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Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations

Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations

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Published by robertmilliman
A list of brief, succinct summaries of common, distinctive Anabaptist affirmations followed by notes that clarify, expand, and interpret them
A list of brief, succinct summaries of common, distinctive Anabaptist affirmations followed by notes that clarify, expand, and interpret them

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Published by: robertmilliman on Aug 20, 2010
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06/19/2012

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Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations
 
A Selective Summary of Distinctive Anabaptist Beliefs with Commentary
Page 1 of 6Anabaptism descends from a Reformation movement birthed during the 16
th
century. Somehistorians identify early Anabaptism with a so-called Radical Reformation. Others posit that allReformation movements supported radical departures from the institutional church, but Protestants,unlike Anabaptists, eventually softened their initial radicalism.These statements imply that Anabaptists held some positions not held by Protestants. Thesedistinctive positions lead some historians to conclude that Anabaptists were neither Roman Catholicnor Protestant, but represented a “Third Way.” The distinctive beliefs and practices of this “ThirdWay” are prevalent in contemporary evangelicalism, especially among Baptists. The current groupsthat most closely identify with Anabaptists are Mennonites, Brethren, and Amish.The following text lists brief, succinct summaries of common, distinctive Anabaptist affirmations.Following the list, notes clarify, expand, and interpret the listed items.Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations:1.
 
Rule of Christ: Christ has inaugurated the messianic kingdom or reign.2.
 
Voluntary faith: Faith is a gift from God that individuals must exercise consciously and freely.3.
 
Faith and works: Works are inseparable from faith. Faith without works is not biblical faith.4.
 
Undivided allegiance to the King: Believers reject any thought, word, or action that compromisestheir allegiance to Christ.5.
 
Believers baptism: Only believers may receive baptism.6.
 
Believers church: Only believers may be covenant members of a local assembly.7.
 
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are signs: They represent and commemorate the Gospel.8.
 
Social responsibility: Disciples help and comfort the weak, needy, and helpless, especially other disciples. They also instruct, encourage, correct, discipline, and restore one another.9.
 
Peace, nonresistance, and nonretaliation: Disciples neither resist evil nor retaliate against itsmanifestations. Instead, they make peace.10.
 
Truth-telling: Disciples tell the truth and do not take oaths. Notes on Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations:1.
 
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek. TheHebrew word
Messiah
is translated
Christ 
in Greek. Both words mean “anointed one,” and refer tothe practice of anointing an individual to designate his rightful claim to reign as king.The promise and goal of the messianic reign was and is
Shalōm
, both collectively—between Godand peoples, and among peoples and peoples—and individually—between God and individuals, and between individuals and individuals.
Shalōm
denotes wholeness or complete-positive-peacecharacterized by harmony and based on reconciliation, the integration of forgiveness and friendship.Forgiveness removes debts, including personal offenses, and results in the absence of enmity andstrife. Friendship imputes right standing, and results in restoration, the immediate and growing presence of healing and well-being, holiness and communion.In addition to “reconciliation,” the biblical authors use other metaphors to describe God’s actionthrough the Messiah to achieve
Shalōm
for people. Each of them, like reconciliation, reflects the
 
Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations Page 2 of 6Kingdom quality of inauguration awaiting consummation. Four prominent examples are listed here:(1) “Salvation,” “deliverance,” or “rescue,” mainly, rescue from the wrath of God justly deserved by all people. Salvation has been granted, but will be fulfilled on the Day of Judgment. (2) Takenfrom the legal world is the metaphor “justification” or “righteousness.” At conversion the believer is justified or reckoned righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Christ. This past event must be balanced with the future hope of righteousness (Gal 5:5; Matt 12:37), reminding the believer thatfaith in Christ, a faith inextricably combined with obedience, is not a one-time event, but mustendure. However, the believer relies on God’s promise to continue to preserve him or her bygranting the believer persevering faith. (3) “Redemption” is a metaphor taken from the slave marketand recalls God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt. The believer is redeemed and yet awaits fullredemption along with all creation (Eph 1: 13 – 14). (4) “Sanctification” comes from the vocabularyof the altar and refers to the believer’s status as one set apart for God. Nevertheless, this definitivesanctification must be accompanied with practical development (Heb 12:14).The messianic reign governed by the New Covenant established by Christ is a perpetual Jubileecharacterized by forgiveness or liberty: (1) Liberty or release from sin, and a restored relationship between God and His covenant people and (2) Release from oppression, including economic justiceand social justice, e.g., ethnic, racial, and sexual justice. See Luke 4:18 – 19 where Jesusinaugurates His ministry, asserting the fulfillment of Isa 61:1 – 2a. Compare His proclamation toPaul’s words in 1 Cor 12:13, Gal 3:28, and Col 3:11.Christ currently rules from heaven, but one day He will return to earth and rule physically.2.
 
