Thomas Cranmer's mission was to translate the pages of Scripture into the life of the church. Cranmer (1489-1556) was made the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533, after the Reformation began in 1517.
When Catholic Mary Tudor ("Bloody Mary") ascended the throne of England in 1553, she persecuted Protestant reformers—including Cranmer, who was forced to recant his views and confess allegiance to the pope.
Later Bloody Mary decreed that Cranmer should be burned at the stake after one final public statement of allegiance to the Church of Rome. It was that statement—whether to make it or not—which Cranmer agonized over early on the morning of March 21, 1556.
What Does It Take?
What does it take for believers like you and me to stand firm for the Word of God in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, and especially in our churches?
Regardless of the century in which we live, it takes the same thing: an unswerving belief that the Bible is the Word of God; that to deny the Bible is the same as denying God himself.
One central passage in the New Testament summarizes why we should be "people of the Book"—2 Timothy 3:16-17: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."
First, the Bible is inspired by God. The Bible is God speaking directly to you. People of the Book like Tyndale, Wycliffe, and Cranmer suffered for the Book because they believed it to be the inspired Word of God.
Second, the Bible is profitable. There are five areas of life which will be made more profitable if we are people of the Book:
• Evangelizing. Paul reminded Timothy (2 Timothy 3:15) that it was the Holy Scriptures which made him wise unto salvation through faith in Christ. If you are a Christian, you became one because of the truth contained in the Bible. If you are not yet a Christian, reading the Bible will illumine your heart and mind so that you can understand the Gospel and be saved.
• Education. Heresy and error in the church—in belief as well as practice—begin when Christians stray from the pure teaching of the Word of God.
• Exhortation. Paul says the Bible is profitable for "reproof"—for exhorting the one who reads it to live a holy and blameless life. Paul told Timothy to rebuke those in the church who were sinning (1 Timothy 5:20). The only way we know how to live in a manner pleasing to God is to live according to the Word of God (Psalm 119:11).
• Encouraging. People of the Book need to be encouraged to get back on the path of righteousness when they stray from it.
• Enabling. Applying our hearts to understanding the things of God is the only way to become wise in this life (Proverbs 2:1-10). It is Jesus Christ who enables us for ministry (1 Timothy 1:12).
People of the Book love the Word of God more than anything else in this world. With the living Word filling our heart and the written Word filling our mind, we become "thoroughly equipped for every good work."
A Person of the Book
Ultimately Thomas Cranmer repudiated the confession of allegiance to Rome he had signed earlier, pledging to burn the hand that signed that confession first in the fire. He went on to reject the false teachings of Rome and swear his allegiance to Christ and His Word. He never finished his speech. The enraged assembly took him immediately to the stake and burned him alive.
Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Cranmer, and so many others—they were people of the Book! If you have never decided that the Bible is the most valuable book—your most valuable possession—would you make that decision today? Don't let your heart or hand, your word or your will, offend when it comes to the Word of God. Be a person of the Book until Jesus comes again.
Dr. David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California. Dr. Jeremiah is the author of many books, including Discover Paradise, Life Wide Open, Searching for Heaven on Earth, My Heart's Desire, Grace Givers and the best-selling, Captured by Grace. His award winning international radio and television ministry, Turning Point, reflects his commitment to the truth of the Bible and to helping people understand how to apply biblical principles to everyday living. He is also a popular conference speaker. Dr. and Mrs. Jeremiah have four children and eight grandchildren.