Reaching down through the centuries and extending to this present hour, the legacy of John Knox remains firmly implanted in many areas of the worldwide church. Knox was influential in the formation of a Reformed church government and polity, education, and doctrinal creed. However, the one area in which Knox proved to be most impactful was in a return to biblical preaching. Every history-altering reformation begins at this point. The Reformers were first and foremost preachers. To understand the force of their lives is to grasp the impact of their pulpit ministries. J. H. Merle d’Aubigne, the noted historian of the Reformation in Europe, has written, ‘The only true Reformation is that which emanates from the Word of God.’ This is especially true with Knox in Scotland.
A man known for his biblical preaching, Knox has been called ‘the greatest of Scotsmen.’ Through his expositions of Scripture, he established Scotland as a fortress for Reformed truth. He was ‘the Reformer of his country,’’ who ushered in the Scottish Reformation, principally, through his pulpit power. The recovery of biblical preaching found its champion in this emboldened figure.
Throughout his ministry, Knox remained focused upon the preaching of the Word. While in England, he was a pastor and then an itinerant preacher, proclaiming the Word throughout the country. While in Europe, he pastored and preached in both Frankfurt and Geneva. During his time in Edinburgh, Knox preached to his congregation at St. Giles’ twice on the Lord’s Day and three times during the week. In addition, he conducted extensive preaching tours throughout the country. Whether in his own pulpit or traveling, whether in a church building or private home, Knox was incessantly preaching wherever he was.
As a powerful and prolific preacher of the Word, the influence of Knox on preaching in Scotland was staggering. In 1560, when Knox returned to his homeland, there were only twelve ministers in the whole of Scotland. Seven years later, there were 250 ministers. In addition, there were 150
‘exhorters’ and 450 lay leaders who ministered the Scriptures. The bold preaching of Knox inspired the preaching of other courageous men, and the pulpit ministry of this valiant Reformer filled Scotland with a love for preaching God’s Word. Noted historian of preaching John Broadus recounts standing in Knox’s pulpit in Stirling some three centuries later and longing to catch something of Knox’s ‘bold and zealous spirit’ in preaching.
The strong character of John Knox’s ministry of the Word resonates across the centuries. The commitments described below are worthy guideposts for later generations of preachers as well.
Learn more about John Knox and the Scottish Reformation on our 2016 Scottish & English Reformation Study Tour with Dr. Steven J. Lawson and OnePassion Ministries. Find out more information about the tour by clicking the banner below.
Steven J. Lawson is the President of OnePassion Ministries. Dr. Lawson is also the Professor of Preaching at The Master’s Seminary and Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries. The author of numerous books and articles.