Theology & Worldview

The Presbyterian Firebrand: John Knox

A violent fist pounded on the pulpit as the strong voice declared the need for religious justice and freedom in the land. No mind wandered in this church building while John Knox spoke; every eye and ear stood at attention. This fiery sixteenth century preacher, well-known in his time throughout England, Scotland, and Geneva, lived his life with unashamed courage and love for God and his country. Knox’s work inspired other countries with his ideals of religious freedom, created the foundation of the Presbyterian Church, and exemplified a life characterized by sheer boldness for the gospel of Christ.

Born in 1514 in a small town south of Edinburgh, Scotland, John Knox entered the University of St. Andrews around the age of fifteen. He went on to get a degree in theology, and became ordained as a Protestant minister. However, he was discouraged from pursuing his calling by the extreme and overwhelming power and corruption of the Catholic Church in Scotland. The Church’s annual income was almost 18 times that of the Crown, and Protestantism in Scotland was rare and nearly impossible to practice.

When Knox was about 30 years old, a group of Protestant reformers invited him to join them. Influenced and inspired by the group, he became the bodyguard of one of their fiery preachers. After several Protestant nobles approached Knox and asked if he would consider being their minister, Knox felt the call of God to begin his work in the ministry again. He had just started his ministry when authorities falsely accused Knox of assassinating the archbishop, and sentenced him to nineteen months as a galley slave.

After his release, Knox’s passion for serving the Lord and preaching truth grew stronger than ever. Over the next few years, he traveled between England, France, Scotland, and Geneva, preaching the Word of God.

During his ministry in Scotland, John Knox wrote a book titled Appellations to the Nobility and Commonality of Scotland. In this work, Knox declared that the common people had the God-given right, and indeed the duty, to rebel against unjust authority. He said that “the sword of justice is God’s, and if princes and rulers fail to use it, others may.” These principles have inspired countless believers throughout history in their fights for liberty, including the American forefathers during the American Revolution, and the German Christians fighting for freedom under Nazi government in World War II.

Knox persisted in fighting for religious freedom until the battle was won, despite strong persecution from the Catholic ruler of Scotland, Mary, Queen of Scots. After talking with Knox and hearing his harsh criticisms, Mary, Queen of Scots began to cry, admitting that she feared Knox’s prayers more than his harsh words. In 1558, many nobles joined the Protestant cause, giving Knox their support, and two years later the English and French agreed to leave Scotland. This opened the doors for a new Scottish Protestant Parliament. By order of this new Parliament, Knox co-authored several books defining the Protestant faith of Scotland, with its unique combination of Calvinist and Presbyterian beliefs. In one of these books, The Scots Confession, Knox prayed, “Arise, O Lord, and let thine enemies be confounded; let them flee from thy presence that hate thy godly Name. Give thy servants strength to speak thy Word with boldness, and let all nations cleave to the true knowledge of thee. Amen.” Knox did indeed speak the Word with boldness, as he had prayed, and was elected the minister of the Edinburgh church. He became well known for his fiery preaching and powerful prayers, and his extreme love and loyalty to God and country have inspired believers all over the world.

To John Knox: Gentler spirits have lived in Christendom; More gracious messengers preached the word of Christ without a-dinging the pulpit; But God knew what He was doing when He chose you to build his Church. He knew the temptations to compromise, the dulcet voice pleading in tears the soft hand of scheming sovereignty. You were keen as steel, As deaf as ice: God’s man for God’s work in God’s time. – SHERWOOD ELIOT WIRT


Henia Grajcar, a fourth-year TPSer, is a 15-year-old high school sophomore living in New Jersey. She enjoys studying music, and is currently preparing to compete in the World Choir Games in South Africa, as a member of the NJHSA Genesis Chorale.  Henia also enjoys learning languages, traveling, and serving on overseas missions trips. She hopes to pursue a career in TESOL, a degree which can easily be put to use in international missions opportunities.


Works Cited

Pierard, Richard, and David F. Wright. “John Knox.” Christianity Today. Web. 28 October 2017.


Wright, David F. “John Knox and the Scottish Reformation: Christian History Interview – Prophet Without Honor?” Christianity Today. Web. 28 October 2017.


“John Knox.” Reformation History. Web. 28 October 2017.


Booher, Thomas. “Church History: The Life and Impact of Scottish Reformer John Knox.” The Tulip Driven Life. 26 February, 2012. Web. 28 October 2017.


Image Citation

“John Knox.” Knox Classical Academy. Knox Classical Academy,

One Comment

  1. Great job Henia!