By Mike Atnip
July 16, 1740 was probably just another day for the little port town of New York. It was a growing town, having doubled its population during the last 40 years—from about 5,000 to 10,000. It was not yet New York City.
Into these 10,000 inhabitants stepped a young man named Christian Henry Rauch. He was a man with a mission; a mission to change the world with the gospel, one sinner at a time. Christian had no quixotic dream of converting the whole world. But he did know the power of Christ could change whosoever will. And that included the so-called “red” men of North America. After all, if Christ could change a European, He could surely change a Native American … they were all made of the same stuff and were all from the same original descendent.
Stepping off the ship, Christian really had no idea where to begin his mission. He had been chosen from a group of 12 candidates and commissioned by the Moravian Brethren Church to go to New York to “preach the gospel to the Indians.” When his foot touched the dock, he was walking by faith that God would lead him to the right person. He didn’t know a single soul in New York, nor where to begin to find the people to whom he had been sent to minister.
To Christian’s great surprise, he “happened” to meet fellow missionary Frederic Martin, who “happened” to be in New York at the moment. Frederic took him to meet some pious local people. The report they gave Christian was anything but encouraging. “There’s no use trying to convert those people,” they said. “They have a chapel, preaching, and a schoolteacher already, and they are as much as drunkards now as they have ever been. It is not safe for a white man to live among them.”
Christian thanked them for the information but didn’t let it discourage him. He just kept praying.
Not too many days later Christian heard that a group of Mohican Indians were in town to complain to the authorities that the white people were encroaching upon their lands up the Hudson River. Christian looked them up, and to his great surprise he found he could converse with them in Dutch, although imperfectly. But a bigger problem than the language was the fact that these Indians—described as ferocious in appearance and manners—were seriously intoxicated. He had to wait until they recovered enough from their drunken state to converse with them. Thus the missionary had his first meeting with the people for whom he would pour out his life.
When sobered up, he spoke with Tschoop and Shabasch, both of whom were sachems, or tribal chiefs. Tschoop was a middle-aged man by our standards, but “old” for his time and place: he was somewhere around 40 years of age. Somewhere along the line, Dutch traders had nicknamed him Job, which name his fellow Indians had made into Tschoop. The name stuck. Why he had been called “Job” is unknown: perhaps it had to do with Tschoop being a crippled man and quite an unhandsome sight—different sources mention his great physical uncomeliness—like Job in his afflicted state. Another version is that he earned the name from his natural wisdom.
But unlike Job of the Bible, Tschoop was a servant of alcohol. In fact, he was known to be one of the worst of his people for succumbing to the firewater that the white man had introduced to the red man. So much so that when Christian went to visit his two new friends the second time just a few days later, both were so drunken that they could neither stand nor talk. But he had managed earlier to get their permission to return with them to their village to be their teacher in spiritual matters, so he remained undaunted. However, in the confusion of meeting up with them at a predetermined place, they returned home without him when the time came for them to leave.
Christian found out that his new friends lived at Shekomeko, a small Indian town near the Connecticut border, and so started out for a visit. He arrived on August 16, just one month after landing in New York. And the story of a revival began. But before the revival, great testing had to come.Announcing the news
Tschoop had announced to the village that Christian would be their teacher, so immediately upon arriving Christian told them why he had come:
I come here from beyond the great ocean to tell you the good news! God, our Creator, so loved us that He became a human, lived 30 years in this world, went about doing good to all men, and was then nailed to the cross and shed His precious blood, dying so that we might be set free from sin …
The audience listened with great attention while he spoke. But the next day Christian found that the majority of his listeners simply laughed at him in derision when he tried to explain things further. Tschoop had listened to Christian’s first message as well, but he was so intoxicated that he remembered only one word from the whole sermon: “blood.”
Christian rose to the occasion by simply pressing ahead. Day by day he visited in their huts and tried to tell them his message. But things got worse before they got better. He was refused in many of their homes and wandered from village to village trying to find a receptive ear, and finding none. In fact, Tschoop even looked for an opportunity to shoot Christian, but the right moment never appeared. Shabasch simply tried to avoid him.Blood, peace, and liberty
But several things would not let Tschoop rest: that one word he remembered and dreamed about, “blood,” the great peace which Rauch possessed, and the good news of deliverance.
Later in life, Tschoop explained it this way:
Brethren, I have been a heathen, and have grown old among the heathen; therefore I know how heathen think. Once a preacher came and began to explain to us that there was a God. We answered, “Do you think we are so stupid as to not know that? Go back to where you came from!”
Later another preacher came and began to teach us, saying, “You must not steal, lie, nor get drunk.” We answered, “You fool, do you think we don’t know that? First teach yourself and your own people to stop doing those things! Who steals, lies, and gets drunk more than your own people?” And we sent him away also.
After some time Brother Christian Henry Rauch came into my hut and sat down beside me and spoke to me like this: “I come to you in the name of the Lord of heaven and earth. He sent me to let you know that He will make you happy and deliver you from the misery in which you presently lie. That is the reason He became a human and gave His life as a ransom for humanity and poured out His blood for humanity …”
It was the message of freedom from sin that seemed to strike deep into the heart of Tschoop and his people. They already knew there was a God. They knew that this God wanted them to live morally and uprightly. And so they had sent home the earlier missionaries who came to tell them what they already knew. But here came a missionary with a different message … the message of deliverance, of a changed life with power over sin through Christ!
And freedom came by blood? Tschoop was confused.
Ever since that first message in which he only remembered that one word, “blood,” he had wondered about it. But not only wondered about it, he actually had dreams about blood! Tschoop thought it really strange that someone could go around talking about blood, yet seem so peaceful. So one day he asked the missionary about that blood. The conversation went like this:
“Why do you talk about the blood with such joy in your heart?” ask Tschoop.
“Because it is the blood of your Creator, who came to die and cleanse you from your sin,” replied Christian.
“But how can blood cleanse from sin?” came the honest question.
“If you get the blood into your heart,” explained Christian, “the desire for drink will leave.”
“If you love Him, the blood will work upon you,” explained the missionary.
“But I am so given to drink,” protested the debauched man.
“If you get the blood into your heart,” explained Christian, “the desire for drink will leave.”
And then there was the peace …
It “blew Tschoop away” that Christian Rauch could come into his hut with such security and peace. One day Christian came to his home to speak to him about Christ. After finishing, Christian said he was tired and wondered if it would be alright if he would take a nap there. The permission was granted and Christian promptly lay down on the floor and dozed off. Tschoop, looking upon the peacefully sleeping missionary, explained his feelings like this:
This man cannot be a bad man; he fears no evil, not even from us, who are so savage and cruel, but sleeps comfortably, and places his life in our hands. I might kill him, and throw him out into the woods, and who would even know it? But this gives him no concern.Cleansed by the blood!
I have been a poor, wild heathen, and for forty years as ignorant as a dog. I was the greatest drunkard, and the most willing slave of the devil; and as I knew nothing of our Savior, I served vain idols, which I now wish to see destroyed by fire. Of this I have repented with many tears.
When I heard that Jesus was also Savior of the heathen, I felt it to be my duty to offer myself with soul, body, and spirit to Him.
But my nearest relations, my wife and children, were my enemies; and my greatest enemy was my wife’s mother. She told me that I was worse than a dog if I would not believe in her idol. But my eyes being opened, I understood that what she said was nothing but folly, for I knew that she had received her idol from her grandmother. It is made of leather, and decorated with wampum. Since she is the oldest person in the house, she made us worship it, which we have done, until our teacher came and told us of the Lamb of God who shed His blood and died for us ignorant people.
I was astonished at this doctrine, and as often as I heard it preached, my heart grew warm. I even dreamed that our teacher stood before me and preached it to me. Now I feel and believe that our Savior alone can help me by the power of his blood, and no one else.
I believe that He is my God, and my Savior, who died on the cross for me, a sinner. I wish to be baptized, and frequently long for it most ardently. I am lame and cannot travel in winter, but in April or May I will come to you. The enemy has often tried to make me unfaithful; but what I loved before, I consider more and more as worthless and sinful. I am your poor, wild Tschoop.
When Tschoop surrendered his will to Christ, the blood flowed … from Christ to Tschoop’s heart, rebirthing his inner man.
The Moravians had a different view of the blood atonement than the popular assumption that the blood of Jesus is like the pagans’ offering to appease the wrath of the angry gods. You know, like, “The gods are angry! Quick! Offer them a sacrifice to appease their wrath!” Not so, in Moravian theology.
According to Zinzendorf, the wounds of Christ were the key to rebirth. When the wounds were opened on the cross, blood flowed out … that is, the life of Christ. This flowing blood symbolized the Holy Spirit pouring out of the Messiah, which was then sprinkled into the spirit of sinful men—men like Tschoop—cleansing them of all sin. In short, the blood atonement was like a spiritual blood transfusion. The blood of Christ, His Spirit, would flow out of Christ and into a drunk, sobering him up. This life of the Messiah would flow into vengeful men and turn them into gentle, forgiving gentlemen. This Spirit, flowing out of the wounds of Christ, would take perverted men and turn them into faithful husbands and fathers. This blood, flowing out of Christ, would cleanse all selfishness out of fallen humanity. Indeed, there was—and still is—power in the blood of Christ to cleanse from all sin!
Tschoop would never be the same again! The old drunken, carousing, self-centered warrior was turned into a gentle, moral, and sober follower of Jesus.And others, too
Not very much later, Shabasch experienced the grace that changes sinners into saints. And others followed, not only in Shekomeko, but in the neighboring villages of Wachquatnach and Pachgatgoch.
On Februrary 11, 1742, Christian had the privilege of baptizing the first three Native Americans into the fold—Shabasch being one of them—near Oley, Pennsylvania. They had travelled to Pennsylvania for the occasion, and there Christian was ordained as a deacon, and then the three Indians were baptized by him at a meeting attended by quite a number of different denominational leaders. This baptism was a moving sensation among the Pennsylvanians. But Tschoop could not attend since he was too crippled to make the journey. However, on April 16, 1742, Tschoop also received baptism at the hands of Christian, back in Shekomeko.
The four converts were also a sensation among their own people. From 30 miles away their people travelled to Shekomeko to see and hear: to see the changed countenances on the faces of the men, and to hear the missionary and the converts’ testimony and preaching. Tschoop’s situation was described with the following words:
His teacher had repeatedly told him that no one but the crucified Savior could help him, and that He was always ready to do so, if he would only submit. But he had loved so many other things, and he despaired of giving them up. He had stuck fast to the world, was full of self-love, making a god of his belly. He also feared the reproach of man, and yet convinced that unless he surrendered his whole heart to the Savior, he would be damned on account of his unbelief.
But in another letter, Tschoop himself described what happened:
But now I am happy, for I know that our Savior has done so much for me; I am now as much humbled as I was sorrowful. As soon as I felt that I loved Him, I immediately wished for brethren who loved Him also. Therefore I love my brother Rauch, and you, and all my brethren here, and all brethren everywhere, even those whom I shall never see in this world. All who love the Lord Jesus, I love and salute. I rejoice more and more because our Savior makes others likewise happy, and not me only. I am always glad when our Brethren make known to us the Word; it is sweet to my taste, and I attend closely, that I may be as the Bible directs. And it is easy. There are men who say, ‘The Bible is a hard book.’ But I have not found it so; it is all sweet and easy. I therefore wait patiently until I come to the hard part. Since I so far only know it easy and sweet, and can say nothing more except that I feel the power of our Savior’s blood. Signed—John, your brother.And more yet …
More and more Indians humbled themselves and let Jesus be the King of their life. Indeed, nothing less than a revival was occurring! By the end of 1742, 26 Native Americans had been added to the fold. One person described it in these words:
It was truly delightful to see the poor Indians coming from places 25 miles distant to hear the new preacher, who, as they expressed it, spoke of God who became man, and loved the Indians so much that He gave His life to save them from the devil and the service of sin.
More missionaries arrived to help with the work, among them Gottlob Buettner. By July of 1743, a little over a year after the first baptisms, a 20 foot by 30 foot chapel was built at Shekomeko. The famed Conrad Weiser wrote the following to one of the missionaries after a visit to Shekomeko:
The faith of the Indians in our Lord Jesus Christ, their simplicity and natural deportment, and their experience of the grace procured for us by the sufferings of Jesus have impressed upon my mind with a firm belief that God is with you. I thought myself seated in a company of early Christians. They attended with great seriousness and devotion; their eyes were steadily fixed upon their teachers as if they would eat their words. Tschoop was the interpreter and behaved himself in the best manner. I esteem him a man anointed with grace and Spirit. The text of Scripture, ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever’ appeared to me as an eternal truth when I watched the venerable patriarchs of the American Indian church sitting around me as living witnesses of the power of Christ and His atoning sacrifice. Their prayers are had in remembrance in the sight of God and may God fight against their enemies. May the Almighty give to you and your assistants an open door to the hearts of all the heathen.
August Spangenberg, who for many years was one of the most important leaders at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, wrote the following in his journal upon visiting Shekomeko:
The nearer we approached to Shekomeko, the more veneration we found among all ranks of people for the great work of God in that place. The Justice of Peace at Milsy accompanied us, and declared that he would rather allow his right arm to be cut off than force the brethren to adhere to the Act passed against them, for he was thoroughly convinced that the grace of God had, by their means, wrought miracles in Shekomeko.
But when we arrived and were witnesses of it, then, dear brothers, dead indeed must be the man who could refrain from shedding tears of joy and gratitude for the grace bestowed upon this people! It is impossible to express what is felt here; God has done the work.
As we rode into town we met a man standing beside the road with a most remarkable countenance. We immediately thought of Tschoop and addressed him by name, and found that we were not mistaken. He received us with great kindness and brought us immediately to the missionaries.
Then the venerable elder, Abraham, came to see us and greeted us, and though he was marked, after the Indian custom, with a figure of a snake on each cheek, yet the grace of our Savior was so visible in his countenance, that we were struck with awe and amazement. The rest of the assistants came one after another and gave us a welcome in the most affectionate manner. Indeed, there was not a single one of the congregation that did not express joy at our arrival. They appeared altogether as meek as lambs.
While we were thus surrounded by our Indian brethren and sisters, I took up a Bible and the following text occurred to me: ‘Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my mother, sister, and brother.’
An Indian who had deviated from the right path wished to be readmitted, but the brethren could not trust him as yet. When we afterward held a lovefeast with all the baptized, 70 in number, he came likewise, stood at a distance, and looked upon his brethren with repentance and contrition in his countenance. We called him forward; upon which he went and sat down in a corner.
During love feast the presence of the Lord was powerfully felt. I spoke of the happiness granted to us by virtue of the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, appealing to their own experience, and they affirmed what I said to be true.
Afterward, Isaac exhorted the brethren to be continually humble and low in their own eyes; never to forget the sufferings and death of Jesus, and not only to think of it in Shekomeko, but in the woods and when out hunting. We closed our love feast with prayer and supplication, and with tears commended these precious souls, and our venerable brethren who have labored among them, to God, our almighty Savior.Enemies arise
Conrad Weiser had written, “may God fight against their enemies.” And enemies arose, although the Indian converts had laid down the war hatchet to follow Jesus. The “enemies” were the rum traders. Like the men in the book of Acts who were losing business because of Paul’s preaching, the rum traders started losing business at Shekomeko and the surrounding villages. And they were upset.
In an effort to counteract the revival, they started some rumors in the area. One rumor was that the Moravian missionaries were actually Roman Catholics in disguise, and they intended to turn the Indian nations to Rome. This, of course, did not go over well with the white population in the area, who were basically either Reformed or Anglican. Another story that got started was that the missionaries intended to sell the Indian children as slaves. As well, the Moravians were also reputed to be in league with the French, with 3000 arms ready to distribute to the Indians against the English.
