It Only Takes a Spark
It was 500 years ago, October 31st, 1517. The fires of the Protestant Reformation exploded onto the scene and began to grow throughout the world. It was an epic re-alignment of Christian theology, as believers began to read the Bible for themselves and discovering that we don’t come through a priest or a church to come to God—we come to Him by faith through Jesus Christ. Imagine that, how powerful truth from the Word of God can be!The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century shook the world! The religious, political, and cultural upheaval that took place splintered Catholic Europe through the teachings of reformers like John Calvin and Martin Luther. But many today don’t realize that the spark of the reformation was a Bible translation. It was the first translation of the Bible into English by John Wycliffe, in 1382.
John Wycliffe was the most famous priest of his day. His brilliant intellect made him a leading scholar at Oxford and a chaplain to the King of England. He fearlessly spoke out against the errors of the popes, the organizational hierarchy of the Roman Church, and the corruption of the clergy in his day. He criticized not only the organization of the medieval church but its theology as well and argued for a return to the Scriptures.
Passion for the Word of God burned in his heart. He knew that if the people in England were to know the truth, they would be set free from religious shackles. Even the Bible itself needed to be liberated, for in the days of John Wycliffe the Scriptures were chained to the pulpit, read only by the educated clergy. Wycliffe reasoned that they must have the Word of God in their own language. Under his direction, the Bible was translated into English for the first time, although the job was not completed by his associates until 1395, eleven years after his death.
This was the era of wonderful inventions, perhaps the most significant of which was the printing press. This enabled the Wycliffe translation to spread. Indeed it did! Wycliffe was known as the “morning star of the English Reformation” because of the life altering Word of God that he faithfully brought into his generation.
Repeatedly condemned and burned by church authorities, copies of Wycliffe’s Bible continued in use for over a century, until printed Bibles took their place. This work greatly influenced William Tyndale who made the first printed translation of the New Testament in English.
Afterwards, it was the Czech priest by the name of Jan Hus who became the “torch” of the Reformation. He actually sparked a war known as “the Hussite war” because of his teaching that only faith in Jesus Christ could set men free! He took the truths of God’s undiluted Word and shook the world. Hus was eventually burned at the stake as a heretic for daring to believe that everyone should read the Bible and believe all that it contained, even when it goes against the doctrines of men.
About a hundred years after the death of Hus, came the theologian and reformer Martin Luther. Many view him as the father of the reformation, when in fact, he simply took the fire lit by Wycliffe, fueled by Hus, until it became a bonfire that is still burning today! How we need a more complete and glorious reformation today in the blood bought church of Jesus Christ.
What began with a Bible translation ended up with a fire that swept over the planet. May it be that our God, the God of endless glory, will once again rekindle in our hearts the fire of reformation! Could it be that another “reformation” is taking place in our generation—moving us closer to the heart of God and the meaning of His words? Our generation needs to come home to the Father, our loving King, and find His touch of tender love and wash in the fountain of His mercy.
May every bondage be broken from off the bride of Jesus Christ until we look like Him and live like Him and love like Him! And may the fear that grips many in the nations today be cast out of our hearts by perfect love! Yes, it only takes a spark to get a fire going. May your Bible reading light that fire within until the world around us is changed.