An Application of Bunyan: Worship, Faith, and Revelation

December 18, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

Faithful is on trial in the town of Vanity-Fair, and three witnesses, Envy, Superstition, and Pickthank, have testified against him.  There testimony, by and large, has been true, for they have testified to the fact that Faithful and Christian are true followers of the true King.

This testimony having been given, Faithful rises to answer the charges, and does so point by point.  His testimony is not so much a refutation, but rather a clarification, and, indeed, a proclamation. For Faithful uses this opportunity to once again declare that which his true.

In answering Mr. Envy, Faithful affirmed that which he had spoken publicly. 

“…what rule, or laws, or custom, or people, were flat against the Word of God, are diametrically opposite to Christianity.  If I have said amiss in this, convince me of my error, and I am ready here before you to make my recantation.”

In answering Mr. Pick-Thank, Faithful declared for all to hear that the Prince of Vanity-Fair, along with all those who serve him, “are more fit for being in Hell, than in this town and country.”

These answers are quite straight-forward and to the point.  It is the answer to Mr. Superstition, however, which takes us beyond a simple declaration of truth, to the reasoning that lay beneath.  The reader might remember that the testimony brought be Superstition had to do with Faithful’s contention that the worship conducted by the residents of Vanity-Fair was in vain.  And so it was.  But Faithful is not content to simply admit that this is true.  He desires to give a more complete explanation.  And so he proceeds,

“…in the worship of God there is required a Divine Faith: but there can be no divine faith without a divine revelation of the will of God. Therefore, whatever is thrust into the worship of God, that is not agreeable to divine revelation, cannot be done but by a human faith, which faith will not profit to eternal life.”

There is a great deal packed into Faithful’s short testimony on this point.

First, Faithful declares that there are different kinds of faith.  There is a divine faith, and there is a human faith.  That is, there is true faith, and false faith.  As the apostle James puts it, there is living faith, and there is dead faith.  True faith is described as “divine” because only true faith finds its origination in the Divine.  True faith is something that is granted by God (Phil 1:29). 

Second, Faithful is convinced that this divine faith cannot come into being apart from a “divine revelation”.  This is, of course, Bunyan’s explanation of 1 Peter 1:23, which tells us that we have been “born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.”

Finally, Faithful pulls all of this together in the context of worship.  True worship is only that which is offered by those imbued with divine faith, and conducted according to divine revelation.  Here, he refers to that which is known as the Regulative Principle of worship.  That is, true worship can only be offered by those who have been born again by the Spirit of God, and which is offered according to the revelation of God provided in His word. 

Throughout the Scripture we find that God exhibits the utmost concern for proper worship.  Examples could be multiplied.  The Golden Calf, Nadab and Abihu, and even the death of Uzzah while attempting to steady the Ark of the Covenant, come immediately to mind.

In the New Covenant, because Christ has fulfilled those aspects of Old Covenant worship which were mere shadows pointing to Him, God’s instructions concerning how He is to be worshipped are far more simple.  He is to be worshipped as His word is read and proclaimed (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:1-2).  He is to be worshipped in the prayers of His people (1 Tim. 2:1-8). He is to be worship through the singing of His people (Col. 3:16).  He is to be worshipped through the offerings of His people (2 Cor. 9). He is to be worshipped through the observance of the ordinances (Rom. 6; 1 Cor. 11:23-34).

Of course, apart from divine faith, even these things are empty, devoid of life and power, and unacceptable to God.  What may look like worship to our physical eyes, is no worship at all unless it is offered by one who has been joined by faith to that God Whom we worship.  And we are joined to Him only through union with the mediator between God and man.  That is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Only through a living union with Christ can our “worship” be transformed from empty ritual, to that which is acceptable to the One we purport to worship.  For this is God’s purpose in granting such a living faith.  In doing so, He creates worshippers, who in turn, live to give Him the glory of which He is worthy. And while we worship Him in spirit and truth, He blesses us with the greatest gift which He can give…Himself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *