“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.”
In our day, there is a tendency to think about the Christian life as a life of ease. This mainstream way of thinking, however, is at odds with the Bible. Rather than being a life of ease, the Christian life is filled with numerous snares that will lead to eternal death.
Within the pages of Scripture, we see sin as a vicious predator lurking at our door with an intense desire to devour us (Genesis 4:7). We are taught that sinful passions are consistently waging war against our souls (Romans 8:13; 1 Peter 2:11). We are informed that Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion that would love to have us as his next victim (1 Peter 5:8). We are warned of the fact that we live within an evil world system that is seeking to allure and entice us to embrace its ungodly ways (Revelation 18). And we are clearly taught that there are false teachers that are “waterless springs” and “fruitless trees” that will seemingly promise us life but that will ultimately lead us to death (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 12-13).
As you can see, the Christian life is not a life of ease. Rather, from beginning to end, it is a war filled with many battles. The Christian life is lived out in enemy territory, it is fraught with many dangers, and the snares of eternal death are everywhere. In fact, it is so difficult that those who make it out alive end up exclaiming, “I fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)!
The Dangerous Christian Pilgrimage
Few men have understood this concept of the Christian life more clearly than John Bunyan. In his famous allegorical work Pilgrim’s Progress, he portrays the Christian life as a difficult journey consisting of many dangers, toils, and snares. Christian, the main character in the allegory, is constantly attacked by the world, the flesh, and the devil as he makes his way to the Celestial City.
Christian runs into people like Mr. Worldly Wiseman. Worldly Wiseman gives Christian worldly counsel in hopes to lead him off the narrow path that leads to life. As Christian makes his way up The Hill of Difficulty, he falls prey to the sin of sluggishness. Rather than pressing on through difficulty, he gives in and falls asleep. When Christian descends into The Valley of Humiliation, he encounters the mighty Apollyon (Satan). Apollyon opposes Christian with great nastiness.
At every turn, the world, the flesh, and the devil are laying snares to keep Christian from making it to Christ’s Celestial City. This always leads the reader to ask, “Will Christian make it? Will he be able to stay on the straight and narrow path even though there are dangers all around him?” From all of this, it is clear that Bunyan believed that followers of Christ are always within close proximity to the snares of death.
A Godly Pastor as an Aid
Thankfully, throughout the allegory, Bunyan conveys that Christian, with the aid of Christ the King, will make it. At one point in Pilgrim’s Progress, a man named The Interpreter informs Christian of one aid that Christ is pleased to use to keep Christian away from the snares of death and on the narrow path that leads to everlasting life. The aid is a godly pastor; a pastor who rightly divides the word of God.
In the mind of Bunyan, a godly pastor is one who “begets” and “nurses” Christians in the faith, has his eyes “lifted to heaven,” has the Bible in his hands, and “has truth on his lips.” His desire is to know and unfold biblical truth to sinners, to plead with men about spiritual realities, and to press on people’s consciences the certainties of the world to come. This is the man whom Christ has “authorized to be your guide in all the difficult places that you may encounter on the way.” The Interpreter wants Christian to stay close to the godly pastor because, as he journeys to the Celestial City, many people will pretend to lead him down the right path, “but their way goes down to death.”
In Christian’s encounter with The Interpreter, it is evident that Bunyan himself thoroughly believed that “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Proverbs 13:14). One of the main aids that God has given Christians to avoid the snares of death and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling is the consistent intake of godly teaching (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2). When Christians sit under the faithful teaching and preaching ministry of a man that God has gifted with wisdom and knowledge, they find that such preaching is a fountain, a source, of spiritual life. They find that such teaching nourishes their souls and leads them away from the snares of the world, the flesh, and the devil.