by Pilgram Marpeck in 1531
from The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck. Translated and edited by William Klassen and Walter Klaassen, 1978
First, certain spirits (which, according to 1 John "went out from us but are not of us'' ) are advocating that the children of God should no longer use the ceremonies of the New Testament such as baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the Scriptures. These spirits think that such ceremonies are to be shunned because they have been abused and destroyed by the Antichrist, who imitates them without a mandate and without the witness of the heart. Therefore, the ceremonies are misunderstood, abused, and stained. This abomination will remain until the end, etc.
The righteous have nothing to do with evil matters (Ezek. 18; Deut. 24) because they have not given their consent (Lk. 23; Eph. 5; 1 Tim. 5; Rev. 18; 2 Cor. 6; Ps. 26; Ex. 23). Because the Antichrist is an unbeliever and a pervert, he uses all things, including the ceremonies, in a perverted, impure manner, for to him all things are impure (Tit. 1). This abuse cannot invalidate them for the believer who understands, uses, practices, and promotes them in a correct and pure manner. The ceremonies, duly instituted, are valid in themselves and cannot, as a result of the Antichrist's impurity and abuse, become impure for the pure.
Although the Antichrist uses them in a carnal manner, when man decides what is right and when they are inspired by Christ's mandate of faith, spirit, and truth, these ceremonies are also performed in a Christian manner and spiritual form. For they have been commended to the believers and not to those who follow the Antichrist. Consequently, neither those belonging to the Antichrist nor any others can defile the ceremonies so that they are weakened, or lose their power. Those who abuse them defile only themselves, but the commandment and the ordinance of Christ remain in themselves fresh, free, upright, powerful, and steadfast forever. They do not age, nor are they replaced, and, until His physical return, are not misplaced through length of time, for they have been instituted in the New Testament and not in the Old. Thus, with respect to time, they belong in the New Testament until Christ's physical return.
I freely, admit that whoever, like, the Antichrist, abuses such ceremonies does so unjustly and participates in the abomination. Where, however, the Spirit of Christ is present (which those belonging to the Antichrist lack and, I fear, these spirits also lack), there Christ's pure ordinance is joined to it. Among the holy, undefiled, and pure, Christ and His law are holy, undefiled, and pure; among the perverted, they are perverted (Ps. 2; Kings 22). The perverted and the cursed have spoiled it as far as God is concerned, and they are not His children because of their spots and blemishes (Deut. 32). Moreover, because these spirits appeal to the images of the Old Testament, I must reply using the same images.
How often did the Israelites and Jews defect from God and their laws in the Old Testament! Godless kings arose who besmirched, changed, perverted, and distorted the ceremonies of the law (just as the Antichrist did, and now does, in the New). Read 2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 15, 34, 35; Ezra 5, 10. A few times it occurred, not through the prophets, but through the people and their kings themselves, men who were compelled by their consciences and the fear of God (2 Chron. 14, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31, 33, 34; 1 Macc. 4) and not by special signs or miracles as these erring spirits aver. Just as the Israelites, rescued out of Babylon captivity (Ezra 2), restored the ancient ceremonies, so too does Christ today, through His servants rescued out of the prison of the Antichrist, restore and renew His instituted ceremonies (Acts 3) by means of His inner command and His bestowal of certainty of His Spirit.
Similarly, because of the apostasy of the same Jerusalemites (2 Thess. 2), Christ is again restoring the spiritual Jerusalem destroyed by the antichristian Chaldeans. Earlier, because of sins of the Israelites or Jews and their kings, the Chaldean and other kings destroyed the physical Jerusalem (2 Chron. 36; Neh. 1; 2 Chron. 24:23, 24; Jer. 25; 1 Macc. 1, 2). Yet, through the inspiration and awakening of God, and not through external miracles, Jerusalem was again rebuilt by King Cyrus (2 Chron. 36; Ezra 1) and also by Nehemiah (Neh. 2). For God calls His apostate people that they may again return to Him and keep His law and ordinance, that He may receive them and gather them together (Neh. 1; Jer. 3, 8, 31; Is. 31 Hos. 14). As then, so now, by breathing on His disciples and directing the shining brilliance of His countenance toward His spiritual Jerusalem, Christ will accomplish what He has promised, the revelation of His glory by means of His physical return (Lk. 21). To prepare for His coming, the King, Christ, has already begun to send ahead messengers who will ensure that His temple and the city of Jerusalem are purified and cleansed of all abuses of His commands, laws, and ceremonies. The spiritual idolatry, waste, and abomination raised by the Antichrist are to be purged from this spiritual Jerusalem, just as, previously, Josiah (2 Chron. 30, 34) and, figuratively, other kings under the law purged it. Thus when this king comes, ceremonies, external instruction, Scriptures, all enigmas, and all that is partial (1 Cor. 13) will cease and will no longer be needed. Only then will the true leap be taken.
Second, these spirits insist that, because of the death of the apostles, there is no longer any command or witness of the Scriptures concerning ceremonies such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Accordingly, these practices fall away, and the erring spirits are unconvinced that restitution is called for at this time. Therefore, what is needed is an external command lest we practice the ceremonies in unbelief of with an unsteady, doubting heart and the like, etc.
