John Knox: Fearless Faith
John Knox: Fearless Faith
By Steven J. Lawson
Christian Focus Publications 2014
Reviewed by Jack Kettler
“Dr. Steven J. Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip and energize a new generation of Bible expositors. The focus of
Dr. Lawson’s ministry is the verse-by-verse exposition of God’s Word and training
other men to do the same. He is the author of twenty-eight books, including The
Moment of Truth, The Cost: What It Takes to Follow Jesus, Foundations of Grace,
Pillars of Grace, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards, The Expository
Genius of John Calvin, and many others.”
“Dr. Lawson is a Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries, Professor of Preaching
and Dean of the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master’s Seminary, and
Executive Editor for Expositor magazine. He is also on the board of The Master’s
University and Seminary, Ligonier Ministries, and Reformation Bible College. Dr.
Lawson is a graduate of Texas Tech University (B.B.A.), Dallas Theological
Seminary (Th.M.), and Reformed Theological Seminary (D. Min.), served as a
pastor in Arkansas and Alabama for thirty-four years, and presently lives in
Dallas, Texas. He and his wife Anne have three sons and a daughter.”
What others are saying about this book:
“…this story may leave you breathless; but you will almost certainly feel spiritually fitter by the end!” – Sinclair B. Ferguson, from the front cover.
“John Knox preached with such courage that we might well say the Spirit of Christ gave him a face harder than flint (Ezek. 3: 8-9). Steven Lawson, himself a bold preacher, has given us a biography of Knox that inspires similar courage. In this day of jellyfish, may God use this book to raise up more Christians like Knox!” – Joel R. Beeke, President Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“Dr Steven Lawson is exactly the church history writer the church needs today. John Knox is exactly the church history figure the church needs today. And here we have them both together. Read this book, and pray for a measure of the passion for the gospel you will read about in these pages.” – Stephen J. Nichols, President Reformation Bible College CAO, Ligonier Ministries Sanford, Florida.
While Dr. Lawson’s book is not large, the inspiration gained from reading it is enormous.
In Chapter One, the reader will learn about John Knox’s place among the Protestant reformers:
“If Martin Luther was the hammer of the Reformation and John Calvin the pen, John Knox was the trumpet.” (1)
The ministry of John Knox spanned the reign of Mary Tudor, or bloody Mary Queen of England, B. 1516 – D. 1558, the French Mary of Guise, B. 1515 – D. 1560, and Mary Stuart or Mary Queen of Scots, B. 1542 – D. 1587.
In Chapter Six, the reader learns about Knox’s sermons and confrontation with Mary Queen of Scots:
First Confrontation with Mary (4 September 1561)
“In the presence of Lord James Stewart, the Queen accused Knox of several things. He had stirred up the people against her mother, the late Queen Regent, and against herself. In addition, he had written a book against her lawful authority, a reference to Knox’s The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. Moreover, he was the fomenter of rebellion and bloodshed in England. Knox patiently listened to Mary and then proceeded to give a lengthy rebuttal of her charges.”
The Queen also questioned him about his views regarding the obedience due to rulers. Knox responded:
“If their princes exceed their bounds, Madam, no doubt they may be resisted, even by power. For there is neither greater honour, nor greater obedience, to be given unto father or mother. But the father may be stricken with a frenzy, in which he would slay his children. If the children arise, join themselves together, apprehend the father, take the sword from him, bind his hands, and keep him in prison till his frenzy be overpast— think ye, Madam, that the children do any wrong? It is even so, Madam, with princes that would murder the children of God that are subjects unto them.” (2)
In the “Third Confrontation with Mary Queen of Scots” (11 April 1563), Knox said this:
“The Sword of Justice, Madam, is God’s, and is given to princes and rulers for one end, which, if they transgress, sparing the wicked and oppressing innocents, their subjects, who in the fear of God execute judgment, where God hath commanded, offend not God, neither do they sin that bridle Kings from striking innocent men in their rage… It shall be profitable to Your Majesty to consider what is the thing Your Grace’s subjects look to receive of Your Majesty, and what it is that ye ought to do unto them by mutual contract. They are bound to obey you, and that not but in God: ye are bound to keep laws unto them. Ye crave of them service; they crave of you protection and defence against wicked doers. Now, Madam, if ye shall deny your duty unto them, who especially crave that ye punish malefactors, think ye to receive full obedience from them? I fear, Madam, ye shall not.”
