“The Scriptures are like a chest in which the treasures of wisdom lie hidden in darkness impenetrable to our eyes, unless someone should unlock it and train upon it a sacred light” Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples, 1508
Walking with one foot in the dark ages and the other in heaven, Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples dragged civilisation by the scruff of its neck through the mud and into modern times. The discipleship of his students and his teachings on the love of Christ helped supernaturally translate the church back onto the path of righteousness and marching once more in the direction of Christ. Known to his students and friends for his warmth and affectionate demeanour, but to his opponents for his steadfast resolve and unshakeable convictions, Lefevre stands out in the history of God's kingdom as one of the greatest teachers and mentors of our age.
Like a father firmly rebuking his son, Lefevre's example of faith and teachings continue today to correct and affirm the church as she clamours and stumbles her way closer to the Lord. As the first spiritual father and teacher of the Huguenots, Lefevre's boast and greatest accomplishments were never to be found in his own works, but in the works of the men and women whom he mentored and discipled. Throwing himself at a work that has neither decayed nor stood still in time, the work he started in the Huguenots has only increased in measure and still lives on today throughout the nations and through Christ some of Lefevre's greatest disciples are still yet to come.
Writing in 1512 in his commentary to the Book of Romans that spread like a fire throughout the academic world of Europe, Lefevre's words which were engraved upon the hearts of his colleagues and students then are just as alive and relevant today. Recognising the spiritual condition to which the church had fallen, but seeing a better day coming through the eyes of his heart, Lefevre began to prophesy when he famously wrote:
“Yet the signs of the times announce that a renewal is near, and while God is opening new ways for the preaching of the Gospel, by the discoveries and conquests of the Portuguese and Spaniards in all parts of the world, we must hope that He will visit His church and raise it from the degradation into which it is fallen ... God, in His great mercy, will soon revive the expiring spark in the hearts of men, so that faith, and love, and a purer worship will return.”
A Passion and Zeal for Christ
Through Lefevre's commentary to the Book of Romans, the torch had been lit and the key had been put into a door that was about to open into a new and exciting world of discoveries not just in the heavens, but also upon the earth. As the church was caught up into the third heaven to rediscover the intimacy and power of faith towards Christ and the priesthood of all believers; on earth civilization was being transformed by new democracies and newfound personal liberties and freedoms. 500 years later we are once again surrounded by the signs of the times in almost every industry and field which announce that another renewal and reformation in the church is near. The same spark of the Holy Spirit that led the church out of the spiritual darkness, foolishness and idolatry 500 years ago will once again enlighten the church as she stumbles her way forward drawing ever closer to Christ.
As in the generation of Lefevre five centuries ago, we are once again on the edge and ready to fall over into another new world when a passion and zeal towards Christ will be poured out upon His people without measure. Just as in the day of King David when he was rushed upon and anointed by the Holy Spirit, we are about to cross another demarcation in time in which a line will be drawn in the sand and the Holy Spirit will again rush upon His people. Cornered by the Father's zeal and hopelessly unable to escape the first and only love that He has towards us, the same love for truth and righteousness that was ignited throughout the world in the early fifteen hundreds is about to be once more ignited and awakened in His people today.
The same expiring spark which Lefevre wrote of to his students in Paris 500 years ago, is the same spark of the Holy Spirit that dispelled the chaos and void at the time of creation and it is the same spark that was burning at its brightest and at its hottest when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. And it is this same spark of the Holy Spirit that burns and dwells inside of us forever renewing our minds and luring us closer to Christ. The same voice that moved over the dark void and emptiness at the time of creation bringing forth life and power is the same voice that was at its loudest when it called Jesus Christ out of the grave. It is this same voice that the church rediscovered at the beginning of the 16th century. Neither decaying nor standing still in time His voice has only increased in measure and today continues to resonate with increasing power and authority and it is this same voice that lives and moves and has its being inside you and I. It is that unquenchable fire that violently expels the spiritual blindness, foolishness and darkness from our own lives and surroundings today.
The personal faith and experience of Christ that gripped France in the early fifteen hundreds is the same faith and the same personal experience that continues today to turn ordinary and common men into the extraordinary and uncommon army that Joel foresaw through the eyes of his heart when he prophesied and saw from a distance in Joel 2.4-5:
"Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like warhorses they run. As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle."
