Spurgeon’s One Qualm with Pilgrim’s Progress

Charles Spurgeon loved John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. He first read the book as a young boy, and he began his commentary on the classic with these words:

“Next to the Bible, the book I value most is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times. It is a volume of which I never seem to tire; and the secret of its freshness is that it is so largely compiled from the Scriptures.”

As Spurgeon said elsewhere, he loved Bunyan because Bunyan bled Bible.

But he did have one qualm with the great book:

“I am a great lover of John Bunyan, but I do not believe him infallible; and the other day I met with a story about him which I think a very good one.

There was a young man, in Edinburgh, who wished to be a missionary. He was a wise young man; he thought—”If I am to be a missionary, there is no need for me to transport myself far away from home; I may as well be a missionary in Edinburgh.” . . .

Well, this young man started, and determined to speak to the first person he met. He met one of those old fishwives; those of us who have seen them can never forget them, they are extraordinary women indeed. So, stepping up to her, he said, “Here you are, coming along with your burden on your back; let me ask you if you have got another burden, a spiritual burden.”

“What!” she asked; “do you mean that burden in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress? Because, if you do, young man, I got rid of that many years ago, probably before you were born. But I went a better way to work than the pilgrim did. The evangelist that John Bunyan talks about was one of your parsons that do not preach the gospel; for he said, ‘Keep that light in thine eye, and run to the wicket-gate.’ Why—man alive!—that was not the place for him to run to. He should have said, ‘Do you see that cross? Run there at once!’ But, instead of that, he sent the poor pilgrim to the wicket-gate first; and much good he got by going there! He got tumbling into the slough, and was like to have been killed by it.”

“But did not you,” the young man asked, “go through any slough of Despond?”

“Yes, I did; but I found it a great deal easier going through with my burden off than with it on my back.”

The old woman was quite right. John Bunyan put the getting rid of the burden too far off from the commencement of the pilgrimage. If he meant to show what usually happens, he was right; but if he meant to show what ought to have happened, he was wrong.

We must not say to the sinner, “Now, sinner, if thou wilt besaved, go to the baptismal pool; go to the wicket-gate; go to the church; do this or that.”

No, the cross should be right in front of the wicket-gate; and we should say to the sinner, “Throw thyself down there, and thou art safe; but thou are not safe till thou canst cast off thy burden, and lie at the foot of the cross, and find peace in Jesus.””

-Charles Spurgeon, The Dumb Become Singers, 1912,

As quoted at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/10/11/spurgeons-one-qualm-with-pilgrims-progress/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+between2worlds+%28Between+Two+Worlds%29

Why Did Jesus Behave So Badly?

“The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.'” (John 2:13-16)

Why did Jesus start His public ministry so dramatically? Why did He behave so badly? What reason could He have for so acting so rudely?

He performed one simple sign at Cana (which would hardly have brought crowds or garnered attention). Then suddenly, without preamble, Jesus appeared in the temple at the biggest social, economic and religious event of the year and seized control. He had no authority from the Sanhedron to act so. He had no law degree or authority as a priest. He did not slowly ascend to prominence or spend months gathering support. He was not even qualified to be an Aronic priest or to fulfill Levitical duties. He was a poor man from the tribe of Judah, lacking any earthly authority. Yet, He acted to willfully shock the religious establishment proving He did not need their credentials. He picked the busiest day of the year to make a spectacle of Judaism as He saw fit. Why did the God-Man behave in such a way?

Because, Jesus was God and intended to literally fulfill Malachi 3:1-4:

“… And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.” (Malachi 3:1-4)

Suddenly Christ came to His temple. Jesus did not come to bring peace. He came to do business with Second-Temple Judaism. God showed up with His own authority and purified the corrupt temple buildings. He did not come to accommodate wickedness but to purify a people for His name. Decoram and the accomedation of error fled away in the pressence of the God-Man. The Sanhedrin were unable to stand when confronted with such holiness and so they began conspiring to destroy their Messiah.

Not only that, but Jesus also cleansed the temple to foreshadow His atonement. Three years in advance He presented a type of His coming work on the Cross. Only after He satisfied God’s wrath on Calvary would God’s covenant people be purified. When He bore sin in His body on the tree, He purchased a people unto righteousness. Israel had long rejected God, and their priests were defiled. Christ came to create a kingdom of priests for God who could bring offerings of righteousness. How could they bring offerings of rightesouness? How could a man, who is sinful, present an offering of righteousness? Easily if he possesses an alien righteousness. The Old Testament failed to create a righteous people for God possesion, but it did show man’s desperate need for Christ’s righteousness.

