“Christ was at the center of every dimension of his life”
From the first page to the last of [John] Knox’s written works, the reader is brought relentlessly back to the source of Knox’s greatness: Christ was at the center of every dimension of his life. It is this, and this alone, that made Knox mighty in his weakness.
Peel back the layers and read between the lines—there is never a hint of false modesty in the man; his statements about himself, good or bad, are corroborated by those closest to him. His was an age when one did not admit weakness; devouring lions crouched in wait to crush weak men. Yet Knox unabashedly admitted his fears: “I quake, I fear, and tremble.” It was that honest admission of his frailty, and his corresponding reliance on Christ, that gave him such force against the enemies of the gospel. He was not posturing when he admitted his fears. Because he knew himself to be a man of inherent weakness, and because he was an honest, humble man, he could say without pretext, “I sought neither preeminence, glory, nor riches; my honor was that Christ Jesus should reign.”
When a man is so subdued by the grace of God in the gospel that such a self-assessment is, in fact, accurate, that man—love him or hate him—stands out in the crowd. Thus, Knox had preeminence in Scotland. Yet disproportionate to that preeminence, he had neither glory nor riches. He gained preeminence because, like so few, he did not seek it; he did not set out to rule his world for himself. There was no pretext when Knox wrote, “It has pleased His merciful providence, to make me, among others, a simple soldier, and witness-bearer, unto men.” As such, he bent every spiritual nerve of his existence “that Christ Jesus should reign.” Surrounded by men of higher birth and greater formal learning, Knox nevertheless emerged in 1559 as the undisputed leader of the Reformation in Scotland. He remarkably managed to do so without hipster apparel, video streaming, or social media. He was a mega-preacher in a world unencumbered by such a category. Yet he was a tender pastor, a simple shepherd guiding simple sheep to a profoundly great Savior. In all of this, despite his stature, about Knox there was an aura of grandeur and force that defies modern measure.
This is an excerpt from The Mighty Weakness of John Knox (Reformation Trust, 2011). Available wherever books are sold.
About the Author
Douglas Bond is the head of the English Department at Covenant High School in Tacoma, Wash., where he teaches literature, writing, and history. He also lectures on literature and church history, and leads frequent historical study tours in Europe. He has written numerous works of fiction, many of them for young people, including the Crown & Covenant trilogy (focusing on a Covenanter family in Scotland) and the Faith & Freedom trilogy (following the same family to Revolutionary America). His fictional works also include a novel about John Calvin, The Betrayal. Among his nonfiction titles are Stand Fast in the Way of Truth and Hold Fast in a Broken World. Bond and his wife, Cheryl, have four sons and two daughters. They live in Tacoma.