Radical Baptism

The Radical Reformation that began Anabaptist history was a time of aligning back up with Scripture on many points. The early Anabaptists desired to radically follow Scripture on all points regardless of persecution. And just like the earliest persecution of the Church, their persecution came from the religious groups that were in power at that time.

If Anabaptists would have practiced their faith and their re-baptizing of adults quietly, they probably could have avoided a lot of persecution. But they went out and preached, trying to convert and baptize as many others as they could. They took Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 very seriously:

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Emphasis added)

They wouldn’t be quiet! (The title “quiet in the land” definitely would not have described them) They went to Scripture to see how Jesus and the early church did it and they followed what they read. When a new believer converted, he was baptized immediately and publically.

The religious leaders were against the re-baptizing of adults (which is generally all we ever hear about). But even if they would have accepted that, the fact that the Anabaptists were not examining the converts enough (or letting the leaders do the examining) or waiting for the right time would have been a problem as well.

Anabaptists pointed back at Scriptural accounts of baptism. When Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:14-15), He asked John to baptize Him and John questioned it. But Jesus said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (NKJV emphasis mine)

This account and all the other baptisms recorded in Scripture followed immediately upon the request of the converts.

But as time went on, the church changed things, especially during the Dark Ages. The church began a policy of examining a convert seven times before baptism was allowed. They also would baptize converts at only two specific times: Easter and Pentecost. 1

Anabaptists, on the other hand, would give teaching and instruction for several hours, or in some cases, several days. But when the ones being taught came to believing faith, any new converts were baptized immediately.

Early Anabaptists saw no conflict between pouring or immersion. They did both. Where the baptism happened did not matter either– in rivers or ponds, barns, caves, mills, forests, or where ever they happened to be.

Anabaptists tied faith, repentance, and baptism together and did not postpone any of the three. They couldn’t wait to baptize until a more convenient time because there anabaptist-baptizinwas no convenient time. They baptized at once because they believed baptism is the outward testimony of the inward new birth itself. 2

Anabaptists believed strongly that the new birth and baptism were both incomplete by themselves. So they always tied both together in one event.

It wasn’t that they thought if they baptized a sinner, it would immediately make him a saint. Nor did they wait until someone had proven themselves to be a saint before they baptized them. They just baptized people who confessed faith in Jesus as their Savior and expressed a desire to follow Him. Only repentance and faith were necessary for baptism. And then from this Anabaptists expected the Christian life to spring forth. 3

Anabaptists and Baptism Today

Flash forward five centuries later… Anabaptist beliefs today look a bit more like those of the religious leaders that persecuted the early Anabaptists for their beliefs than they look like the beliefs of their Anabaptist forefathers. Most conservative Mennonites today only baptize about once a year. Even then, baptism is only for those that have gone through instruction class and meet all the requirements of church membership. Conversion and baptism have been conveniently separated again. Converts must, once again, prove their worthiness of baptism (today by their dress standard and lifestyle) before they can be baptized.

How did this lapse happen again? I believe it came about in part a couple centuries after the first Anabaptists, when Instruction Class was first introduced. Originally, Instruction Class was not intended for new converts. It was a class started for the purpose of bringing young people to conversion. 4

I can easily see that from there it began to be a requirement for all young people because the churches wanted to be sure the young people all understood well. And soon it became a requirement for all converts, young and old. Something that was started with perfectly good intentions easily became an extra-Biblical requirement for all believers– just as it did in the Dark Ages.

We do want converts to understand what repentance and faith are before they are baptized, but does it need to be a three to six month class? Could it not be explained in a couple hours? And those young people who have been taught by their parents already are ready for baptism as soon as they choose to make the decision to follow Christ. Even those who don’t have a life long teaching can ask questions if there is areas they don’t understand. And who of us understood everything when we converted? Does that not come in the weeks, months, and years following conversion?

Did not Jesus Himself say, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”? (John 14:26)

Anabaptists used to stand out from the rest of the religious groups mainly because of their radical willingness to baptize or re-baptize any new believers immediately upon conversion. But today they are known to be the opposite of that. We want people to prove that they are “true Anabaptists” before we will baptize them. And the only thing that seems to make us Anabaptists is our dress and separated life style. And we equate that outward look and separate lifestyle to be evidence of true faith.