Marching for Christ and walking in the same manner and direction as Enoch did right into the Father's heart; there is no greater army or force on earth and no greater cause to fight for than the cause of Christ. One of the greatest armies assembled and battle lines drawn was as a result of the Lord visiting His church at the beginning of the early fifteen hundreds. Ignited by a personal faith in Christ and fuelled by the Scriptures being placed back into the hands of the common people, the move of God that started in the office of a small and unassuming French man would spread out of control across France leaping into Germany through a humble monk, then Switzerland and England before spreading across the seas to all continents and nations throughout the earth.
Accelerated by the sudden burst of energy released into the church at the beginning of the nineteen hundreds through the Welsh and Azusa Street revivals, this army of bible-believing reformers continues to draw their battle lines and grow in depth of spirit and increase in numbers. Those who make up her numbers are the ones who carry the Torch of the Spirit in one hand and the torch and sword in the other. Continually deferring to the written Word of God as the final authority on all matters they are repeatedly led by the voice and conviction of the Holy Spirit. They are the ones throughout history who have made straight the way of the Lord and who have built a highway of holiness that has passed through the church age from the Day of Pentecost until now. Motivated by their zeal and love of the written Word of God and their humility to inquire of the Holy Spirit as a first resort rather than a last, they accomplish all that the Lord places before them as He marks them with the anointing and inner strength of the Holy Spirit.
They are the ones who have become indoctrinated with a living and abiding relationship with the person of Jesus Christ and not just a book. Not content to build upon another man's revelation and give the appearance they know Him, they contend; they wrestle; and they fight the good fight of faith never laying aside the gift of the Holy Spirit they have been given.
Since the birth of Christ there has been no greater demarcation in mankind's history than when the Scriptures were placed into the hands of the common people, and the ordinary and common began to preach the word of God under the influence of the Holy Spirit. With nothing to lose and an entire world to gain, this company of believers is the church's greatest asset and the anchor that will keep her on the path of righteousness as she is no longer taken from hilltop to hilltop and from mountain to mountain but shepherded to her ultimate resting place in God during the last days.
As the Holy Spirit continues to be poured out today, the ordinary and common people are becoming increasingly extraordinary and uncommon as our experience of Christ deepens in revelation and the eyes of our hearts continue to be opened and expanded. The personal faith and revelation that each one of us has that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God will continue to spread like wildfire through every local church and congregation until all the wood, stubble and hay is burned up and consumed. Then, we will stand together as a truly catholic and universal church knowing in our hearts that Jesus Christ is not only the Son of the Living God but that He alone is our King and proclaimed Leader and the only true conqueror of the human heart.
It has been 500 years since the Holy Spirit orchestrated the great escape and jailbreak from the religious prison we chose to walk into. And yet, during that time we have become so familiar with the phrase “justification by faith” that it has lost its intimacy and power and we have betrayed ourselves into having a form of things but with little substance and true spiritual depth. One of the greatest truths and treasures in the heavens that we can ever behold in this lifetime, that we will not be able to in the many ages to come, is knowing the power and intimacy of living a life of faith in Christ firmly in His grip.
The True Foundation
Lefevre never intended that his commentary to the Book of Romans would lead to us building our beliefs and doctrines more on Paul's letters than Christ's message in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He always intended that having camped around Paul we would then continue to follow the signs and keep moving forward until we arrived at the life and teachings of Christ in the four gospels. We are about to make such a leap forward in the church today, taking to heart deep within our spirit the good news of Jesus Christ. When we do, we will not just have faith in Christ, but we will carry the very faith of Christ and do the works He did and greater.
Jesus Christ is the only foundation that can hold and sustain the dwelling place of God on earth and we lay this foundation in our lives by taking to heart His message and being obedient to all that He taught His disciples, which includes you and I today. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the basic teachings of Christianity and the most basic statement of faith we have as a church. The Prophets in the Old Testament are a foundation as are the Apostles in the New Testament, but Christ came before them all just as He told the Pharisees “before Abraham, I was.” He existed before the foundations of the heaven and earth were laid, and it is His life alone that forms the foundation of God's dwelling place which is the church.