If such an argument were valid, we might well take heed not to say the Lord’s Prayer in vain or many other matters about which Jesus spoke to His disciples, internally and externally. Are we now to regard the Scriptures as words spoken only to the disciples present and as applying literally only to them at that time? That is impossible. It will be found in Scripture that such ceremonies must remain as long as there are Christians, that is, until the end of the world, for, in His command to baptize (Mt. 28), Jesus had in mind not only His present disciples but also all future disciples throughout time until the end of the world, a fact which is evident when He says: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” He also spoke to them in this manner on other matters, as He did, for example, in Matthew 24, when He spoke of the end: “Now when you see the abomination of desolation,” etc. Further, He says in Luke 21: “When you see all this, then know that the end is near," and in Matthew 10: “When, however, this begins to happen, then look up.... You will not get around to all the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” He certainly knew that His contemporary disciples would not live that long. He further says in Mark 13: “What I say to you, I say to all, Watch.” Paul, too, when he spoke of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11), addressed his remarks about Christ's physical return not only to his contemporaries but to all Christians, thus reiterating Christ's command to proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. This injunction does not refer to Christ's spiritual coming, as some have understood it to mean, for those who proclaim Christ's death must first have Him spiritually in them (2 Cor. 13), or eat the bread in an unworthy manner and thus, since they are unable to discern the body of the Lord, eat judgment unto themselves and the world.
How then can these spirits say that there is no longer any scriptural testimony or external authorization for such ceremonies? Similarly, when they affirm that at the time of the apostles the proclamation already went forth adequately as a witness to the world, they refute the proclamation of the gospel. Especially in these last days, proclamation of a witness is required from all nations in the whole world (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Acts 3; Rev. 14). But the proclamation must be the same as the one Christ and the apostles have preached (Gal. 1; John 15; 2 John 1, 2; 2 Cor. 11; 1 Tim. 6), for Christ's Word will not pass away until heaven and earth pass away (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21). Since such a gospel is proclaimed openly through word and blood, neither is it His will that His words be changed, added to, or subtracted from (2 Cor. 2, 4; Rev. 22; Mt. 5; Deut. 4; Prov. 30; Gal. 3). Who, however, sent these preachers, witnesses, or messengers? Or do they testify to lies and not to truth?
If, then, such proclamation of, and testimony to, the gospel must take place in these last days, why then would they discontinue baptism, the Lord's Supper, etc., which are also external witnesses? Why differentiate between one external witness and another?
That Christ does not at this time once more in the flesh give a personal command as He did to the eleven disciples or, as in the case of Paul (Acts 9), perform a miracle, should not deter us. As noted, subsequent to the apostasy of Israel and the destruction of their kings, the ceremonies of the old covenant were reinstituted without miracles. If the people whom the Assyrian king (2 Kings 17) settled in the cities of Samaria had followed the Israelite priest, who came not with signs but rather with teaching or preaching, and if they had dealt with him according to the law of Moses, they would not have acted incorrectly, even though they were Gentiles. Thus, we should not yearn to have Christ, the Head, physically with us until He comes at the end of the world. Through the Spirit of Christ, there is sufficient inner command. Whoever desires more, such as miraculous signs or the like, as unbelievers always do, and does not, like the Ninevites, allow the proclamation of Jonah (who preached without miraculous signs) to suffice, is not hungry for the truth. Signs and wonders have already testified to this truth and the Scriptures have been made abundantly certain for us (Heb. 2; Mk. 16; Jn. 20; Acts 2, 7). For, although its actions deny this claim, the whole world verbally confesses Christ to be the Son of God and considers the Scripture its certification. Consequently, a destruction worse than that of Sodorn and Gomorrah, who did not have such a clear revelation, could result.
Therefore, he who in these last days desires miracles, and will not believe the truth without them, let him beware lest he be deceived and punished by those wonders and signs of deception referred to in the Scriptures (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; 2 Thess. 2; Rev. 13; Rom. 16; 1 Tim. 4).
I speak thus as a warning and not, as certain individuals assume, as an argument to exclude divine miracles and signs. Nor does Scripture assert this exclusion. God has a free hand even in these last days. He has performed miracles and signs before, and even does so today for him who has eyes to see. These spirits who also assert that, together with ceremonies, all miraculous signs ended at the time of the apostles well recognize this fact and should take note how Christian baptism and the Lord's Supper are today repeated according to their original intention and institution. Not only through external ceremonies but also through the power of Christ and His authoritative teachings and of the apostles, these people bear witness both in death and blood. And they do so uncoerced ? freely, deliberately, and joyfully through the abundant comfort and power of the Holy Spirit of Christ in this world. Thus, they seal and confirm the power of Christ. Many of them have remained constant, enduring tortures inflicted by sword, rope, fire, and water, and suffering terrible, tyrannical, unheard?of deaths and martyrdoms, all of which they could easily have avoided by recantation. Moreover, one also marvels when one sees how the faithful God (who, after all, overflows with goodness) raises from the dead several such brothers and sisters of Christ after they were hanged, drowned, or killed in other ways. Even today, they are found alive and we can hear their own testimony.
Here and there one can find the same thing happening, even today, it takes place among those who are powerfully moved and driven by the living Word of God and the Spirit of Christ. They will continue on (as we see before us now), and no one will be able to wipe them out until the whole world, inebriated and insane with innocent blood, will bear abundant testimony to them.
Cannot everyone who sees, even the blind, say with a good conscience that such things are a powerful, unusual, and miraculous act of God? Those who would deny it must be hardened men. Yes, and even more murders now occur, executed by the devil, that is, by his children, the Antichrists and their breed, his citizens and agents with whom these erring spirits accuse us of committing adultery. These spirits further accuse us of imitating him, of paying homage to his image. How, indeed, can anyone say that such a thing is not of God? For, if it were of the devil or Antichrist, as the Jews also committed blasphemy against Christ in the Holy Spirit, it would follow that the devil is himself divided and is fighting against himself. Then, he and his kingdom could never endure, but would come to an end (Mt. 12; Mk. 3; Lk. 11). But one devil cannot be against another.
Christ bids us to recognize prophets not by miraculous signs, but by their fruits (Mt. 7). Likewise, we also know the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5). 1 John 4 tells us to test the spirits in order to determine whether or not they acknowledge Christ's having come in the flesh.
Nowhere do I find Christ's physical command to Philip, the deacon, who was not elected by the church to teach or baptize, and yet he preached and baptized in the surrounding lands. The same is true of Apollos and other renowned apostles who moved about, preaching and baptizing, without external command or commission, but who were sent inwardly by Christ's Spirit. Similarly, the revival and restoration of the pure order of Christ has occurred, and continues to occur, by virtue of His voluntary Spirit, not by carnal compulsion or pressure, but freely and voluntarily. Those who act differently, as lords or masters, should take heed lest they miss the goal. I fear that these spirits lack the true knowledge of Christ; otherwise, they would speak differently. They preach a different gospel than Paul, who prescribed that in the Lord's Supper believers should proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
Thus, these spirits, through their alien preaching, call down Paul's curse upon themselves (Gal. 1). Christ also commands and directs us (Mt. 28; Mk. 16; Lk. 24) to preach, teach, and baptize not only the world of His time, but also the world which will remain and the nations which will exist until the end or the last day (Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Acts 2; Rom. 15; Deut. 31; Ps. 78). He commands us also in Luke 22 to break bread in remembrance of Him; in John 5, “Search the Scriptures,” and in John 7, according to the word and content of the same, to believe in Him; in John 13, to wash one another's feet, etc. So also John, in the Book of Revelation, refers to these last days when we read in chapter 1: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy and keep what is written in it.” But these spirits shy away from such external matters, and so the judgment falls upon them, as it is described in 2 John 1: “Whoever goes ahead and does not remain in the instruction of Christ has no God.” The same John 8: “Whoever does not believe in Him, as the Scriptures say, from his body will not flow rivers of living water." Also Revelation 22: "If anyone removes anything from the words of this prophecy, God will remove his portion from the book of life.” These spirits speak with neither discernment nor the support of the Scriptures, and think that, because the ceremonies of the Old Testament have been abrogated (as for example, in Heb. 7, 8, 9, 10; Gal. 5), the ceremonies of the New Testament have also been abrogated. They are mistaken. Note, however, that if they do regard as abrogated (which they cannot) the ceremonies of the New Testament, ceremonies like baptism and the Lord's Supper, it should follow that all Scriptures, external teaching, separation from the world, ban, rebuke, exhortation, prayer, kneeling, the example of the believers, and all ceremonies for improvement and corporate benefit are no longer valid. If one is invalid, all are invalid; if one remains valid, all remain valid.
Who has commissioned only them, or ordered them to teach, write, and travel here and there with allegations and inferences drawn from the Scriptures and other creatures and examples? Here in the kingdom of Christ, they must, after all, renew the tangible, visible, physical body of man through the Spirit of Christ (2 Cor. 5) and, at the same time, retain the external visible ceremonies which have been instituted and commanded by Christ. Where Christ has come in the flesh by faith (Eph. 3; Gal. 2), that same man, with his flesh and all external members, indeed, the whole man obedient in external ceremonies, will confess the instruction and the life of Christ. But today these spirits desire to make the kingdom of Christ far too spiritual, and make too great a leap, just as, on the other hand, the Antichrist has made it too physical.
I willingly believe that they cannot in their hearts feel such ceremonies and matters, which seem foreign to them; they are wary and suspicious of these ceremonies. So, too, in the whole world the pure usage of the ceremonies is suspect. They are an abomination because of their lack of knowledge and their shying away from the discipline of God. But it is, therefore, not so with others as it is with them. I sense that they lack the Holy Spirit dedicated to the common good (1 Cor. 12), who uses the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the edification of others (1 Cor. 14; Eph. 4), and thus serves them (1 Peter 4). Therefore, they do not believe in Jesus Christ, by which faith one receives the Spirit of promise (Gal. 3; 2 Cor. 4; Jn. 7; Acts 11; Rom. 12). Without this spirit, they are unable to address Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 12), to cry "Abba Father" to belong to Christ, to pray (Rom. 8), to have love (Rom. 5), to be baptized inwardly, washed, sanctified, or made righteous (Jn. 1; 1 Cor. 6), to know the truth (Jn. 16), or to be instructed in it (1 Jn. 2; Jn. 14). Thus, they themselves have not yet been taught (Rom. 2). Nothing but error and confusion arises from such unbelieving, vain, carnally wise, fable?producing spirits and blind leaders.