History has a tendency to repeat itself. Who will be the Radicals this time? Who will turn back to Scripture and re-align themselves concerning baptism– regardless of religious persecution? Will this be the generation of Anabaptists to again take a Biblical stand?

1. Menno Simons, Dat Fundament des Christelycken leers . . . 1539  “We are informed by those who know history that baptism and the time of its administration was changed. In the beginning of the holy commune, people were baptized in ordinary water. They were baptized as soon as they professed the faith and on the confession of their faith, according to the writings. Afterward a change was made. Church leaders began to examine people seven times before baptizing them. After that they were baptized only at two special times, at Easter and Pentecost.”

2. Peter Hoover, The Secret of the Strength, chapter 12 “On to Commitment”

3. Peter Hover, The Secret of the Strength, chapter 11 “On to Baptism”

4. Peter Hoover, The Secret of the Strength, chapter 12 “On to Commitment”   In the footnotes (number 3) of this chapter “No Anabaptists held ‘instruction classes’ for converts. Instruction classes for the young people (Jugendunterricht) did not develope until centuries later. Even then they were not intended to be classes for “converts.” Their purpose was to bring young people to conversion and baptism. This is still their stated purpose in Old Order Mennonite churches.”


Members-Only Baptism

Shelly grew up in a non-Mennonite church. One of her closest friends from school was Mennonite and she invited Shelly to visit her church. So Shelly went and really enjoyed it. She continued to attend and made lots of friends.

When she got saved, she wanted to get baptized. She told her parents that she wanted to get baptized and become a member of the Mennonite church. Her father was unhappy with her decision. “It’s one thing to attend there, but as long as you live under my roof, I will not allow you to become a member of a Mennonite church.”

She countered with, “Well can I get baptized there at least? I’ll just wait to become a member until I am old enough to be on my own.”

So her dad agreed to allow her to get baptized there.

When Shelly talked to the ministry about her desire to get baptized, she was dismayed to hear what their response was. “I’m very sorry, Shelly. We can’t baptize you unless you are willing to become a member of our church. That is just our policy here.”

“But why?” questioned Shelly. “I don’t want to go against my dad’s wishes but I also don’t want to wait to get baptized until I’m old enough to move out.”

“We’re sorry, Shelly. We only baptize people who become a member of our church. How can we hold someone accountable if they don’t become a member?” the ministers told her.


Henry’s wife turned her back on God, left him for another man, and took their two children, a son and a daughter, with her. She got custody and Henry only got to have them every other weekend. So Henry brought them to church every other Sunday and taught them about God every chance he could.

When they reached their teens, his children both gave their lives to God. Henry was so excited. They wanted to get baptized and his daughter wanted to wear a head covering. When their mother heard about this, she refused to let her.

So Henry asked if their church could make an exception for his daughter and baptize her anyway even though she did not wear a covering.

But the church refused. What kind of an example would that set for other girls in the church if this one was allowed to get baptized but did not wear a head covering?

So Henry’s children were turned away and they had to find another church to baptize them.

Both of these examples, and others like them, happen occasionally in Mennonite circles. People are turned away because of circumstances that they can’t control. I’ve seen it happen in my church and I’ve heard enough bitter complaints against Mennonites from others who have experienced rejection from Mennonites, that I know it has not been just a few isolated incidents.

I have wept over the hearts that have been wounded and turned away by our dogmatic approach to keeping our church rules. If our traditions hurt others and turn them away from obeying the Bible (we are commanded to repent and be baptized), maybe we need to repent of our traditions and align our theology back to what God’s commands are.born of water

Does Scripture give requirements that must be met before baptism?

Baptism is not salvation, but baptism does represent what happens during salvation. Is becoming a member of a church a requirement for salvation? Must you be walking in obedience to every command before God can save you?

Baptism is to follow our salvation experience as a outward statement of what has happened inwardly. If it is only a symbol of our salvation experience, why do we place more expectations for baptism on the new believer than we do for salvation?

