Session 5 – The Trumpet Blast of Scotland – The Preaching of John Knox

Expositor’s Conference 2013

Session 5 – The Trumpet Blast of Scotland – The Preaching of John Knox (Steve Lawson)

John Knox was first and foremost a preacher. Even though he was a writer, a theologian, a reformer, he was first and foremost a preacher. He was a preacher throughout the entirety of his converted life.

Born in 1514. Went to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Entered the ministry as a personal bodyguard of a preacher who was eventually martyred. Began teaching in St. Andrews Castle. Was taken captive by the French in 1547. Is eventually exchanged and began to preach in England. Made one of the king’s chaplains and sent throughout England to spread the reformed faith. Forced into hiding in 1553 and then flees to France and then to Geneva. Then goes to Frankfurt to pastor a church and returns to Geneva. Works on the Geneva Bible. In 1559 Knox returns to Scotland and helps establish the Church of Scotland. Has a confrontation with Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. John Knox preaches against the idolatry of the mass. Is put on trial for treason against the Queen. He continues to preach against the Queen. Mary abdicates the throne. Civil war between the Protestants and the Catholics breaks out. Knox moves back to St. Andrews and preaches the rest of his life there and in Edinburgh. Dies in 1572.

Knox led the charge to turn the nation of Scotland around for the gospel. What was it about Knox’s preaching that made this happen? We only have 2 or 3 of Knox’s sermons. What can we know about Knox and his preaching?

1.  God-called. He knew he was called of God to preach. He could not have lived through the crises he faced unless he had been called by God.

a.  This call was made manifest in public when he first began to teach.

b.  He turned down higher positions which would have taken him away from preaching.

2.  God-fearing. Knox feared no man because he feared God.

a.  Knox’s fear of God lead him to respect the stewardship of the word of God that was entrusted to him.

b.  In an interview with Mary, Queen of Scots, Knox said “Madam, in God’s presence I speak.”

c.  No scripture was withheld from John Knox’s preaching.

3.  Text-Driven. Knox had a high view of preaching because he had a high view of scripture.

4.  Sequential Expositor. Knox preached consecutively through complete books of the Bible.

a.  Scripture was to be read in order.

b.  Preaching was to be from one place in scripture – no skipping and no deviating.

5.  Well-Studied Student. His knowledge came out in the pulpit. And he was always learning and reading.

6.  Plain Interpretation of Scripture. Preaching was to be according to the plain and natural reading and interpretation of the scripture.

a.  The Holy Spirit never contradicts himself.

b.  The scriptures are clear and lucid.

7.  Christ-Centered. The person, offices and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

a.  He directed the Church of Scotland back to its proper head – not a bishop, but Jesus Christ.

b.  No emphasis on sacraments, all emphasis on Christ.

8.  Justification by Faith Alone in Christ Alone by Grace Alone. He was committed to the reformation.

a.  Knox preached against the Catholic Church at its very root.

9.  Sovereign Grace. The absolute supreme authority of God over all things.

a.  Sovereign election – God is the initiator.

b.  Knox’s first work on returning to Scotland is 1559 was publishing a work on the doctrine of predestination.

10.  Polemic Defender of the Faith. He refuted those who contradicted sound doctrine.

a.  The word of God damns Catholic ceremonies and traditions.

11.  Extemporaneous Preacher. Knox preached without a manuscript, just a few notes in the margin of his Bible.

a.  However, there was great preparation in his preaching.

12.  Passionate Delivery. The pulpit was the magnifying glass for Knox.

a.  Knox’s preaching resulted in either antagonism or agreement.


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