One person may not exercise faith in behalf of another person, nor may one passively receive faiththrough participation in some rite such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or hearing the Gospel.3.
 
Salvation is freely granted by God through faith apart from human merit. The object of biblical faithis God on the basis of the promises contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the King-dom. Biblical faith may be denoted by several different words, for example, trust, commitment,surrender, yieldedness, dependence, allegiance, and loyalty. Inherent to faith, then, is repentance,and discipleship or obedience to Christ, that is, following Christ’s example and teaching as well asthe teaching of His apostles. In other words, ethics are an inseparable component of salvation.Believers have received new birth or regeneration (“re-genesis,” i.e., new beginning) from the HolySpirit. Consequently, believers will experience ongoing renewal or progressive transformationcharacterized by greater levels of discipleship and obedience to the will of God as well as growth inknowing God.The disciple’s progressive transformation, which includes a growing relationship with Christ andincreasing holiness, entails separation from evil, particularly from forms of worldliness constantlyvying for the disciple’s allegiance, for example: naturalism, individualism, hedonism, materialism,utilitarianism, ethnocentrism, nationalism, militarism, racism, classism, sexism, and, particularly,that set of behaviors which governs virtually all social relations: desiring, pursuing, acquiring,maintaining, and using power, with the hope of receiving popular glory and praise. See also notesnine and ten.The Scriptures abound with references that validate the affirmation that faith and works areinseparable. In other words, disciples integrate faith and ethics. Put yet another way, for the believer, everything is spiritual—there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular; theLordship of Christ impinges on every area of the believer’s life. This teaching is put on prominentdisplay in James, 1 John, and Hebrews.
 
Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations Page 3 of 64.
 
Believers have chosen exclusive allegiance to one King, Jesus, and to His Kingdom. They are aliensin this world, collectively forming a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9) as citizens of Christ’s Kingdom (Phil2:20; Eph 2:19). As a worthy King, Jesus demands exclusive allegiance (Matt 5:24—“No one canserve two masters”; Matt 12:30—“He who is not with me is against me”; cf. James 4:4— “Friendship with the world is hatred toward God”).As subjects of Christ and citizens of His Kingdom, composing a holy nation among the nations of the world, believers seek to live in allegiance to Him without interference from earthly lords. First,they deny that any political authority, including any religious authority, has the right to restrict theliberty of any soul. Every believer and every church has authority to interpret the Scriptures and toformulate doctrine on its own. In addition, believers and churches do not seek the protection or theendorsement of earthly kings. Furthermore, believers and churches do not interfere with the affairsof earthly kingdoms. Finally, they do compromise their allegiance to Christ through inappropriate participation in the affairs of earthly states. For example, disciples do not participate in militaryservice or law enforcement, and they shun government employment. In addition, they refuse to pledge allegiance to earthly nations or any symbol which represents earthly nations (e.g., a flag).They also refrain from symbolic acts that venerate a nation or its symbols (e.g., participating in the playing or singing of a national anthem; note the word “anthem” implies some sort of worship).While some people disagree with the following observation, the preceding logic seems to apply tovoting. Voting amounts to participation in the governance of a kingdom that is directly competingwith Christ’s Kingdom. Furthermore, voting implicates the voter in the sins carried out by theselected leader, e.g., declaring war, sending troops into battle, funding abortions, and legislatingexecutions.While believers separate from earthly kingdoms, they have an obligation to influence society. Theydo this by following the example of Christ, His apostles, John the Baptist, and the Old Testament prophets. The church proclaims the Gospel, welcomes members into Christ’s Kingdom, nourishesthe faith of those who have joined His Kingdom, and prophetically rebukes, by word and non-violent action, those practices of this world’s governments which contravene the values and principles of the Kingdom.5.
 
Baptism initiates one into discipleship. Therefore, only those who have exercised voluntary faith inChrist are fit subjects for baptism. See note seven.6.
 
Since faith is inseparable from works and discipleship, only disciples, i.e., baptized believers, may be covenant members of a local assembly.The New Testament generally identifies local groups of believers with the Greek word
ekklēsia
, anon-technical term meaning “assembly.” The word evolved through several languages to theEnglish word “church.” The church is a visible assembly of disciples, i.e., baptized believers.There are two noteworthy New Testament pictures for the local church: “body,” and “household” o“family.” Both pictures connote the unity of the church’s members in the midst of their functionaldiversity. The words “body,” and “household” or “family” also imply the biblical commitmentsassembly members have toward one another. See note eight.As a “body,” believers necessarily exist in community: each member requires and complements thefunctions of the other members. In addition, as the “body of Christ,” the assembly of believersrepresents Christ to the world in word and deed (1 Cor 12:12 – 31; Eph 4:1 – 16).

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