The Problem of the Ignorant Believer, Part 1 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #50)


TEXT: Acts 19:1-6

1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,

2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.

3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.

4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

The Problem of the Ignorant Believer, Part 1 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #50)

A recent survey found the following to be true:

– 60% of people believe that Satan is not a “living being”
– 58% of people believe that the Holy Spirit is not a “living entity” but “a symbol of God’s presence and power”
– 22% of people believe that Jesus was not sinless
– Many do not believe that the Ten Commandments are actually “commandments,” but are “warnings.”

Christians today lament the level of ignorance about the things of God in the world, but the statistics that I just read to you are true among people who claim to be Christians. Yes, many Christians are, sadly, ignorant about basic Christian doctrine. Many churches have failed to teach their members, and many Christian parents have failed to teach their children. Thus, we have generations of Christians who are stunted in their spiritual growth. This lack of Biblical knowledge among Christians is part of the reason for the moral decline in our society. Dr. Albert Mohler said, “How can a generation be biblically shaped in its understanding of human sexuality when it believes Sodom and Gomorrah to be a married couple? No wonder Christians show a growing tendency to compromise on the issue of homosexuality. Many who identify themselves as Christians are similarly confused about the Gospel itself. An individual who believes that ‘God helps those who help themselves’ will find salvation by grace and justification by faith to be alien concepts.”

Every Christian must be committed to a Biblical foundation for his life. This can only be done if we take the time to read and study the Bible and learn from Christian teachers. We do not want to be ignorant Christians. In his classic story, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan introduces us to a character named Ignorance. He comes from the country of Conceit, and he embarks on a journey to the Celestial City. Please listen as I read a portion of his discussion with Christian and Hopeful as they walk on the straight and narrow way:

And I slept and dreamed again, and saw the same two pilgrims going down the Mountains along the highway toward the Celestial City. Now a little below these Mountains on the left-hand side lies the country of Conceit, and from it originates a little crooked lane along which pilgrims walk since it enters into the straight way. Therefore here they met a very brisk lad named Ignorance.

So Christian asked him, “From where have you come? And where are you going?”

Ignorance said, “Sir, I was born in the country that lies on our left-hand side, and I am going to the Celestial City.”

Christian said, “But how do you imagine that you shall gain entrance at the gate? Will you not encounter some difficulty there?”

Ignorance said, “Just as other good people have gained entrance there, so will I.”

Christian replied, “But what acceptable qualification can you show at the gate so that it will be opened for you to enter?”

Ignorance said, “I know my Lord’s will and I have lived a good life; I have repaid every man to whom I was in debt; I frequently pray, fast, pay tithes, and give alms to the poor, and have forsaken the land of my birth so that I might arrive as a pilgrim.”

Christian said, “But you did not enter in at the Wicket-gate, that is at the commencement of this straight way. Rather you came in here by means of that crooked lane, and therefore I fear, whatever you may think about yourself, that when the day of final reckoning [judgment] comes, you will be accused of being a thief and a robber instead of qualifying as a legitimate entrant for the City.”

Ignorance said, “Gentlemen, you are utter strangers to me; I do not know you, so be content to follow your religion and I will be content to follow mine. I do hope that all will be well. And as for the gate that you talk about, all the world knows that it is a great distance away from our country. I cannot imagine that any man in our regions knows anything about the way to it. Furthermore, there is no need for them to be concerned about it since we have, as you can plainly see, a fine, pleasant, green lane that leads from our country down into the way right here.”

Four things we notice about Ignorance are that: (1) Contrary to Scripture, he believes he is a good person. (2) He is depending on his good works to get him into the Celestial City. (3) He has no real interest in the gospel; he just wants it for what he can get out of it — going to Heaven. (4) He is ignorant, and when he is informed of his ignorance, he shrugs it off, showing that he has no real desire to grow in the faith.

The attitude of this young man stands in contrast to the Ephesian believers described in our passage today. The Bible tells us that Paul came to Ephesus and “found certain disciples.” Now something about these disciples concerned Paul so much so that he was led to ask them, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” Paul did not sense the Holy Spirit among these believers, and that troubled him since they claimed to believe in Jesus. These disciples replied, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.”

Apparently, these believers knew something about Jesus. They knew enough to decide to become His disciples. But, they did not know the whole story. They were ignorant. We find out why from their answer to Paul’s next question. Paul asks, “Unto what then were ye baptized?” The Ephesian Christians answer, “Unto John’s baptism.” Now, we see their problem, as Paul states, was that “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”

The Ephesian believers had taken hold of the teachings of John the Baptist, and they were baptized under that knowledge. However, John only preached up until the time that Jesus Christ came on the scene. John preached of the coming Messiah, not the Messiah who came, was crucified for the sins of the world, was buried, and rose from the dead. John called on people to repent of their sins in preparation for the coming Savior; he did not call on people to trust Christ who had paid for sin and made it possible for people to be forgiven of their sins. The Ephesian Christians had some of the story, but not all of it. They were doing the best they could with the knowledge they had, but they were ignorant.

In contrast to the young man named Ignorance in Pilgrim’s Progress, these believers were willing to admit their ignorance. When they were told about the Holy Spirit, they readily said that they had never heard of Him. When Paul pointed out their error, they were eager to learn and receive the new knowledge and experience that God had in store for them. The Bible says, “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”

By being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, these young disciples of Christ experienced a tremendous growth spurt. They graduated from their limited knowledge and experience into the knowledge of salvation through Christ and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. By listening to and taking heed to Paul’s message, they grew older in the Lord.

God does not intend for us to remain ‘babes in Christ.’ He does not want us to stay ignorant young believers who never progress into the greater things that God has in store. As C.S. Lewis would say, we ought to always be moving “further up and further in” to the knowledge and experience of God through the hearing of the Word, through the study of the word, and through our interactions with other believers. More than ever, our world needs mature Christians who are prepared to do battle for God in an increasingly hostile society. We cannot afford to be ignorant Christians.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.

First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.

But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.


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