The Portrait of a Minister -A Brief Commentary on John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress

Portrait of a Minister_ John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress

To be a Pastor or a Gospel Minister is an immense privilege. It is a responsibility that should never be taken lightly, but should be done in a manner with absolute reverence, humility, and truth.

What should be the mindset of a Pastor or Minister of the Gospel? How should he conduct himself? What should a believer in Christ look for when following a Pastor? These are just a few questions that we hope to shed light on. To do so we will need to go back in time for a little help.

The year was 1678, when the puritan named John Bunyan published what would become a famous Christian Allegory called “Pilgrims Progress”. It is a story that follows a Christian’s life from before conversion all the way to Glory. (Disclaimer: Although not required to read this article, it would be beneficial for any Christian to read or listen to John Bunyan’s classic. Click here to listen to an audio book.)

Along the journey, the main character named Christian (also known as Pilgrim) came to a house called The House of The Interpreter. Alexander Whyte says in his commentary on Pilgrims Progress that “Every minister of the Gospel is an interpreter, and every evangelical church is an interpreters house”. Those who “interpret” must be led of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of God’s Word because it is only by the Holy Spirit’s work in a believer that one can understand, let alone “interpret” the deeper things of God to others. It is the church’s responsibility to teach those who are recently converted to the Christian faith and to show them how the Christian life should be lived.

While the main character “Christian” was at The House of the Interpreter, the interpreter showed him 7 different things, but the 1st thing that he showed him will be our focus. It is the “Portrait of a Minister”.

We will use the above illustration to further develop our thoughts and answer the three questions. If you have yet to listen or read Pilgrims Progress, just try to use your imagination to follow along. In many ways the image is both symbolic and allegorical in meaning.

Notice the following components of the image of the Pastor/ Gospel Minister that the interpreter shows Christian:

  1. His Eyes Are Lifted Up to Heaven.
    Hebrews 12:2 KJV “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
    Colossians 3:1-4 “Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
    Commentary: A Pastor/Gospel Minister must have His eyes fixed on the Lord. He can’t do a job of such magnitude if he is not looking unto Jesus every moment of his day. The light that he is looking into is not the light of a TV screen with the latest crime drama or sports broadcast, nor is it a laptop with images of perversion; it is the Holy Throne of God. He is fully fixed in his gaze and does not turn to the right or to the left. He is an under shepherd and as such, he leads the flock of God as he follows Christ.
  2. The Word of God in His Hand.
    2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
    1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
    Commentary: The Holy Word of God is the only means by which the Pastor/Gospel Minister should conduct his ministry. If he preaches, let him preach the Word of God. If he teaches, let him teach the Word of God. If he gives counsel, let him give counsel from the Word of God. In other words, he lives his life as a demonstration of Christ and His written Word to all who see him. God’s Word saturates his thinking and world-view to the extent that he does not preach his ideas, opinions, or agendas, but only those of Christ. He is mandated by God’s Word to teach All Scripture and not just the ones that are most popular or pleasing to the ears. Teaching the full counsel of God is his number one priority.
  3. The Law of Truth is Written Upon His Lips.
    Malachi 2:6 “The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.”
    Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
    Commentary: The Pastor/Gospel Minister fears the Lord with all respect and reverence. He lives in such a manner that reflects the godliness that he teaches. His speech is like a stream of the Grace of God with Christ as its source. His speech is healthy, kind, patient, sensitive, truthful, loving, thoughtful and seeks to encourage others unto good works for Christ. His speech is also seasoned with salt as to prevent the decay of society and to be a blessing to those who hear. When he speaks, his confidence is not in his own words, but the Words of Christ.
  4. The World is Behind Him.
    1 John 2:15-17 KJV “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
    John 17:14 KJV “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
    Commentary: The Pastor’s/Gospel Minister’s back is to the world and the things of it. He does not store up for himself treasures on Earth, but follows His Saviors’ teaching to lay up for himself treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-24). He knows that God is his source of everything that he needs, such as: food, water, housing, clothes, a help mate, transportation, and the resources needed to do the will of God. In his commentary on Pilgrims Progress, Ken Puls observes that, “Many who call themselves pastors today seem to come offering the world on a platter. They extol health, wealth, success and prosperity in the place of humility, sacrifice, self-denial and service. But this is not the way of a true minister. A true minister values Jesus more than anything this world can offer. As the man in Jesus’ parable, who found a treasure hidden in a field and sold all he had so he could buy the field (Matthew 13:44), the minister has cast the world behind him for the sake of following Christ.”
  5. He Stands as if He is Pleading with Men.
    2 Corinthians 5:20 KJV “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
    1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
    Commentary: The Pastor/Gospel Minister stands with his arms open and he pleads with sinners to repent. He understands that his voice is Christ’s Voice, his compassion is really Christ’s Compassion, and the message that he speaks is really Christ’s message. The Minister’s body is not his own, it has been made alive for the service of Christ and His Glory. His body is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and its purpose is to do the will of God on the earth and in Glory to come. Lastly, his attire is modest and reverent, aiming to reverence God rather than man.
  6. A Crown of Gold Hangs Over His Head.
    1 Peter 5:1-5 “Therefore, I urge elders among you, as your fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and one who is also a fellow partaker of the glory that is to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not with greed but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as domineering over those assigned to your care, but by proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God is opposed to the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.”
    Commentary: The Pastor’s/ Gospel Minister’s crown hangs over his head because his reward will not be received in this life, but the life to come. He longs to hear the words from his Savior and Lord in Matthew 25:21, “Well done my good and faithful servant”.
  7. He Walks by Faith and Not by Sight.
    Psalm 119:105 KJV “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
    2 Corinthians 5:6-8 “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8 but we are of good courage and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”
    Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him.”
    Commentary: The Pastor/Gospel Minister cannot see where he is going apart from the lamp of God’s Word. It lights his way and brings clarity to his thinking. It renews his otherwise clouded mind and helps him focus on the task at hand. He does not know his next step apart from the council and leading of Christ. He follows Christ so closely that he can put his foot in the footprints of Christ who walks before him. He, in turn, brings light into every room and into every conversation by the Holy Spirit who lives within him.
  8. His Ways Are Ever Before the Lord.
    Psalm 139:7-10 “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take up the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will take hold of me.”
    James 3:1 “Do not become teachers in large numbers, my brothers, since you know that we who are teachers will incur a stricter judgement.”
    Commentary: The Pastor/ Gospel Minister is fully aware that everything that he does and everything that he says is in the presence of the Lord who is everywhere present (Omnipresent). There is nowhere that he can go and nowhere he can hide that the eyes of God are not on him. Therefore, he practices the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 KJV “Rejoice evermore.17 Pray without ceasing.18 In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” He also knows that when he just utters a word for mercy in his darkest hours the Lord’s ear is listening.
  9. He is a Man of Integrity.
    Proverbs 10:9 “One who walks in integrity walks securely, but one who perverts his ways will be found out.”
    Proverbs 11:3 “The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the perversity of the treacherous will destroy them.”
    Psalm 15 “Lord, who may reside in Your tent? Who may settle on Your holy hill? 2 One who walks with integrity, practices righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. 3 He does not slander with his tongue, Nor do evil to his neighbor, Nor bring shame on his friend; 4 A despicable person is despised in his eyes, but he honors those who fear the Lord; He takes an oath to his own detriment, and does not change; 5 He does not lend his money at interest, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. One who does these things will never be shaken.”
    Commentary: The Pastor/Gospel Minister is a man of integrity. In other words, he is a man of truth, a man of resolve, a Luke 9:62 man that has put his hand to the plow and does not look back. He is a Matthew 5:37 type of man that lets his Yes be Yes and No be No. He is an unwavering man who is determined to do the will of God at all costs, even self-denial. His convictions to teach the full counsel of God no matter if it hurts, offends, or brings fear into the hearts of those who hear it, is the course that he stays on. He is also a man of integrity in every area of his life. He does not just preach it and expect those who hear to follow, but he follows in all of the private areas of his life. 1 Corinthians 10:31 is always on his mind when it says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God.”
  10. Suffering is a Companion.
    1 Peter 5:10 “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
    Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
    James 1:2-4 “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
    Commentary: The suffering that the Pastor/Gospel Minister experiences here on earth is his daily companion. Whether the suffering is within his own life or the lives of those around him, it ultimately drives him to his knees in deep prayer. The suffering that he experiences makes Christ’s power perfected in his weakness. He knows that it is for his sanctification and God’s glory that suffering exists. The Pastor/Gospel Minister can say along with the Apostle Paul at the end of his life in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

In Summary:
In summary, the call to be a Pastor or any type of Gospel Minister is a calling from God that should not be taken lightly. It is a high calling, one of great struggle and of great eternal reward. It is not about ruling over people, dishonest gain, or self-image. It should not be done out of pride or selfish motivations, but according to the purposes of God. It is important to remember that it was God who initiated salvation and it is the work of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who saves people. The work that a Pastor or Gospel Minister does is not really him doing the work, but it is Christ within him. It is a privilege to be used of God in such a way and it should produce an ongoing grateful heart within you. Ministry is not to be thought of as an occupation or task, but an honor and your true purpose in this life. The Portrait of a Minister is not just for pastors or leaders in a church, but in many ways all Christians are Gospel Minister’s, and all Christians are apart of the Body of Christ doing the work that Christ has prepared for us to do Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

The scripture that is not noted is taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ® NASB ®
 The Notes/Commentary on the 4th component of the illustration and the title headings on components 1 through 6 were taken from ©1997 Ken Puls.