On Thursdays over the next two months we will run short biographies of eight key reformers. If you would like to reprint these in your church bulletin to help people in your congregation become familiar with these individuals as a lead in for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, go for it–no need to attribute it back to us; if you find them useful, then by all means use them. Today: John Wycliffe:
“Trust wholly in Christ; rely altogether on his sufferings; beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness.”
JOHN WYCLIFFE (1320-1384) John Wycliffe is known as the first English reformer. He was a Priest in England when he began reading the Bible in Latin and saw how unbiblical Catholic doctrine had become. Meanwhile, the Pope had fled Rome for France and a rival Pope was elected—both of whom demanded the loyalty of all Christendom. Wycliffe refused, and encouraged others to do the same.
Wycliffe recognized that the most effective way to oppose error was with the Scriptures, so he began the first ever English translation of the Bible. For this, he was declared a heretic by the Popes and placed under house arrest. There he died, but not before his translation had sowed the seeds of truth that would impact England for generations.
Forty years after his death, the Church ordered his body exhumed and burned, then had his ashes dumped in the Swift River. But rather than stemming the Reformation, the truths that Wycliffe translated spread from England, across the sea, and into Europe, eventually resulting in what we call now the Protestant Reformation.