Each year at the annual Southern Baptist Convention, 9Marks Ministries sponsors a couple of gatherings held at 9pm each evening following the full day of events. Those meetings are typically organized around a questions and answers session among leaders within the SBC. This session was held at the 2015 annual SBC, and you will find the conversations helpful.
Worship. Man’s sense of awe in the presence of the magnificent, the frightening or the miraculous illustrates something of what is meant by ‘worship’. His response may be one of speechlessness, paralysis, emulation or dedication.
Revelation and response
At the heart of Christian worship is God himself. In order truly to worship two fundamental elements are needed: revelation, through which God shows himself to man, and response, through which awe-stricken man responds to God. Martin Luther claimed that ‘to know God is to worship him’. In so saying, he succinctly embraced both aspects of worship. He also insisted that worship is not an optional extra for the godly person, but an essential symptom or expression of that knowledge.
God makes himself known in a number of ways: through his works in creation (Ps. 19:1); through his written word (Ps. 19:7); supremely, through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:18); and through the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13).
Christian worship will depend on that revelation. It is therefore founded on theology—the knowledge of God. The shortest route to deeper and richer worship is a clearer theology. This will enable the worshipper to know who, and how great, God is. Further, it will inform the worshipper how God wants worship to be expressed.
The biblical words used for worship convey significant insights into its nature. One of the most common Heb. words comes from the root ’eḇeḏ, meaning ‘servant’. This contains the idea of service of every kind, acts of adoration as well as doing the chores (e.g. Ex. 3:12; 20:5; Dt. 6:13; 10:12; Jos. 24:15; Ps. 2:11). The occasional use of hištaḥawâ (prostrate, religiously or in the course of duty), refers exclusively in OT to ritual acts (Gn. 27:29; 49:23). The Gk. equivalent, proskyneō, is used more extensively in the lxx and in the NT (e.g. Mt. 4:9–10; 14:33; Mk. 15:19; Acts 10:25).
The two most important words for worship in the NT are: 1. latreia, meaning ‘service’ or ‘worship’. Its exact translation depends on the context (see particularly Rom. 12:1 and commentary discussion; also Mt. 4:10; Lk. 2:37; Acts 26:7; Heb. 8:5; 9:9). 2. leitourgia, a word taken from secular life, means service to the community or state, frequently without charge or wage (Lk. 1:23; 2 Cor. 9:12; Phil. 2:30; Heb. 9:21; 10:11). The implication is that Christian worship and service are essentially one.
According to the Bible, God alone is to be worshipped or served (Ex. 20:1–3). He is to be served with man’s whole being (Dt. 6:5; Lk. 10:27). Mind as well as emotions, physique as well as feelings are to combine in God’s praise. The very nature of God, overwhelming in his attributes, demands everything of man. Personal, individual worship is practised (e.g. Psalms) and corporate acts are described (e.g. 2 Ch. 7). Wesley’s ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing/My great Redeemer’s praise’ reflects this fact: that God is so great that no one person can adequately worship him.
God, transcendent and immanent
The tension between God’s transcendence (his wholly otherness) and immanence (being at hand) has frequently brought dissension. In both testaments these attributes are explicit (Ex. 19:10; Jb. 38–41; Ps. 8; Is. 40:12ff.; Jn. 1:1–14; Heb. 1–2; and Gn. 3:8; Dt. 7:21–22; Ps. 23; Is. 43:1–2; Mt. 1:23; 28:20; Phil. 4:19). From the OT it is clear that sin cuts people off from God, but through sacrifice he brings about a new oneness (Gn. 3; Lv. 16; cf. Redemption). With the ultimate atonement made by Jesus’ own sacrifice, the rituals of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are no longer relevant; but their careful exposition is still important since they reveal abiding principles of worship. For example, sincerity, purity and holiness are constant requirements, as is the offering of what is best to God (e.g. Ex. 24–40; Lv. 1–10; 16; 21–27; Nu. 7; 15; 28; 2 Ch. 3–4).
In the NT the commands of Jesus embrace a comprehensive understanding of worship and service (e.g. fellowship, Jn. 13:34; ordinances, Mt. 28:19–20; 1 Cor. 11:23–24 and evangelism, Mt. 28:19–20). The fulfilment of these commands is worship—‘in the beauty of a holy life’ (Ps. 96:9, rsv).
