Powerful Preacher, Courageous Reformer
John Knox is best known as one of the founders of the Presbyterian Church, so he is a major player in our church history.
It is generally thought that John Knox was born in 1514 in Scotland. He graduated from St. Andrews and was ordained as a priest, as Scotland was a Catholic country. However, in the same year, Henry VIII broke from the Roman Catholic Church and Calvin published the Institutes of Christian Religion – two events that illustrate the struggle ahead for Knox and his beloved Scotland.
Knox converted to Protestantism and became associated with George Wisehart, a leading church reformer. After Wisehart was martyred, Knox fled to St. Andrews Castle where he was called by those in the castle to be their minister. After tearfully considering the request, he accepted the call and preached his first sermon.
Due to political and religious turmoil, Knox spent the next 19 months as a galley slave in France. After he was released he began pastoring in England and earned a reputation for his preaching. When the Catholic Mary Tudor became queen, he was forced to flee to Europe and spent time in France, Zurich, and Geneva. It was here that he found himself among kindred spirits and wrote a controversial tract titled “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women” thus encouraging ordinary people to rebel against ungodly rulers such as Mary Tudor. Once Elizabeth I became queen, Protestantism was solidified and Knox returned to Scotland.
Reformation then came to Scotland and Knox was among the leaders who wrote a Confession of Faith, the First Book of Discipline, and The Book of Common Order which helped define the Presbyterian Church as we know it.
John Knox was a powerful preacher and a courageous reformer. He was not afraid to stand up to kings and queens for what he knew was right, even if it meant rebellion. He believed "the sword of justice is God's, and if princes and rulers fail to use it, others may."
Knox spent the remainder of his life preaching until he died in 1572. It has been said that at his grave one visitor declared, "Here lies a man who neither flattered nor feared any flesh."
Kathy McCarron is a PCUSA Certified Christian Educator who serves as NorthPark’s Director of Children and Family Ministries. Kathy is passionate about encouraging parents and congregations as they nurture the spiritual formation of children.