If our reasons for church membership are for accountability, than should that be something separate from baptism? Is accountability ever a requirement for baptism in Scripture?

Romans 6:3 says “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”

Are we baptizing converts into Jesus Christ, or into “Faithful Mennonite Church”?

By requiring membership in order to get baptized, we are saying that we will not baptize anyone who is not Mennonite. So since baptism represents salvation, we are also saying that we don’t believe that anyone can be saved unless they are Mennonite.

Acts 10:44-48 gives us an example of a time when something like this occurred.

“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.

These Jews were not sure that the Gentiles (who had just received the Holy Ghost) should be baptized with them. Peter’s response to them was, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”

Is our Mennonite versus non-Mennonite belief any different than the Jew versus Gentile belief here? Do saved non-Mennonites not have the same Holy Ghost in them that we do? Who are we to “forbid water”?

Paul also addresses this in 1Cor. 12:13.

“For by one Spirit are we ALL baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

And in Ephesians 4:4-5

“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of you calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

“…Baptized into ONE BODY.”

“ONE faith, ONE baptism.”

There doesn’t appear to be any wiggle room here. There is only one kind of baptism. There is only one faith and only one Body of Christ that we are baptized into.

If it’s wrong to refuse baptism to someone who has the same Holy Ghost in them that we do, then it is time for Anabaptists to repent and reform. When church tradition and Biblical commands contradict, we need to do like our forefathers did and make a radical reformation back to alignment with Scripture.


The Long Preparation for Baptism

Danny was sixteen years old when he began to regularly attend a Mennonite church. He had felt so welcomed during his years at their VBS and wanted to be a part of this congregation. As he studied the Word, he became convicted of sin in his life and wanted forgiveness. John, a brother from the congregation, explained God’s plan of salvation to him, prayed with him, and Danny gave his life to the Lord.

Danny read that in order to be saved, he must “repent and be baptized”, so he requested to be baptized.

The ministry team asked him if he was ready to become a member of their church. He was a bit confused and asked questions about what all that entailed. They explained that he would need to follow the rules and standards of the church. Danny was okay with that; it seemed to make sense.

They explained that he could join the next instruction class that was scheduled to begin in a few months. Then when he had completed the class, he could get baptized.

Danny was confused again. “So how long will that be? Can’t I just get baptized right away?”

The ministry explained that they wanted to be sure he really understood what being saved was all about. Danny said, “Brother John explained it all to me already. That’s why I prayed and gave my life to Jesus. Can’t I just get baptized right away?”

They explained that instruction class would also expound on how to live life as a Christian. Danny said, “But I learn about that every time I come to church. Couldn’t I just get baptized right away?”

But the ministry stood firm so Danny reluctantly agreed that he would join the next instruction class.

Meanwhile one of Danny’s brothers also got saved and was baptized in another church. So Danny went there instead and asked to be baptized. He was baptized the following Sunday. His desire to get baptized right away prevailed over his desire to join the instruction class where he would have to wait to get baptized for another year. Danny then continued to attend the Mennonite church, but never did join instruction class.


So what do you do with Danny? Does he need to be confronted for the way he insisted on being baptized immediately? If we really believe that Scripture has an answer for every practice that we teach as Mennonites, what verse on baptism can we find to confront him for his actions?

Are there any examples in Scripture of the disciples or the early church making someone wait to get baptized?

Baptism Examples

In Acts 2 we see Peter preaching to a crowd. They are “pricked in their hearts” and ask, “What shall we do?” Peter answers, “Repent and be baptized.” Those that received his words were baptized and 3,000 souls were added to the kingdom. (Acts 2:37-41)

That’s a lot of people! How could they be sure that all 3,000 really understood what they heard?

In Acts 8, we read about some Samaritans who had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, but had not yet received the Holy Ghost; so Peter and John went to lay hands on them that they would receive the Holy Ghost.

Wait, shouldn’t they have waited to baptize them until they were sure they had been filled with the Holy Ghost? What about Simon (who had just gotten baptized), who immediately after witnessing the Holy Ghost fall upon the Samaritans, offers to buy this power to receive the Holy Ghost? Shouldn’t he have had a little more teaching before he was baptized?