There were also other denominations who wanted to bring the Indian converts into their fold. When a white man tried to convince Shabasch that the Moravian missionaries were not the “privileged” teachers that the Indian converts held them up to be, Shabasch replied:
That may be so. But I know what they have told me, and what God has worked within me. Look at my poor fellow Indians lying there drunk at your door. Why do you not send privileged teachers to convert them? Four years ago I also lived like an animal, and none of you troubled yourselves about me. But when the brethren came they preached the cross of Christ, and I have experienced the power of His blood, so that sin has no longer dominion over me. That’s the kind of teachers we want.
The reply of the white man is not recorded; there is not much he could have said. The salvation of the Moravian teachers brought conversion and power over sin, while drunks were lying at the door of their retractors. “The proof was in the pudding!”Disobey Jesus to save the mission post?
Eventually the rumors did their intended work. The town of Sharon, near Shekomeko, remained under arms for a whole week, and some of the colonists fled the area. The colony of New York passed an Act in 1745 that basically forbade anyone to do mission work among the Indians within the colony unless they would swear to two things. One, that they “rejected transubstantiation, the worship of the Virgin Mary, purgatory, etc,” and two, that they were loyal to the British king.
But before the Act was passed, the missionaries at Shekomeko were arrested. They were brought before the magistrates, but were always acquitted. The Justice of Peace at Filkentown even said—after acquitting them—that “he must acknowledge the mission in Shekomeko to be the work of God, because by the labor of the brethren the most savage heathen had been so evidently changed that he, and many other Christians, were put to shame by their godly walk and conversation.”
The Moravian missionaries were not Catholics, and neither were they opposed to the king. But … the “problem” was that Jesus had told them not to swear oaths. So they were stuck with either disobeying Jesus’ explicit command, or abandoning their mission outreach at Shekomeko.
They chose to obey Jesus.
At first the converts at Shekomeko decided among themselves to “stick it out” without their teachers. Gottlob Buettner had died right before the missionaries pulled out, exhorting the converts to “abide faithful unto the Lord to the end … and he expired while they were singing.”Moving on …
The converts in the villages held out for a few years, but circumstances eventually forced them to move on. White settlers made the claim that the ground upon which Shekomeko was built was not actually Indian land. Furthermore, a rumor was started that the Indians of Shekomeko were in league with the French. So great was the affect of this rumor that the inhabitants of Rhinebeck demanded a warrant—refused to them, thankfully—to kill all the Indians at Shekomeko.
As much as they loved their village, the villagers “saw the handwriting on the wall.” In April of 1746, the first 10 families packed up and headed out to seek asylum near their teachers in Pennsylvania. There, new villages were started, close to Bethlehem. Friedenshutten [shelters of peace] and Gnaddenhutten [shelters of grace] became Christian Indian villages, with refugees from Shekomeko and surrounding villages, along with converts from other Indian nations. Each family was given a plot of ground, and soon beautiful fields graced the valleys. The inhabitants also lived off of the wild game, with up to 15-20 deer being harvested daily, as well as wild berries, nuts, and honey.
The congregation met twice daily. Translation work was in process. New believers were taught. Strict and faithful discipline was observed. Cleanliness and orderliness prevailed. And alcohol was banned entirely from the Christian Indian villages.
The number of the Indian converts increased to about 500, and the chapel had to be enlarged only three years after it was built in 1746. Widows and orphans were cared for. The love of war was replaced by harmony.Tragedies
The story of the Moravian missions to the American Indians continued on for many years. By the time the eastern Indian nations had been pushed—what little was left of them—all the way to Kansas in the 1800s, many such villages had been built in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario. But not without price. Gnaddenhutten, mentioned above, was raided during the French and Indian War and several of the missionaries were killed. It was soon abandoned, and eventually the Indian converts found other places to settle further north and west. In Ohio, another village also named Gnaddenhutten suffered a massacre in which over 90 nonresistant Indians were mercilessly butchered to death by white colonists during the Revolutionary War. The stories of these villages—as worthy as they are for retelling—are too long to include here.
Tschoop became a translator and instructor of Indian languages and customs at Bethlehem for new missionaries. But his story is not long. It is the story of the smallpox among the Native Americans. Tschoop became a victim on August 27, 1746, along with over a dozen other neighboring Indians at the time. Smallpox (and similar diseases) is thought to have reduced the Native American population from several million, at the “discovery” of America by the Europeans, to several hundred thousand by the mid-1800s. Whole villages were almost totally wiped out by the dreaded disease to which the Indians were not resistant. Very few Native Americans who contracted it survived.
Tschoop lies buried along with 58 other Native American converts—from about eight different tribes—in God’s Acre in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The cemetery in Moravian communities was called God’s Acre because the Moravians saw the dead bodies “as seeds being planted, awaiting the resurrection to the final judgment.” When the trumpet sounds, all those dead bodies will “sprout” like so many seeds for the Savior!
In Memory of TSCHOOP, a Mohican Indian, Who, in holy baptism, April 16, 1742, received the name of JOHN; One of the first-fruits of the mission at Shekomeko, and a remarkable instance of the power of divine grace, whereby he became a distinguished teacher among his nation. He departed this life in full assurance of faith, at Bethlehem, August 27, 1746
There shall be one fold and one Shepherd. John x. 16.
 Frederic was in New York from the St. Thomas (West Indies) mission, which is where the first two Moravian missionaries, Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann, had gone a few years earlier. Neither Dober nor Nitschmann had stayed long on the island (Nitschmann a few months and Dober about two years).
 The Dutch had founded “New Amsterdam” as a trading post in 1625, but had ceded it to the English in 1664, who promptly renamed it “New York.” Thus the Dutch language had been introduced among the native population.
 The Moravians were not the first to preach to the American Indians, nor the first to have converts from them. But the Moravian Brethren were eventually the most successful in making disciples of Jesus—men and women who followed Jesus’ teachings—from among the Native Americans. Quite a number of nonresistant Christian Indian villages were formed during the following decades.
 Returning to the theme of the flowing blood being a symbol of the life (Spirit) flowing out of the Messiah to enliven sinners, this phrase and sentence is like “apples of gold upon silver platters” when thus interpreted.
 Conrad was an official government agent to the Indian nations, helping in treaty negotiations and land purchases. His homestead, near Womelsdorf, PA, is now a State Historic Site. Conrad also was a member, for about six years, of the Ephrata Cloister, at Ephrata, PA.
 Abraham [Shabasch] had evidently been ordained as an “elder” [older brother, to be a spiritual counselor to the younger] and the others here mentioned were “assistants” of some sort in the Moravian system of church administration. It is to be noted that the Moravian use of some terms like “elder” does not equal what we normally think of when we use those same terms today.
 The original stone would have probably only had his name and possibly the date of his death. It was replaced with the one mentioned here. As of the writing of this article, the stone mentioned here has also been replaced by another. On a side note, Christian Rauch died at Old Carmel, Jamaica, in 1763. The story of his missionary life at Shekomeko is only the beginning!
Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (November/December 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.
By Martin Weninger
Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Martin Weninger “Lingky,” a Swiss Brethren Anabaptist leader, explaining to the (Reformed) state church why the Anabaptists could not fellowship with the state church. The basic answer – that the state churches did not require following Christ in holiness in accord with His Word, but rather allowed every kind of sin and vice to go unpunished – was a standard answer across many types of Anabaptists all across Europe. In the case of the Swiss Reformed churches, the state church leaders confessed that the charges were true and (at least in the canton of Bern) tried repeatedly to reform the populace – apparently without much success.
Weninger’s tract is an excellent apologetic for a holy church and a holy Christian life, following the commands of Jesus and the Apostles. It is an excellent apologetic for avoiding those teachers who would discount the need for holiness and obedience. Even if they have some good things to say, if they do not require holiness and obedience, we are not to listen to them! Of course, neither the Scriptures nor the early Anabaptists (Weninger included) believed in the possibility of sinless perfection on earth, but it is still a fact that Christians are “dead to sins, [that we] should live unto righteousness” (I Peter 2:24).
It is sad but true that the historical record reveals that in 1538, Weninger recanted his faith. Whether he repented afterwards and rejoined the persecuted Swiss Brethren church or not is not known. “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Mark 13:13).
