Bunyan, John (1628–88). A Bedford pastor and author, Bunyan may well have been the most influential English religious figure of his time. Some twelve and a half years in Bedford’s damp county jail awarded him the martyr’s laurel. His courageous refusal to accept freedom in exchange for silence placed him in the lineage of the apostles. The opportunity to prove himself came after his conversion and call to the ministry as he joined a non-conformist church which was congregational in polity and Baptist in its ordinances.
Bunyan is completely Calvinistic in his theology and is a prime exemplar of the Puritan marriage of doctrine with life. He is concerned in his sermons and writings to present the truth experimentally (i.e. experientially). Bunyan as a Spirit-led theologian had the gift of interpreting evangelical truth to the masses. His many and varied writings and sermons purposefully applied Scripture to everyday living. His biblical and often earthy preaching was Christ-centred, powerful, practical and life-changing.
Bunyan’s skill with the pen is surprising; though without formal education he produced some sixty-six works. These were widely circulated in cheap editions, few of which survived, for they were read until they disintegrated. Bunyan’s very human spirit and allegorical style contributed to the popularity of his books. The volumes with the greatest appeal are Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666), which recounts his conversion, and Pilgrim’s Progress (1682), which describes spiritual warfare. It was not merely Bunyan’s astounding allegorical expression which ensured his popularity, but rather his clear insight into mankind’s desperate plight and God’s redeeming, sovereign grace. For Bunyan justification, regeneration, mortification and sanctification are not theological pigeon-holes, but the substance of Christian experience.
We are impressed by Bunyan the preacher, pastor, evangelist and author but we are most moved by Bunyan the pilgrim, a man wrought upon by God, making his way to heaven’s gate.
Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 117.
Interview: The Christmas Playlist by Alistair Begg – “This new book from Alistair Begg takes a look at the very first Christmas songs sung with joy and awe by Mary, Zechariah, the Angels, and Simeon. It gives a fresh glimpse of the greatness of God this season.”
Hillsong & God – “At best, Hillsong’s God is a pale and incomplete shadow of the fullness described in Scripture. At worst, he’s a fraudulent idol, made in man’s image and incapable of providing the redemption and transformation that sinners so desperately need.”
Yesterday, I preached from Ephesians 3:1-6. Often times when statues are unveiled, it brings about a great deal of excitement among the people who are there for the ceremony. In cases of military leaders or royal figures, family members or perhaps close intimate people are there to see it unveiled and witness the standing memory of their father, husband, or friend. In the case of the church and the mystery of the Gentiles being included in the salvific plan of God, it was met with the opposite of enthusiasm. It was met with fierce opposition.
Paul had been saved on the Damascus road and commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles. Now, while in prison, he was writing a letter that would be used to clear up some massive problems between Jews and Gentiles that was creating division among the church. In this section of verses, Paul pointed out his ministry and the mystery of the Christ and His church.
The Ministry of Paul to the Gentiles
Paul had been commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles and as a result, the Jews hated him. Paul had been arrested as a result of two false accusations made against him which is recorded in Acts 21-22. Paul was accused of violating the Gentile boundaries in the temple and he was falsely accused of preaching against the Jewish law. Both were not true. He had not taken any Gentile into the temple area reserved for Jews and he had merely told the truth about Jesus tearing down the wall of division between Jew and Gentile. For that, he was the prisoner of Jesus Christ on behalf of the Gentiles as the first verse of chapter three records.
It should be pointed out that Paul believed that Jesus was sovereign over all things – including imprisonment. Not only is He sovereign over disease, weather, and eternal life – but he’s also sovereign over the imprisonment of His children. Paul was not the prisoner of Nero, but he was the prisoner of Christ. This not only brought Paul comfort, but it likewise clears up some issues pertaining to the present day false teaching of Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen known as the prosperity gospel. How much more dedicated and strong in the faith could anyone be in comparison to the apostle Paul?
The Mystery of the Church
The word used by Paul here is translated – mystery (μυστήριον). It literally means, “The unmanifested or private counsel of God (God’s secret). The word used here doesn’t always translate into English well. When we think of a secret or a mystery, we think of it is unsolved. The word used here that’s translated mystery actually refers to the information about God’s saving grace that was made known – only to a select group of people. In Colossians 1:26, we read the following: “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.”
Paul had learned of this truth regarding the Gentiles not by his own investigative skills, but according to divine revelation given to he and the other apostles. According to Ephesians 3:6, the Gentiles are “fellow heirs,” “members of the same body,” and “partakers of the promise of Christ” with the Jews. This was what Paul had been arrested for preaching, but here he writes it again – even risking his life – in order to make this critical truth known.
What lessons can we learn today?
Here we are at the end of eight years of our first African-American president in the history of the United States of America, and yet, we as a people are more racially divided than we were before Barak Obama took office. The divide is not much better in the evangelical church. The most segregated hour in our entire week is 11:00am on Sunday morning.
