Some people have motors that burn at a million degrees! John Wycliffe was such a man. You may have never heard of him before, but I bet you have heard of Wycliffe Bible Translators, so named because of John Wycliffe’s incredible work of putting the Bible in the people’s vernacular.
Up to the mid 1300’s the Scriptures were only ALLOWED in Latin. This did not set well with Wycliffe, as he rightly ascertained that the official Holy Catholic Church was on numerous doctrines spreading a false gospel based on the well-being of the Church instead of the foundation of God’s Word.
For Wycliffe’s expressed views he was persecuted, threatened, put on house arrest and continuously summonsed to give account for his incendiary remarks toward the Catholic Church. He was told to stand down from his translation work, to which he, along with his friend John Purvey, only ramped up efforts to put a copy of God’s Word into the hands of the common family. For this high and heinous crime, Wycliffe was handed a tongue-lashing from the Holy See: “By this translation, the Scriptures have become vulgar, and they are more available to lay, and even to women who can read, than they were to learned scholars, who have a high intelligence. So the pearl of the gospel is scattered and trodden underfoot by swine.”
Wycliffe was well on his way to martyrdom for his courageous endeavor of translating the Scriptures into English. The Catholic Church had sought ways to silence him, and was prepared to do it permanently. Dying for the faith would have been the appropriate way for such a hero of faith to enter into the glory of heaven…but it didn’t happen. Before the Church could execute vengeance upon Wycliffe, he died of a stroke at the age of 54 in 1384.
Apparently, death could not hold back the work of Wycliffe. His friend John Purvey continued his work, along with others such as William Tyndale nearly 200 years later. The English Bible was published and set off a Gospel spark that has since burned like a wildfire. And in an interesting turn of events, Wycliffe received his “martyrs death”. The Catholic Church was so frustrated with the translation work he “sparked”, and his denial of the doctrine of transubstantiation (that the elements of the Lord Supper literally, physically become the body and blood of Christ), that they exhumed his body some 40 years after death, attached what was left of his body to a stake, and burned him to death…again.
The church today throws around the term “committed” in a very loose fashion. Oh for the day that we would see people so committed to the cause of Christ instead of Jesus being a convenient addition to their already busy schedule. I doubt if any of us will be asked to sacrifice to the degree of Wycliffe. But when it is all done, and your body lies in the grave, will the life that you live right now be capable of speaking the truth? I only hope to live today and tomorrow a life that is…on fire!