This English version of Weninger’s tract was translated by John C. Wenger and was originally published in the July 1948 issue of the Mennonite Quarterly Review. We gratefully acknowledge the permission of the Mennonite Historical Society to use it.—AVS.
The knowledge of and obedience to the will of God, that righteousness which springs from faith in Christ and also results in works (Phil. 1, 3, Titus 3, Heb. 11, James 2) wish I, Martin Weninger, called Lingky, to all those who seek to worship God in the spirit, with their hearts in the truth, and to serve Him with words and works unto His praise in Christ, Amen (Col. 3, I Cor. 10).
I have been admonished by Brother Galle Hafner to prepare a vindication respecting the church attendance of the children of the world who walk in the uncleanness of impure lusts like other heathen (I Thes. 4, I Pet. 1 and 4). This I am inclined to do, to show to everyone who asketh the reason of the hope which is in me.
Christ commands us to guard ourselves from the mixed teaching of the Pharisees and the befuddled expositors who pose as teachers of the Scripture but know not what they set forth or say (Matt. 16, I Tim. 1) and teach what is not profitable—just as the teaching of the priests does not profit—for base gain. Tit. 1: [They are] lazy bellies which may not produce works, all with deceitful minds, just like our priests. David says, They teach only sins, and glory in their pride and speak vain contradictions (Ps. 59), just as our priests also do now, teaching sins and hardening [people] in sins with their frivolous teaching, as it stands in Ezekiel 13 and Jeremiah 23. They minimize to the people the shadow of the wantonness of their life of sin (Jer. 8, 6, II Pet. 2), saying peace when there is no peace and promising freedom to those who ridicule God with their doings and walk after the lust and desire of their evil heart (Jer. 23, II Pet. 2), and they themselves are servants of corruption and sin (Rom. 6, John 8). They are called the Christians, even pious Christians and Brethren, who walk in darkness and have no fellowship with the light of Christ (I John 1), and whom the apostle of God calls children of the devil, as he says: He who does the right is of God and has the new birth of the Spirit, but he who does not do the right, but commits sin, is of the devil and not of God, because sin is also not of God. He has never known God and will also not see Him (I John 2, 3, 5 and III John 1). He who transgresses the teaching of Christ has no God (II John 1), and all his piety will no longer have any significance (Ezek. 18, 33, James 2).
By such evident witness it is now clear that the doctrine of the priests is not of God, and that it does not correspond with the doctrine of Christ and the apostles. Furthermore it is no wonder that such false apostles and deceptive workers pose as apostles of Christ, because the god and prince of this world himself (II Cor. 4, John 12, 14, Eph. 2), the devil, poses as an angel of light. It is no wonder that his servants also, who draw the wanton people to themselves (II Pet. 2, Jer. 23) and harden them in sin so that they so much the less repent (Ezek. 13) and live, pose as preachers of light, whose end will be according to their works (II Cor. 11).
Now when such hirelings, shepherds who have bargained for a definite wage, see the wolf coming they flee and do not lay down their lives for the sake of the sheep (John 10). Such shepherds the little sheep of Christ will not hear. But the foolishness of such shepherds who are come as from Christ whether [or not] He sent them, will be manifested to many people in the Free Territories [of Aargau], moved as they are by a seditious, blood-thirsty spirit which brought destruction in the rebellion of Korah, etc. Also many Zwinglian priests have turned back to the pope in Turgau, disregarding how it went with those for whom they had promised to stake their lives, and having been found to be liars (Apoc. 2). He who had not wished to recognize this must now see that it is true.
They teach contrary to Paul (Rom. 6) that one cannot be free of sin and live in righteousness: “One must sin to the grave; no one can keep the commandments of God” (I John 3, 5) which is not true. The apostle of God testifies, Christ bore our sins on His back that we might be without sin and live in righteousness. How can the priests dare to say that no one can do the right and not live without sin? (John 1, I Pet. 2, 3): Christ took away our sin and undid the work of the devil. The work of the devil which Christ undid was sin, the sin of death, the death of damnation: as Paul testifies in Hebrews 2 that Christ took away the power of the devil, who had the power of eternal death, so that He might deliver us who all our life had been in fear of death and in bondage to slavery, that is, sin: as it stands in Titus 2: He delivered us from all kinds of unrighteousness. How would He have delivered us from the power and imprisonment of the devil if we lived in sin to the devil and had not received power, grace for grace, to oppose the devil by the firm faith of Christ? We who seek to be justified through Him, if we yet lived in sin, what would we have from Christ? (Gal. 2) For He broke the bond and led captivity captive and gave gifts to the people, and we are released (Psalm 124, II Tim. 2, Eph. 4). Sinners will not stand in the judgment of God nor remain in the congregation of the righteous (Psalm 1, 5). Sinners will be destroyed with one another and be wiped out (Psalm 37, I Cor. 6, II Pet. 2, Matt. 7, 13, Luke 13).
Therefore beware of the fickle man and the sinner who walks in two streets (Eccl. 2, Luke 16), and beware of him who is bound by and entangled in sin, for at the last he will be taken and burned in the fire (IV Esdr. 16, John 15). Now observe how the poor priests weaken the passion of Christ and employ it for lasciviousness and a cloak of wickedness (I Pet. 2, Jude 1). Peter says: As those who are free and yet not using the freedom for evil. As also Paul admonishes (Gal. 5): Stand fast in your freedom and cast it not from you for its reward is great (Heb. 10). As Jesus Christ has set you free do not allow yourselves to be joined to the servile yoke. For where the Spirit of Christ is there is freedom, and the body is dead for the sake of sin (Rom. 8, II Cor. 3). He who hath not the Spirit is not of Christ (Rom. 8). For those who are Christ’s have crucified their flesh and destroyed their evil desires by desisting from the lusts of error (Gal. 5, Eph. 4). Therefore as the kingdom of Christ is internal (Luke 17), firmly within us, we have grace to do God’s will and service, and to please Him with discipline and fear (Heb. 12, Ezek. 36, I John 5). Since therefore we are under grace sin cannot reign in our mortal body (Rom. 6). For this reason did Christ die for all, that all who live should not live unto themselves, nor in their lusts, but unto Him who died for us and rose [from the dead] (I Cor. 6, II Cor. 5, I Thes. 5). We do not shun the light. For whoever is of God hears God’s Word (John 8, 18, I John 4). The priests wander and are not in the light for their works are evil (John 3, 7, 8). For there is no darkness in the light (II Cor. 6). It also has no fellowship with the darkness. Those who teach others and do it not themselves, from them the wrath of God will not long be withheld (Rom. 2, Matt. 7, Luke 6, Psalm 50). “Lord, we have preached….” But He will profess to them: “I know you not. Ye have done evil (Matt. 7). Depart from me.” Christ calls those His brethren who hear God’s Word and do the will of His Father.
Dear one, How many are now Christ’s brethren who do God’s will? Therefore your fellowship is not a brotherhood of Christ. For you have as brethren: adulterers, heavy-drinkers, blasphemers, misers, usurers, dancers, carnival [masqueraders], alley ruffians: without a ban to make any difference, whether a person do evil or good. Dear one, Why? For this reason, that the priests who ought to discipline the people are themselves just like the people (Hosea 4). Therefore Paul teaches and admonishes us to keep clear of such people (II Tim. 2). For we may not be in the devil’s fellowship (I Cor. 10). The devil has fellowship with those who obey him in sin. But from those who withstand him he flees (James 4, I Pet. 5). David says, I dwell not with the wanton people, and have not fellowship with the hypocrites, and hate the assembly of the wicked (Psalm 26).
Now since they do not preach the doctrine of Christ, and consent not to the saving words of the doctrine of godliness, Paul teaches us to shun them (I Tim. 6, Rom. 16). For they could pervert the faith of many, like Philetus and Hymenaeus, of whom Paul teaches us to keep clear (II Tim. 2). He who brings not the doctrine of Christ, receive him not into your house and greet him not (II John 1). He who greets him has fellowship with his evil works. How should I follow him into a temple or to other places? If he would follow me, I should have nothing to do with him so as not to have part in his evil works. A teacher [minister] shall be an example of the flock in love, faith, purity and good works, and care for the sheep (John 10, I Tim. 4, 3, II Tim. 1, Tit. 2, I Pet. 5, Matt. 5). This is completely lacking among them, as the Scripture testifies. Who would regard those as God’s apostles who lack the witness of an apostle? Now it is evident that the priests have neither the doctrine nor manner of life of apostles; yet they say they are apostles and that the Lord is among them.
They call the Gospel a burden which no one can keep, contrary to the word of Jeremiah 23: Thou shalt not call my Word a burden. For Christ says (Matt. 11): My yoke is sweet; my burden light. John testifies, His commandments are not severe (I [John] 5). And we keep His commandments, and do what is pleasing before Him (I John 3). It is He who hath made us acceptable, and worketh in us both to will and to accomplish [it] (II Cor. 5, 3, Phil. 2, Ezek. 36). He hath created and prepared us unto good [works] that we should walk therein (Eph. 2). Therefore the might and all the glory belong to God alone (II Cor. 4, Dan. 9). Christ teaches that we should guard ourselves from those of this world who lead astray, for if it were possible they would lead astray even the elect (Matt. 24, II Pet. 3). Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, not from men nor through men but sent of God alone (Gal. 1). The rulers of the world have chosen the priests and commissioned them for a specified wage. Therefore it is of the world, and the [world] heareth them (I John 4). Thereby is fulfilled that which Paul prophesied (II Tim. 4): They will choose teachers for themselves who will tickle their ears, and [they will] not hear the truth, the saving doctrine of Christ, as also now the sect of the Nazarenes is everywhere spoken against (Acts 24, 28). John says, He who saith that he hath fellowship with Christ, and walketh in darkness, that is, in sin (Eph. 5), doth lie and speaketh not the truth. Therefore the priests tickle their ears with lies, in that they attribute to them the name and fellowship of Christ while they nevertheless still walk in darkness. And Paul testifies that He is become the Cause of salvation for those who obey His will in His death or suffering (Heb. 5, I Thes. 5).
Those who hold fast to the beginning of the nature of Christ (as He then has imparted His nature in those things, for those who are God’s, from youth to the end of life), [it is] they [who] partake of Christ (Heb. 3). Therefore Christ says, He that endureth unto the end (Matt. 10) shall be saved. But not by doing wrong, but by doing right, as it stands in Ezekiel 18. But those who persevere in wrongdoing until the end Christ calls false Christians and false apostles who lead many astray (Matt. 24). As Paul also testifies: Evil men and those who lead [men] astray shall wax worse and worse, leading astray and allowing themselves to be led astray (II Tim. 3). It is true that they say they know God, and [yet] they are disobedient and an abomination before God and unfitted for all good works (Tit. 1, I John 1, 2). These are they who love the sensual pleasures of temporal life more than God, and have no love for the good, and have the appearance of a godly manner of life but deny its power (II Tim. 3). Paul admonishes us to turn away from such a spurious faith. Concerning separation read II Corinthians 6, Apocalypse 18, Acts 19, Ephesians 5, II Timothy 2, I Peter 4, John 15. One is to separate oneself from their evil works, and not from the world, in so far as one may keep oneself unspotted from them (I Cor. 5, James 1, II Pet. 1, 4, Eph. 4). The preaching of the priests is also an unfruitful work, when they give testimony from the pulpit; [their] preaching does not help; people are getting worse and worse; no one is improving. And the testimony is true, also of the priests, that the wrong is getting the upper hand (Matt. 24). As the Lord said of the time of Lot and of Noah, so it is in [our] country; let Him come when He will.
Now you have testimony that the priests, and Christ and His apostles, do not have one doctrine. For the priests speak vain contradictions, as has been noted and proved sufficiently on the basis of the truth. Paul teaches us to judge spiritual things spiritually and not according to appearances (I Cor. 2), and not like the Jews did (John 7). He who lives carnally and is carnal-minded can neither perceive God’s ways nor the things of the Spirit. To him it is foolishness and a conundrum for he cannot know it, for it must be judged spiritually. Therefore everyone is lying [when he says] that he does not wish to judge, that it is not given to him; it is blasphemy (I Pet. 2) [when he says] that he does not recognize [the truth]—he is passing judgment on himself, receiving the reward of unrighteousness.
If it [Anabaptism] is of God no man can withstand it. But if it is not of God it will disappear of itself (Acts 5, Matt. 15). Those of Zurich did not wish to be lords ; and if it should cost them their land, it must be dug out by the roots. Basle, too. Behold, it is getting green again in their land first. Psalm 124: If the Lord were not with us they would have swallowed us up alive; our bones would be no more. Our shield and protector is God. Through the faith and patience of Christ we overcome our enemies, following the example of Christ. All glory and honor be to God alone in His church in Christ Jesus.
God’s Seal: II Timothy 2[:19]
The right done from the fear of God is acceptable to God
Acts 10, etc.
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jeremiah 31:31-33
“And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.” Ezekiel 11:19-21
In the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, God established the Old or Mosaic Covenant – the Law – with the children of Israel. Most Bible readers will be quite aware of the fact that this law was not kept by the children of Israel to whom it was given. After the giving of the Ten Commandments when Moses went up Mount Sinai for forty days, the children of Israel – under the leadership of Aaron – broke the commandments they had just been given, indulging in idolatry and adultery. Moses came down the mountain and, seeing what they were doing, broke the two stone tablets which God had given him on the mountain. The children of Israel had broken the covenant which had not even been completely given at that time.
This was not an isolated incident. The Hebrews throughout the time of the Old Testament continued to break the covenant again and again. As a nation they would rebel against God, worship idols, and live in sin. The covenant God had made with them was broken.
It was not God’s fault that the covenant He had made “holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12) was broken, but through the Prophet Jeremiah, He promised a New Covenant and a fresh start. This New Covenant would be made with the houses of Israel and Judah; everyone who voluntarily places himself under this New Covenant is grafted into the olive tree of Israel, from which all of the unbelieving and disobedient Jews have been cut off until such time as they repent (Romans 11:17-25). We notice next in this passage that this covenant would be “not according to the covenant that I made” before. How would this covenant be different? In the Old Covenant, God made lists of laws which were written on stone tablets and on paper. It was the job of the priests to make sure that the people knew the laws so that they could be kept. This New Covenant, however, would be different in that God would “put [His] law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts”. This does not mean that the New Covenant would not have written laws, but that those laws would be stamped thoroughly on the heart of the people who had accepted the New Covenant – written on their hearts so that they would obey God out of love and because it was an inner conviction to do so, not because they were compelled to.
The Prophet Ezekiel gives more information about this then-future time when the New Covenant would be made. He says that the people under this covenant would be given “one heart”. How can many people be given one heart? The answer is found in II Peter 1:4, where we are informed that this “new heart” is none other than God’s heart: “that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature”. God would impart His own Heart (Spirit) to His people! This is how they can share one heart and how His laws can be written upon our hearts. If we have God’s own heart within us, we will naturally desire and actually do the things which God wants us to!
God, through Ezekiel, goes on to say that He would remove the old, stony hearts and give hearts of flesh – warm, soft, living, and active. The purpose and result of this “heavenly heart surgery” is seen in verse 20: “That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them”. The problem with the Mosaic Law was not its requirements, although they were lower than God’s ultimate requirements. The problem was that laws, in and of themselves, have no power to give life. Any law is simply a mirror. By that mirror, a man can see whether he is measuring up to the standard or not. A simple example is a speed limit sign. If a man drives past a speed limit sign, he can look at his speedometer, look at the sign, and see the requirement of the law and whether he is living up to it or not. But the speed limit sign has no ability to make the driver tap the brakes to slow down and bring himself into conformity with the law. The same is true of the Law of Moses. The Law made demands on peoples’ lives and could be used as a mirror for an individual to evaluate how he compared with what God had commanded. But there was no “life clause” in the Law to provide the power to be able to keep the standard of righteousness which was given! “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8).