In Acts 8:26-39, we can read the story of Philip and the eunuch. Here a man who apparently knew nothing about Jesus previously, but learns about the plan of salvation, believes on Jesus, and is baptized by Philip –all in one day.

I guess this story won’t work for confronting Danny either.

The story of Saul/Paul’s conversion is found in Acts 9. In verse 18, we see the scales falling from his eyes and he receives his sight. He then “arose, and was baptized”. This was one of the Church’s greatest enemies and even he received baptism the day he gave his life to Jesus.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were thrown in prison and the jailer asked what he “must do to be saved”. They spoke to him and his household “the word of the Lord” (verse 32) and the same hour baptized them all.

Over and over, every scripture reference shows people believing, repenting, and getting baptized. Not one example shows a waiting time to learn more about all the aspects of Christianity or a time to prove salvation.

In Acts 19:1-8, Paul re-baptized some of John’s disciples, then stayed for three more months “disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.” So from this example, it could be presumed that baptism comes first, then more teaching could follow.

Maybe Mennonites just have the order of things mixed up. Maybe instruction class should follow baptism?

Raised in Church

What about those who have been taught Biblical Doctrine and Mennonite Principles all their lives? What reason can we give them for why we make them wait to be baptized? We can’t really give them the same reason that we give an “outsider”. I personally don’t know of anyone that came out of instruction class (after being raised in a Mennonite church) saying that they finally feel ready for baptism. That’s not saying it couldn’t happen, but I personally don’t know of anyone.

I have met many people who joined instruction class because that’s when everyone else in their age group did. And I have heard a lot of these same people tell how they got baptized after taking the class with still no heart change and no salvation experience.

So taking the class does not guarantee true salvation either.

Sometimes it seems that instruction class has become a dry ritual that we must endure to be accepted as “good enough” to be baptized now. It is an extra-Biblical ritual that we have turned into spiritual “proof of salvation”.

But what proof of salvation does the Bible require before baptism? Was a prayer of repentance and belief of Jesus as the Messiah not enough?

Whether we take instruction class before baptism or not, God sees the heart and only He knows whether true conversion has taken place. baptismThere is nothing we can do to assure ourselves completely that someone else is truly saved before we baptize them. But then, that’s not our job, is it? Our job is to present the Gospel,  but whether the seed takes root and grows is between them and God.



Why We Turn Others Away From Communion

One of key factors in the way Mennonites practice Communion today can be traced back to the meeting that took place in 1693, when Jacob Ammon called for a meeting with the other Anabaptist ministers of that region (Switzerland). The issues that he wanted to discuss were mostly all agreed on by the other ministers. Only the issue of social shunning was met with such confrontation and disagreement that it caused a schism.

One of the things that Ammonn wanted to discuss was whether those that did not “follow God’s Word could be saved”. During this time, there was still persecution, but many were sympathetic to the cause and helped them. But even while they were sympathetic, they were not willing to join their group and get re-baptized –whether out of fear of their lives or lack of belief.  Jacob Ammonn believed they could not be saved if they did not join the Anabaptists– thus should not partake in Communion with them.

So the conclusion of that discussion was, if you are not Anabaptist, you can not be saved.

Today most Mennonites would cringe at that. Most of us don’t believe that we are the only ones that will be in heaven. Some of us would even say the conclusion of that discussion was wrong.

But taking a closer look at what that discussion entailed brings some understanding as to why they came to that conclusion. What set Anabaptists apart from the rest of the world at that time? They were the only ones that practiced adult baptism upon the “confession of their faith”.

Jacob Ammonn may have had a good point in questioning whether someone who claimed to be a believer in Christ but was afraid to get baptized was really saved. That, after all, is the whole point of baptism. It is an outward symbol of what has happening inside. It is stating publically that “I am a follower of Christ”. But today in America that is not really an issue. Believers get baptized without fear of persecution and it is a normal occurrence.

So now we still hold to the tradition of withholding Communion from anyone who is not Anabaptist –even though those circumstances have changed. What sets Mennonites apart today from the rest of the world? It is usually the dress and head coverings that most conservative groups focus on today. So when we still come to the same conclusion of withholding Communion from those who will not join our group, we make our decision according to the head covering and our dress. And we draw that conclusion because that is our tradition.

