A Peasant Farmer, The Black Plague and No Bible

October 28, 2022
Church family: Think with me, you are living in fourteenth century England. You are a peasant farmer who works tirelessly to bring in an acceptable harvest for the landowner. Like everyone else that you know, you consider yourself a Christian, yet you have never read or seen a Bible. In fact, there is no Bible that has been translated in your language, English. And now there is a pandemic going around your country. The Bubonic Plague, the Black Death, is killing your nation. One out of four of your friends and relatives have died within the last few months. In the midst of working and grieving the loss of your friends and family you have no hope in the gospel because you have never heard the true gospel. You have no certainty of salvation. You doubt your own destiny. You have no comfort in the church because it seems to be only interested in your money and your confession. You need God to speak into your life. You want to know God and His promises. You need God’s Word. But it is not to be found.

But God! God hears the call of nations to know Him and so He raises up a Roman Catholic Priest who loved God and His Word, John Wycliffe (1330-1384). Even though he was a Roman Catholic priest, he did not hesitate to speak out against the heresies of the Church. Wycliffe believed that every man needed to have the Bible written in their own language because every man was accountable before God. Wycliffe was God’s man to drive the translation of the Latin Bible into English so every English speaking person could know God and His Gospel. Wyclife's Bible was completed in 1382. It was the first Bible in any European language. God’s Word and the pure Gospel was revived, it was rediscovered after hundreds of years of being lost in the dark ages of the Church. The Truth of God and the Gospel was moving forward reviving and reforming people, the Church and the Roman Empire even though each Bible had to be hand copied because the printing press was yet to be invented.

But that is not all, next came William Tyndale (1494-1536. God raised up Tyndale, who was trained in Greek and Hebrew, to translate the Bible in English for the first time from the Bible’s original languages. Tyndale’s Bible was complete in 1525. But this time, in God’s perfect providence, the Gutenberg Press (1440) had been invented. God’s Word was able to be mass produced and sent to village to village and house to house. The Gospel was reviving European nations and the corrupt Roman Catholic Church was crumbling. Common people were getting God’s Word and were pushing forth demanding the reformation truths, "The Five Solas":

  • Sola Scriptura, or “God’s Word alone,” The Bible is the sole and final authority in all matters of life and godliness. The church looks to the Bible (not man) as its ultimate authority (2 Ti. 3:16-17).
  • Sola fide, or “faith alone,” affirms that justification—being made right with God—comes only through faith in Jesus (Romans 5:1).
  • Sola gratia, or “grace alone,” says sinners are saved as an unearned gift of God’s grace, “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
  • Sola Christo (“solus Christus”), or “Christ alone,” emphasizes the exclusivity of Jesus’ role in salvation: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (not a priest) (John 14:6).
  • And soli Deo gloria, or “to the glory of God alone,” says that the purpose of creation, salvation, and everything—including our goal as Christians—is the glory of God, “that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

Oh, by the way, the Roman Catholic Church declared that translating the Bible into any language other than Latin was a crime punishable by death. If you helped translate the Bible into English or one was found in your possession you were to be burnt at the stake as a heretic. Hundreds and possibly thousands of Bible loving reformers lost their lives so that God's pure Word and His Gospel would be passed on to following generations. Tyndale was strangled and burnt at the stake when he was 42 years old. Wycliffe died before the Church got to him so they dug up his bones and burnt them. He died at age 54. Let us continue in the spirit and boldness and resilience of the Reformers. Thank you God for the Reformers. Thank you God for the Bible and the pure Gospel.

See you Sunday, revived in the Gospel, Steve

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