Community Baptist Church Ladies’ Book Study
Pilgrim’s Progress Chapter 16; July 12, 2016
a. In our last lesson, we saw Christian’s Palace Beautiful experience. We discussed his qualifying for acceptance into the ‘family’ and how this was representative of entrance into church membership and the care that must be taken that those who enter are true believers with a testimony of faith in Christ.
b. We spoke of how the desire of all true believers is to have fellowship with fellow-believers; it is not a path of isolation. While other common interests may exist, true Christian fellowship consists of conversing about the work of Christ, our personal testimonies of conversion, the providences of God in our life, what God is teaching us in His word and in experience, our struggles, and our great hope.
c. We spoke of fellowship around the Lord’s Table, that great ordinance instituted by the Great Warrior of our Faith especially for His Church, for our remembrance together of His death and certain return.
d. At the Palace Beautiful, we see the essence of the visible local church. It has been established by Christ Himself for the encouragement, instruction, equipping, and accountability of His people. It is good to be reminded of these things lest we lose sight of the value that should be placed upon it and the respect it should be given.
II. Valley of Humiliation/Nature of the Foe
a. At the beginning of our study in Pilgrim’s Progress, we spoke of the fact that while this is an allegory, it depicts real, spiritual warfare. This is no fairytale! What we are going to discuss tonight is something we all will face in our lifetime: A direct assault from the enemy of our souls. Jesus faced such assaults before us. Is the servant greater than his Lord? Are we prepared? We will take a look in narrative form at such an assault on the main character in this allegory and then make application to ourselves.
b. Christian now descends into the Valley of Humiliation. From the name of this place, we know it’s purpose in the grand scheme of things: it is for the humbling of proud pilgrims.
c. He isn’t in this low spot for very long before he encounters a ‘foul fiend’ coming to meet him. His approach is aggressive and intimidating. Christian’s first thought is to flee, but he thinks better of it when he realizes that he has no armor for his back and would be thus exposed to the fiery darts that would most certainly be hurled. If he valued his life, he had no choice but to face this Foe.
d. From the beginning of this scene, we see the nature of this savage hellion. His name, Apollyon, gives away his intent. Apollyon means ‘destroyer’. His purpose is to destroy mankind, in general, and poor pilgrim Christian, in particular. He is described as being clothed with scales like a fish, representing his pride, which got him cast out of heaven in the first place. At that time, he wanted to dethrone God and rule in His place. Is that not the ultimate act of pride, and does not our pride have this very seed at the root? A somber thought. His belly belched forth fire and smoke through the mouth of a lion seeking to destroy and devour. He came near to Christian with a look of contempt (what a contrast in attitude between this enemy and the Good Shepherd when he loses one of his sheep; He seeks until He finds and brings them safely home on His shoulders, rejoicing). He hates those in the Way with full-blown malice and has declared all-out war on them. He is a discourager, while Christ is the Great Encourager. He is the accuser; Christ is our Advocate.
III. Exchange with the Enemy
a. Like others that Christian encountered, Apollyon asks of his place of origin and his intended destination. Upon hearing the reply, he intimidates Christian with his claim over the territory and severe threats. He uses the fear tactic.
b. Christian answers this with explaining that Apollyon’s employment was hard and the wages were death. Apollyon makes an empty promise that if Christian but return, he would make every attempt to improve his wages.
c. Christian then explains that he has given his loyalty to another, so how could he possibly return? Apollyon answers that Christian has exchanged bad for worse and that many return back to his kingdom and if Christian did so all would be well.
d. Upon Christian’s resistance, Apollyon points out the fact that he had already betrayed Apollyon, but he was willing to let bygones be bygones, if he would but return to his rule.
e. Christian speaks of his regard for his Prince due to His ability to absolve of guilt and his preferable employment, wages, servants, government, company, and country.
f. Apollyon questions him about what he will do when his spirits are low and gives warning that many of the Prince’s servants come to a wretched end, being shamefully put to death! He quickly adds that the “he” has never come down from “his” residence to rescue “his” servants out of the hands of Apollyon and his minions. (He seems hesitant to call the Lord of the Way by name.)
g. Christian responds to this by saying that the Prince’s restraint in delivering them is for the purpose of testing, trying, and proving them, but they are assured of receiving future glory.
h. Apollyon then tries to fire the dart of bringing up past sins. He recounts the slip into the Slough, his premature attempts to be rid of his burden, and his falling asleep and losing the scroll. And worst of all, he brings up the idea that Christian’s inward desire was for personal glory in everything he did and said.
i. Christian does not get defensive at these accusations, but rather acknowledges them and points to the merciful and gracious Prince whom he serves: “All that you say is true; in fact there is much more that you have left out. But the Prince who I serve and honor is very merciful and most willing to forgive; but besides this, these misdemeanors were committed in your territory where I was educated in them; and as a consequence I have grieved over them and repented of ever doing such things. Furthermore, I have received a full pardon regarding these crimes from my Prince.” This reminded me of the Martin Luther quote: “When I go to bed, the Devil is always waiting for me. When he begins to plague me, I give him this answer: ‘Devil, I must sleep. That’s God’s command, ‘Work by day. Sleep by night. So go away.’ If that doesn’t work and he brings out a catalog of sins, I say, ‘Yes, old fellow, I know all about it. And I know some more you have overlooked. Here are a few extra. Put them down.’ If he still won’t quit and presses me hard and accuses me as a sinner, I scorn him and say, ‘Physician, heal thyself.”
