Wednesday, 11 June 2014

'L' is for The Lamb's War against the Man of Sin

A. INTRODUCTION

The Lamb’s War against the Man of Sin is one of James Nayler’s most important tracts. It was written and published in 1657 not long after his cruel and unusual punishment and imprisonment at the hands of Parliament that had found him guilty of ‘horrid blasphemy’. It is difficult to overestimate the significance of this tract. It stands as a clear and uncompromising statement of early Quaker apocalyptic beliefs and expectations. In particular, it explains how God is acting through Christ the Lamb to defeat evil within the creation and establish the kingdom of heaven on earth. The American Quaker historian Hugh Barbour has argued that this tract is probably the first systematic public declaration of the peaceable principles of the early Quaker movement.   

B. The Lamb’s War – Key Points in Summary

Here is a summary of Nayler’s key points in The Lamb’s War against the Man of Sin:

  1. The Fall and its consequences - Ever since humans turned from God and rebelled against the order that God has given to the creation there has been a very sharp distinction between the way of God and the ways of the world.
  1. The ways of the world - The ways of the world are characterised by human idleness, vanity, greed, deceitfulness, violence and injustice.
  1. Conflict is inevitable - In these circumstances there can be no peace between God’s people and the world, conflict is inevitable.
  1. Persecution and suffering is inevitable - The world is opposed to the way of God and so God’s people will inevitably experience opposition and persecution.
  1. Christ the Lamb and Saviour - God sent Christ the Lamb into the world to liberate the creation from the spirit of wickedness, to destroy evil and to establish God’s kingdom.
  1. Inward cleansing and liberation by the Spirit - Through the Spirit, Christ has the power required to liberate people from the ways of wickedness and to cleanse them of sin.
  1. What is this war for - The Lamb’s War is the struggle to liberate humanity and the whole creation from the spirit of wickedness that enslaves and corrupts it.
  1. First an inward Lamb’s War - The Lamb’s war must first of all be fought and won within the heart of each person, destroying the evil within them and bringing them into harmony with God.
  1. A visibly Transformed Life - Those who have been transformed by the inward Lamb’s War reflect the way of God in their outward lives.
  1. Members of the Lamb’s Army - Those who have been transformed by the inward Lamb’s War work with the Lamb to defeat evil in the whole creation.
  1. A nonviolent spiritual conflict - God loves humanity and the whole of creation and does not wish to harm them. Therefore, the Lamb’s War is not like the wars of the world. It is a spiritual conflict and does not use physical force or violence.
  1. How victory is achieved - The followers of the Lamb use the power of gentleness, meekness and faithfulness. Like Christ, they are victorious through suffering love.
  1. We have a stark choice - This means that we all have a stark choice to make. In the Lamb’s War, do we fight with the Lamb or do we side with the world?
  1. Many will flee the cross - Many people will refuse to join the Lamb or will fall away when the going gets tough because being on the side of the Lamb leads to ridicule, suffering and persecution at the hands of the world.
  1. The Lamb’s victory is assured - The world seems to be undefeatable but, despite appearances, it is the Lamb that has the real power. It is beyond doubt that the Lamb and his followers will be victorious, evil will be destroyed and the God’s kingdom will be established on earth.
  1. The Kingdom of God is coming now - Even though this process will involve much conflict and suffering, the kingdom of God is coming here and now!
C. The Lamb’s War Against the Man of Sin (1657) – A Paraphrase In Modern English

Introduction

God is active in the creation through his Son, the Lamb. Through the Lamb God makes war on the god/spirit of this world. Humans have turned away from God and departed from the order that God gave to creation. They are separated from God and worship the god/spirit of this world instead. They use the creation in a way that is against the intentions of the creator. The Lamb fights against this rebellion and seeks to bring humanity back into harmony with God.

1. The objective of his war is to show that the god/spirit of this world is evil and draws humans away from what God originally intended them to be. To those who will follow him, the Lamb offers liberation from this bondage and reconciliation with God. Through the Lamb, God will restore the creation to its original order and all that is contrary to God will be destroyed.

2. The manner of his war is that God acts justly by providing all people with his light within them that reveals what is against God’s order and what is in harmony with it. All who are willing to follow this light will be empowered by God to join in the struggle to restore all things to their original order and harmony.