If they say, however, that they have as much spirit and faith as they need, but have no command to use spiritual gifts for others, I answer: Their boast is nothing but a deceitful adornment of Satan. If they are members of the body of Christ, they will speak differently. For one member to forsake another (1 Cor. 12) in spiritual matters (to say nothing of the temporal, which is of less importance) would be contrary to the faith of the Spirit, and the nature and attributes of love. The fruit of the Spirit is love and faithfulness (Gal. 5). Faith must manifest itself in witness, fruit, and work (2 Pet. 1; Jn. 7, 15; Heb. 6; Jas. 2; 1 Thess. 1). So love is faith in action (Gal. 5); it edifies and improves (1 Cor. 8). If they do not love their neighbor, how can they fulfill the law, for such love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13). Paul says: Let no one seek his own profit, but rather the profit of another. I do not seek what is beneficial to me, but rather what is beneficial and advantageous for many in order that they may be saved. Follow me as I follow Christ (1 Cor. 10; Phil. 2). Thus, the gifts of the Spirit manifest themselves not only for private but also for common benefit, service, and improvement.
Now, since they do not admit that they are commanded to use the gifts of the Spirit according to the distribution of faith (Rom. 12) in relation to others, I would very much like to see how they stand the test of stewardship over their professed gifts of spirit, faith, and love ? a spiritual gift given them by the Lord as a committed trust, talent, or pound until the return of the Lord. What will be their increase (Mt. 25; Lk. 19), and how have they watched (Mk. 13)?
When Christ in Mark 13 says: “What I say to you, I say to all, Watch," these spirits say that such watching does not refer here to preaching, teaching, or action toward others, but only to oneself, and that one should be awake to oneself.
Answer: Christ says this to all stewards and guardians of His house and to the people over whom they are to watch and guard (Mk. 13; Lk. 12; Mt. 24; Heb. 13) by means of teaching and exhortation and other external service (Col. 1, 4; 2 Cor. 12; 1 Thess. 2,3; Rom. 15).
Thus, these drunken prophets want to watch for their own benefit, like dumb dogs which cannot bark (Is. 56). They bruise the conscience of the group by means of false teaching and retard them in their search for the truth; they teach them to watch without love when, after all, watching, not only by the masters but also by the servants, must take place if one is to love one's neighbor, as evidenced in Ephesians 6: “They are to watch, for all the saints.”
The salvation of the soul depends upon love for the neighbor. Whoever does not love his neighbor does not love his own soul, and foolishly seeks his own profit to his highest damage. Therefore, no wakefulness or sobriety are manifested over either his own or over others' souls, but only slumber and drunkenness. Since one can find Scriptures about the suspension of the Old Testament ceremonies, I would greatly desire that these spirits show me clear Scriptures indicating that such ordained proclamation, teaching, baptism, and the Lord's Supper (Mt. 28; 1 Cor. 11) had been suspended, or again forbidden and discontinued. Then, without wavering and doubt in my heart, I might be able to believe their teaching. They are, however, unable to accomplish this without resorting to questionable, untenable, sophistic presentations, examples, and illustrations, all of which the Antichrist does for the preservation of his abomination.
Third, these spirits say that no apostle has Christ's authority or mandate to hand over the apostolic offices to others, nor did these spirits do so. Rather, they appointed bishops to tend the flock of God. Since then, however, no one has been instructed to appoint the ruler of God's flock.
External transmission of authority or mandate does not make an apostle, even if the apostles themselves had made the appointment. If the inner mandate of Christ is not present, all is in vain. Even the external mandate of Christ to the eleven would not have been effective if He had not afterward spiritually thrust the mandate into the heart of their bosom. Therefore, the apostles saw what was committed to them; they themselves carried out their mission and office until they died, when they were then followed by others whom the Lord (who has all authority) sent (Mt. 28).
Indeed, in the worldly realm, those in authority externally hand that authority on to others; but not so in the spiritual realm. Here it depends upon the inner power which Christ alone gives through His spirit. For without the inner mandate, even if Christ, Paul, or Peter would today confer on me external authority, I would not undertake anything. Otherwise, I, together with all the other worldly and antichristian potentates, would be pursuing my own advancement.
Nor is it the case (as these spirits claim) that the apostles, who were sent by the chief Shepherd to gather the flock, did not appoint successors to watch over and to guard the property or sheep gathered together for the Lord. Nor was there provision that these successors had first been found adequate and placed into the confidence of the chief Shepherd. Christ appointed them over the flock so that the true sheep might not diminish but increase. For like Peter, whom He appoints as a shepherd (Jn. 21), Christ would have shepherds who love Him.
Our carnal flesh sharply opposes the right kind of apostolic bishopric. For this reason, many turn away from it and, by means of clever excuses and undisciplined, deceptive teachings, seek to evade it. For, truly, neither reason, wisdom, selfish ambition, honor, impatience, nor other weeds of the flesh have a place in the kingdom of Christ, especially in the office of leader (Vorsteerampt), if fruit is to come.
The authority of the apostle, bishop, and shepherd is not an authority of ruling or lordship; rather, it is one of humility and lowliness so that nothing is done out of a desire to dominate others or to advance only themselves. They are servants of God and of His community.
As mentioned, Christ left, until the end of the world, His external authority and command in the Scriptures (Mt. 28) to all His disciples, brothers, and members who possess His Spirit or mind. This same written authority was accepted by Paul, as a member of Christ, when he refers to the verse (interpreting it to refer to the body of members of Christ in Acts 13): "As the Lord commanded us, I have made you a light for the Gentiles that you might be salvation to the ends of the earth," etc. Let everyone beware lest he abuse such authority, lest he represent only himself rather than Christ, who sends him, and lest he be without the seal of authority in his heart. Let him honorably be Christ's representative throughout the whole world, wherever need exists; then he need not be concerned that he is abusing his authority. Yes, even if a dog or a cat were to proclaim the gospel as a testimony, throughout the unbelieving world and deliver it into repentance and improvement, who could declare it wrong? For everything that leads to godliness is good, and not evil, for all visible creatures are placed in the world as apostles and teachers (job 12). If such mute creatures could speak, Christ's sending the apostles to elucidate or preach the gospel would have been unnecessary.
But, in their carnal wisdom, these spirits desire, on the basis of the verse “they will all be taught of God” (Jn. 6), the proclamation of the gospel to all creatures (Col. 1; Mk. 16), and they desire to abolish too much. For the latter was spoken by Christ after the former. They seek even to abolish all external order and means of God, through which and in which His invisible being is seen (Rom. 1; Wisdom of Sol. 13); in Christ and in God man is led from the visible into the invisible. Thus, with the ruse that it breeds idolatry, these spirits abominate that which God has created and provided for man's well?being. If in this way they thank God for that which is external, how would they thank Him for that which is internal? In any event, they adduce only part of the Scriptures and leave out the counterpart, have uncloven hoofs, not cogitating on what they take in (Deut. 14). Therefore, one should neither heed them nor accept them. They err in vision and stumble in giving judgment (Is. 28). They act like Joshua, the servant of Moses (Num. 11), who sought to prevent Eldat and Medat from prophesying. But Moses said to him: “Are you zealous for me? Would to God that all the people of God might prophesy and that God's spirit might be poured into them." Spirits also act like Jesus' disciples when they forbade someone to drive out demons because he did not follow after Christ with them. Jesus answered: “Do not forbid him or hinder him, for there is no one who does anything in my name, even if he speaks evil against me, for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mk. 9; Lk. 9).
With their sandy soil and sod taken from the ground, which is earthly wisdom, they desire to stop up the well of the Spirit which pours from the believing hearts (Jn. 7; 2 Cor. 4; Acts 2; Rom. 10; Ps. 115). These spirits compound their sin in every way (1 Thess. 2), for, like the world, they would restrain us from preaching salvation to the heathen. The world resists us with physical force; these spirits with their false artistry and cunning trickery (2 Cor. 11) hinder us spiritually. Paul says: “I rejoice that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of a good motive or accidentally” (Phil. 1). Who sent the woman (Jn. 4) into the town that she might proclaim Christ? Nevertheless, through her message, the Samaritans were edified. Only if these spirits had good intentions, neither misleading others nor condemning themselves (Rom. 2; Mt. 7; Jas. 3; 1 Cor. 11; Ps. 50; Ecclus. 5, 7, 14, 22), only if they sought to warn emissaries or bishops, teachers and others to pay heed to the manner in which they themselves had been taught and now think (Tit. 1, 2; 1 Tim. 3, 4, 5; 2 Tim. 2; 1 Pet. 5), only if these spirits did not go so far as to discontinue or forbid completely instruction and ceremonies, only then could their cause be tolerated. Their cause, as it now stands, cannot be tolerated,
Christ did not restrict His command, Word, grace, Spirit, or ceremonies to the first apostles and churches. His Word and power, and the outpouring of His Spirit, have no end. Nor is the arm of the Lord shortened (Num. 11). Had the world died out with the first apostles and ceased with them, I would believe this. However, the fallen world continues even now to need apostles, messengers, and teachers, who testify and confess the sound of the gospel and the name of Jesus Christ (Rom. 10; Col. 1). Also, they must declare, remind, and testify to the world's sins and burdens, and to their own imagined, fabricated faith. The Israelites, too, after their apostasy everywhere (where they did not do right by themselves), had to be reminded again of their vices, sin, and destruction. The sound that went out, the law and the name of God (Ps. 18) had been witnessed to and confessed beforehand. For it is the will of God that recollection, testimony, and proclamation should always be made to the followers, apostate, erring, and ignorant (Is. 60; Rom. 15; Deut. 31; Ps, 78), and, as long as it is today (Heb. 3), even to those who know (2 Cor. 1; 2 Pet. I; Phil. 3), in order that no one may be lost, that everyone may improve (2 Pet. 3), and that all men may become well, be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2), just as Christ is not the atonement for the sins of a part or a half but of the whole world (1 Jn. 2), so, also, as the light which enlightens every man coming into the world (Jn. 1), through His justification, the justification of life came upon all of them (Rom. 5). Therefore, the Scriptures also are designed and intended for those upon whom the end of the world has come (1 Cor. 9, 10; Is. 30).
We do not serve the Scriptures or benefit them; they serve and benefit us by their instruction, edification, exhortation, and discipline (Rom. 15; 2 Tim. 1). Similarly, all ceremonies have been instituted by Christ for our service and benefit, and we are not thereby to serve God in the manner the carnal Jews (Is. 1; Ps. 50) thought.
