March 19, 2014

What Is the Church?, Part 2

Stephen Nichols
What Is the Church?, Part 2


Welcome back to part 2 of our episodes dealing with, “What is the Church?” Last week, we were looking at John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and when I left you off we had just been taken to the table to sit down for eat. So, you might be hungry, so it’s time now to talk about the meal since we’ve been waiting a week for this.

Once Bunyan has Christian at the table, this is what he goes on to say: “And all their talk at the table was about the Lord of the hill, as namely about what He had done, and wherefore He did what He did, and why He had builded that house.” What we see here (and again remember this is an allegory), and what we see here is Bunyan is trying to tell us that this is the sermon. That the centerpiece of the church is the sermon, and we come to literally feast on the Word as the Word of God is opened before us—as the fat things, the good meat of the Word is put out there before us.

And Bunyan also wants to tell us a little bit about what a sermon should be like. And what he wants to say is that a good biblical sermon will be about Christ. And so all of their talk around the table at the mealtime was of the Lord of the hill and about what He did, and how He did what He did, and why what He did matters. And then also why he’s building the house, and what is the purpose of the church, and what is the purpose of living the Christian life, and what is the purpose of sanctification, and how are we sanctified.

See, Bunyan in those few little sentences is trying to say this is what the sermon needs to be about, and this is what the church needs to be about. So, Christian now has had his full meal, he’s satisfied with these good things, and now he’s tired, it’s been a long day; he’s ready for a good nights sleep.

Well, they continue in a little bit of fellowship after the sermon as Bunyan tells us and, "then they begin," as he says, "to commit themselves to the Lord for their protection, and they ‘betook’ themselves to rest." "The Pilgrim," this is Christian, "they laid in a large upper chamber whose window opened towards the sun rising. The name of the chamber was ‘Peace,’ where he slept till the break of day." So here it is, the house built by the Lord of the hill for the security and rest of pilgrims. And here’s Christian, filled with this wonderful sermon and the things of the Word of God, and now he is in the chamber of peace. What a beautiful picture of the church this is.

Well, guess what happens to Pilgrim after this? Well, now it’s morning; he wakes up. They lead him into the armory. They point out all the great stuff that’s in the armory—and again this is an allegory, and it’s talking about the wonderful stories of the Old Testament and the stories of the New Testament, and talking about the whole armor of God and how we take that on. I guess that’s a metaphor within a metaphor, right?

And so they’re teaching Pilgrim these things, they’re teaching Christian these things, and they’re equipping him! He’s been fed, he’s been edified through the fellowship and the sermon, and now they’re equipping him and teaching him. And then they lead him to the door and they kick him out.

So this is what the church does. We gather together on Sunday and we fellowship together and we hear the word and we are equipped, and then we go out. We go out in service. We go out and live our lives. We go out into the world. And so, Christian begins his journey, but it’s on top of a hill—this house. And it’s a treacherous journey down. And you know what they do? They actually lead him down the hill. What a beautiful picture of true Christian community. And so when we put this episode together, here we see Bunyan’s thoughts on answering this question, “What is the church?” And what this wonderful legacy that we have, the puritans, what they had to say about the church.

So if you have the opportunity, you should come back and read this episode, “The House Built by the Lord of the Hill,” in John Bunyan’s beloved, Pilgrim’s Progress.