Notes and Commentary
by Ken Puls
on John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress
2. Met by Evangelist
Now I saw, upon a time, when he was walking in the fields, that he was (as he was wont) reading in his Book, and greatly distressed in his mind; and as he read, he burst out, as he had done before, crying, What shall I do to be saved?
I also saw that he looked this way, and that way, as if he would run; yet he stood still, because (as I perceived) he could not tell which way to go. I looked then, and saw a Man named Evangelist coming to him, and asked, Wherefore dost thou cry?
He answered, Sir, I perceive by the Book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to Judgment; and I find that I am not willing to do the first, nor able to do the second.
Then said Evangelist, Why not willing to die, since this life is attended with so many evils? Because, I fear that this Burden that is on my back, will sink me lower than the grave; and I shall fall into Tophet. And, Sir, if I be not fit to go to Prison, I am not fit to go to Judgment, and from thence to Execution; and the thoughts of these things make me cry.
Then said Evangelist, If this be thy condition, Why standest thou still? He answered, Because I know not whither to go. Then he gave him a Parchment Roll, and there was written within, Fly from the Wrath to come.
The Man therefore read it, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully said, Whither must I fly? Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, Do you see yonder Wicket Gate? The man said, No. Then said the other, Do you see yonder Shining Light? He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that Light in your eye, and go directly thereto, so shalt thou see the Gate; at which thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do.
Notes and Commentary
After many days of suffering, distress and prayer Christian is seen walking in the fields, reading his Book (his Bible). He is alone and cries out asking the most important question a man can ask: "What shall I do to be saved?" Romans 10:14 describes Christian's dilemma in this way: "How shall they hear without a preacher?"
As Christian ponders what to do next, we are introduced to a new character in the allegory, a man named Evangelist. God, in His kindness, does not leave Christian to himself, but sends His minister to explain and point the way, as He did when He sent Phillip to teach the Ethiopian in Acts 8:26.
Evangelist is an important means of God's grace in helping Christian in his journey. He is the King's servant, laboring for the sake of the kingdom. When he sees Christian, he is out in the fields, where a laborer expecting a harvest should be. He has compassion for the lost and is alert to Christian's distress and need. Often in the story he comes to Christian with encouragement, rebuke, instruction and correction. But who is this Evangelist? In Bunyan's own pilgrimage it was the faithful pastor of a group of believers in Bedford, John Gifford. According to Bunyan's testimony in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, it was Gifford who "took occasion to talk with me, ...invited me into his house, where I should hear him confer with others, about the dealings of God with the soul..." [par. 77]
Ministers of the gospel are a gift of God. We can rejoice that God gives His church faithful men, like John Gifford. But pastors are not the only ones who are sent out to point the way to Jesus. We read in Ephesians 4:11-12:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Pastors are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the church. Paul's exhortation to Timothy is "Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:2). While this command is especially weighty on pastors and teachers, all believers have a ministry "teaching and admonishing one another" (Colossians 3:16). All believers have a mission to tell others to follow Jesus (Matthew 28:19). And we are all to be ready to share the reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).
We live in a day when we too often rush by others, hurrying through the fields when we should be laboring. Pray that God will be at work, awakening the hearts of sinners to their need of grace, and stirring His people to go as laborers into the harvest (Matthew 9:37). Pray that He will make you sensitive to the needs of others around you who are burdened and distressed. And pray, that in His providence, you might find opportunity and rich blessing in pointing pilgrims to the Lord Jesus Christ.
A prayer for a burdened sinner
Lord, we pray for those now burdened
'Neath the weight and guilt of sin,
Those who read Your Word and tremble
As conviction grows within.
Father, help us point to Jesus,
Those who flee the coming wrath,
That they find the gate and entrance
To the cross, Salvation's path.
(from "A Prayer for Pilgrims" by Ken Puls)
The text for The Pilgrim's Progress
and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©1997 Ken Puls
"A Guide to John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress"
was originally published from January 1993 to December 1997
in "The Voice of Heritage," a monthly newsletter
of Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from
the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.