King’s highway, the way of holiness; therefore take heed to yourself.

Apollyon: Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, I am void of fear in this matter: prepare yourself to die; for I swear by my infernal den, that you shall go no further; here will I spill your soul.

And with that he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that.

Then did Christian draw, for he saw it was time to bestir him; and Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail; by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot. This made Christian give a little back; Apollyon, therefore, followed his work amain, and Christian again took courage, and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore combat lasted for above half a day, even till Christian was almost quite spent; for you must know that Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.

Then Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian’s sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, I am sure of you now. And with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life; but as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly stretched out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall I shall arise.”

And with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us”. And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon’s wings, and sped him away, that Christian for a season saw him no more.

In this combat no man can imagine, unless he had seen and heard as I did, what yelling and hideous roaring Apollyon made all the time of the fight—he spoke like a dragon; and, on the other side, what sighs and groans burst from Christian’s heart. I never saw him all the while give so much as one pleasant look, till he perceived he had wounded Apollyon with his two-edged sword; then, indeed, he did smile, and look upward; but it was the most dreadful sight that ever I saw.

A more unequal match can hardly be,
CHRISTIAN must fight an Angel; but you see,
The valiant man by handling Sword and Shield,
Doth make him, tho’ a Dragon, quit the field.

So when the battle was over, Christian said, “I will here give thanks to him that delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, to him that did help me against Apollyon.” And so he did, saying—

Great Beelzebub, the captain of this fiend,
Design’d my ruin; therefore to this end
He sent him harness’d out: and he with rage
That hellish was, did fiercely me engage.
But blessed Michael helped me, and I,
By dint of sword, did quickly make him fly.
Therefore to him let me give lasting praise,
And thank and bless his holy name always.

Then there came to him a hand, with some of the leaves of the tree of life, the which Christian took, and applied to the wounds that he had received in the battle, and was healed immediately. He also sat down in that place to eat bread, and to drink of the bottle that was given him a little before; so, being refreshed, he addressed himself to his journey, with his sword drawn in his hand; for he said, I know not but some other enemy may be at hand. But he met with no other affront from Apollyon quite through this valley.

As the confrontation with Apollyon escalates, Christian discovers the dragon’s true intentions. Christian’s humility in owning his sin and confidence in the mercy and kindness of his King sends Apollyon into a fierce rage. Apollyon is an enemy of the King, intent upon destroying all who would look to the King for grace and walk in His Way. Apollyon positions himself directly in the Way and begins his attack.

Christian had been in danger of the fiery darts of the evil one before. Earlier in the story, as he knocked at the Gate, he was only a short distance away from the dark castle of Beelzebub. Goodwill pulled Christian inside the Gate quickly, lest Christian be struck by arrows and die. Now Christian faces the onslaught of the enemy up close.

The first arrow is aimed at Christian’s heart, intent upon casting doubt on Christian’s love for his King. But Christian is now prepared, armed for spiritual warfare during his stay at Palace Beautiful. He wards off the flaming dart with the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16).
As the barrage continues Christian falls back a little and is wounded in his head, his hand and his foot. The barbs of doubt and fear hurled at Christian injure him and weaken his ability to understand (head), receive and hold (hand), and walk (foot) in the truth.

It is worth noting that these were the wounds Christ received when was crucified in our place. A crown of thorns was placed on His head and a reed in His right hand (Matthew 27:29). His hands and His feet were nailed to the cross.

See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
(from “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Issac Watts)

When our Savior was wounded, bearing the wrath and condemnation of God due our sin, His suffering accomplished our salvation.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:5)

Battle with ApollyonAs Apollyon sees Christian growing weaker, Bunyan writes: “Apollyon, therefore, followed his work amain” that is, he came at Christian with force and fury. The devil does not relent in his assault on those who would withstand him. There is no mercy or compassion with the devil.

It is when Christian has a dreadful fall and the sword flies out of his hand that Apollyon sees his greatest advantage. We are at our weakest in the spiritual battle when we lose grip on the sword, the Word of God. Only when Christian revives and takes up the two-edged sword again does the tide of the battle turn. The sword is our choice offensive weapon, especially when the battle involves confronting our own sinfulness and pride.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Christian defeats the dragon when he remembers and stands on the truth of God’s Word. He quotes from Scripture, first from a promise in the Old Testament:

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy;
When I fall, I will arise;
When I sit in darkness,
The LORD will be a light to me.
(Micah 7:8)

And then from the New Testament:

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).

Christian rests his confidence again in the love and mercy of His King. Bunyan then concludes: “And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon’s wings, and sped him away, that Christian for a season saw him no more.” As the Word of God says:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Christian was hard-pressed in the Valley of Humiliation. The combat with Apollyon represents some of Bunyan’s own struggles with temptation and pride. Here is a portion of Bunyan’s account in his autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:

And now I found, as I thought, that I loved Christ dearly; oh! methought my soul cleaved unto him, my affections cleaved unto him. I felt love to him as hot as fire; and now, as Job said, I thought I should die in my nest; but I did quickly find that my great love was but little, and that I, who had, as I thought, such burning love to Jesus Christ, could let him go again for a very trifle; God can tell how to abase us, and can hide pride from man. Quickly after this my love was tried to purpose.

For after the Lord had, in this manner, thus graciously delivered me from this great and sore temptation, and had set me down so sweetly in the faith of his holy gospel, and had given me such strong consolation and blessed evidence from heaven touching my interest in his love through Christ; the tempter came upon me again, and that with a more grievous and dreadful temptation than before.

And that was, To sell and part with this most blessed Christ, to exchange him for the things of this life, for anything. The temptation lay upon me for the space of a year, and did follow me so continually that I was not rid of it one day in a month, no, not sometimes one hour in many days together, unless ‘when’ I was asleep.
[Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 131–133]

The Valley of Humiliation in The Pilgrim’s Progress represents our coming face to face with the reality of our own neediness and sinfulness. We are humbled when we cast down pride and recognize that we are undone before God and bring nothing to the table that would commend us to God. All we have to offer is our own sin and need of grace and mercy. Augustus Toplady expressed it well in the old hymn, “Rock of Ages”

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

In Part 2 of Bunyan’s allegory Great-heart describes the Valley of Humiliation as fruitful, fertile and pleasant. Though it is a place where we are brought to an acute awareness of our sinfulness and unworthiness before God, it is also a place where we learn to rest in His mercy and draw upon His strength and grace. It is when we are humbled before God that we are set in a frame to receive and rejoice in His mercy. We learn in Part 2 that Christian’s battle with Apollyon took place in a narrow passage in the valley just beyond Forgetful Greens. It is when we forget the promises and mercies of God, when pride sweeps over us and swells in us, that we are vulnerable to the assault and ploys of the devil. James tells us:

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

And so he exhorts us in the next verse:

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

When the battle is over and Apollyon has fled, Christian expresses his thanksgiving with a song of praise and thanks. He is refreshed and nourished by the provisions given to him at Palace Beautiful—the bread and wine—remembering the Lord Jesus who accomplished his salvation by His shed blood and broken body. Christian’s wounds are healed by the leaves of the tree of life, a reference to the book of Revelation:

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1–2)

The leaves of the tree of life in Revelation represent the spiritual life and peace we enjoy when we are in Christ—trusting in Him, resting in Him, hoping in Him.

Christian’s battle with Apollyon has taught him the value of wielding the Word of God. As he continues on his journey, he does so with sword drawn, ever ready with Scripture close at hand.

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.

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.