Lefevre believed that Paul's writings were to point us to Christ and that He was the true foundation upon which we build our lives. He never intended that the church of the 16th century would take his commentary to the Book of Romans and build their beliefs on Paul but rather that through Paul we would be led to Christ in the same manner that he was. Upon Christ and Christ alone we are to build. While still recognizing and honouring the importance of Paul's letters they are not the foundation – Christ is. The coming wave of reform will do just this. Jesus alone is our Good Shepherd. When we return to Christ as our foundation, preaching Him not just from the gospels but from the entire Old and New Testaments, then we will return to the true prophetic and apostolic gospel of the Kingdom and the church will finally place her head on His chest as the Apostle John did.
Early Life of Lefevre
Born around 1435 to humble parents in the French province of Picardy, Lefevre was raised as a member of France's common and ordinary class. Growing up with a thirst for knowledge, he quickly became acquainted with local libraries and the reading of books. Not having any noble blood running through his veins, he did not have the finances to pay for his education. Without being sponsored by a member of the nobility Lefevre needed a way to support his quest to be educated and when he was of age, he sold his home and property in order to finance his move to Paris and begin a journey that would take the entirety of his life.
Arriving in Paris from Picardy Lefevre quickly grew in favour as a student with those around him as a leader who led by example and who was fully devoted to his spiritual life. Believing that it was not enough to devote oneself to just study, but that true religion was reflected in the sanctity of life and a genuine concern for your fellow man Lefevre often demonstrated his unselfish love of knowledge amongst colleagues by sacrificing the majority of his university income. He did this in order to meet the practical needs of both his family and friends and became known for living a selfless life.
Free to give himself entirely to the pursuit of education, His noble thirst for knowledge brought the admiration of his closest friends, and despite the social opposition, he continued to struggle his way up into knowledge as one who struggles their way up a mountain. Lefevre's studies took him throughout Europe, Asia and Africa as he travelled extensively and continued to give himself to the pursuit of learning. As a result, he quickly became highly skilled in almost every field of study including physics, mathematics, philosophy and music as well as the languages, including Hebrew, Greek and Latin.
Learning from his studies in mathematics and physics where he studied and wrote about the works of Aristotle, he realised that it was essential to begin studying any subject from the original sources rather than accepting that subject's traditional teachings. This opposed the teaching style of the day that was heavily rooted in futile discussions, pride and arrogance which had been dominating the Universities teaching methods for more than 100 years. This quickly made Lefevre significantly different from the other professors and teachers who taught students based more on the traditions of the subject that had been handed down rather than starting at the place which inspired the revelation. This led to Lefevre developing a reputation throughout Europe's universities for profound and exact learning. His love for the truth and his extraordinarily active mind caused him to rise above the narrow mindedness of both his teachers and colleagues who surrounded him in almost every field of study.
Often, Lefevre's students would hear him say “Back to the source! Back to the source!” in their meetings. He saw it as his responsibility to lead the students back to the original sources for each of the subject areas they studied. It was his desire to put to an end the practice of drinking from polluted academic streams that had wandered far from their origin.
Upon returning from his travels around the world in the late fourteen hundreds, he was appointed a professor and teacher at the University of Paris. His teachings quickly saw him become admired both at home and abroad by both opponents and friends alike.
Lefevre was small in stature and neither his personal appearance nor common background commanded respect. His studies led him to becoming mild and often timid and he became known as a peaceful and serene man who was modest and unassuming. He was known for not being very attractive and was often bent-over from all of his reading and time spent at the desk. All of the obstacles that were facing him, however, were to melt away into the background as the strength of his character and the brilliancy of his active and renewed mind seized the day and the times in which he lived.
In the words of his colleagues including the famous humanist, Erasmus, Lefevre had risen from the lowest rank of French society and without any reputable background or support to become the most learned and educated man in all of Europe. There was none higher than Lefevre who stood at the pinnacle of the mountain of education. Despite Lefevre's growing influence, however, he continued to live a quiet and ordinary life without the pride and arrogance that was constantly biting at the heels of many others of stature in society. Soon, the most distinguished men and women in French society including high ranking members of the French royal family and their children were traveling to sit at his feet to be mentored and discipled by him.
About the author
Sean Cowan is the Lord's disciple and carries the message of devotion to Christ. He lives with his wife Chagit in England where they attend the MorningStar apostolic hub in Chester. He is also a graduate of MorningStar School of Ministry and a member of MorningStar Fellowship of Ministries.