Last year I read the biography of the life of William Tyndale. Tyndale was an absolutely incredible hero of the Christian faith, who defied the persecutors of his day, and tirelessly labored to produce a Bible in the English language. In the middle of that book I came across a very short story of a man name John Tewkesbury.
Tewkesbury’s story is only known because of another quite famous book titled Foxe’s Book of Martyrs which tells the stories of countless men and women who gave their life for Christ over the centuries. John Tewkesbury lived in a violent time in England during the 1500’s. The Protestant Reformation that started in Germany was well underway and William Tyndale was busy translating the bible for the very first time into English. Tyndale was also quite busy writing and publishing shorter pamphlets that explained theology and the Bible to the regular working class of London. Many who read Tyndale’s work believed and were growing in their commitment and devotion to Christ.
As is often the case when devotion to Christ grows, persecution grew as well. Many men left the state Church of the day to follow the words of Scripture and subsequently gave their life for Christ in those years. John Tewkesbury was a leather salesman in London in 1529 when he was arrested by the local bishops. We are told of the first interaction he had with his arresting authorities.
“In his first examination, he was so expert in the doctrine of justification and all other articles of his faith… that Tunstall, and all his learned men, were ashamed that a leather-seller should so dispute with them, and with such power of the Scriptures and heavenly wisdom, that they were not able to resist him.”William Tyndale: A Biography, p. 171.
That’s it! That’s what every follower of Christ, whether a shoe-salesman, a banker, stay at home mom, or a teacher ought to aspire to. To know and believe God’s word with such clarity and compassion, that when pushed and asked to give a “defense for the hope within” what spills out is an abundance of passionate knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I share this story to infuse you with courage and passion. If John Tewkesbury, a leather salesman, with a few pamphlets and a half translated New Testament in his own language can be so versed in the doctrines of God that he astonished those around him, what is possible for us with the vast resources available in our day.