With the giving of God’s Spirit in fulfilment of prophecy (Joel 2:28–32; Jn. 14:26; 16:7) at Pentecost upon all who believe in Christ (Acts 2), the church was empowered as a ‘kingdom and priests to serve … God’ (Rev. 1:6; Ex. 19:6). From time to time in its history, the church has been engaged in divisive controversies about the nature of the gifts of the Spirit, but without exception Christians agree that the Spirit’s enabling is vital to worship-service.
Worship in history
From the outset the Christian church recognized herself as a people who worship and not so much a place of worship. In the early church Christians normally worshipped in homes (Acts 2:46; 11; 12:12), public halls (Acts 19:9), synagogues (Acts 13:14ff.; 14:1; 17:1–2) and at the Temple (Acts 2:46; 3). Evangelism was conducted in those places and in the open (Acts 16:13–14; 17:22–23). The conversion of emperor Constantine (ad 312) brought greater freedom to build basilicas for corporate worship.
Music and singing were an important part of the worship of biblical Judaism (e.g. Pss; 1 Ch. 16:7ff.; 25). Together with the reading and explaining of the Scriptures and prayer, this constituted the heart of synagogue worship and stood alongside the sacrificial aspects of Temple worship (1 Ch. 22:17–19; 2 Ch. 6:12ff.; Ne. 8:1–8). The early Christians included music and singing in their corporate gatherings (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19) as well as in personal devotion (Acts 16:25), though history shows considerable differences of opinion about the place of music and other creative arts in worship.
The division between the Church of the East and that of the West in the 11th century reflected tensions in approaches to worship, to which the stronger mystical element of the East and the rational element of the West contributed.
With the Reformation in the West, religious practice was largely released from superstition, and from what had become merely ceremonial or ritual. The Reformation’s emphasis on the word as central to worship led to the Protestant emphasis on preaching as the royal sacramant and as the highest raison d’être of corporate worship. In the context of mind-stretching, relevant and passionate exposition of Scripture, the liturgy of music and prayer become simpler and less ritualistic. Together with an emphasis on the need for the Holy Spirit to enliven preacher and congregation, this emphasis has undergirded evangelical worship until today. Tensions continue between those who look for a common liturgy, uniting churches wherever they meet, and those who depend on the spontaneous expression of faith. Many have found the need to be free to use both forms. What is central to Christian worship is not ‘forms’ but the presence of the triune God, who through his word, the Bible, and by his Holy Spirit, enlivens, enlightens and enables all who believe in order that they may worship-serve him in spirit and in truth. 
Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 730–732.
From the very beginning, the devil has worked overtime to bring separation between God and His creation. This started in the Garden of Eden and immediately following the sinful choice of Adam and Eve to eat from the forbidden fruit, division entered their marriage. The first two humans, as a result of their sin, experienced separation from God and as a result—division between one another. That same pattern of division has infected all types of relationships, not just marriage. What happens when someone sins against us or offends us in some way, is it acceptable to hold a perpetual grudge? Will God accept me if I reject others?
Is God Holy?
In order to answer this question, it’s essential to ask ourselves a very important question and then answer it from the pages of Scripture. Is God holy? Is God like us? Is God distinct from us? As we examine the revelation of God from the pages of Scripture, we come to learn that He is distinct, separate from us, and higher than His creation. In short, God is holy. Regarding God’s holiness, we must learn two things:
One upon a time, God’s holiness rejected us as sinners.
Only in God’s holiness is it possible for us to be reconciled to God.
Has God Forgiven You for Your Sins?
When we read of God’s holiness, it’s a truly terrifying thing. Consider the scene that God paints for us in Isaiah 6 where the enthroned God is seen in the vision by the prophet Isaiah. Helpless and guilty sinners in the presence of an all consuming holy God is a terrifying thing, unless we are embraced in God’s love through His Son Jesus Christ. As we continue to read the Bible, we see that God not only possess a hot wrath for sinners, but He is also a merciful God who loves to forgive sinners. We see this in the love of the Father sending the Son who died for us in love (John 3:16). Consider the vast love of God who reconciles guilty sinners by sending His Son to die in their place (Rom. 5:6-11). Who does this? What kind of God is this according to the Bible? Simply put, our God is a God of mercy, love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. There is no other god like Him.
Is Holding a Grudge Sinful?
