1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
True believers in England during the early 16th century were in danger. In 1519, seven Christians were taken to a courtyard near the prison in the Little Park area of Coventry, bound hand and foot, and fastened to large wooden stakes surrounded by piles of sticks and hay. Their crime: they taught their children how to recite the Lord’s Prayer in English. Their accusers read the sentence aloud:
Only the Latin scriptures are considered holy. The Bible in any other language, including English, is heresy, and anyone quoting the holy scriptures in English is guilty of heresy.
The fires were lit, and those Christians received their martyr’s crown. The one man responsible for creating this spiritual revolution in England was William Tyndale. He risked his life to translate Latin, Greek, and Hebrew Scriptures into the English language. It was time, he wrote, “to give the ploughboy a copy of the Bible that he can read for himself.” The medieval church mounted their most vicious attacks against the Tyndale Bible. Their persecution of anyone who owned a copy was severe; prisons quickly filled, and hundreds of confiscated English Bibles were burned. Believers themselves were often burned at the stake with Tyndale’s New Testament tied around their necks. Tyndale was eventually captured, imprisoned, and sentenced to die. His last words before he surrendered his life to the flames were, “Oh, Lord, open the eyes of the king of England!” This had long been Tyndale’s greatest desire: to see the king come to faith in Christ alone.
What a gracious prayer! Paul, in a Roman prison cell, prayed for the soldiers who guarded him. Our Savior prayed for His enemies as He hung from a Roman cross. Tyndale could have cursed his Catholic accusers as he died. He could have condemned the king for his insolence. Instead, his mission never wavered.
The grace and love of martyrs watered the seeds of the church. It was that Christ-like, unnatural love shown by persecuted Christians which made, and still makes, a watching world stand in awe. Here’s the double lesson: our faith should remain “steadfast and immovable” during times of persecution; and, more importantly, our grace and love should be evident as well.