The Portrait of a Minister
John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress
The Portrait of a Minister
A Brief Commentary on 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
We will use this illustration to further develop our thoughts and answer the above questions. If you
have yet to listen or read Pilgrims Progress, just try to use your imagination to follow along. In many
ways this image is both symbolic and allegorical in meaning.
Notice the following components of the image of the Pastor/ Gospel Minister that the interpreter
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
above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on the things
above, not on the things that are on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in
When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
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:
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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
you are not your own?
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
fellow elder and a witness of the
sufferings of Christ,
one who is also a fellow partaker of the glory that is to be revealed:
shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion but voluntarily,
the will of
God; and not with greed but with eagerness;
nor yet as domineering over
those assigned to your care, but by proving to be examples to the flock.
And when the Chief
Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
You younger men, likewise, be
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.”
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 199:105 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—
for we walk by faith, not by sight—
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.”
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
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.”
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 “
Pray without ceasing.
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
Proverbs 11:3 “The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the perversity of the treacherous will
Psalm 15 “Lord, who may reside in Your tent? Who may settle on Your holy hill?
One who walks with
integrity, practices righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.
He does not slander with his
tongue, Nor do evil to his neighbor, Nor bring shame on his friend;
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
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.”
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,
that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance have its perfect result, so that
you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
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, 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.
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