John Wycliffe was born in 1329 in Northern England, and would become one of the most well-known reformers of the fourteenth century. At Oxford, he obtained his doctoral degree in 1372 and quickly became a leading professor. On an intellectual level, Wycliffe was well versed in the ways and theology of the church. But it did not end there for him. Jesus had transformed Wycliffe’s heart, and his utmost desire was for the church to represent the heart of Jesus to the world.
A Passion For Truth
Due to the Great Papal Schism (yesterday’s topic), many people were calling for reform in the church—and Wycliffe accepted the challenge. Overall, he felt the church had walked away from biblical truths, and so he called her back to this foundation while also advocating for unworthy priests and popes to be removed from their positions of leadership. Wycliffe’s passion for truth led his endeavors to bring the church back to its original foundation on biblical truths.
The Power of the Church
Wycliffe had an issue with the power and prestige of the church, as well as the political force the church had come to be.He believed that God is the one who grants all dominion or authority to earthly rulers, as stated in Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Because of this truth, Wycliffe believed that if a church leader did not recognize that his authority came from God and instead abused that authority, using it for the good of himself instead of the good of the body of Christ, this person should be removed from leadership. Wycliffe believed that no one person should be placed in authority above all the church, but rather that Jesus was above all, the ultimate Leader of the church. And the God-given authority given to church leaders should exemplify Christ’s leadership— “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Wycliffe also challenged other official principles of the church that he deemed unbiblical. He fought for justification by faith in Christ’s righteousness alone, instead of justification based on any of our own works (Romans 3:28, Galatians 2:16). And he believed that all Christians should have access to the Scriptures. Unfortunately, the church did not agree with Wycliffe and condemned him a heretic.
Truth for All
Because of his passion for God’s Word to be in the hands of all people who wanted to read it, Wycliffe led a group of scholars in translating the Bible from Latin to English. In England, English was the language of the everyday common people such as craftsmen and peasants. Wycliffe believed that all followers of Christ have the right to read the Bible in their own language.
We can learn a great deal from John Wycliffe’s life. He reminds us of God’s ultimate authority in our lives. We know this to be true, but do we truly live as if He is the ultimate authority? Or do we live in a way that assumes we have authority over our own lives? Wycliffe reminds us that a leader following in the way of Jesus chooses service and humility. He reminds us to fight for truth even when it is difficult and rejection is inevitable. His heart for everyday people reminds us of Jesus’ heart for the neglected and outcast.
After learning about John Wycliffe’s life, how do the things he fought to reform challenge you today?
Sign Up for Anno Domini Vol. 2 Emails
get the daily devotionals delivered to your email every morning