j. At this, Apollyon was filled with rage, breathing forth his hot hatred of the Prince, his laws, and his people. His former pretense of being passive is laid aside and he becomes aggressively evil. As he did this, he threw a flaming dart directly at Christian’s breast. Christian used his shield (faith) and then drew his sword (the Word). Then came a barrage of darts wounding Christian’s head (his understanding), his hand (his faith), and his foot (his conversation or life).
k. This altercation lasted for half a day and due to his wounds, Christian grew weaker and weaker. Apollyon, taking advantage of his weakened condition, closed in for the kill. Christian’s sword flew out of his hand; his enemy felt sure of his victory. He was about to remove another pilgrim out of the Way and advance in his assault against the Kingdom. Wm. Gurnall said, “When the enemy hath hold of one there is no declining, but either he must resist manfully, or fall shamefully at his enemy’s foot. Satan comes close up, and gets within the Christian, takes his hold of his very flesh and corrupt nature, and by this shakes him.”
l. Christian was at the point of despair, but “as God would have it” (for He was in control all along), Christian was once again able to regain his sword, giving a shout, “Do not rejoice against me, oh my implacable enemy, for when I fall, I shall yet arise.” He gave Apollyon a deadly thrust while declaring, “Even so, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”. Apollyon spread his dragon wings and flew away.
m. Though battle-weary and weakened, Christian gave thanks and said:
“Great Beelzebub, the captain of this fiend,
Designed my ruin; therefore to this end
He sent him harnassed out, and he with rage
That hellish was, did fiercely me engage.
But blessed Michael helped me, and I
By dint of sword did quickly make him fly.
Therefore to him let me give lasting praise,
And thank and bless his holy name always.”
n. There came a Hand to heal his wound and refreshed himself with bread and drink. Taking sword in hand, he prepared himself to move forward.
IV. Tactics of the Enemy
a. God is not silent regarding the fact that His people will face attacks from the enemy of our souls. He lays it out very clearly, gives us the account of such an assault against His own Son, and gives us the weapons that we need, so that we cannot claim ignorance of his devices. Just as the subject of our story, we sometimes grow comfortable and complacent and need to be once again reminded of the battles we face, our very real enemy, and that we need to be prepared and on guard. Is it not better that we equip ourselves while perhaps we are not under such direct attack rather than scrambling when the time comes? This should not catch us by surprise.
b. Intimidation: He claims power and ownership over all and demands service. What arrogance! Did he not use the same tactic with our Savior before us claiming that he would give him the kingdoms of the world, if Jesus would bow down and worship him. As if he actually owned them! He claimed ownership and authority over what alone is God’s. He is claiming to have the upper hand. In Revelation it says that he is angry because he knows his time is short.
c. Discouragement: He sets out to discourage by reminding of those that once were in the Way, but turned back. What about that one in the church that we called “brother” and seemed to be serving God and others in sincerity? If HE can fall, where does that leave me? Are we all just following a myth?
d. Casting doubt on God’s protective care: Does God see me facing this brutal attack? This sore trial? Does He care? If I am His child, why am I suffering like this? “Where is your God?”
e. Bringing up sins of the past: The great accuser brings up past sins and failures. How can I be a Christian and have done such things or thought such wicked thoughts? Even those “good” things that I have done…..was I even really doing that for God? I was doing that to gain some kind of advantage, not for the glory of God, not out of a pure heart.
f. All of these things are enough to get the best of us, to bring us down, to cause us to surrender, lay down, and die. How can we fight such an attack and come out alive and able to move forward?
V. Formula For Success in Battle
a. Fight with truth. Fill your mind with it. Stand firm in it. When tempted to turn back from following Christ, remember that the wages for that is certain death. Identify the truth from God’s Word and hang onto it. The reward WILL come.
b. Remember your public profession of commitment to Christ. You have given Him your faith and sworn allegiance. Firm up your commitment and stand fast.
c. Reflect on God’s ‘employment’, wages, servants, government, company, and country. Is this not infinitely better than anything Satan has to offer? There is no middle ground. It is one of two masters. Remember that the enemy is a conniving destroyer. God is good and only does us good. Lay hold of that by faith.
d. Do not entertain doubts about God’s care and protection. Trust Him and His Word. It is sure. All things work together for good to them that love God. Wait on Him. He will make it plain. Remember ‘Passion’ and ‘Patience’? Remember that there is a future glory and we must patiently wait for it.
e. When remembrances of former sin come up, claim the promise of what God has revealed about Himself, that He is merciful, ready to forgive, and will abundantly pardon.
f. Do NOT let go of your sword, the Word of God. How will you fight without it? The enemy of our soul cannot ultimately win, even with the fiercest of attacks, if God’s Word is hidden in our heart, as we purpose to read it, know it, cherish it, obey it. It is our direct connection with the Author.
a. In the words of Carolyn Staley: “Human pride met diabolical pride that day in the Valley of Humiliation. If God had not had a wise and good purpose for Christian in this confrontation, there would have been no doubt as to the outcome of the battle. He was no match for Apollyon! In surviving the conflict, glory would be brought to God alone.” And so it is with us. We do not have what it takes to fight or stay in the battle and come out victors. We should not under-estimate the power of the enemy nor over-estimate our own strength. Satan employs those things with which we have our greatest struggles. His arrows are aimed at our weakest points. Knowing this (if we know ourselves) is helpful in aiding us to be aware. What is my weakest point? Remember, he is subtle. He is not going to tempt us with something that doesn’t look good to us….something which we will shrink from in horror; it will be something that appeals to our flesh.
b. Satan is on God’s leash; even in the heat of the battle, God is in control (“as God would have it”) and will use even the work of His enemy to purge and perfect us. That is His sure work of sanctification. Amazing grace!