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Part one in a series of brief, succinct summaries of common, distinctive Anabaptist affirmations followed by notes that clarify, expand, and interpret them

Introductory Remarks on Anabaptism

Anabaptism descends from a Reformation movement birthed during the 16th century. Some historians identify early Anabaptism with a so-called Radical Reformation. Others posit that all Reformation 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. These distinctive positions lead some historians to conclude that Anabaptists were neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant, but represented a “Third Way.” The distinctive beliefs and practices of this “Third Way” are prevalent in contemporary evangelicalism, especially among Baptists. The current groups that most closely identify with Anabaptists are Mennonites, Brethren, and Amish.

First Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmation

Rule of Christ: Christ has inaugurated the messianic kingdom or reign.

Notes

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek. The Hebrew word Messiah is translated Christ in Greek. Both words mean “anointed one,” and refer to the 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 God and peoples, and among peoples and peoples—and individually—between God and individuals, and between individuals and individuals. Shalōm denotes wholeness or complete-positive-peace characterized 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 and strife. 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 action through the Messiah to achieve Shalōm for people. Each of them, like reconciliation, reflects the Kingdom 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) Taken from 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 that faith in Christ, a faith inextricably combined with obedience, is not a one-time event, but must endure. However, the believer relies on God’s promise to continue to preserve him or her by granting the believer persevering faith. (3) “Redemption” is a metaphor taken from the slave market and recalls God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt. The believer is redeemed and yet awaits full redemption along with all creation (Eph 1: 13 – 14). (4) “Sanctification” comes from the vocabulary of the altar and refers to the believer’s status as one set apart for God. Nevertheless, this definitive sanctification must be accompanied with practical development (Heb 12:14).

The messianic reign governed by the New Covenant established by Christ is a perpetual Jubilee characterized 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 justice and social justice, e.g., ethnic, racial, and sexual justice. See Luke 4:18 – 19 where Jesus inaugurates His ministry, asserting the fulfillment of Isa 61:1 – 2a. Compare His proclamation to Paul’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.

You may download a document combining all ten parts of the series,  “Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations,” here.

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