The New Covenant, on the other hand, has higher requirements than the Mosaic Covenant did. If the children of Israel for thousands of years failed to live up to the requirements of the Mosaic Law, how could anyone possibly hope to hold to an even higher standard? The biggest difference between the two covenants is summed up in one word: life. The dead human spirit cannot keep God’s standard of righteousness – not even the Mosaic standard. Death and sin rule over the unregenerated soul, keeping it in bondage to disobedience and rebellion against God (Romans 5:12-21). Nevertheless, in the spiritual operation called the New Birth, Jesus Christ will impart the promised “heart of flesh,” full of the heavenly life of God Himself, filled with the Law of God, and which overthrows the devilish reign of Sin and Death. The result of this miracle is called VICTORY, and the response of the new saint is PRAISE! Hallelujah for the New Covenant!
Practical Application: Many practical applications might be drawn from these passages and the principles discussed, but I would like to focus on one in particular. Jeremiah tells us that God would write His laws on the hearts of those who accept the New Covenant. It is possible to obey the laws of the New Covenant (the commands of Jesus and the Apostles), at least in outward form, without having them written on the heart. How is it possible to discern if these laws are written on one’s heart? We normally call something written on one’s heart a “conviction.” Anything not done out of conviction is not written on one’s heart. If you find yourself in doubt, ask yourself the following questions: do I obey some principle of the New Covenant (for instance, separation from the world, the woman’s head covering, or nonresistance) simply because it is what the church expects? Or because it is what my parents expect? Or because if I did not, I would suffer negative social consequences among the people in my congregation(s)? Do I love to find some way to be “borderline” from what the New Testament requires – i.e., just on the edge of disobedience? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then I beg you to examine yourself in the light of God’s Word and ask yourself if you truly are under the New Covenant or are under the Old Law of outward compulsion. Then go to God and ask Him for the New Heart, filled with the Law of God, which will make one delight in doing His Will!
Originally published in The Witness, November 2012.
(Account from Martyrs Mirror, pp. 140-141)
In the ancient records of the pious witnesses of Jesus Christ, an account is given of Marinus, a citizen of Jerusalem, of noble descent, who, although he belonged to the nobility, entertained a sincere affection for the true Christians, who at that time were oppressed beyond measure. On this account his enviers, who were jealous of the honor of his nobility, severely accused and charged him with being a Christian; which he also confessed, when he was brought before the Judge; yea, he declared with a loud and clear voice, that he was certainly a Christian. The Judge then gave him three hours’ respite to consider, whether he would die as a Christian, or whether he would sacrifice to the gods and the Emperor.
As he went away from the tribunal, Theotecnes, the bishop of the church in that city, took him by the hand, and led him to the meeting, in the meeting-place, strengthened him with many words in the faith, and, placing before him the sword which he was wont to carry at his side, and also the Gospel [book], he asked him which of the two he would choose?
When Marinus, with a firm faith, stretched forth his hands for the Gospel, choosing it instead of the sword, Theotecnes said to him: “O my son! keep that which thou hast chosen, and, despising this present life, hope for the eternal. Depart in good confidence, and receive the crown which the Lord has prepared for thee.”
Marinus accordingly returned to the tribunal, and was forthwith called by the lord’s servant, for the appointed time had come; he did not delay or wait until he was asked, but said of his own accord: that he had considered the matter, and that it was established by the law of the fathers, that God must be obeyed rather than men. Eusebius Pamphilius [an ancient church historian] writes, that when Marinus had answered thus, the Judge immediately gave sentence that he should be beheaded.
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
Many people are of the opinion that once a man is truly born again, he can never lose his salvation. The Apostle Peter did not share this perspective.
“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:20-22).
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
Onophrius Griesinger and Leonhard Lochmair (formerly a Roman Catholic priest) were sent by the Hutterites living in Moravia as evangelists to South Tyrol. As had happened with several evangelistic teams before them, they were hunted down and arrested by the authorities. Lochmair was arrested first, in April 1538. He was imprisoned and examined and recanted. Before long, however, he repented of his weak wavering and declared himself no longer willing to recant his faith.
In the meantime, strong efforts were made by the government to track down Onophrius. On May 20, 1538, fifteen strong men were ordered to find him. It took until August 28, 1538, for the authorities to finally catch up with him – with the help of an infiltrator who betrayed Onophrius.
Onophrius was put in the safe prison in Brixen, the same prison where Lochmair was confined. Onophrius and Leonhard soon found a way to communicate with each other. They discovered that they shared the same food bowl. Leonhard scratched a note in the bottom of the bowl, telling Onophrius of his recantation, his repentance, and his desire to be reaccepted into the brotherhood. Onophrius wrote a note back, saying that he had been forgiven and reaccepted. Onophrius then wrote a note to the brethren back in Moravia, asking that Leonhard be reaccepted. (How he got the note delivered is still unknown.)
Onophrius was tortured twice, but refused to confess to knowing of any plans among the brotherhood for rebellion against the government (of course, they had no such plans). The local officials wanted to execute Onophrius secretly before dawn, but representatives of the emperor were there to ensure that he was sentenced to a public burning.
On October 31, 1538, Onophrius was executed for the sake of the truth of the Gospel. Oswald Schuster, another Anabaptist, was present at the execution. Just before Onophrius was put in the fire, he came forward and shook Onophrius’s hand. He was quickly arrested but later escaped from prison and fled to Moravia with Onophrius’s widow.
Onophrius’s execution was a hard day for the officials. The locals were not pleased with the fact that he was being executed. Mercenaries had been hired for crowd control, but even they were angry with the authorities for what was being done to Onophrius. There was a heavy rain that day, which dampened the fire and prolonged the torture of death. The captain of the mercenaries demanded that Onophrius be beheaded, a more merciful method of execution. The authorities would not go against the Emperor’s orders that Anabaptists were to be burned alive. However, they did bring some dry wood to bring a quicker end to Onophrius’s suffering.
Onophrius did not die in vain. The provost in charge of the execution, after seeing Onophrius die and being greatly moved at his integrity and steadfastness, raised his hand and swore an oath that he would never again sentence another Anabaptist. The captain of the mercenaries, who had demanded a more merciful end to Onophrius’s sufferings, later went to Moravia and joined the Hutterites.
In the meantime, Onophrius’s fellow prisoner, Leonhard Lochmair, lay in prison. He was finally beheaded in late 1538.
Hutterite Beginnings, by Werner O. Packull
Originally published in The Witness, January 2012.
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
Have you ever received one of those “Judgment Day” e-mails? In various versions, some type of a “Judgment Day” scene depiction is sent around on e-mail and even used in tracts for evangelism. Below is a summary of what most of these scenes try to portray:
“I died and went to judgment. The Judge sat at the bench and listened as I explained that I had lived a good life and had not done anything really bad, so I should go to Heaven. The Prosecuting Attorney, Satan, came to the witness stand and began to read off my sins. I felt worse and worse as he read from the enormous book in front of him. The Judge looked at me and said, ‘Are these charges true?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied. “Then up came the Defense Attorney. He said He had died to pay for my sins and so I could not go to Hell, since I had trusted in Him. ‘Innocent of all charges,’ the Judge said. ‘Case closed.’”
I have no problem with arousing people to think of the Judgment, but this type of story only lightens the seriousness of Judgment Day rather than promoting serious reflection. (This is particularly so in versions which have Jesus saying “Hi Dad!” to the Father.) Moreover, it contains Scriptural errors as well. Did you know that the Father will NOT be the Judge on Judgment Day? In John 5:22-23, Jesus said,
“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.”
Jesus is going to be the Judge on Judgment Day! When you die and face God, you will not be hiding behind Jesus; He will be the Judge. Another fact worthy of consideration is the basis on which men will be judged. Many ideas have been proposed over the years: faithful church attendance, obedience to the church, doing good things for others, being a “good person,” or – as this story proposes – simply trusting in Christ. But what does Jesus say about what basis men will be judged on?
“And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:47-48).
Men will be judged on the basis of Jesus’ Words. It is wise to be thoroughly acquainted with what Jesus Himself said while He was on Earth so that we can live by His teachings and not be condemned on Judgment Day.