3. What they are to war against is everything that is contrary to God. This is not a war against human creatures but against the spiritual wickedness that is within them (that makes them think that they are gods themselves and do not need God the creator). The Lamb and his followers live in harmony with God’s order based on a covenant relationship. They come into conflict with the world because they work to replace the kingdoms of the world with the Kingdom of God, where God rules in the hearts of all his people and all live in harmony with God and the divine order.

4. What their weapons are. The Lamb and his followers do not seek to destroy people’s lives and so their weapons are not physically harmful to living things and to the creation. The Lamb puts spiritual weapons into the hearts and hands of his followers. So when they make war with the Lamb’s enemies, they do not employ the violent ways of the world but rather use the power of the Spirit and the word of truth. Having confronted the wickedness within people and having offered them a way to become reconciled with God, the Lamb and his followers patiently endure the rage, hatred and persecution that this provokes so that they overcome evil with good. In the end, all that is contrary to God will be destroyed.

5. The Lamb’s followers communicate the way of God to the world. Those who follow the Lamb and obey him are transformed and in their new lives they communicate the way of God to the world. Ultimately, those who reject the Lamb will be defeated and will be destroyed.

What his kingdom is

The kingdom of the Lamb cannot be understood using normal human reason. He becomes known within us when he makes us aware of our rebellion against God. Although his mighty power existed before creation, established creation and fills creation, the Lamb makes war on evil by means of meekness, humbleness and patience.

The Lamb’s kingdom in this world can be found in the hearts of those who follow him. His followers are purified of all sin and their bodies are made a temple fit for God to dwell within. They are released from their own wills and brought into obedience to God’s will. They are made aware of the new covenant and God’s law is written on their hearts. If they follow the Lamb’s guidance they are secure in the kingdom. However, if they ignore his teaching then the Lamb makes them know they have done wrong. They come to share the same mind as the Lamb and their transformed outward appearance and behaviour (humbleness in mind and meekness of spirit) is clearly visible to all people. The Lamb leads them out into the world and gives them the power to fight again evil.

There are many who falsely claim to represent Christ on earth and they fight among themselves about doctrine. However, all this must be tested against the eternal and unchanging spirit of Christ that dwells within all people. Only this comes from God.

 You will know that you have found the true Christ if his guidance is consistent and unchanging over time. Does Christ lead you to fight against the ways of the world that are contrary to God (e.g. human pride, fashions and customs) and does he make you willing to die rather than be disobedient to God? Does he bring you to a life that is comparable to that of the prophets, the apostles and the saints of biblical times? Does he liberate you from the slavery and corruption of this world? Does he put God’s law within you and destroy all that is contrary to God within you? Does he give you a new nature that is opposed to your old worldly nature? Has he invested you with the power of God to overcome evil with good? Do you take on his likeness and witness to this before the world?

Are you working for the true God or for the god/spirit of this world? The Children of Light have come to make war on the god/spirit of this world and suffer great persecution as a result. Whose side are you on? Are you willing to sacrifice your security and comfort to take up the cause of the Lamb and be obedient to God? You will convince your enemies through your gentleness, meekness and faithfulness. If you are resisting this call you are separated from God and from Christ. Many will take up this work but fall away when the going gets tough. Some only give half-hearted loyalty to the Lamb because they want to maintain their reputation in the world. Others try to follow the Lamb but are deceived by evil and led back to the world. So, many are called but few prove truly faithful. Many feel ashamed and afraid because following the Lamb brings them ridicule and persecution at the hands of the world. However, in the end the Lamb will be victorious and if you suffer with him you offer no comfort to his enemies.

Do you feel comfortable when Christ’s people are viciously persecuted for doing his will and condemning the ways of the world as contrary to God? If you seek to avoid persecution and blame the victims for their own suffering, you are worse than those who openly do the persecuting. Are you like Pilate letting others do the persecuting while trying to wash your hands of any guilt?

The true followers of Christ suffer like he did. Are you prepared to do this too or do you merely profess Christ and befriend the persecutors? Are you not supporting the devil in his fight against the Lord? The followers of the Lamb endure this persecution and by doing so give a public witness against the evils of the world. Examples of this can be found throughout the Bible.

How long will it be before those who profess Christ are willing to suffer with him and join in the sufferings of his true followers? Your persecution of them is your own condemnation, because it demonstrates that you do not have the Spirit of Christ in you. God will judge you for this. It is amazing how you can teach others about the scriptures yet so openly disregard Christ’s teachings in your own lives. You clearly hate and reject the teachings of Christ within you.