These spirits ask us: why should God need such external things or services, and how is it that we are making an idol out of them, etc.? Rather, these services serve us, just as Christ the Man came to serve us (Mk. 10; Rom. 15) and did everything for our sake (Jn. 11). To be sure, God ordered that it should be so, when it is done in faith (Heb. 11; Rom. 13; Mt. 5; Prov. 15; Rom. 8; Col. 1; 1 Thess. 2) and in obedience to faith (Rom. 1, 6, 10, 16; 2 Cor. 2, 7, 10; Heb. 5, 13), and when one serves the members or body of Christ thereby (Col. 1; 1 Thess. 2; 1 Cor. 3; 1 Pet. 4; Eph. 4). If one does it in the Spirit of God (Phil. 3; Rom. 13) and for the praise of God (Jn. 7, 16; 1 Cor. 10; 1 Pet. 4), to do so is to serve Christ the Head and God Himself (Phil. 2; Eph. 6; Col. 3; 1 Cor. 8; Mt. 10, 18, 25). We would not use such ceremonies and Scriptures as the scribes of this world do (Mt. 15, 23; 1 Cor. 1; 2 Cor. 2, 4), that is false and for the sake of unrighteousness. We would use them as the scribes of the kingdom of God do, for the sake of righteousness, and godliness, piety, and wisdom, and with the faith of the elect in Jesus (2 Tim. 3; Mt. 13; Act. 18). With Paul, we believe all that is written in the law and the prophets (Acts 24), and fulfill the royal law according to James 2. We recall the written words of the apostles (Jude 1). We search daily in the Scriptures to see whether it is in fact as these spirits teach (Acts 17). From what we read and know beforehand (2 Cor. 1), we find, however, that it is not as they say. Nevertheless, we say nothing except what has already been said by Moses, the prophets, Christ, and the apostles (Acts 26). Without the Scriptures, no one knows how, why, and in what form Christ died, was buried, and was raised (1 Cor. 15). Therefore, moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1) and by the example of Christ through His Spirit, all messengers and teachers should have witness of the Scriptures, but in humility and obedience to the gospel ? as it has happened until now, God be praised, on many occasions. Thus, not entering into a situation as overlords (1 Pet. 5), they are genuinely commissioned messengers eating (Jn. 6) of Christ and living for the sake of Christ, just as Christ was sent by the living Father and lives for the sake of the Father. Into the hearts of such as the apostles, the Spirit of God is poured forth, according to common salvation, for it is one unified Spirit.
The pouring out of the Spirit is not as those spirits say: At the time of the apostles, the Spirit of God was poured forth over all the present and future world, until the last judgment, as if such a pouring out had then ceased. The Spirit of God at that time (Acts 2) was not poured out over all, but only on the apostles and Christians. The others were unbelievers. And without such a Spirit, like all men from the beginning of the world and so too, now, the unbelievers are not any better by virtue of such an outpouring than the people at the time of Noah, Lot, or Moses who had the same light of conscience as these have now. For if today a man is born and grows up without hearing external proclamation about Christ, how can he be better than the people at the time of Moses? Without external hearing or proclamation (Rom. 10), neither can he name Jesus Christ nor the Holy Spirit except through special or miraculous proclamation of God; as in former times, they could know little about sin without the written law (Rom. 5, 7).
If, however, man hears about the life of Christ, a higher light and witness comes to his conscience than the one that came under the law, just as today the believers receive a mightier spirit than before.
The outpouring of the Spirit of God on the apostles or on another man next to me does not profit me, a coarse, crude man, except it also be poured into my heart for common good unto salvation. All men from the beginning of the world, from their mother's womb, have the image and likeness of God (Ezek. 28; Ecclus. 17). However, they have all been misled, along with Adam, by the advice of the serpent (Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 2, 4, 11).
God says in Joel 2 and Acts 2 that in the last days He will pour His Spirit upon all flesh. That is the New Testament of which Hebrew 8 and Jeremiah 31 speak. The last days begin with the birth of Christ. Since then, a richer outpouring of His Spirit has taken place than ever before. Not, however, upon all men, 1 John 2 explains: Christ is the expiation for the whole world and for the sins of all men. The counterpart says: whoever does not suffer (meaning through a genuine act of repentance) will not rule with Him (Rom. 8). Since not all men repent, not all will share in the sufferings of Christ. Neither can God be gracious to such unrepentant, unrighteous men nor (as He promises in Hebrews 8) will He forget their sins (Ezek. 33). Thus, God would pour His Spirit over all men unto the end of the world. God desires that they would all know Him (Heb. 8; Joel 2) and desires that all be healed (1 Tim. 2). His will and desire are clear. But, where man is not willing, God cannot and will not. He does not pour His new wine into old skins (Mt. 9). He opposes the proud (1 Pet. 5). The hungry He fills with good things, the rich He sends away empty (Lk. I; Mt. 5). Wisdom does not enter an evil spirit, nor does it dwell in those who are subservient to sin (Wisd. of Sol. 1). Therefore, the unwilling, disobedient man will no more receive the Spirit of God than he will participate in the expiation of Christ. The man who, through genuine works of repentance (that is, through faith in Jesus Christ), submits to the fellowship of suffering under God's hand and discipline will also participate in the suffering and expiation of Christ, and upon him God's Spirit will be poured (Prov. 1) by faith (Gal. 3; Jn. 7); he will receive the rich spirit of transformation, the knowledge of Christ in his heart, indeed, the Spirit of the New Testament, which He promised in these days to pour over all flesh. Wherever He has promised the Spirit and grace of the new covenant, we are to understand that it is this Spirit, even as He promised to Abraham: In his seed, that is, the seed of this Spirit, all the nations will be blessed. This Spirit was promised as soon as Adam transgressed the commandment (Gen. 3). To whomever this seed or Spirit is given, in him the Spirit crushes the head of the serpent (Rom. 16), that is, he resists his advice, deception, and lust (Rom. 8; Jas. 4; Gal. 5). For the fastest way to kill a serpent is to step on its head. Therefore, it refers to the head. While the head is being stepped on, it bites Christ in the heel; without suffering and the cross, it cannot be crushed or killed. It lies under Christ's feet and bites, not His toes, but His heel. Why? Because Christ's countenance is too sharp, and therefore, the serpent attacks from behind, for he is a murderer (Jn. 8). Murderers do not attack honorably. So, too, the serpent does everything in a crafty way, seeking to deceive and to kill and lead men spiritually and physically astray.
