Two weeks ago, we studied the life of George Wishart, the forerunner of the Scottish Reformation. Today, we will consider the man that is most central in bringing spiritual reform to Scotland – John Knox. He is also widely known as the father of Scottish Presbyterianism.

John Knox was born in 1505 to a middle-class family. He received a good education and studied in the University of St Andrews. By the age of 16, he graduated and was distinguished in the areas of philosophy and theology. This was God’s provision in equipping John Knox for the momentous work ahead. Indeed, whom God uses, He will surely equip!

After his graduation, Knox became influenced by George Wishart to bring spiritual reformation to the land of Scotland. He became Wishart’s personal bodyguard and witnessed closely how Wishart had to suffer to earnestly contend for the faith.

Knox resisted the call of God initially to enter the ministry. However, he finally accepted it as he realised he would incur God’s wrath should he reject. When he was certain of God’s call, he plunged into God’s work with much zeal and resolved to finish the course. He was a diligent minister who did not shrink from the responsibilities of the ministry.

John Knox soon became known for his fiery preaching. According to the English ambassador, John Knox’s preaching was akin to five hundred trumpets! Another commented that while “others lop off the branches. . . this man strikes at the root.” He spoke in a direct manner with intense zeal and conviction. Just like the prophets of old who spoke fearlessly against the evils of the time, Knox struck directly at the root of spiritual corruption of the church. “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:4-5) What a far cry from many preachers today who only seek to tickle the ears of men!

After the death of Wishart, the castle of St Andrews was besieged for several months. During the final siege, many including John Knox were taken captive by the French Navy that was under the command of Mary of Guise. John Knox could have died in captivity, but the Lord preserved him. He was finally released after nineteen months.

After his release, Knox went to England for he perceived it unsafe to return to Scotland. However, when the Roman Catholic Mary I became the Queen of England, Knox had to flee for his life again. He moved to Frankfurt, Germany and then to Geneva, Switzerland. There, he was warmly received by John Calvin who found in him a kindred spirit in doctrinal persuasions. The two men were polar opposite in character. Calvin was a reticent man, but Knox was unbending and impassioned. Yet, they became close friends, bonded in their common goal to defend the faith and magnify the name of Christ. Herein is a lesson, that true friendship is grounded in doctrine and not personalities! Who are your closest friends, dear readers? “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1)

God continued to work in the hearts of the men in Scotland. Some of the nobles desired to hear God’s Word. Many of the nobles were converted by the Knox’s preaching of the gospel, and became protectors of Knox. These men were raised by God so that Knox can continue preaching the truth despite facing fierce persecutions.

Knox’s preaching soon sparked a fire for Christ in the hearts of men. When he preached against the idolatry of the mass and the worship of images, many who were converted destroyed their statutes and images in their homes. The RCC became incensed, and sought to put many of the Protestants to death. Despite the persecution, the number of Protestants only increased. Finally, the Queen Dowager, a staunch Roman Catholic, gathered a large army to exterminate the Reformers. However, she died before the war could get heated. The death of the Queen Dowager was by the providential hand of God.

From then on, the Scottish Reformation began to take flight. Bibles were brought into Scotland which the people read with relish. Many were saved gloriously into Christ’s kingdom. John Knox was also instrumental in introducing the Presbyterian system of church government to Scotland. This stands in contrast with the church of England where it is ruled by one man, namely the Archbishop of Canterbury, with the Crown as the head of the church.

John Knox faithfully preached God’s Word until he went home to the Lord in 1572. When he was buried, it was said that “here lies a man who in his life never feared the face of man.” “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” (2 Cor. 13:8)

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew