Why the Anabaptists wouldn’t attend church

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Anabaptists rejected hierarchical leadership structures, emphasising that ministry was the responsibility of the entire congregation. If Martin Luther restored the idea of the “priesthood of all believers,” the Anabaptists restored the idea of the “prophethood of all believers.”

This truth is clearly seen in a Swiss Anabaptist document dated 1532-1534 and entitled “Answer of some Who Are Called (Ana) Baptists: Why They Do Not Attend Churches.” The primary reason they had given for not attending state churches is that these churches did not allow congregational members to exercise spiritual gifts according to “the Christian Order as taught in the gospel or Word of God in 1 Corinthians 14.”

The author chides Luther and Ulrich Zwingli for transgressing their own “original teaching” and impeding the “rivers of living water” by not allowing the free exercise of spiritual gifts in their congregations. He wrote, “It is Paul’s intention that if one sitting by or listening receives a revelation or is moved to exercise his spiritual gift or to prophesy, then the first shall hold his peace; and Paul says that all may prophesy one after the other.”

This shows an obvious preference for a congregational charismatic order in church meetings. Because the Holy Spirit resides in every member who possesses one or more of His gifts for the edification of the whole body, every member should have an opportunity to exercise that gift or gifts to build up the congregation. Therefore, Christian gatherings that are always dominated by one person cannot be directed by the Spirit. The author wrote:

“When someone comes to church and constantly hears only one person speaking and all the listeners are silent, neither speaking nor prophesying, who can or will confess the same to be a spiritual congregation, or confess, according to 1 Corinthians 14, that God is dwelling and operating in them through His Holy Spirit with His gifts, impelling them one after the other in the above mentioned order of speaking or prophesying?”

Article from The Revival Study Bible, p1595, by Winkie Pratney

Shalom and Blessings,

Richard B-P

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Richard BP

Richard Braddon-Parsons currently resides in Palmerston North, New Zealand with his wife, two teenage daughters and son...


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