God's Word, Sanctification and William Tyndale

My greatest trial is myself. And I don’t doubt that through all of history, to the present day, many followers of Christ have found their greatest trial to be themselves; constantly giving in to temptation, sin and grieving the Holy Spirit. This is what weighs most heavily on us. Though our desire is to glorify God in every area of our lives, though our spirit is willing, we find time and time again that our flesh is so weak.
We long, for Christ’s sake and our Father’s glory, that our thoughts, words and actions would be transformed. We long day by day to see ourselves being renewed and clinging less to this world. And daily we rest and trust in God’s great saving grace, the cleansing blood of His Son and the knowledge that He so abundantly loves and forgives us.
Jesus, when praying for His own people asked ‘Holy Father, keep through your name those whom you have given me… Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.’ John 17:11, 17.
Maybe few men discovered better than William Tyndale what it is to be sanctified by God’s word and that God’s word has the power to reprove us, correct us and to instruct us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).
Tyndale used his immense literary gifts and worked tirelessly to translate the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English. He loved God’s word, Tyndale died for God’s word – a martyr, being strangled and then burnt at the stake.
It was the Bible that moulded and shaped his character and left a deep impression on the people that met him. Even a man who counted Tyndale an enemy admitted him to be a ‘man of sober and honest living (who) looked and preached holily.’
In his book ‘God’s Outlaw’ Brian Edwards writes of Tyndale: ‘His only fault, even to More (a bitter opponent of Tyndale’s), was his Gospel…His (Tyndale’s) words may be strong and sharp at times but they were never scurrilous or cruel; however ill-treated he never railed in return.’ Edwards continues ‘For sheer honesty, Tyndale had no equal.’ He never lied in order to defend his own life or to protect months of hard work.
Two years before his death it has been recorded that every Saturday Tyndale would go to the town, down back-alleys and into small make-shift shelters, and provide for the needs of the poor and those in great difficulty.
One family who Tyndale lodged with for a time were led to saving faith in Christ by his gracious, gentle and persuasive manner.
When imprisoned Tyndale wrote to the prison governor requesting a few essentials to ease his suffering slightly, his letter shows his sincere submission to God’s will: ‘I beg your lordship, and that by the Lord Jesus, that if I am to remain here through the winter, you will request the commisionary to have the kindness to send me, from the goods of mine which he has, a warmer cap; for I suffer greatly from cold in the head… a warmer coat also, for this which I have is very thin… He has a woollen shirt, if he will be good enough to send it… And I ask to be allowed to have a lamp in the evening; it is indeed wearisome sitting alone in the dark… but most of all I beg and beseech… that he will kindly permit me to have the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew grammar and Hebrew dictionary, that I may pass the time in that study… But if any other decision has been taken concerning me, to be carried out before winter, I will be patient, abiding in the will of God, to the glory of the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ; whose Spirit (I pray) may ever direct your heart.'
John Foxe described Tyndale as ‘A man without any spot or blemish of rancour or malice, full of mercy and compassion, so that no man living was able to reprove him of any sin or crime.’
Tyndale’s character was sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit through his diligent and disciplined attention to Scripture.
Edwards wrote ‘If there had been but one chink in Tyndale’s holy character, we can be sure his enemies would have exploited it. But they were totally unable to criticise him and this simple fact is the greatest proof of Tyndale’s likeness to the one whose book he was so eager to give to all England.’
Tyndale drew his Christ-likeness directly from God’s word, and with His help, sought to emulate all that he learnt; as a result grace abounded in his life and through him the fragrance of Christ was diffused in every place (2 Cor. 2:14).

Rebecca Wells


  1. I guess if the word of God is living and active it makes absolute sense that it will leave a recognisable imprint upon those who put themselves under it's influence. Wow! Thanks for all the research Becsy.
    On a slightly more practical note, how do we go about making sure that reading the bible isn't just a chore. That we actually learn and grow from reading? Anyone?

  2. That is certainly a very practical question! This is more of a thought than an answer but maybe helpful anyway. I think that we can learn from Tyndale's life here. He was in danger/persecution for much of his life after he decided to go ahead and translate the scriptures. I wonder if his awareness of his great need for God made him way more eager to be in the scriptures? In the same way in which we all pray when we are in a tight spot or are particularly aware of our need for God I think Tyndale's neediness drove him to the Sciptures too. Perhaps the more we are aware of our neediness and our need to hear from God and be changed by His words, the more we will be excited to get into reading the Bible. That would mean that one way to try and combat this attitude is by asking God (and asking others to ask God) to show us how much we need Him! Does that make sense and what do you (and others) think?

  3. I guess that makes a lot of sense to me. The times I've been in scripture most extremely have been when I was acutely aware of my need - in my case because of sin that made me feel particularly yucky. I even memorised massive chunks of the bible, the first 7 chapters of Hebrews and the first 2 or 3 of 1 Peter, at such times.
    Problem is I don't remember those passages now because it was all very fleeting.
    You're right, Thomas, we need to pray for a more abiding realisation of our deep need for God and perhaps that will drive us to his word more often.


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