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True Baptism
by Hans Hut

    Baptism follows when one hears the gospel and believes it. Baptism occurs only after the person is ready to accept and suffer all that the Father through Christ has in store for him. He must have set his heart upon the Lord and have forsaken the world. He accepts the sign of baptism before the Christian community as an acceptance of the covenant with God whose power and might have separated him from those things which the heart desires. For, as Christ said, what is bound on earth will be bound in heaven.
    No one can be accepted and taken in by the Christian community except that he first has heard and learned the gospel, and believes and agrees with what he has heard. For this covenant is an agreement, a demonstration of divine love in relation to all brothers and sisters, in obedience to Christ with love, life, goods and honor, regardless of what evil the world says about him for it.
    And where are these Christians? It is a small group. For if even only two or three are gathered, Christ is there as witness among them. The mouths of even two or three are a genuine witness. A person is assured in baptism that he is accepted as a child of God, a brother or sister of Christ, a member of the Christian community and the body of Christ, because he has with a faithful heart desired to come into such unity, according to the will of God.
    For God commands his saints to gather together, and holds this covenant more dear than all sacrifices. God does not desire the sacrifice of goats, but rather the offering of thanks. He desires that each person offer his body for justification, as Paul said, and believe that God will not forsake him, in times of need, but will rescue him from all need if he be led into tribulation. Such a faith, although it is not yet perfected and is yet unproved, will be counted to him as righteousness until it is justified and tried, as gold in the fire.

Water baptism, which follows preaching and believing, does not make a person godly.

    Water baptism is a sign only, a covenant, a parable and a memorial of this desire, which the person can remember daily in expectation of the true baptism. This baptism is, as Christ said, the waters of tribulation by which the Lord makes us clean, washes and saves us from all carnal lusts, sins and unclean works and behavior. Just as we recognize that no creature can justify itself and come to its true purpose without becoming subject to humans, so also no person can justify himself and come to his true purpose, that is, to blessedness, but by accepting the baptism of affliction which God has shown and worked in the person and to which the person is subjected as justification. If a person is to be justified by God he must be still before the Lord his God and allow God to work in him as God wills. For as David said, trust in the Lord and place your hope in him, for He does all things well.

Therefore, the water of tribulation is the real essence and power of baptism, by which the person is swallowed up in the death of Christ.

    This baptism was not first instituted in the time of Christ. It has been from the beginning and is a baptism with which all friends of God, from Adam to the present, are baptized, as Paul said. Jesus accepted this covenant with God in the Jordan river. Here he demonstrated love to all people, in obedience to the Father, even unto death and became an example of one upon whom the baptism of tribulation was richly poured out by the Father.
    That is why the sign and the essence of baptism must be clearly distinguished from each other. The Christian community administers the sign or covenant of baptism [water baptism] through one of her true servants, just as Christ received it from John.
    The true baptism then follows. God administers it through the waters of tribulation and in return He offers the comfort of the Holy Spirit. God lets no one founder in this baptism, for it is written, "He leads into hell and out again, He makes dead and then brings to life again". This is the baptism with which the Lord was baptized. Whoever would be a disciple of the Lord must be baptized and made pure in the Holy Spirit and be united by the bonds of peace into one body.
    Therefore God makes His own blessed and worthy through the bonds of the new birth and renewal of the Holy Spirit in faith. God works according to His great mercifulness, and it is only through this same grace that we are justified and inherit the hope of eternal life. In this way one is washed, healed and made pure and reborn into the unblemished community before God.
    That is why beloved David prayed to God to wash him and cleanse him of sin. And God graciously heeded him and, as we read, placed him in the waters of tribulation. He cried to the Lord for help. And from this deep abyss, the sin was slain and he was made alive again in Christ.
    Paul also admonished the brothers to suffer, just as they had seen him suffer. For the kingdom of God consists not in what is spoken or other external things, but rather in the power of God which God alone can give, which makes a person wholly new in senses, speech and heart in all actions and conduct. Therefore it is a false gospel which worldly and haughty preachers in our time are spreading around. That it brings no betterment of living but only vexation, I leave you to judge, brothers and sisters.
    But blessed are those who hear the word and heed it. For a lamb of Christ hears the voice of the Lord and fears it. But whoever hears and does nothing is a fool and will never be righteous. Whoever, as the whole world now does, wants to come to God without the justification which is worthy before God (which is the suffering or cross of Christ) is throwing away the very means of justification, yes, Christ the crucified one himself. But they will not escape suffering, for no one comes to the Father without the Son, who is given in strict discipline.
    Whoever would rule with God must be ruled by God. Whoever would do the will of God must give up his own will. Whoever would find something in God must lose much in Him as well.
    The world talks much now about freedom, yet remains in total slavery to the flesh. They will not give anything up, but only want to have more given to them. Oh, how masterfully they can fool themselves! So now everyone is saying that each should "remain in his occupation." If that is so, why did not Peter remain a fisherman or Matthew a tax collector? Why did Christ tell the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and give to the poor? If it is right that our preachers want to have so much wealth, then it must be right for their followers! 0 Zacchaeus! Why did you so foolishly give away your wealth? You could have followed the example of our preachers and still be a good Christian! 0 beloved company, how easy it is to see who the scoundrels are! But this one thing is true, there is a Lord who will judge them.
    A true and faithful friend of God, who daily places his hope and trust in the Lord, will have his heart strengthened so that he will be able to carry the cross of Christ. All that such a person suffers is Christ's suffering and not our own. For we are one body in Christ in many members, united and bound together by the bond of love. Christ accepts such a person as part of his own body. He witnessed to this when he said that "whoever touches you touches the apple of my eye." And elsewhere, "whatever you do to the least of these my own, you do to me."
    The affliction of Christ must be fulfilled in every member until the suffering Christ is brought to completion. Just as Christ is the lamb who was slain since the beginning of the world, so he will also be crucified until the end of the world. In this way the body is perfected in length, width, depth and height in the love of Christ. This passes all understanding, for in this Christ will be filled with all the fullness of God.
    A person will prove his faith under the suffering and cross of the true baptism, justified and tried as gold in the fire. Through this a truly grounded faith of the kindness and mercifulness of God will be revealed. When a person is comforted by the Holy Spirit through all suffering and tribulation, he is then ready for the Lord and for doing good works. There is no other path than this for people.

The faith that comes by hearing will be counted to the person as justification until the time comes when that person is justified and made pure through the cross.

    Then the person's faith will be conformed to the faith of God and united with Christ. And it is from this faith that a righteous man lives. Therefore, a great distinction must be made between this faith and the beginning faith. God's own faith is absolutely true, righteous and enduring, as He promised. Our faith in the beginning is like silver that is still embedded in the ore, fall of spots and impurities. But still it is counted as genuine silver until the smelting, in which the impurities are taken out. That is why the apostles said, we believe, help our unbelief! So it is possible to compare our beginning faith to unbelief. As the person finds himself in the fires of trial, he finds much in himself that is neither faith nor trust. He feels himself cast totally into unbelief and thinks that he has been cast out from before the eyes of the Lord. Nothing can comfort him, no creature at all. It is as David said, "my soul will not be comforted". And elsewhere also he said, "I am cast out from before Your eyes".
    In this way, in what Christ called the "Sign of Jonah," the person is cast into the abyss of hell. Then, when absolutely nothing can bring him joy, he must simply wait until the comfort of the Holy Spirit comes upon him. Then he will be filled with joyousness as he forgets all worldly desire, joys and honor and counts them all as dung. Then the person returns from the pit of hell and wins joy and courage in the Holy Spirit.

The justification which really counts before God does not come from an untried faith.