But now, we no longer have a valid point in it all. Though we still withhold Communion from those who don’t believe as we do, most of us would never view those people as being unsaved or think they should be excommunicated. Yet we treat them as such by refusing to give them the Communion cup. We have carried our tradition for so many centuries without stopping to ask ourselves why we do this because we just naturally do what our fathers have always done.

Withholding Communion from someone who refuses to get baptized makes sense. Withholding communion from someone who doesn’t dress like us does not.

Taking Communion

Could it be that it is time for a some new reformation in our conservative circles on the issue of communion? I believe it is time we align ourselves with what Scriptures say about Communion and repent for the areas that we have fallen away from truth.



Who is Communion For?

Anabaptists have through history practiced “closed Communion” or “close Communion”. In “closed Communion”, only members of that specific church will partake in Communion together. “Close Communion” allows those of “like-minded faith” to also partake with the congregation.

I personally attend a church that practices “close communion”. As a young believer, I never questioned this. But as I got older and saw how this affected other believers who worshiped with us but did not dress or practice everything that the rest of the congregation did, and I began to wonder about it. I saw the hurt and rejection in their eyes, and I wondered why Communion had to be refused to them. I decided to go to Scripture to see what God’s Word says regarding Communion.communion bible I already knew what our church taught, I knew why they had this particular tradition, but I wanted to see what the Bible itself had to say regarding Communion. I wanted to know why Communion was only for certain believers but not others.

The Body of Christ

From the following verses in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, two things stood out to me.

16. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

17. For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

This phrase in particular seemed to leap out at me: “For we being many are ONE bread, and ONE body: for we are ALL PARTAKERS OF THAT ONE BREAD…”

The first thing that I concluded was that we as Christian believers are all part of the same body of Christ. Different denominations may be different parts of the body, but we are all part of the same body of Christ. We are not many different bodies of Christ. He has only ONE body.

The second thing that I saw is that there is only ONE bread. We are all partakers of that ONE bread. No matter where you partake communion in, when a fellow believer who is part of that ONE body of Christ offers you the communion bread, it represents the same ONE bread that is offered everywhere– in every denomination. That ONE bread represents Christ’s physical body being broken for us. No matter what denomination, all who believe the Bible agree that Christ laid down His life for us and we do this in “remembrance of” Him. (Luke 22:19)

As I read these verses, I also wondered if there was another aspect of Communion that we have missed. Could it be that the Church,one bread one body spread over the world, who now represent Christ’s body, is also supposed to remember that they are all ONE body– because of what He did– as they partake in the communion bread?

Remembering Together

Denominations have differing viewpoints regarding what partaking in Communion does for the believer. Some believe it is a holy ritual that you must partake in order to “stay saved”. Some believe Jesus is physically part of the elements; some believe He is spiritually part of the elements. Mennonites take the view that the elements represent what Christ did only in a symbolic way. But all denominations believe that we remember how Jesus’ body was broken for us and we remember with gratitude that He laid down His life so that we could be forgiven for our sins.

1 Cor. 11:24-26

And when He had given thanks, He brake it and said, Take, eat: this is my body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lords’s death until He comes. (Emphasis mine)

So if all believers have a common belief that we are remembering what Christ has done for us (regardless of differing views of the elements– which is all extra-Biblical anyway), why can’t we just all remember together? Do we as Mennonites believe Christ’s body was broken for only certain believers and not others? If not, than why can we only remember what He did with certain believers and not all?

In both close and closed Communion, we give the bread and wine to only those who believe the same and dress the same as we do. Closed Communion requires that you believe the same as I –on pretty much everything. Close Communion is a little less rigid. Basically, it says you must be Mennonite. (And for conservative groups, that includes only Mennonites that wear a head covering.)

All churches that practice close or closed Communion, can give you a good explanation of why they do, but none have a Scripture reference to back themselves up with. And regardless of their reasons, when another believer visits our church and we do not allow them to participate in Communion with us, this is the unspoken message they receive (or perceive that we are telling them): “We don’t really believe that you are a member of the body of Christ, regardless of what you tell us. You must be a Mennonite in order to prove to us that you are really part of the body of Christ.”

