Saturday, February 25, 2017


Reformation 500 WEEK 9    the Anabaptists

     Conrad Grebel, a prominent member of the church in Zurich, “had been led to the evangelical faith by Zwingli and heartily approved his work of reformation” (Kuiper, 204-205). But soon he and others of like mind felt that both Zwingli and Luther’s reform movements had not gone far enough. They were not satisfied with separation from catholic corruptions; they wanted separation from all the ungodly.

     These radical reformers felt that the root cause of all the corruption in the Church was the compromising State-Church bond that had existed since the days of Constantine, where every citizen was born and baptized as a member of both church and state. This “brought much of the world into the Church” (Kuiper, 205), and allowed too much State interference. “The churches looked to the state for salary and support. Official Protestantism seemed to differ little from official Catholicism” (Bruce Shelley, Ch. History in Plain Language, 249). “In Zwingli’s Zurich, the Council of Government had the final word in religious matters” (Gonzalez, 70).

     Zwingli’s critics argued that Scripture requires true believers to be separate from the ungodly world; and therefore, a Christian “should not hold government office because this involved ‘the use of the sword,’ should not be a soldier, should not take an oath, and should not sue in the courts” (Kuiper, 206). The disciples in Jerusalem knew nothing of a state-church alliance, but rather they “left the synagogue and the world, gathered in an upper room, sold their goods, and held all things in common” (Schaff, 8:75). Apostolic churches were composed only of heartfelt believers, baptized only after a public commitment to live for Christ. Thus, “infant baptism must be rejected, for it takes for granted that one becomes a Christian by being born into a supposedly Christian society” (Gonzalez, 67-68).

     In the fall of 1524, when Grebel’s wife gave birth to a son, the Grebels refused to baptize their baby. To deal with the crisis, the City Council of Zurich arranged a public debate on January 17, 1525. Zwingli defended infant baptism as a sign of the covenant, replacing the old sign of circumcision (Col. 2:11). He also appealed to 1 Cor. 7.14 and to the NT examples of family baptisms. “Bullinger, who was present at the disputation, reports that the Anabaptists were unable to refute Zwingli’s arguments” (Schaff, 8:81). The Council agreed and “warned all parents who had neglected to have their children baptized to do so within a week or face banishment from Zurich” (Shelley, 250).

     “George Blaurock, a former priest, stepped over to Conrad Grebel and asked him for baptism in the apostolic fashion – upon confession of personal faith in Jesus Christ. Grebel baptized him on the spot and Blaurock proceeded to baptize the others” (Shelley, 247). Thus, Anabaptism was born. They rejected the name Anabaptists (“re-baptizers”) because they never considered their infant baptism a real baptism. 

     We will meet the Anabaptists again, but to sum up for now: “The Reformers attempted to reform the old Church by the Bible; the Radicals attempted to build a new Church from the Bible.” They “went directly to the apostolic age, and ignored the intervening centuries as apostasy…. Nothing is more characteristic of radicalism…than an utter lack of historical sense and respect for the past” (Schaff, 8:71). 

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation500 The Anabaptists

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 9

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

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