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Our Anabaptist Thread

• Greg Boyd

The teachings of the Anabaptist church are important to Woodland Hills Church. In this sermon, Greg talks about four of the six distinctive teachings of the Anabaptist movement (next week will cover the last two), and they are still relevant today.

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The Anabaptist tradition has greatly influenced Woodland Hills Church, enough for two sermons! The Anabaptists came about during the 1500’s as a result of the Reformation started by Martin Luther. The Anabaptists saw that there was more that could be done to reform the Church, and the reason they were called Anabaptists was because they would “re-baptize” adults.

There were three main leaders of the Anabaptist tradition: Felix Manz, Michael Sattler, and Dirk Willems. All three of these people believed in six basic principles of reforming the Church, and all three died as a result of their beliefs and practices. Today, we’ll talk about four of the six principles.

The first teaching was that of a believer’s baptism. Baptism is the first act of discipleship, and our first act of obeying our Lord. It’s the public declaration that we’ve chosen to identify with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism, in the time of Jesus, was often how they described someone dying at sea. When we repent and are baptized, we show that we’ve died to our sinful life and are set on living a new life for Jesus.

The second teaching was that salvation involves discipleship. Anabaptists noticed that mental acknowledgement of Jesus was not enough. Jesus called his people to follow him with their lives, not just believe him. We are saved by faith, but true faith is always reflected in obedience to Jesus. This doesn’t mean that we live free from sin by our own willpower. Instead, we trust in the Spirit given by Jesus and we constantly seek to be filled by that Spirit. We constantly need God’s forgiveness as we seek to orient our lives to follow Jesus.

The third teaching is that we are called to live simply. Jesus shunned power, riches, and wealth because he knew that he couldn’t get life from these things. When we live simply, it’s not that we have to take a vow of poverty. Rather, we need to get our fullness from God and not from anything in this world. Once we are filled with God, then we will not crave anything in this world, and we will live simply. When we don’t cling to the stuff of this world, we can freely give when the Spirit prompts us to. We free up time and energy for God when we don’t want other stuff to fill us.

The fourth teaching is that we’re called to love our enemies and refrain from violence. Jesus gives us our example of how to fight our enemies. Instead of calling down legions of angels (and he would have been justified doing so), he calls himself to suffer for the same people that were crucifying him. The most basic instinct we have is to resist others hurting us or loved ones through violence. The most distinctive mark of someone who has died to themselves and follows Christ is that they follow Jesus’ example and love their enemies and refuse to harm them. Jesus calls us to love as the rain falls; both love the righteous and the unrighteous the same. We don’t get to pick and choose who we love and who we don’t love.

These are four of the six main teachings of the Anabaptists, and here at Woodland Hills Church, we affirm them. We believe in the believer’s baptism, salvation involving discipleship, living simply, and loving our enemies. Next week, we’ll talk about the other two teachings, and we’ll continue to learn about the Anabaptist tradition and how it influences Woodland Hills Church.

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Topics: Anabaptism, Baptism, Non-Violence, Simplicity

Sermon Series: Tapestry

Downloads & Resources

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Focus Scripture:

  • 1 Peter 2:21

    To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

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18 thoughts on “Our Anabaptist Thread

  1. Teresa says:

    Dear Greg the shepherd/pastor. 🙂 Thanks so much for showing us what it looks like to love our enemies and become more like our Father in Heaven. We are learning how to be a witness for Christ. We need to see it in order to move towards it and this sermon helped a lot! We also need to hear tough things like “Christ is not your Savior unless he’s also your Lord” and we need to know how central these things are in scripture. Thanks for all the scripture you used in this sermon. It helps us learn to become Doers of the Word – not hearers only. Be encouraged. We are becoming less of an institutional church – more family. Praise God!

  2. Robert Button says:

    thank you Greg, and thank you Woodland Hills. I’ve been a Christian for only a few years, and the notion of justified violence and Christianity was a stumbling block for me, I could not reconcile the two, there was some cognitive dissonance happening, especially when I tried to elaborate my postion/ thoughts to my 20-something year-old son – I really didn’t know WHAT to believe… this is a common and repeating theme for Greg, especially through the Cross & the Sword series and in his books “Myth of a Christian Religion” and “Myth of a Christian Nation”, as well as Bruxey Cavey’s “End of Religion” – thank you thank you thank you for driving this point home – that the New Testament IS unequivocal about loving one’s enemies and NEVER resorting to violence, even when it’s “justified”! and the reward is the Kingdom and the peace which passes all understanding!

  3. kevin s. says:

    What, if any, are the differences between the Anabaptists and the Primitive Baptists?

  4. Any chance you could post that writing you referred to on the radically non-violent interpretation of the book of revelation?

    Also, my wife and I noticed in watching your podcast, the Q’s in your Q&A are decidedly more thoughtful than what we usually get in our Q&A portion (10+ years @ TMH)

    Hypothesis: TMH is very seeker oriented, hence, more basic questions.
    WHC has a more mature christian base, therefore much more deeply theological/thoughtful questions.


    The only other possibility, as I see it, is that my American brothers and sisters are more thoughtful than my Canadian ones… so I’m seeking alternative theories 😉

  5. Trevor Ford says:

    Thanks so much to Teresa and Robert for the encouraging words. Always cool to hear how far-reaching the ministry is.

    Kevin, at least for your question, It’s hard to beat the information found on wikipedia:
    Primitive Baptists

    Will, my only hypothesis is that there are a good many people attracted to this church because they’re theology-geeks (affectionate term) and this church always has plenty for them to chew on and wrestle with.

    We sometimes forget that we have a few pastors here that are crazy smart, and that makes for some deeper, more stimulating conversations (and questions) as the scope of what we cover continues to grow.

    However, as someone that went to bible college in Canada, I could never conclude a lower level of thoughtfulness to our neighbors to the north!

  6. Hey Will — unfortunately the writing Greg referred to is a portion of a book he’s working on, so he can’t share that publicly. However, I asked him and Paul Eddy, our Teaching Pastor, about some book recommendations. Here are some they thought could be helpful if you’re interested in learning more about a non-violent interpretation of Revelation:

    These first two are probably the most non-academic:

    Most Revealing Book of the Bible: Making Sense Out of Revelation, by Vernard Eller –

    The Theology of the Book of Revelation, by Richard Bauckham –

    And these are good, but perhaps quite dense. And from what I could tell, expensive! 🙂

    Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (chapters 6,7,8), by Richard Bauckham –

    Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse of John: An Investigation into Its Origins & Rhetorical Force, by Loren L. Johns –

    Saving God’s Reputation: The Theological Function of Pistis Iesou in the Cosmic Narratives of Revelation, by Sigve K. Tonstad –

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