Is this really what we believe? Is this the message we want to give them?

The only other time that Mennonites refuse to give someone communion is when someone is excommunicated. A person who is willfully sinning and refuses to repent–even when they have been confronted (following the Matthew 18) gets excommunicated (following 1 Corinthians 5). Are we equating anyone who is not Mennonite with this?


The passage in 1Corinthians 5 that speaks of excommunication was the source of the schism between the Amish and Mennonites in 1693. Disagreement over whether we are to only withhold Communion or whether we are to socially shun anyone who refused to repent of outward sin was the source of the split.

1Cor. 5:7-13

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be an new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with idolaters; or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then ye must needs go out of this world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

We are not to keep company with, we are not to eat with, and we are to put away from ourselves people who claim to be believers but live in obvious sin.

Whether the phrase “with such a one no not to eat” is speaking of communion or a social meal, the rest of the verses are just as important. If this is speaking of communion, then the rest must also be followed. We are not even to keep company with such a person.

If we have people in our midst that are believers, but we refuse to give them the communion cup because they aren’t members, or because they don’t wear a covering, we cannot use these verses as the reason we are refusing them because we aren’t following all of it.

If it is not speaking of eating communion bread and only speaking of eating a meal together, we must still follow the rest of the commands. We are to “put away from among” us that wicked person. They should not even be in our midst.


1 Cor. 11:28-29

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

Does this apply to all believers or only Mennonites? Aren’t we all accountable to God when we participate in Communion? If we have hidden sin in our lives, we “eat and drink damnation” to ourselves. Not to others.

So what are we afraid of when we refuse to give the communion cup to other believers who are not Mennonite? Do we have a fear of what other Mennonites will think? Are we afraid if we give the cup to someone with hidden sin that God will punish us?

Does the possibility of a Mennonite with hidden sin in their lives feel safer to us than a non-Mennonite with possible hidden sin?

History of Communion and Baptism in the Anabaptist Movement and its Leaders

Throughout history, the Anabaptist Movement began and changed because of strong beliefs regarding Communion and Baptism. The earliest Anabaptists wanted reformation in these two core issues so strongly because they wanted to be in alignment with what God’s Word said.third baptism They were willing to lay down their lives rather than to not live their lives in accordance to Scripture on these two issues. These two issues have also been the core issues that set them apart from others and later caused divisions within their movement.

Anabaptists Original Beliefs on Baptism and Communion

When the Anabaptist movement began, it was the doctrine of baptizing only adults on the confession of their faith that set them apart from the other reformers. But wanting a change in Communion was the first thing that set them apart from the Roman Catholic Church and then also even from those that followed Luther’s teachings.

Luther and his followers believed that the Roman Catholic church erred in the belief that the bread and wine became the literal body and blood of Christ. The Roman Catholic church believed it was necessary to take communion in order to stay forgiven.

Luther believed that the bread and wine only became the spiritual body and blood of Christ. This was on of the issues that started the Reformation.

But Zwingli differed from this in that he believed the bread and wine was only symbolic of the body and blood of Christ. The earlist Anabaptists were originally Zwingli followers, but then the issue of baptizing only adults caused the schism that divided them, followed by persecution from Zwingli himself.

So here we see how the sacraments of Communion and baptism were what began the Anabaptist movement and set them apart.

Menno Simons Original Beliefs on Baptism and Communion

In 1524, during the first year that Menno SimonsMenno_Simons was ordained into priesthood, he began to have some questioning doubts about Communion. He wondered how the bread could become the literal physical body of Christ. It was a disturbing thought to him and he quickly dismissed it as a doubt from Satan. But the more he pushed it away, the more he struggled with it. He finally decided to read the New Testament to see what it said about it. Always before he had avoided reading the Bible because he was afraid that it would corrupt him as it had Luther and Zwingli.

But when he did finally read it, he found his answer– that it was not the literal body of Christ. This brought relief to his mind and persuaded him that the symbolic interpretation of the Lord’s Supper taken by the Sacrementists was correct.