Why did Jesus appear in the temple unannounced that Passover day? To fulfill prophesy and thus validate His claims of Divinity and to herald His coming purification of sin once for all.

Does the Book of Genesis Really Matter?

The Book of Genesis is probably the most important book ever written. The Bible as a whole would surely be considered (even by those who don’t believe in its inspiration) as the book that has exerted the greatest influence on history of any book ever produced. The Bible, however, is actually a compilation of many books, and the Book of Genesis is the foundation of all of them.

If the Bible were somehow expurgated of the Book of Genesis (as many people today would prefer), the rest of the Bible would be incomprehensible. It would be like a building without a ground floor, or a bridge with no support.

The books of the Old Testament, narrating God’s dealings with the people of Israel, would be provincial and bigoted, were they not set in the context of God’s developing purposes for all mankind, as laid down in the early chapters of Genesis.

The New Testament, describing the execution and implementation of God’s plan for man’s redemption, is redundant and anachronistic, except in the light of man’s desperate need for salvation, as established in the record of man’s primeval history, recorded in Genesis.

The Book of Genesis gives vital information concerning the origin of all things-and therefore the meaning of all things-which would otherwise be forever inaccessible to man. The future is bound up in the past. One’s belief concerning his origin will inevitably determine his belief concerning his purpose and his destiny. A naturalistic, animalistic concept of the beginnings specifies a naturalistic, animalistic program for the future.

An origin at the hands of an omnipotent, holy, loving God, on the other hand, necessarily predicts a divine purpose in history and an assurance of the consummation of that purpose. A believing understanding of the Book of Genesis is therefore prerequisite to an understanding of God and His meaning to man.”

-Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings, 1976, 17-18

Marriage and Cohabitation

Should pastors marry those who have been cohabitating?

“Pastors are stewards of a biblical understanding of sexuality. Marrying cohabiters miscommunicates the teaching function of marriage. I would only marry couples that were repentant, had forsaken the sin of cohabitating,
and sought the remedy of marriage. Marriage does not simply validate the long-term commitment of a couple whose relationship has been based upon cohabitation. There’s another problem, which has to do with the fact that
pastors are not the only stewards of marriage. In other words, marriage is accessible to persons outside the church. So when the church allows a marriage to take place within its life, it should be validating this in a way that goes
beyond marriage as a creation institution and gets to what marriage is teaching in the ceremony of the church and the church’s stewardship of marriage.”

-R. Albert Mohler Jr, president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/10/07/should-pastors-perform-marriages-for-cohabitating-couples/

Engaging in Meaningful Worship

“I understand what’s it’s like to come to church first thing on a Sunday to be greeted by a guy up front with a guitar, smile, and ten cups of coffee streaming through his veins telling you it’s time to exercise your vocal chords for Jesus. I also understand that it’s not any easier to be the guy up there asking you to do it, with hundreds of blank faces staring back at you, eyes glazed over, and thoughts a million miles away. I understand what it’s like to sit in the pews while being led by a less than polished band, with out-of-tune instruments and pitchy vocalists, trying to engage in some sort of meaningful worship. I also understand what it’s like to be leading that same band, faced with the reality that all of those nagging elements are out of my control, and make it just as hard for me to engage in meaningful worship. Probably harder.

I think of passages in the Psalms where we’re admonished to “clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” and wonder how that’s even possible some mornings, while in the same book we read “out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.” I’m reminded that true worship is our response to God despite the condition we’re in when we do it. We are feeble, imperfect human beings only able to offer faint praises some mornings. But the presence of the Lord is like an umbrella over us, encouraging and building us up through the faith of our fellow believers, so that on other mornings we are able to do the same for them.

At the end of the day, regardless of what side of the microphone we’re on, we’re all suffering from varying degrees of misdirection, and in desperate need of re-direction. We all come to church on Sunday faced with the dilemma of who we’ve been worshiping and whose kingdom we’ve been building all week. It’s that humble truth that causes me to once again remember what I’m called to do this morning: magnify the name of Christ, confess our desperate need for him, and sing the truths of the gospel with people who are far too consumed with themselves. Like me.

