On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany. There were certainly many reformers within the church both before, during, and after Martin Luther, but the unintended consequence of this seemingly insignificant event sparked a debate that would eventually roar across the Western Church like a wild fire. For this reason, Christians celebrate the reformation of the church on October 31st every year. Next year, of course, will be the 500th anniversary of this momentous occasion!
Our reformation hero for 2016 is John Knox. Knox was born in Scotland in 1505. He was well educated as a child and taught at both the University of Glasgow (his Alma matter) and the University of St. Andrews.
The details of Knox’s conversion are not known. It is known, however, that by 1543, Knox was preaching the free gospel of grace and supported reformed movements within the church.
In 1546, Knox’s friend and fellow reformer George Wishart was burned at the stake at St Andrews castle by Cardinal Beaton. Shortly after, reformers stormed the castle and killed Beaton. Many protestants, including Knox, took refuge in the castle. Knox preached and taught in the castle for a year until he was captured by the French during the Siege of St. Andrews Castle.
As a French prisoner, Knox was sentenced to be chained to an oar as a galley slave. Knox labored as a slave for 19 months (nearly dying from the harsh conditions). He was freed as a condition negotiated by Protestant King Edward VI of England. Knox was returned to England in 1549 where he preached and worked with the English reformers.
Knox had to flee to Frankfurt, Germany when “Bloody” Queen Marty ascended to the throne in 1554. Later, Knox moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he befriended John Calvin and pastored an English church.
In 1559, Knox returned to Scotland to lead the reformation of the church there. In his home country, Knox developed a Presbyterian form of church government (as opposed to the hierarchical form of the church of England). Knox stood up to the Queen of Scotland (at great peril to his own life) and eventually won all of Scotland to the reformed cause.
In 1570, Knox suffered a stroke, but continued his prolific preaching schedule (having to be carried to the pulpit to preach). Finally, by November of 1572, Knox was spent and the Lord took him home. His influence on the Scottish reformation, the Westminster Assembly, and American and English religion could never be understated.
“Although I never lack the presence and plain image of my own wretched
infirmity, yet seeing sin so manifestly abounds in all estates, I am
compelled to thunder out the threatening of God against the obstinate
― John Knox