We need to stop trying to make the gospel a “white” gospel or a “black” gospel for the “white church” and the “black church.” Why do we have so many different types of churches in our cities? Some are devoted to different nationalities and others to certain socioeconomic demographics. And now, a popular thing in rural areas is the “cowboy church.” We would do well to stop trying to make the gospel a “country” gospel or a “city” gospel, because it’s the gospel of God and it’s not reserved for a certain color of skin — it’s the Revelation 5 gospel — and it’s for the whole world.
During the 2003 Ligonier National Conference questions & answers session, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, John MacArthur, Douglas Wilson, and R. C. Sproul engaged in helpful discussions on biblical theology and practical ministry questions.
500th Anniversary of the Reformation Tour – As the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is celebrated in 2017, it’s important to know and appreciate your history. Join me and James White for a tour through Europe next year as we celebrate and learn the important steps of Luther and the Reformers.
In the 2007 Ligonier National Conference, Contending for the Truth, Albert Mohler preached on the subject of the “Authority of Scripture.”
Francis Schaeffer’s ‘How Should We Then Live?’—40 Years Later – Mohler writes, “How should we then live? That question which troubled Schaeffer so much in 1976 troubles all of us now. We’re about to find out if Christians in this generation are going to believe and to live authentic biblical Christianity. How will we live now?”
What Is Thanksgiving Day? – “Thanksgiving is an American holiday that stretches all the way back to a time long before America became a nation. The Pilgrims landed in 1620. They faced brutal conditions and were woefully unprepared. Roughly half of them died in that first year. Then they had a successful harvest of corn. In November of 1621 they decided to celebrate a feast of thanksgiving.”
Made for Another World: Remembering C.S. Lewis – “For a growing number of us, Lewis occupies a class to himself. Few, if any, have taught us so much about this world, and the next, save the Scriptures…His writings are pervasively thoughtful, engaging, provoking, and rewarding. He will not disappoint.”
As many of you know, I really enjoy the Q&A sessions at conferences. Back in May of this year, Alistair Begg engaged in a Q&A session during the Basics Conference held on his church campus that you will likely enjoy.
Friendship for the Pastor’s Wife – This was a helpful read for me as I often fail to think of the needs that are unique for my wife and the wives of my fellow elders.
The theology of evangelism must be derived from the original setting in which the word was used. The Gk. verb euangelizesthai means ‘to announce good news’, and is found 52 times in the NT. The noun euangelion means ‘good news’, and occurs 72 times, mostly in Paul. The noun euangelistēs, meaning ‘evangelist’, appears only three times (Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:5).
Evangelism, then, is ‘to share or announce the good news’; and as such it is not to be defined in terms of particular methods. Methods may vary widely, provided only that their style matches the message to be proclaimed (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2, 5). Nor should evangelism be defined in terms of successful results. The NT shows that wherever the good news is proclaimed some will respond with repentance and faith, while others will be indifferent and still others reject it (e.g. Acts 17:32–34; 2 Cor. 4:3–4).
Recent debates have concerned the scope of the good news. All would agree that the central message is salvation in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:35; Rom. 1:1, 3); but differences occur over what is crucial and what is peripheral to the explanation of his salvation. Traditionally, evangelism was addressed to individuals, and exclusively concerned the forgiveness of sin. However, the gospels set evangelism in the context of the inauguration of the kingdom of God (e.g. Mk. 1:14–15; Lk. 4:18–19), and so some have argued that the social dimensions of the gospel are integral. The result is that some emphasize God’s concern to create a new community; while others argue that there cannot be a strong divorce between evangelism, in a narrow sense, and social action. Yet others, for similar reasons, have argued that the proclamation of the good news of Jesus should not merely be verbal, but must be accompanied by supernatural signs and wonders as a demonstration of God’s power and a sign of Satan’s defeat (Mk. 16:15–18; Acts 2:22, 43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 14:3; 1 Cor. 4:20).
The theology of evangelism also addresses itself to the motives for evangelism. Among the primary motives identified in the Bible, we find a concern for God’s glory; obedience to Christ’s commission (Mt. 28:19–20); gratitude for God’s grace, and a concern for the fate of the unbeliever.
The Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (1974) aptly agreed the statement: ‘To evangelize is to spread the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord he now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Spirit to all who repent and believe. Our Christian presence in the world is indispensable to evangelism, and so is every kind of dialogue whose purpose is to listen sensitively in order to understand. But evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Savior and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to him personally and so be reconciled to God. In issuing the Gospel invitation we have no liberty to conceal the cost of discipleship. Jesus calls all who would follow him to deny themselves, take up their cross, and identify themselves with his new community. The results of evangelism include obedience to Christ, incorporation into his church and responsible service in the world.’
Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 240–241.