John Knox & the Scottish Reformation 1514-72
Overview: John Knox was the principle founder and leader of the Reformed Kirk of Scotland which went on to be the parent of the Presbyterians. Though without a theology degree, Knox was the leading preacher and theologian besides being instrumental in the Scottish-Protestant rebellion against England. Of Knox it was said, “Here is one who never feared the face of man.“
- 1514 Likely born in Haddington of East Lothian to a peasant family, he studied for the priesthood at St. Andrews under John Major, a scholastic in the conciliar movement. Ordained as a priest in 1536 but never took a degree.
- Serving as a notary and tutor, we don’t know for sure when he was converted, but probably in the late 1530’s because by 1544-45 he was with George Wishart who was one of the earliest preachers in Scotland supporting the Reformation. Knox even accompanied Wishart as his bodyguard, at times standing beside him as he preached, bearing a sword.
- 1547 Knox becomes chaplain of the Castle of St Andrews, but the French attacked the nest of Reformers and Knox spends the next 2 yrs. rowing a French Galley. Released in 1549 he became a pastor in England and by 1550 was even a royal chaplain, serving King Edward the VI.
- In 1553 Mary Tudor, “Bloody Mary”, became ruler over England and the persecutions began. Knox fled England in 1554 for Switzerland where he was taught by Calvin and Bullinger.
- 1560 he returns to Scotland and assists in the Scottish Revolution and works to establish the Reformed Kirk, coauthoring the Scott’s Confession of 1560 and the First Book of Discipline.
- 1572 Knox dies.
Teachings and Legacy:
- Knox was a fearless, firebrand of a preacher; his debates with Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, were notorious. His preaching fueled the Protestant growth in Scotland.
- Like the other reformers, the doctrine of sola scriptura ruled his thinking. His only academic publication was Treatise on Predestination written at Calvin’s request it is a massive 170,000 words long.
- Knox articulated the 3 marks of a true church- proper preaching of the Word of God, proper administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and church discipline. Knox taught the regulative principle of worship- everything in public worship had to be commanded in Scripture.
- 1559-60 saw a dramatic increase in the Reformed Kirk of Scotland.
- Knox taught and demonstrated that Christians can and should rebel against ungodly rulers and tyrants. He promoted this idea in his most polemical writing, First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, written against the three royal Mary’s of England and Scotland, but released-unfortunately-right when the protestant Queen Elizabeth came to the throne.
- He is considered a forebear of Puritanism and the father of Presbyterianism.
Questions for Further Study & Application on
What role did Knox play in the assasination of Cardinal David Beaton?
Why was Knox taken prisoner of war by a French raiding party in Scotland?
What was the age difference between Knox and his second wife?
What role did royal marriages, births and divorces play in the Reformation in Scotland and England?
Questions for Application:
Knox spent almost 2 yrs. as a galley slave on a French ship, yet he did not lose hope, he resisted his Catholic captors, and after his release, he pastored. What role does perseverance play in your relationship with Christ?
Knox fearlessly confronted the royalty of his day with the Gospel. Are we willing to do the same today?
Recommended Reading: The Reformation in Scotland by John Knox, 1571. Banner of Truth Trust: Carlisle, PA. 1982 (364pp).