All through the Bible, we see the clear teaching of unity. God demands unity among His people and within His church. The teaching of unity is built upon a firm foundation of God’s grace, and therefore, God demands, expects, and commands us to strive for unity. Nothing else will be acceptable. God will not forgive you for holding a grudge in perpetuity. If you refuse to forgive others, God will not forgive you. What exactly was Jesus teaching in Matthew 6:14-15? Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
The Mandate of Forgiveness and Unity in Christ
In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem addresses the issue of unity by writing:
Paul can command the church to live in unity because there already is an actual spiritual unity in Christ which exists among genuine believers. He says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4–6). And though the body of Christ consists of many members, those members are all “one body” (1 Cor. 10:17; 12:12–26). 
The facts remain, God has mandated the horizontal forgiveness of others under the reality that we have experienced this glorious vertical forgiveness from Him. If we have received the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, who are we to withhold forgiveness from others (Eph. 4:32)? In Colossians 3:12-17, Paul makes this point clear. He writes, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13).
As we follow Christ, we are to follow Him in acts of forgiveness. Our calling within the church is to bear with one another and to forgive each other as we strive for unity among the brethren. Charles Spurgeon once said the following:
Satan always hates Christian fellowship; it is his policy to keep Christians apart. Anything which can divide saints from one another he delights in. He attaches far more importance to godly intercourse than we do. Since union is strength, he does his best to promote separation. 
Will God forgive you for holding a grudge? No—He will not. However, if you’re a true Christian, you demonstrate the reality of your faith by how you forgive others and the priority you place on unity within the church. When you forgive others and repent of holding a grudge, you can expect your Heavenly Father to forgive you too. Therefore, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil (Eph. 4:26-27). That’s a message for the church as a whole—not just your marriage.
Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 876.
Charles Spurgeon, Spiritual Warfare in a Believer’s Life, ed., Robert Hall, (Lynwood, Washington: Emerald Books, 1993), 115.
Are you planning to attend the 2017 G3 Conference in Atlanta this January? Either way, you will appreciate this short video released on Monday. If you’re planning to attend and you haven’t reserved your seat, you will want to register before midnight tonight as registration rates will be raised to the “late registration” level.
iPhone 8 Rumors Already? – Apparently rumors have surfaced that point out massive design upgrades and changes for the iPhone 8. Set your calendars…it’s only 10 months away!
Remembering December 7th, 1941 – After being bombed by Japan in Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt stood to give a speech where he described the horrible day as a “date which will live in infamy.” He spoke for just over seven minutes and declared war that would result in WWII. Today, we remember that infamous date.
In 2008, William Paul Young wrote a book titled The Shack that was instantly a best-seller. It ascended to the top of the best-selling lists (including the New York Times and Amazon), and like many successful books often do, it has now morphed into a movie. The book originally written as a Christmas gift for a family has sold over 20-million copies and become one of the top 70 books in the history of printed books.
Recently the trailer for the movie based on Young’s book was released. The movie itself is set to be released in 2017, but the hype and anticipation has already started to build. That’s to be expected when you have people like Eugene Peterson making statements such as, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” did for his. It’s that good!”  To be honest, the trailer for the movie was greatly appealing and demonstrated a high quality that will likely be very successful. Why should Christians be concerned? What lessons can be learned from the success of The Shack that might help us all moving forward?
A Word About the Book—The Shack
The book itself demonstrates the fact that William Young is a good writer. Through the use of written language, Young captivates the reader with masterful descriptions of mysterious theological subjects and doctrines. This is always a wonderful way to teach the Bible and has long been employed by men like John Bunyan and C. S. Lewis, but in the case of The Shack, the teaching is sub-par, or to use the language of Albert Mohler in his review of the book back in 2010—”sub-biblical.” 
The book is based on the story of a man named Mackenzie (goes by Mack) and his encounter with the godhead following a horrible tragedy where his daughter (Missy) was brutally murdered in an old shack after being abducted during a family vacation. Although Young tackles some very difficult subjects related to human tragedy, in his attempt to point people to God, he instead points people to an African-American woman named Papa (who transformed at one point into a gray-haired man), a middle-aged man named Jesus who was of a Middle-Eastern descent, and a small woman of Asian descent named Sarayu. This is where things derail from the biblical theology tracks in an epic train wreck.