However, history does not show us that he did anything differently at that time. But then in 1531, he began questioning infant baptism and came to the conclusion that the Roman Catholic Church erred in two of the Sacraments, Communion and baptism.

However, he still did not join the Anabaptist movement until 1536, when his brother was killed while in an Anabaptist group.

Jacob Ammonn Schism in Regards of Baptism and Communion

The first prominent schism that history shows happening within the Anabaptist group was in 1693, when Jacob Ammonn called for a meeting with the other Anabaptist ministers of that region (Switzerland). He had several things he wanted to discuss with the other ministers, but the three main issues on his agenda were related to either Communion or baptism in some form.

At this time, Anabaptists followed the teachings of Menno Simons in regard to banning those who practiced outward sin from partaking in Communion. This was in accordance to 1 Corinthians 5.

Jacob Ammonn wanted to change some things and add some things. He brought three main issues that he wanted to discuss with the other ministers. They were as follows:

1. Shunning of those excommunicated

2. Whether liars should be excommunicated

3. Whether people could be saved who did not “follow God’s Word”

There were also other issues brought up; such as feet washing, frequency of communion, and dress and beard styles. But the afore mentioned three things were the issues for which Ammonn originally called the meeting.

1. Shunning

Jacob Ammonn felt that if someone was excommunicated, (banned from partaking in Communion) the rest of the group should also shun them socially. Some of the other ministers felt that refusing to give them communion was enough. This was because of disagreement concerning 1Cor. 5:11 “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”

There was disagreement whether the word “eat” referred to Communion or just eating in any social setting.

2. Liars

Not much has been recorded regarding the second issue. It can be assumed that since he thought liars should be excommunicated and since they are not listed in this verse, Ammon wanted to add liars to the list.

3. Salvation of adults who would not take the step of re-baptism

This one was because during this time, there was still persecution, but many were sympathetic to the cause and helped them. But even while they were sympathetic, they were not willing to join their group and get re-baptized –whether out of fear of their lives or lack of belief. Jacob Ammonn believed they could not be saved if they did not join them– thus should not partake in communion.

The meeting did not go well, ending with Jacob Ammonn excommunicating all the ministers that did not agree with him. Those that followed Ammon were later called Amish and those that did not follow him were called Mennonites.

Anabaptists on Baptism and Communion Today

What about today? Are there areas regarding these two issues that Anabaptists today have strayed away from Biblical accuracy? Do we need to take a look at these core issues and to realign ourselves to Scripture even if it means “persecution” from those in our Brotherhood communities?

Our forefathers were never afraid of taking a stand if they had Scripture that backed up their beliefs. I believe there are some things in these two core issues that need reformation in. Since the first controversial issue in Anabaptist history was Communion, that will be the first one that I will be addressing as well.





John Horsch, Menno Simons, His Life, Labors, and Teachings

The Reformation

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Saxony. For many, this marked the beginning of the Reformation of the Church. Zwingli and Calvin were also considered to be fathers of the Reformation.

Out of that Reformation, the Anabaptist Movement (to baptize over again) was born. One difference between the Anabaptist movement and the and the rest of the Reformers was that most of the reformers were willing to stand up and fight for what they believed and the Anabaptists were willing to lay down their lives for what they believed– and many did.

The Anabaptists were considered radicals because they believed in taking the whole Bible literally. Regardless of severe persecution (or maybe because of), the movement grew and spread throughout the world.

Mennonites and Amish trace their roots to this movement within the Reformation. Many changes have happened to these groups through the centuries–some of these changes were good, but some of them have caused a bondage of legalism, fear, and rejection of others.reformation Dirk_Willems_

Perhaps its time to take a step back and examine where we are at. Is it time for a new reformation among our people? Not that we need to throw out our heritage– but to take a closer look at some of the things we do that aren’t lined up with Scripture and reform our ways.

If the reason the Anabaptist movement began was because we wanted to adhere to Scripture in all areas, then do we still care deeply about doing that? Or, have we moved away from Scripture because of our traditions that we have accumulated through the centuries that are now more important to us than what the Bible says?

Could it be time for another Radical Reformation among the Anabaptists?