Study Guide: Our Anabaptist Thread

Sunday May 13, 2012 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

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.

Extended Summary:

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.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. What did you learn about your own faith while listening and thinking about this sermon?
  3. Were you surprised by anything?
  4. What does “living simply” mean to you? How does the passage, 1 John 2:15-17, influence your living simply?
  5. We are called to love our enemies. How do you respond when faced with an enemy? How might you respond when faced with someone who wants to hurt or kill you?