Like many books that become popular in evangelicalism (such as Heaven is for Real), when people are captivated by the emotion of hardship or tragedy, they’re often willing to accept the false teaching that walks through the open gates of their heart like a Trojan horse. Although William Young is a gifted communicator, what he communicates about God in his book The Shack is simply not true and it’s heresy. Therefore, no matter how his skill is with the English language and his ability to captivate his audience, if what he speaks isn’t true and if it violates the God of holy Scripture, we must avoid it. Although the movie can’t be reviewed, what can be accurately predicted is that no matter how well the acting and production of the movie is—the stench of heresy is already detectable from a distance.
A Call for Christian Discernment
Heavenly tourism books have become widely popular within the evangelical community in recent years. It seems that if one wants to be successful in the area of fiction and non-fiction, if a story can be captured about a person’s trip to heaven (or in this case – to a shack) where he or she interacts with God and returns to tell the vivid story with eye-popping details, it’s a sure recipe for success. This is a lamentable fact, and one that the evangelical church must come face-to-face with (Prov. 15:21).
As the psalmist declared in Psalm 119:66, we as God’s children should long for clear, controlled, and robust discernment. Since the Scriptures are God’s Word and the church is “a pillar and buttress of truth,” we must be able to “guard the good deposit” that has been entrusted to us (1 Tim 3:15; 2 Tim. 1:14). Therefore, laziness when it comes to biblical truth has no place in the church of Jesus Christ. There’s no reason a book like The Shack should find its way to the top of best-selling lists by the help of the Christian community.
Lessons to be Learned
Early in 2016 I was preaching in a conference held on the campus of a large Southern Baptist Church. Between sessions, I was given access to their library and coffee shop area where I could read and pray. As I browsed around the bookshelves, the paradox of evangelicalism was apparent on the shelves of this church’s library. On the same shelf separated by just a few books were two very different books by two very different authors—Sara Young’s Jesus Calling and Paul Washer’s The Gospel’s Power and Message. This is where we are as evangelicals, so long as Jesus’ names is used or the title contains Christian vocabulary, it’s readily received and granted access to the local church’s library.
Lessons to be learned from The Shack and other heavenly tourism books that fall into this same category are numerous. There are far too many lessons to learn than I have time and space to mention, but one noteworthy lesson is—doctrine matters. If we attempt to teach the Bible with stories, illustrations, anthropomorphism, and humor, that’s wonderful, but those stories, illustrations, anthropomorphisms, and humor must be communicated with theological precision. We don’t want a surgeon operating on us who has been guilty of medical malpractice, and that same principle is true when it comes to those who teach us the Bible.
This successful book that boasts of Christian theology presents an inaccurate view of the Trinity, reverses the masculinity of God into feminism, denies Jesus of His sovereignty as a member of the godhead, and maligns the proper understanding of the Holy Spirit. One of the core errors of the book is the improper understanding of submission and a rejection of Trinitarian hierarchy. It seems that there is a constant imbalance and misunderstanding of the roles and relationships between the members of the Trinity throughout the book and certainly will be played out in the movie. Tim Challies concludes in his thorough review of The Shack back in 2008, “Overall, I had to conclude that Young has an inadequate and often-unbiblical understanding of the Trinity.” 
In one scene, Jesus poked his head into the dining area to inform Papa that he had put the tools they would need just outside the door. Papa thanked Jesus, who kissed him on the lips and left out the back door. Where do we ever see Jesus informing the Father of anything in the Bible? In another scene, Jesus communicates the following to Mack:
Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.
If that’s not bad enough, Jesus goes on to communicate another ancient heresy to Mack by saying, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus continues by saying, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”
Mack responds to Jesus, “Do all roads lead to Christ?” Jesus then provides an answer that points to universalism—“Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.” The answer to Mack’s question is an obvious rejection of verses such as John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 that teach the absolute exclusivity of Christ. Jesus doesn’t travel down the road of Mormonism to find people. Sure, Jesus can find lost sinners anywhere, but to suggest that “those who love” Jesus come from every system that exists is a tragic error. To communicate that Jesus doesn’t want to make anyone a Christian is a tragic mistake, and to teach people that Jesus wants to “join us” in our transformation into sons of Papa is a reversal of roles. Jesus is sovereign and we respond to Him. We love because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). This book, although celebrated by many Christians is an anti-Christian book and will subsequently become an anti-Christian movie.
One final take-away that we must learn from such books and movies is that God has one primary method of delivering His revelation to us and it’s through holy Scripture. To bypass the Bible and learn about the Trinity through The Shack is to do yourself a great injustice and the results will be catastrophic. God has a proper and fitting revelation of Himself, and He has unveiled that glorious revelation in the pages of sacred Scripture—not The Shack or any other book like it. Ancient mysticism has crept back into the church in our day, and unfortunately it’s widely popular. Why not just come to know God, true Christian theology, and a proper response to the deepest human suffering by reading God’s book—the Bible?