    An untried faith only lasts until the time of justification, where it must be prepared and justified. Of course the whole world fears this justification like the devil and would rather pay with an artificial faith and indeed not go on to justification. Such righteousness is not preached by the world's preachers, for they themselves are enemies of the cross of Christ and of righteousness. They seek only their own honors and only whatever of God will serve their bellies!

God works his righteousness in us through the suffering of the holy cross which is laid upon each person.

    According to His promise, this reveals God's faith in our faith, so that we are able to believe that God is sure and His faith in our faith is demonstrated. Then all creaturely desires are rooted out and smashed. This is how the world's yoke of sin will be lifted, for then Christ governs and not the world. Then will the Law of the Father be perfected in us through Christ in all his members. Then there is the desire and love to do the will of God in true obedience.
    To such a person His burden is light and His yoke sweet, and all that was impossible is made possible! Then may a person truly say, "Christ has blotted out my sin." But whoever does not submit himself to this discipline of the Lord, but rather remains attached to worldly desires, will be overcome and surrounded by a much greater shame and suffering. For then, even if in the midst of this suffering he cries out to God, God will not hear him but will scorn him in the same measure as he scorned. Therefore all who fear God should seek their comfort in the Lord and he will rescue them from all tribulation, so help us God through the bath of the new birth.

Now Follows the Essence of True Baptism.

    Now we want to say more about the baptism of the new birth. Christ showed this is not an external symbol but rather a bath of the soul which washes and cleanses the heart of all lust and carnal appetites. It is the killing and stilling of all desires and disobedience in us which sets us against God. Just as in the time of Noah, God killed the whole world through the flood, drowning all evil and washing it away; just as happened with Pharaoh and the Egyptians in the baptismal bath of the Red Sea, where they sank to the bottom like lead. Noah and his family went into the bath right along with the rest of the world, just as Pharaoh and his men went into the bath along with the people of Israel.
    But the results were very different. The evil go in but do not come back out. Because they are sunk in carnal lusts, neither the creaturely part nor themselves could be freed. Rather they gladly lived continually in the lust and love of the carnal. That is why they persecuted the elect, who unlike them are not mired down but rather strive to swim out. Like Peter, they work without ceasing to reach the shore and come out of the turbulent sea of this world and out of the waters of tribulation and adversity, to come to solid ground. They see that God reaches out His hand to help them out of it.

So for those who seek renewal of their life, baptism is not a dunking and drowning, but rather a joyous rescue from the whirlpool or undulations or stirrings of our own desires.

    Our life is stormy, a turbulence caused by the battle between the spirit and the flesh which is in all people. If, in this battle against the flesh, we are to still, free and defeat our greed, lusts, stirrings, demandings and rebelliousness, then the sweet water of carnal lust and greed must in the same measure be countered by the stirrings of divine righteousness, which in this contest will be acrid and bitter. For what was before in the creature was sweet, however it was not from God but from himself, which is why he turned toward it.
    Then a great turbulence arises in the conscience between spirit and flesh. The way to life is narrow if one is to come to new life in God and the new birth in baptism by the perishing of the old man. For then fear, trembling and trepidation falls upon the person, just like the fear of a woman in the labors of birth.
    When God passes such waters through the soul, there must be patience until one gains understanding and teaching. And finally peace in our world will be born from this assault on the flesh. Then, in due time, in the patient hands of God, we will be made into a finished dwelling place of God.
    Now as the cloudy water clears, the bitter becomes sweet, the turbulence becomes still and quiet. The Son of God appears upon the water, God stretches his hand and rescues the person from the whirlpool and lets that person see that it was through his truth that he illuminated our darkness and the living water which is hidden within us, and from the kingdom of the physical, earthly man we are made pure in eternal life. The water which pierces the soul is temptation, consternation, fear, trembling and affliction. It is the baptism of suffering. That is why Christ went trembling into this baptism, before it was brought to perfection in his death.

True baptism is nothing other than the struggle against sin throughout one's entire life.