Furthermore, before the birth of Christ, the elect already possessed (Heb. 11) this promised Spirit, the Spirit of faith, (Gal, 3), but not as generously as they do now. God would willingly have given it to all the nations, since He promised it to them, but they did not want it. Just so today, the world does not want it, choosing to follow instead the wisdom of the serpent. Neither God nor Christ can be blamed for this action, only men themselves are to blame. Pharaoh himself hardened his heart, first through his disobedient, unwilling heart, as the knower of hearts testified and said in Exodus 3: I know that the king of Egypt will not let you move, etc., otherwise God would not have hardened his heart (Exod. 4). From the beginning, God's offer is upright (1 Cor. 1), and His faithfulness will not falter (Rom. 3). But, even as it is now (Jn. 1), the nations did not wish it nor believe it (Jer. 5, 6, 7, 8, 25; Heb. 3, 4).
God's order is a purposeful one. Whoever seeks Him will find Him. Whoever leaves Him will also be deserted. Whoever does not hold Him will not be held by Him (1 Chron. 29; 2 Chron. 15, 24). Before the birth of Christ, the elect looked forward to the promise of Christ's coming (Acts 2, 7; Dent. 18; Jn. 4; Is. 11). The promise has been realized; He has come for men's salvation, but, until now, they have looked only upon the Christ of the past. So take a lesson from the clarity of vision present before His coming; how much more clearly is He known since His coming. Scriptures speak more clearly of Him after His coming than they had done before. After He came, He is clearer and more powerful than He was before, as He said Himself (Mt. 13): Many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, but did not see it; they longed to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. Therefore, the present world, since His coming, will experience sharper condemnation than did the one before He came (Mt. 10, 11, 12; Lk. 10). For, since we are now more able to know Him and can say more about Him, we can pattern ourselves after Him, and more fully partake of the divine nature and spiritual good. Thus, revenge is no longer permitted in the New Testament for, through patience, the Spirit can now more powerfully overcome enemies than it could in the Old Testament. Therefore, Christ forbade such vengeance and resistance (Lk. 9, 21; Mt. 5), and commanded the children who possessed the Spirit of the New Testament to love, to bless their enemies, persecutors, and opponents, and to overcome them with patience (Mt. 5; Lk. 6).
Such a powerful Spirit, a Spirit promised for the last days, could not come as long as Christ was personally upon the earth with His disciples (Jn. 12, 16). Now we are to reflect upon Him spiritually, upon what kind of a mind, spirit, and disposition He had, and how He lived; the more we reflect upon His physical words, works, deeds, and life, the better God allows us to know His mind, and the better He teaches and instructs us (Jn. 6). Whoever does not think of Him, reflect upon Him, pray, or seek Him will not receive from Him (Mt. 7; Luke 11, 13; 1 Chron. 29). The more one now learns to know Him and see Him spiritually (Jn. 6, 17; Heb. 12), the more one learns to love Him, to become friendly and pleasant toward Him and, through such knowledge, receives Him into the heart and grows therein (2 Pet. 1, 2). Finally, one jumps with Peter himself, freely and voluntarily (Jn. 21), into the sea of tribulations and, concentrating on Christ, casts aside the mantle or the old garment. Through such a knowledge of Christ, man also comes to the knowledge of God (Jn. 8, 14; 2 Cor. 4) and partakes of divine nature, but only if he is willing to flee from the lusts of this world, under God's rule. In this manner, through instruction and knowledge of Christ's mind, God places His law into our mind and writes it into our hearts (Heb. 8).
All of the apostles had this Spirit, receiving it only after the ascension of Christ. The Twelve received the foretaste of the Spirit from Christ (Jn. 6) when they said: “He has words of eternal life.” This foretaste of the Spirit first enlightened Peter, and impelled him to stand up and speak at Pentecost. Also through the foretaste of this Spirit, they elected Matthias before Pentecost and prayer (Acts 1). Such a Spirit already moved in the disciples before the ascension of Christ, especially in Peter when he acknowledged Christ as the Son of God (Mt. 16; Jn. 6). Flesh and blood did not reveal that knowledge to him; rather, God confers this Spirit of knowledge. Through this Spirit, they were all together in one accord at Pentecost (Acts 2). The Lord then marvelously filled them with this Spirit, not in the way that He usually gives it to men, for the common good; rather, He gave a strong witness to it at the beginning, according to His will and good pleasure. We must speak of this beginning until He returns. In the meantime, we do not need to long for that beginning; at Pentecost, in the presence of many people, external noise, wind, and strange tongues were His witness to His promise. This testimony is contained in the writings of the New Testament. He who has this Scripture sealed in his heart, this common Spirit of salvation, he alone, and no one else, can bear testimony to it. This Spirit of promise and clarity from God is here and now in the elect an open indicator, foretaste, seal, and down payment of future glory (1 Cor. 2; Eph. 1, 4; Rom. 8).
