Wednesday, May 9, 2012

John Wycliffe: Biblical Teachings, Not Human

England and Wales c. 1400AD

Background Check:
In the early years of the church, education of children was based on the Scriptures and prayer.  As the church became more accustomed to the Greek way of thinking, they adapted the Greek “university” form of education.  This involved studying brilliant men called philosophers and studying their books.  The Scriptures were secondary to what men taught about the Scriptures and the ideas and thoughts of men.  No one understood the Scriptures for what they said by themselves. The teachers at the universities wore expensive robes and everyone spoke Latin, not the language of the people.  Colleges and universities taught priests and lawyers their trade, but these trades were only for the wealthy and highly educated.

His Story:
John Wycliffe was a professor at Oxford University.  Wycliffe was a serious student of the Bible, and he felt that the church and the university should follow what the Bible said, especially the teachings of Jesus.  When Jesus said that the word of God had not come to the educated and important, Wycliffe listened and began to wear peasant’s clothing instead of the usual rich robes.  And when Jesus said that his followers were “little ones” or unimportant people, Wycliffe listened and he decided to teach the Bible to people who didn’t know Latin or were wealthy.  And he also decided that he would begin a translation of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into English—which had never been done before.

     From these teachings, some of the people Wycliffe taught felt that they should preach the gospel and also speak against the injustices of the English government.  These preachers were called Lombards.  They stirred the people up, and some of the peasants decided to revolt against the English government.  This rebellion caused a small civil war in England, but it was stopped by the English soldiers and the peasants were put back in their place. 

     Wycliffe, however, continued to teach the Bible for what it said, not what other teachers thought it should say.  He wrote a book about the Lord’s supper, opposing the idea that the bread and wine transformed into literal flesh and blood.  He also opposed many other views of his day, on the basis of the authority of Jesus and the Bible alone.


Jesus took his own word very seriously.  He made it clear that if people didn’t obey his word, that they could not be pleasing to God.  And he also said that His words would never fail—they would certainly be kept forever.  Jesus also wanted people to interpret God’s word through his teaching.  This is what John Wycliffe was about.  Jesus was pleased at how Wycliffe was serious about Jesus’ word and he was willing to sacrifice himself to teach it and do it. 

The Final Word (of men)
     Some people claimed that the war was all Wycliffe’s fault—even though he spoke against it when it came up.  The rulers in England listened to those who hated Wycliffe and his teaching and they arranged for him to be dismissed from his teaching in Oxford.  By the end of his life, he was forced to stop teaching and leave Oxford.  His reputation was destroyed and no one would learn from him.  He died a few years after in a small town outside of Oxford.  After he died, his teachings were banned in England and in all of Europe, his books were burned and his body was dug up and burned.  All because he was more interested in following what the Bible said than following the traditions of men.

A Word From Our Sponsor
The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed.  The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?" And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'  "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."  He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. "For Moses said, 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER'; and, 'HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH'; but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),' you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother;  thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that."  Mark 7:1-14

Heaven and earth may pass away, but my word will never pass away.  Matthew 24:35

Helpful Hint: Giving Up This Life for the Next
Let’s face it, the lives of most of these Faithful were miserable.  They were beaten, imprisoned, rejected, wanderers without a home, enslaved, threatened and many of them were killed.  Being a Faithful one isn’t necessarily a fun job, nor does it have many extra benefits.  And none of them would gain a good rate on life insurance.  But these faithful weren’t looking for benefits on earth or the rewards of this age.  Rather, they looked to God for everything and knew that their real reward would be in the age to come—the kingdom of God.  Peter Waldo gave up all he had so that he would gain treasure in heaven.  Martin Luther wasn’t looking for assurance from men of his salvation, but from God.  Jim Elliot was looking for God’s life, not his own.  They all knew that to gain one’s own life in God’s kingdom, the life in this age had to be given up.  And they were all willing to do that for Jesus.

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