Originally published in The Witness, May 2012.
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
Many people are of the opinion that America was founded as a Christian nation. The early Americans knew better!
This is Article 11 from the Treaty of Tripoli, one of the first treaties the United States entered into. It was a treaty between the U.S. and Tripoli made in 1796 (during George Washington’s presidency).
“As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims, and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mohammedan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries” (emphasis added).
My concern for this message is to expose a detour that our Anabaptist churches took in the past century. As I was growing up, the message that I heard was what I call a “save ME gospel.” Now the term “kingdom of God” was used very loosely—as it is in many church circles—but I don’t think I ever heard, in all my growing up years, a message specifically on the kingdom. In this message I want to make it very clear what the kingdom of God is.
It is not about us! That is where the problem came in the shift of focus when I was growing up. The main thing in the messages that I heard was “We need to get saved!”
That certainly is true, but “getting saved” is a means to an end; not an end in itself. Unfortunately, “getting saved” was made an end in itself, and much of the revival preaching was focused on that end. Therefore, I would like to make it clear what the original gospel of Jesus Christ really was.
The original gospel message
The original gospel was the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus began His ministry by saying, “Repent …” Now, the classic words usually following this would be, “… or you will be lost,” or “you will go to hell!”
But Jesus did not say that. He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In other words, “The kingdom is right there for you to grasp, it’s at hand.” Six verses later, after calling His first four disciples, it says He “went about all Galilee … preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” Mt. 4:23 Do you know that Jesus never called the gospel anything else but “the gospel of the kingdom”? In every instance where you find the content of the gospel described, it is “the gospel of the kingdom.” Every time, in the entire gospel record!
Jesus’ two most important statements were the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer. Both of these begin and end with an emphasis on the kingdom of God. “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of God.” “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
Referring to the end of time, Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” I ask you a searching question: Has the gospel of the kingdom been preached unto the ends of the earth, or has it been a “save ME gospel”?
Now I want to make one thing clear before proceeding: God uses imperfect means. I believe the gospel has been preached in many parts of the world, and despite a wrong emphasis, many people have been reconciled to God.
Parables of the kingdom
Basically all of Jesus’ parables focus on the kingdom: the kingdom is as a treasure in a field, the kingdom is as a merchant, the kingdom is as a net, the kingdom is as leaven, the kingdom is as a mustard seed …
I want to ask you a question: If I were to ask you what the seed was in the parable of the sower, what would you say?
[Response from someone in the audience: “The Word of God!”]
That’s what most people say! And that is true in a general sense, but specifically it says it is the “word of the kingdom”! I never noticed that until recently. We are so used to reading our Bible through certain lenses. Six months ago I would have probably said the same thing [as the responder from the audience.] When Jesus interprets the parable of the tares, He says the seed is “the children of the kingdom.” That excites me!
Here I am, speaking to approximately 400 seeds! What should happen is that all you seeds will go out there and be planted and grow up to be a kingdom expression of the gospel! Not just a personal experience of people getting ready to go to heaven, but a kingdom expression of the gospel should grow up around every kingdom Christian. Because you are the “seed of the kingdom.”
The kingdom in church history
But, when we turn to the history of the church, it is not very far along before we see a drastic change in focus. How many of you can recite the “Apostles’ Creed”? [A few raise hands.] Tell me, what is the word that the Apostles’ Creed begins with?
That’s interesting! The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father.” Neither the Apostles’ Creed nor any of those other major creeds after the first centuries say a single thing about the kingdom. Only the Creed of Constantinople says at the end, “… and He shall come again to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.” It places the kingdom “out there” somewhere in the future, but says nothing about its present reality.
The result of losing the kingdom centrality in the gospel is a difference in a person’s outlook. If the focus is on ME, then the preaching I heard all my life was truly “gospel preaching,” where the most important thing in the world is for me to “get saved.” And before I proceed, I want to make it clear that “getting saved” is a very important thing, and heaven and hell are two very important realities we must resolve in the right way.
But that is not God’s most important concern for the present age. What God wants is a corporate expression, a society of the redeemed. Thus, personal salvation is an important means to an end and not an end in itself. God cannot express His kingdom until He has redeemed people that He can use to show to everyone what the whole world would be like if everybody obeyed the King!
That’s what Christianity is all about. We are talking about community, society, corporate relationships, so that the world looking on can say, “Wow!” It is like what the queen of Sheba said when she saw Solomon’s court: “What a great God they must have! What a beautiful kingdom! I cannot believe what I see! I did not know that human beings could live together this way!”
That’s what kingdom is all about!
But you see, if you concentrate only on your personal salvation and you don’t really make the kingdom to be the heart of your gospel—as did Jesus, Paul, and the others labored to teach it—then you have individual Christians who have no vision for submission to a corporate practice. I wonder just what the world looking on does see?
The great paradigm shift
Now, I stand here guilty with all of you; we have all been involved in this paradigm shift. It is because we have not been taught that the end of our salvation is to be involved in something larger than ourselves.
The kingdom of God is the society of the redeemed. As I mentioned, this gospel of the kingdom was lost in the early centuries to an individualistic salvation. And during the last century Anabaptism swallowed it also, and we wonder why we have so much individualism now. It is the fruit of a distorted gospel. We need to get back—it is a burden of my heart—to the kingdom gospel, instead of a “save ME gospel.”
Jesus used the word “kingdom” (in reference to the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God) at least 124 times, and He never referred to the gospel as anything else. If Jesus focused on the kingdom, then that is the centrality of His message, not a marginal issue. He said, “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.” Lk. 4:43 He tells us very explicitly why He came—to preach the kingdom!
Is the kingdom ever taught today? Well, in dispensationalist circles, the kingdom is to happen somewhere off in the future. You know, I think the Devil has used every strategy he can think of to get the focus off the kingdom. I really do! So the dispensationalist has put the kingdom off into the future … it is coming. This makes Jesus’ teaching irrelevant for today. That is what some people do with the teaching about the kingdom.
Other people, such as Augustine and Calvin, made the kingdom the central theme of their teaching, but it was a carnal kingdom ruled by force. Thus we have these two distortions, two wrong concepts, of the kingdom of God. So the message is lost.
Why did Jesus focus His message on the kingdom of God? Because that was God’s original purpose; that is why man was created. Salvation was not the main theme of God’s original work with man. Man was not “lost” when he was created. God created man so that he would have dominion and express God’s authority on this earth.
The first use of the word kingdom in the Bible is in Exodus 19:6, where it states, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests …” That makes it very clear what serving God is all about. We are mediating God’s rule on earth. He is the King; we are simply His subjects expressing His rule and authority, first of all in our own lives and fellowships, and then to the conscience of the world around us. Notice God says “ye shall be unto me,” not unto us (as humans) a kingdom of priests. The purpose of the kingdom is to show God’s benevolent rule, through us.
The world does not understand God. When they think about God, they view Him as a negative entity, as some sort of grumpy sovereign out there who enjoys giving lots of rules to make life hard … His ways are not good, and if you follow them, you will never be happy. That is the world’s concept of God. Therefore God’s purpose is that through this society of the redeemed, this little colony of heaven on earth, the world would get a glimpse of His true attractive character and have a desire to respond properly to Him.
Now the Devil has perverted the idea of the kingdom, which is why people have difficulty with it. Some leaders have perverted the idea of God’s kingdom and left a bad taste in our mouth. In the Old Testament, God initially wanted all men to be that kingdom of priests, but this purpose got lost, so He chose a nation. We will not take the time to do so now, but it is an interesting study to go through the Old Testament and see what God wanted to do with that nation. He told them, “I want to lift you up on high, so that all the nations will say, ‘What a God they have! What laws they have! What nation has been more blessed?’” He said, “I will make you the lender and not the borrower. You will be number one among the nations … if you keep all of my commandments.”
You see, that is the only way people will be blessed, by a total surrender. Now, I told you of the fragmentation that has taken place in our churches. We don’t understand submission of our lives to God and to each other for the sake of the kingdom of God.