(3) (Underlining emphasis mine)
It can be argued that Knox’s five confrontations with Mary Queen of Scots should be a model for Christian ministers in their confrontations with civil magistrates, which included the bridling or restraining of Kings. Historically following Knox, perhaps this is why the Calvinists were known as the fighting Protestants. Without a doubt, Knox’s doctrine of confronting and opposing wicked magistrates cut right to the root or heart of the doctrine, the “Divine Right of Kings.”
A confession penned by the Scottish Churches under the direction of John Knox. Chapter 24:
Therefore, we confess and avow that those who resist the supreme powers, so long as they are acting in their own spheres, are resisting God’s ordinance and cannot be held guiltless. We further state that so long as princes and rulers vigilantly fulfill their office, anyone who denies them aid, counsel, or service, denies it to God, who by his lieutenant craves it of them.”
In Knox’s third confrontation with Mary Queen of Scots, Knox affirmed the right to restrain or bridle Kings. Knox’s doctrine was not an anomaly, as seen by the underlined qualification seen right in the Scottish confession.
John Knox’s “fearless faith” aroused many thoughts about the reformer and how his theology changed the world.
Knox’s view of bridling a King is in harmony with the apostle Paul. He essentially says in Romans 13 that because the magistrate does good to a person and is a terror towards evil-doers, believers owe them obedience. However, like Knox, obedience is conditioned upon three things that are inescapable in the text of Romans 13:1-4.
1. For [or because] rulers are not a terror to good works, but the evil. (verse 1)
2. For [or because] he is the minister of God to thee for good. (verse 3)
3. For [or because] he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. (verse 4)
The saying attributed to Knox, “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.” came to this reviewer’s mind repeatedly when reading his letters and confrontations with Mary. Dr. Lawson’s citation of these encounters is invaluable to the modern Church.
Every Church leader should read Dr. Lawson’s citations and comments regarding Knox’s confrontations with Mary Stuart should be read today:
“Throughout Knox’s tempestuous life, this rugged Scot was never any bolder than when he stood before Mary, Queen of Scots. Whenever summoned to appear in her royal presence, Knox asserted that he spoke to her in God’s presence. He never once backed down from her, nor did he ever hesitate to speak frankly. By these confrontations, Knox proved to be a man who was not a mere people-pleaser. Mary once commented, ‘I am more afraid of his [Knox’s] prayers than an army of ten thousand men.’”21 John Howie, The Scots Worthies (1870, repr.; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2001), p. 57. (4)
Some of Dr. Lawson’s concluding thoughts about the great reformer are:
“The life of John Knox is an example for all who love God and desire to see His name exalted. The urgent need of this present hour is for John Knox’s gospel to rumble in pulpits and resound throughout the church. Both preachers and laypeople alike can join Knox in the courageous, bold, and persistent proclamation of the truths of God’s Word. John Knox was a leader in his time. In this present hour, the church of God remains in dire need of such leaders who are firmly committed to the exclusivity and sufficiency of Scripture. If the kingdom of God is to advance, it will require fearless men like John Knox to step forward and blow their Master’s trumpet.” (5)
At the end of this review, it is fitting to conclude with the following endorsement of Lawson’s book:
“John Knox was an international Christian, shaped under God by events both in his own native Scotland and in continental Europe. He would lay the basis for the Reformation of the Scottish Church through restoring its biblical foundation and roots. In Scotland and beyond we are building on Knox’s work, and he deserves recognition and study for that reason alone. But more than that, his story is needed because such reformation is needed continuously. Knox’s life is a model of Bible-based and God-focussed religion; his legacy to instil in us that there is no substitute for the Word of God in the life of the people of God. This is a great story, told well; it is the biography of one spiritual giant written by another, and is a reminder of what God can do with one human life dedicated to his service.” – Iain D Campbell Senior Minister Point Free Church of Scotland Isle of Lewis.
Dr. Lawson has written many books about leaders of the Reformation. For the reader that wants to obtain spiritual inspiration, start with a visit to https://onepassion.org/dr-steven-j-lawson/.
Many fine videos of Dr. Lawson’s sermons posted on the Internet. These online sermons can be described as powerful and edifying.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. Steven J. Lawson, John Knox: Fearless Faith, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K.), p. 15.
2. Steven J. Lawson, John Knox: Fearless Faith, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K.), p. 77-78.
3. Steven J. Lawson, John Knox: Fearless Faith, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K.), p. 81-82.
4. Steven J. Lawson, John Knox: Fearless Faith, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K.), p. 85-86.
5. Steven J. Lawson, John Knox: Fearless Faith, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K.), p. 125.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com