Anabaptist

Confession is good for the soul

“Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

It was the early years of the 1500s, and his name was Balthazar Hubmaier. He was German-Swiss, and part of a fellowship that preferred to call themselves Brüder (Brethren), although many called them “Anabaptists” because they baptized people “again” (from “ana,” again, and “baptist,” to baptize). First, their detractors declared, we baptize people as infants, then you Anabaptists baptize them again as adults!

Things became so serious in those days that many religious leaders joked about the three baptisms: First there was infant baptism, then the Anabaptists baptized adults “again,” finally they drowned Anabaptists in the cold Rhine River.

Hubmaier was a leader among the Anabaptists, a courageous and deeply biblical movement. The Anabaptists had elders in every congregation, partook the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, sang a cappella, and as you have already gathered, baptized adult believers upon their confession of faith. Does any of that sound familiar? They also observed foot washing, practiced the holy kiss, and were deeply, determinedly, pacifist. Why did they do all of these things? Because they were restorationists: They searched the Scriptures to find a pattern of the early church, and sought to follow that pattern. About 40,000 Anabaptists were executed in the years 1520-1540 by both Catholics and Lutherans. Hubmaier himself was executed in the end.

In a lengthy debate with Ulrich Zwingli, a preacher in Zurich who proclaimed infant baptism, Hubmaier made humorous mention of the words of the priest speaking over the infant at baptism: “As to the confession given at infant baptism, we at one time mumbled to the child in Latin (as the Catholics had done) and more recently in German (as the Lutherans were then doing),” Hubmaier declared, “however infants understand the German as well as the Latin.”

In other words infants had no idea of the deep commitment implied at baptism. How could they? They “only cried miserably,” Hubmaier declared.

Confession and baptism are acts that no one can make on your behalf. A baby’s parents cannot make this serious, life-long decision for him. It is your commitment to make, and yours alone. Is it a commitment you have made?

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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One thought on “Confession is good for the soul

  1. Stan, thanks for answering a question I’ve had about anabaptists. Amazing is the deadly reactions from the “established” religious groups of their day.

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