Whoever retains, practices, or accepts baptism, the Lord's Supper, or anything else, even Scriptures, word or deed, according to the command, attitude, form, essence, or example of the Antichrist is a child, member, and brother of the Antichrist, worships the image of his being, arid with him will inherit destruction.
But whoever retains, practices, and accepts such ceremonies according to the command, attitude, form, essence, and example of Christ and the apostles, indeed according to the instruction and urging of the free Spirit, participates without blemish, misunderstanding, or abomination in the truly reenacted, spiritual apostolic order.
Whoever practices or receives such ceremonies and matters without true faith, because of an external urge or other reasons, errs even though there is, externally, correctness of words and procedures. Such mistakes some have confessed to have made, but they confess it only out of anger and not for the good, which makes them unbelieving and unloving; these I admonish to believe and to genuine confession.
Whoever has been inwardly baptized, with belief and the Spirit of Christ in his heart, will not despise the external baptism and the Lord's Supper which are performed according to Christian, apostolic order; nor will he dissuade anyone from participating in them. Rather, he should willingly accept them and practice them, not merely imitating them externally in an apish manner, but in truth and in the spirit with which the true worshipers use external means, such as the mouth, hands, and knees. For, as one can see, the heart moves our external members. Whenever the heart laughs, is compassionate, rejoices, or gets angry, then the mouth, eyes, head, hands, and feet laugh, are compassionate, rejoice, get angry, move, and grasp without delay the external things which correspond to anger, joy, mercy, or laughter. The opposite is also true. So it is with baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Where they are present in the heart, there they are also practiced externally and practiced according to love. Thus, the heart of the eunuch also moved (Acts 8) all his physical members and his whole body, freely and without any external compulsion, to undergo external baptism. The inner covenant compelled Abraham to accept the external sign of the covenant of the Old Testament. For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Mt. 12).
In summary: The believer will retain, undissolved or unchanged, the commandment of his Master and will be a faithful disciple, who does not long to be master or to run ahead of Christ; he will diligently seek to be faithful in all things (2 Cor. 2), to fulfill all righteousness (Mt. 3), not only inwardly before God, but also externally before man (2 Cor. 8; Tit. 2). If anyone acts differently, he is not to be believed, whatever boastful claims he may make. Yes, even if an angel were to come from heaven and teach differently than Christ and His apostles once taught and commanded, he should not be believed.
Whoever teaches that believers do not need external baptism and the Lord's Supper, or teaches that these ceremonies are not expected of believers or given to them, errs, for Philip demands that faith go before (Acts 8). Christ also places faith first (Mk. 16) and, according to the Acts of the Apostles, faith always precedes baptism. Also, the command to break bread is given only to the disciples and the believers, and not the unbelievers (Lk. 22; 1 Cor. 11). The believers have always practiced it (Acts 2, 20), and only they can practice it in spirit and in truth. Others practice only lies and misunderstanding.
Love has driven me to write because I discern the secrets of these spirits. The adversary would destroy the internal by discontinuing the external. To be sure, these spirits, implying that, if only the external things dropped away, love, the internal, would rapidly increase, gloss over their intentions with a great deal of pious show and denial. Yes, behind them into the land of Sodom! May the Lord keep His own, whom He knows to be on the right track to His own glory.
I desire that these spirits would become confident of their position and, if not, that they might build on the rock, securing themselves against cloudburst and tempests. I would admonish all God's children and good?hearted people to guard themselves from such errors. May God grant it to all who desire it from their hearts. May He strengthen us, build us, lead us, and keep us in His knowledge, love, long?suffering, friendliness, meekness, patience, and other fruits and powers of the Spirit. Through these powers, and through true faith in Christ by whom, and none other, we accomplish to His praise our acting and willing, life, cross, and death, we may grow and increase in divine, quiet nature without causing others to be offended by the only name that saves, the name which cannot be deceived and does not deceive, Jesus; that name will not be put to shame (1 Pet. 2). We will be without envy, strife, hatred, feuding, bad temper, ill?will, anger, insult, hypocrisy, gossip, bitter striving, evil manners, scandal?mongering, slander, and other vain fruit or work of the flesh, through the same Jesus, His only?begotten Son, who is our Savior (Heb. 7), and only mediator (1 Tim. 2), to whom is given all power and authority (Mt. 11, 28; Lk. 10; Jn. 13; 1 Pet. 3; Heb. 2), to whom the angels are subject (1 Pet. 3).
This Lamb is Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev. 17). This man and Lord is Jesus of Nazareth, a future Judge and avenger (Jn, 5; Acts 10; 2 Thess. 1) who is Christ (Jn. 20; Acts 19), who was before Abraham (Jn. 8). Whoever denies this is a liar (1 Jn. 2). Whoever does not believe that this is so will die in his sins (Jn. 7), for such an unbeliever is not born of God (1 Jn. 5). Indeed, this Jesus Christ is also true God (Rom. 9; 1 Jn. 5) and eternal life. To Him be praise unto eternity. Amen.
Used by Permission. Originally published by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA 15683, USA. To order from them in the UK, contact Metanoia Books. Elswhere, see the Mennonite Publishing Network web site for ordering details.