And through it all, the glory of God will be revealed to us as a light penetrating the darkness of our souls, where we will be “satisfied with his likeness” when we “behold his face in righteousness” (Psalm 17:15).

That I would learn this every day.”

-Ronnie Martin,

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/10/06/view-from-the-other-side-of-the-mic/

Contextualizing on the Mission Field

“My wife and I were missionaries in Papua New Guinea where we spent two years learning the Myu language and culture before teaching the scriptures and presenting the gospel. Our culture studies were so we could properly understand how they would hear what we taught.

Rather than changing the scriptures we took time to teach about sheep and shepherding and other Old and New Testament practices. One of the ways we did this was during our literacy program. The Myu language had never been learned by an outsider or written down prior to our arrival. Along with teaching and translating the scriptures was a priority to teach the adults and children how to read and write their own language.

In one of our primers we focused on the main biblical cultural topics that would come up in our gospel teaching. We showed them pictures of sheep and pictures of ourselves in the snow back home in Upper Michigan. They did not have words in their language for sheep or snow so we used the common trade language (Melanesian English) words for them. The isolated Myu people are very intelligent and had no trouble understanding foreign biblical culture when it was properly explained.

It would be dangerous to try to find a Myu cultural equivalent to replace the biblical account because none of them are exact representations of scripture. And the Myu Bible teachers are now able to articulate biblical culture in teaching the culture rather than coming up with some local example that falls short. Once you localize the scriptures you would be stuck trying to find “equivalents” that would constantly fall short. This is very dangerous.

There is absolutely no need to change the inspired word of God. It is no different than how we are to teach here at home. Explain the biblical culture so we can truly understand God’s intended meaning. For “All scripture (graphe, written biblical text) is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” (2 Tim. 3:16).”

-Tim Spanton, former missionary in Papua New Guinea, as quoted by Travis Allen at: http://www.gty.org/blog/B111007

Three quotes from John Stott

“No one can now accuse God of condoning evil and so of moral indifference or injustice. The cross demonstrates with equal vividness both his justice in judging sin and his mercy in justifying the sinner. For now, as a result of the propitatory death of his Son, God can be ‘just and the justifier’ of those who believe in him. He is able to bestow a righteous status on the unrighteous, without compromising his own righteousness.”

“The value of a love-gift is assessed both by what it costs the giver and by the degree to which the recipient may be held to deserve it. A young man who is in love, for example, will give his beloved expensive presents, often beyond what he can afford, as symbols of his self-giving love, because he believes she deserves them, and more. Jacob served seven years for Rachel because of his love for her. But God in giving his Son gave himself to die for his enemies. He gave everything for those who deserved nothing from him. “And that is God’s own proof of his love toward us” (Rom. 5:8).”

“When we look at the cross we see the justice, love, wisdom and power of God. It is not easy to decide which is the most luminously revealed, whether the justice of God in judging sin, or the love of God in bearing the judgment in our place, or the wisdom of God in perfectly combining the two, or the power of God in saving those who believe. For the cross is equally an act, and therefore a demonstration, of God’s justice, love, wisdom and power. The cross assures us that this God is the reality within, behind and beyond the universe.”

-John Stott, The Cross of Christ, 207, 210, 221

The Glory of a Particular Death

“For in the cross of Christ, as a splendid theater, the incomparable goodness of God is set before the whole world. The glory of God shines, indeed, in all creatures on high and below, but never more brightly than in the cross….”

“If it be objected that nothing could be less glorious than Christ’s death…I reply that in that death we see a boundless glory which is concealed from the ungodly.”

-John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, 68 {Jn 13:31}, 135 {John 17:1}

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” -Romans 3:21-26

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romasn 5:8

Our Lord’s Mercy

“Let us remember it as we look back over the days past of our lives, from the hour of our conversion. “Our Lord has done all things well.” In the first bringing us out of darkness into marvelous light–in humbling us and teaching us our weakness, guilt, and folly–in stripping us of our idols, and choosing all our portions in placing us where we are, and giving us what we have–how well everything has been done! How great the mercy that we have had on our own way!”

-J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Mark, 151. {Mark 7:31-37}

http://jcrylequotes.com/2011/10/06/gods-mercy-on-our-past/

God’s Glory

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

“You will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it  makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.”

-C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 46, 111.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/10/06/the-objectivity-of-glorifying-god/