Monday, May 9, 2022
Roger Williams, who lived from 1603 to 1683, was a religious leader and one of the founders of Rhode Island. He sailed from England for Massachusetts in 1630. He had a particularly strong view of religious freedom and of the rights of people. He questioned the right of the colonists to take the Indians’ land from them merely on the legal basis of the royal charter. His views brought trouble upon him from the oligarchy that was ruling Massachusetts. In 1635 he was found guilty of teaching that the civil power of a state could properly have no jurisdiction over the consciences of men and was ordered to be banished from the colony. He lived briefly with friendly Indians and then, in 1636, founded Providence in what was to be the colony of Rhode Island.
His most famous of all writings, The Bloody Tenant of Persecution (1644), was written from England while he was applying for the charter for his colony in America. Williams addressed England’s state-run church and its attempts to enforce religious uniformity through persecution and punishment. He states, “It is the will and command of God that, since the coming of his Son, the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or antichristian consciences and worships be granted to all men in all nations and countries: and they are only to be fought against with … the sword of God’s Spirit, the Word of God.”
Williams was appalled at the history of church-sanctioned wars against opposing religions. He understood a fundamental truth of God’s created order for humanity – man cannot be truly conquered unless his soul and spirit are surrendered. Forced obedience is not to be confused with religious freedom or righteousness. The only successful strategy for the transformation of the world and the salvation of people is to impale them with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. The only power able to conquer the false teachings and beliefs of all the religions of the world is the truth of God’s Word. People in those belief systems are not to be persecuted and forced to change their views through war. They are to be transformed by the “Word of God, which is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
Ephesians 6:17b “…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.“
The direct implication of that truth is this – you and I are to pick up the only weapon we have been given and go to war with it. We have been given our marching orders by our Commander-in-Chief, and the orders are clear – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” This command from Jesus is for all who claim Him as Lord and Savior. It is not just for pastors or missionaries. It is not just for the eloquent. It is not just for those with type A personalities. It is not for the handsome or beautiful or talented or trained. It is for all of us, because the message we spread is not based on human experience or ability, but on the power of the Word of God. We do not proclaim our story, but His, and His story will change history. Those who know His story, will strive with all their might to pick up the Sword of the Spirit and proclaim it. They will overcome any obstacle in their path. They will cast aside any sin and correct any thoughts that hinder them from accomplishing the mission they have been given. They will stand before anyone at any time and proclaim that Jesus is Lord.
When Demosthenes, the famed Greek orator, first spoke in public, he was hissed off the platform. His voice was harsh and weak and his appearance unimpressive. He determined that his fellow citizens would someday appreciate his words, so he practiced day and night. He shaved half his head so no one would want to invite him to social events. To overcome a stammer, he recited with pebbles in his mouth and yelled against the thunders of the Aegean Sea so his voice would get louder. He stood beneath a suspended sword to train himself not to favor a shoulder that kept hitching. He practiced facial expressions in front of a mirror. It’s not surprising that when he next appeared in public, he moved the Greek nation. He and another orator spoke on a matter of national concern. When his companion concluded his speech, the crowd said, “What marvelous oratory!” But when Demosthenes finished, they cried with one voice, “Let us go and fight Philip!”
The Word of God will move people to join the army of heaven. We do not move them with our words – God moves them with His Word. We simply proclaim it. Let His Word move you to action!