We saw that in the Old Testament that God wanted a kingdom that would demonstrate to the whole world what a nation would look like if God was the King. And only briefly did the world ever see that, under David and somewhat under Solomon. That was it. Then we come into the New Testament.
I want to show you that the preaching of the gospel as being the gospel of the kingdom didn’t end with Christ. My goal with this message is to make all of you passionate church builders. I want you to forget about yourself, and get your relationship with God established, and then lose yourself in something bigger than yourself!
Look in Acts 19:8. What did Paul preach? “And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God was Paul’s message; it was not a “save ME gospel.” Now look at Acts 20:25. “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.”
I want to ask you another searching question. When you “preach the gospel,” do you preach the kingdom of God? I hope so, and if you haven’t been doing so, I hope you start! Now let’s go to the end of Paul’s life, described in Acts 28:23. “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God.” Again, we see that the kingdom was the message! Then after Paul ends up a prisoner in his own rented house, what is he preaching in the very last verse of Acts? “The kingdom of God!”
Now, I think if Paul’s gospel had been a “save ME gospel” it would not have been stated that way. The coming of the kingdom of God was the message.
A present reality
This kingdom is a present reality, and the effects of the kingdom show, as in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25. This is what should happen when the kingdom is genuinely expressed.
If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
This is the kind of authority that the gathered body has when it is gathered in unity. It is a true kingdom expression of authority. Psalm 89:7 tells us that “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.”
What is the church, as denoted by the Greek term ekklesia? If you ask most people what that means, they will say, “the called out ones.” My question is, “called out to what?” Are they called out just to enjoy each other’s fellowship?
In Acts 19, when the uproar took place in Ephesus, the town clerk came on the scene and said, “We are going to be criticized for this disorder. If something needs to be resolved, there is a proper order. If anything needs to be done, it shall be determined in a lawful ekklesia (assembly).”
If you had gone to a Greek town and asked for the ekklesia, they would have taken you to the town council! It was a governing body; ekklesia means a body of people called out to govern (guide, lead). Now suppose you went to the U.S. Congress when they were dismissing, and asked them what had happened that day. Suppose they said, “We had a wonderful fellowship together! We were so encouraged! We had a fellowship meal, and it was a wonderful potluck dinner; you should have seen it! I was so glad I came to Congress, because I was so discouraged, but now I am really inspired!”
You would probably say, “That is not the reason you were supposed to be meeting together! You were not supposed to be there for yourself! You were supposed to be there to make good laws for this country, for yourself, for the assembly, and for the whole nation.”
A kingdom of peace
And that is why we are here, to give guidance to the nations. The early church demonstrated that. Concerning the Pax Romana, history books tell you that it was because the Roman army was so formidable and its punishments so terrifying that other nations dared not resist Rome’s rule. But if you read the early church writings, you get a different story. They say the reason for those 200 years of peace—which coincided with the first centuries of the church—was that the Prince of Peace had come and established a kingdom of peace, and this kingdom’s prayers and influence were keeping the world at peace! Interestingly, those 200 years of peace ended about the same time that the early church began to lose its practice of nonresistance.
The most tragic compromise the church ever made was its compromise of nonresistance.
Since that time, some of the most horrible things have happened “in the name of Jesus”: the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery in America, the American Civil War, and World Wars I and II.
People say, “What do you do with a man like Hitler?” Well, most of the people in Germany were Lutherans. If the church had never lost its stand on nonresistance, Hitler would have had no army! Almost none of the wars in Western civilization would have ever occurred. Do you see now what happened to this kingdom? It got messed up with tragic and unspeakably horrible consequences.
I have to tell you—and I have heard this in testimonies from various people—that the most powerful testimony of the church has been its testimony of nonresistance. We live in a world that is sick of war, hatred, violence, killing, and all the things that go along with war. To hear that there is a group of people—the Anabaptists—who for 500 years has been able to live together in peace without the sword is about the most appealing message we could ever give to the world.
I hope that by now you understand what the gospel of the kingdom is: a gospel that says, “Yes, God wants to save human beings and take them to heaven, but the most important part is that He wants them to be an expression of His kingdom here on earth.” I will again state my definition of the kingdom of God: A group of people who show to everyone what the whole world would look like if everybody obeyed the King!
Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (September/October 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
News agencies and Internet bloggers pounced on the news of a new “gospel” unveiled at a conference in Rome recently. The fragment, dubbed the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” allegedly mentions Jesus as being married.
Finding spurious gospels is not new. Along with the four canonical Gospels giving accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry, pseudo-Christian groups in the first centuries of the church (most notably the Gnostics) produced their own “holy writings,” including The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip, The Acts of Peter, etc. Of course, the books were not actually written by the people they were named for.
This new “gospel” is not a complete work at all – rather it is a tiny scrap of papyrus with eight partial lines of text on one side and a few words on the other. What is so exciting about it? Lines 3-5 read, “deny. Mary is [?not] worthy of it…Jesus said to them, ‘my wife…she will be able to be my disciple.” Several secular news agencies are taking this as “evidence” that Jesus Christ was married and hyping the fragment intensely. Although it is simply a scrap, it was given the name “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”
In the midst of the excitement, it is good to keep the following points in mind:
1. There is essentially no context at all for the statement about the “wife”. We have no idea what the Jesus character in the text was saying. What if the original (complete) text said, “My wife is the church, whom I shall take to Heaven to be where I am.” It is a possibility! 2. The dating of the fragment is quite uncertain, but the scholar who announced it has tentatively dated the text (not the fragment) to the second century A.D. The fragment itself she believes to be from the fourth century. Obviously, the canonical gospels, which were written in the first century by people who knew Jesus personally or (as in the case of Mark and Luke) knew those who knew Jesus, are more reliable than this undated, unattributed scrap even from a secular viewpoint. 3. Very few scholars are willing at this point to vouch for the authenticity of the text. Many are strongly suspicious that it is a modern forgery; some are absolutely convinced that it is. Even Prof. Karen King, who unveiled the fragment, admitted to having doubts about its authenticity. Some have questioned why the scrap is a perfect rectangle. Might someone have found it as part of a larger text and cut out the small piece – perhaps because the broader context gave information about what the “wife” comment meant which made it sound less sensational? 4. Even if the scrap is genuinely ancient (mid-2nd century, as Prof. King suggested) and is suggesting that Jesus was married (in a literal sense), that does not mean that the real Jesus actually was married. It only means that one author who wrote this document may have believed that Jesus was married. (For all we know, the author may have been disputing such an idea or simply making some scribblings for his own amusement.) Prof. King wrote that the text “does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married, given the late date of the fragment and the probable date of original composition only in the second half of the second century.”
Need this new scrap shake anyone’s faith in what the Biblical Gospels say about Jesus’ life? No. Its late date and lack of context make it essentially worthless even from a secular viewpoint in telling us anything about Jesus’ life. Those who have experienced the power of Jesus in their lives personally need not let any evidence shake them away from their own experiential knowledge of the truth of the Bible.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”
Holy Bible, Authorized Version
There is an enormous amount of discussion of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife online. Here are a few main references:
1. Henry B. Smith, Jr., “Brief Reflections on the So-Called ‘Jesus Wife’ Fragment,” http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2012/09/24/Brief-Reflections-on-the-So-Called-Jesus-Wife-Fragment.aspx (Accessed September 27, 2012)
2. Tim Chaffey, “Was Jesus Married?,” http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2012/09/21/feedback-was-jesus-married (Accessed September 27, 2012)
3. Karen L. King & AnneMarie Luijendijk, “ ‘Jesus said to them, “My wife…”’ A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus,” draft of paper submitted to Harvard Theological Review, http://www.hds.harvard.edu/sites/hds.harvard.edu/files/attachments/faculty-research/research-projects/the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife/29865/King_JesusSaidToThem_draft_0920.pdf
4. Lillian Kwon, “ ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ Historian Admits to Having Doubts About Authenticity,” http://www.christianpost.com/news/gospel-of-jesus-wife-historian-admits-to-having-doubts-about-authenticity-82229/ (Accessed September 27, 2012)