John Wycliffe was certainly a “man sent by God” to his generation. Through his work in translating the Scriptures from Latin into English, his expounding of the truths of God’s written word, and the training and sending out of his preachers to teach the common man the way of salvation, he has been mightily used by God to bring blessing to all who have lived after him.
It is to be supposed that if he had died a martyr’s death, then he would have received more recognition in the history of the reformation. If he had been burned at the stake then probably more Christians in this day would be acquainted with his life. Yet in Wycliffe we have the ‘first’ in all things pertaining to Biblical and Evangelical Christianity in England. This is not to imply that the reformer’s theology was perfect, for though this work has sought to present him in the best possible light, given the circumstances of his day, we can at least forgive the areas where he was not entirely consistent with Scripture. On this point it is of interest that there is no case of a character in the Bible or in Church history that was absolutely perfect, yet we find God using these people for His glory. All that Wycliffe sought to achieve was determined by the revelation of the Holy Spirit as he studied the word of God. In attempting to understand him and trying to come to terms with his theology, we cannot but admire his faith and commitment. Nor should we suppose that he should have had full light on every subject, for we see throughout the entire Scriptures that no man (except for the Lord Jesus Christ) ever had such insight.
We cannot imagine what the world would be like today if there had not been a John Wycliffe. How intense would be the darkness of this age if he were never sent by God? Then, we have to wonder at what Heaven’s reward must consist of for one such as Wycliffe, for he must stand alongside Moses, Josiah, and John the Baptist amongst others who introduced or reintroduced the light of God’s word in their respective generations.
There are those who have a negative opinion of John Wycliffe, for they see him as being highly critical and arrogant, but they fail to understand the man within the backdrop of medieval England. We would have to ask if such spiritual darkness is a good setting for conformity, compromise or liberalism? Though he appears extremely puritanical in his attacks on immorality, superstition, and false doctrine, yet the same would be true of anyone who would stand for absolutes in a world that declares that no absolutes exist. If he seems arrogant then it is because he was determined not to swerve from his desire to set all things, both spiritual and temporal, in order in the nation. As has been claimed on several occasions throughout these pages, John Wycliffe alone, out of all the reformers, deserves the title The Morning Star of the Reformation.
The life, theology and influence of John Wycliffe should inspire our own hearts to accomplish the work of God in our own generation. We live in an age which has gone beyond the spiritual darkness of 14th century England, yet with one great difference; we have the Word of God in our own language, we have the religious freedom to believe as we will, and we fear neither State nor Church, but few have even an ounce of the conviction of Wycliffe. In all generations God is saying,
“I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and to stand in the gap before me for the land …” Ezekiel 22:30.
John Wycliffe did not disappoint the Lord in his time. Will we?