Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

The Man in the Iron Cage

We are currently reading through John Bunyan’s great classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, in the first hour on Sunday mornings. You can find videos of those sessions on our Youtube channel (Light for Dark Times) and at sermonaudio.com/crc. We livestream these classes on Sunday mornings at 9:30 on both Facebook and Sermon Audio.

One of the most powerful, sobering, and memorable portions the allegory comes when Christian is in the house of the Interpreter. Interpreter gives him lessons which will serve to preserve him on the Way to the Celestial City and protect him from the many wicked ones who will try to attack and deceive him. One of those lessons is a powerful scene where Christian sees a miserable, hopeless man locked up in an iron cage. This man is an Esau for whom repentance is now impossible (see Hebrews 12). He has despised the blood of Christ, returned to his own vomit after having made a claim to be an earnest Christian, which, it turns out, he never was.

Another powerful article (or sermon) which Bunyan wrote on the same topic is titled “The Barren Fig Tree” and is an exposition upon Luke 13:6-9,

Luk 13:6-9 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. (7) And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ (8) And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. (9) Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

[I plan to preach a series of sermons soon on this same text and use Bunyan’s great insights as a help. Those sermons will also be livestreamed on Sunday mornings at 11am PST and then uploaded to our same channels listed above]

Now, here is the point for this post. People who claim to be Christians, like so many of the abusers we learn about, but who never produce any good fruit which the Spirit will inevitably produce in the Christian’s life, one day reach a point at which the Lord says, “cut him down.” That is to say, the Lord is finished with him. The day of grace is over for him. He has sinned against much light repeatedly, trampled underfoot the blood of the Cross, but kept right on wallowing in the pig-sty mud of sin. He often continues to live his earthly life out, but the day of salvation will never come to him again. He is the man in the iron cage, except unlike that man, he takes delight in himself. When he departs this life however, he will find himself in that iron cage where the Lord will keep him until that Great Day when Christ comes to judge the world.

And this, I am convinced, is why we never see these “Christian” abusers repent. It is why I always say, “abusers never change” and “a marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed, it needs to be ended.” I have known many such evil ones in these 40 years I have been a pastor, and not a single one has ever repented. They are barren fig trees, the seed that quickly sprouted (Matthew 13) but had no root. They were never born again.

When you first see the man in the iron cage revealed for what and who he really is, you feel a real jolting, confusing, shock. That evil one who has been covertly pretending, shows himself. This exposure may only be a brief flash before he puts his mask back on, or it may last longer – but it is a shock. You see this person you thought you knew for what he really is – and it can still be difficult to believe.

How many times have we actually even defended this man (or woman) to others? “He really is a godly person, he just has his glitches.” That sort of thing. But when the exposure is so blinding that we can no longer deny the evil nature that has been there all along, as I say, it is a real shock and sets your head spinning. Such is the deception of Satan who comes as an angel of light.


The Lord Does not Need a Majority


Innocent of Evil does not mean Ignorance of Evil


  1. Tad

    Scripture calls them “Wells without water”
    Jude 1:12 (KJV)
    12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
    2 Peter 2:17 (KJV)
    17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

  2. healinginhim

    I have kept this article tucked away because the subject line hits very close to home. Family member struggled with true salvation for years; often wondered if they were saved? While listening to an audio version of Pilgrim’s Progress, they stopped the recording after hearing ‘the man in the iron cage’. They were quiet and then said, “That’s me. I am that man.”
    This person wants no mention of Christianity or anything to do with ‘faith’.
    And you are right Pastor Crippen. Many have made excuses for this person’s behaviour.


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