How long will it be before you hear and obey what the Lord is saying within you? This would reveal how enslaved you are by evil. Oh, if only you would see and hear. Then you would become soldiers of Christ using spiritual weapons to fight against the spiritual wickedness within people that prevents them from serving God. The true warfare involves the use of spiritual weapons that bring people into obedience to Christ and showing that disobedience brings God’s condemnation.  This is the only way to cleanse the heart of all that is contrary to God. Humans cannot do this by their own efforts. Only Christ can achieve this in us. Those who join the Lamb’s war against evil in the world are Christ’s chosen and faithful people.

If you proclaim that God’s kingdom is coming, be aware that his kingdom must come within you first. The Lamb’s war must be fought and won within you before you can enter God’s kingdom. The Lamb will eradicate all evil within you and you will be transformed into a new person with a new heart, new thoughts and a new obedience to God. This is what brings the kingdom of God within you.

The few who remain faithful to the Lamb will wage war against the world without compromise until Christ rules in every heart. If you want to show that you dwell in God’s kingdom you must join the Lamb in his fight against evil. If you are content with the ways of this world you are not part of God’s kingdom. Living in the kingdom involves suffering and the death of the inward man of sin, including death to the world’s ways and fashions.

Those who want to make peace with the world (i.e. compromise with its ways) betray the Lamb because they make peace with his enemies. You may argue that God is love and commands us to seek peace with all. However, God loves Christ and his faithful followers but the world hates and persecutes them. Christ and his faithful followers have always suffered persecution and death at the hands of the world. Do you proclaim the words of Christ and the apostles but fail to follow their example?

The Lamb does not fight against the creation and physical things. If he did he would use physical weapons just like the powers of the world do. Instead he fights against the spiritual powers of wickedness that oppose God’s rule in creation and produce the lusts of greed and covetousness that in turn lead to outward war. There can be no true peace until this battle is won. Our love of God and our neighbour requires us to be faithful fighters in the Lamb’s war. God has never commanded us to compromise with the world, because if you love the world you cannot love God.

You may not be aware of it but there is all the difference in the world between human people and the spirit of wickedness that keeps them in bondage and separates them from God. If you love the spirit of wickedness, you hate both God and humanity. Those who fight in the Lamb’s war understand this. At the moment the whole of creation is enslaved by spiritual wickedness and the few who are obedient to God are persecuted for showing how this evil destroys people’s souls, separates them from God and spoils the creation. If you proclaim Christ’s kingdom but then twist God’s commandments about peace and love in order to justify supporting the spirit of this world, God will find you out.

The kingdom of Christ is coming now. A people are being raised up to fight spiritual warfare against the world using the sword that comes out of Christ’s mouth. Humans are separated from God by the god/spirit of this world. This is a war to reconcile God and humanity. The followers of the Lamb are prepared to lay down their lives in order to reconcile people with God even though these people are their enemies. This is what true love looks like. Are you willing and able to join this battle or are you content to remain separated from God?

This is a time of great strife with much violence and deceit. We are living in the last times and there is much evil all around. The powers of the world present temptations to all of us. They attempt to draw people away from the Lamb who is seeking to reconcile God and humanity. Scripture is used to defend pride, greed, deceit, false forms of worship and disorder. This justifies a life that is clearly contrary to what scriptures teach us.

Without the power of Christ within them, humans are enslaved by the spirit of wickedness in the world. Outward wealth breeds pride, idleness and vanity and a disregard for the lowly and meek just as it did in Dives (Luke 16). The business of trading becomes so filled with deceit that those who behave with integrity cannot make a living by it. The only solution is to follow the guidance of Christ within you at all times. This will protect you from the evil in the world.  The light dwelling within you will bring you to the eternal life and the true freedom of God. His kingdom, his power and his glory rules over all creation.

As the Lamb brings righteousness from heaven so his enemies gather to fight against him. Those who walk in the light of the lamb are protected from his enemies and are spiritually cleansed so that in them God finds a fit place to dwell. Those who are cleansed join the Lamb’s army doing battle with evil. His enemies, although they are full of confidence and vanity, will be defeated. The righteous will then replace the wicked and God’s rule within creation will be unopposed.

D. THE FULL TRACT AVAILABLE ONLINE

If you would like to read the full original tract, it is available online as part of the Earlham School of Religion Digital Collection. Use the link below:

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