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Great Reformers

31. May 2017

Columns, Gentle Reformation,

  —James Faris

William Farel was the spark plug of the Reformation in French-speaking Switzerland. He placed his faith in Christ while studying the letters of the Apostle Paul under pro-reform scholar Jacques Lefevre in Paris. Lefevre never left the Roman Catholic Church but sought reform from within.

Lefevre’s pupil, William Farel, continued to welcome Reformation ideas from Luther in Germany. Farel began as a professor at the university and then became a preacher in Paris by 1522. Even in the early days of the Reformation, Farel drew scholars and preachers together effectively to advance the cause of the Reformation. He was a high-energy evangelist, a recruiter, an organizer, and a debater.

A fiery preacher who held the attention of crowds with his gifts, Farel was forced to flee from Paris in 1523 because of his ardent opposition to the Roman Catholic Church. He fled to Switzerland, where his deep devotion, personal piety, and superior debating skills helped him to win Swiss cities like Bern, Basel, Lausanne, and Neuchâtel to the side of the Reformers. He also struck out through the Alps to recruit some of the Waldensians to Reformed thinking. Through his influence, they printed the first French translation of the Scriptures in 1535.

Farel spoke more than he wrote. However, he did publish basic discipleship material to show how Reformed theology was to be lived out in daily life. Further, he connected writers and publishers to help fan the flame of the ...

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