Indictments to be Received
The success of The Shack is a true indictment on the shallowness of mainstream evangelicalism. The church is not only called to evangelize the world with the gospel, she is also called to have biblical discernment. That lack of concern when it comes to understanding the Bible and the core essential teachings of Scripture among many evangelical Christians should bring about great concern. When bookstores, even Christian bookstores, are willing to peddle books like The Shack and other sub-Christian titles, we should be greatly concerned. Albert Mohler writes:
The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity…The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine. 
A further indictment must be centered on the pulpit in the evangelical church today. Christians, if taught properly each Lord’s Day from the pulpit, would detest such books as The Shack. If robust teaching was the common diet, books like The Shack would be so unsuccessful that a movie producer wouldn’t give it a second thought—because in his mind he needs the evangelical church to buy tickets to watch it. Therefore, when the pulpit is shallow, dysfunctional, and sub-Christian—you can expect the people to crave that same type of entertainment.
Pastors guard your people by telling them the truth. Brothers and sisters in Christ, please make the movie version of this heretical book far less successful by staying home.
Statement by Eugene Peterson can be found as a glaring endorsement written on the front bottom of the paperback version in most cases.
Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching Ephesians 3:7-13. The text serves as the second half of a lengthy thirteen verse section where Paul is unveiling the mystery of God’s saving plan to save both Jew and Gentile in Christ. In doing so, Paul likewise unveils the purpose of his ministry and the distinct purpose of the church of Jesus Christ. As we read and consider these truths, we must never forget that God has a purpose for us and that purpose is not disconnected from the church.
God’s Purpose for the Apostle Paul
Paul was made a minister by God’s sovereign initiative. He didn’t wake up one day and determine to be an apostle. Just as grace is sovereignly dispensed, so is the calling to serve in the gospel ministry. We are all ministers of the gospel as the children of God, but we all have different callings. Paul’s theology was consistent as he looked at the working of God in salvation in the first two chapters, now he points to the work of God in calling him into the ministry of proclamation.
Paul was not only made a minister by God’s will, he was also called into a ministry of preaching. As verse eight makes clear, Paul understood that he was to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. Paul was not called to be gospel ventriloquist, juggler, magician, power lifter, soloist, or comedian. Paul was called to be a preacher. What would happen to our churches today if the worship services were more sober minded and full of robust preaching instead of little talks full of half baked jokes and skits?
Paul makes it clear that the grace of God in Christ is indescribable. He calls it the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” As Paul would go down into the deep wells, into the deep mines, he would continue to come back to the surface with the jewels of God’s saving grace. In doing so, he would point to the fact that God was saving a people for His glory from every tongue, people, tribe, and nation. This brought great anger to the Jews and for that reason he was imprisoned. In fact, as Paul wrote this very letter he was in prison.
God’s Purpose for the Church
The church is not something good for our consideration, but it’s the absolute perfect will of God for our lives. The will of God for us individually will never be distinctly disconnected from the church. It is God’s will for us to bloom for Him through the local church. God has a plan and purpose for the church in this world and that includes gospel missions (the Great Commission) and as Paul points out here—to make the wisdom of God known even to the angels who are watching. In his sermon on this text, John MacArthur said:
The angels can see the power of God in creation. The angels can see the wrath of God at Mt. Sinai. The angels can see the love of God at Calvary, but God says they’re going to see my wisdom in the church.
Therefore, as the angels watch us worship, serve, pray, and interact with one another – do they see the manifold wisdom of God on display in our lives? Is God’s wisdom evident in the functionality of our church? A divided church is an oxymoron. A church without joy is hypocrisy on display. A church without love is nonsense. A lazy church is paradoxical. Therefore, we must be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:3-6).
As we live out Christianity for the world to see, we can expect to be mistreated in the same way the world mistreated Jesus. Paul reminds the church at Ephesus of this truth as he encourages them to not lose heart of his ongoing suffering for Christ. The world is quite happy to sing about Jesus at Christmas so long as they’re not forced to bow their knee and submit to Him. The world is not threatened by a harmless baby in a manger, but once the church points to the sovereign ruling King Jesus the world is immediately hostile toward us. Beware and don’t lose heart.
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.