    The water of adversity washes the soul of all vestiges and traces of indolence and carnality. The baptism of John in water is incomplete and cannot free one from sin. For it is a prefiguring, a preparation and model of the true baptism in Christ. Therefore they must be baptized again in Christ. For Christ was also baptized with this figurative baptism, which in true essence began in him. That is why Christ was baptized, as an example to us that in him all was as it should be.
    In the death of Christ we also perish as members of his body. We give consent to this death with the symbol of water baptism. As Paul said to the Romans, you are baptized into the baptism of Christ, that is, into the death of Christ. And since we are now buried with Christ, we receive the baptism of truth from the Father.
    Christ accepted the baptism of John so as to humble himself before all men. He took our prideful nature, which is departed from God, upon himself and through baptism brought it again under God. In this he showed how a person must be baptized as a new creature in the slaying of our evil, disobedient, insolent nature, for the washing away of all sin and human characteristics. As Paul said, since you have been baptized in Christ, you have put on Christ. So all that was dead in Adam will be made alive in Christ.
    But whoever will not be so baptized remains dead in Adam. Therefore, baptism is a struggle to conquer sin throughout one's whole life. Whoever now finds behind him the Pharaoh (that is, persecution, tribulation, fear and need) and in front of him the sea (that is, the helplessness of all creatures) and concludes that he has been abandoned by God and sees nothing other than death, stands in the true baptism to which he consented before God and his community of people by the symbol of baptism.
    The world most certainly does not desire this baptism. That is why the baptism of the contemporary world is a terrible villainy by which the world is deceived and Christ is denied. They will not let Christ work in them, to have the place cleaned where Christ should be living. That is why everything is backward and there is no true judgment on earth concerning the mystery of divine commands.
    Of course we would be happy if everyone found Christ and bragged to us about it. But nobody is willing to suffer with him. If the Spirit of God were given in the uproar and debauchery of this world, then the world would be full of Christians. But Christ is hidden and concealed to the flesh. He does not let himself be seen, as we notice, except in suffering the highest resignation, by which he shows himself to all his brothers.
    Here one finds the graciousness of God, the highest stage of divine righteousness and the beginning of divine mercy. Here a person becomes one with the person of Christ, the crucified son of God, purified and wholly united into one body. The person lives no more but rather Christ lives within him. Therefore Christ said that whoever would be his disciple and learn the will and way of God must accept the Father's discipline for disobedience and carry the cross on his back like Christ, and accomplish the will of the Father in the sense of suffering (so long as he remains under suffering) and accomplish God's will in the sense of actions.

There is no other way that Christ will accept someone as his brother or the Father as a son.

    Christ, the crucified one, has many members in his body. And yet there is no member which does not bear the work, the suffering or the acceptance of suffering after the example of the head. Only by this means can one know Christ and no other. This is the power of God, who makes us pleasing to him.
    This suffering is the baptism in which he would let no brother or sister sink and be lost. Rather they should be made pure from it and cleansed from all stain and able to receive the graciousness of God. And he will be healed after this through the recognition of God's will.
    The weakness of Christ angers and vexes the world, and yet no one may accept the sweet Son of God except he first taste the bitterness of justification. For Christ's life is so bitter, his teaching so high, his person so grim and foolish that indeed it may be said, "Blessed is the man who takes no offence in Christ."

If there is little carnal desire, one will not remain long in the waters of tribulation.

    Rather the waters become clean, pure, joyous and pleasing, clear, so that one may can accept the Spirit of God in all fullness, to fulfill the will of God. We stand, like him, under obedience to the Father. It is proper, therefore, that we put our sin onto him. For the sin does not touch him for his own person's sake but rather he is afflicted above all for the sake of our sin and his soul was most horribly troubled.
    Matthew and Luke spoke of baptism in terms of fire and spirit; John in terms of water and spirit; Mark speaks neither of fire nor water. Matthew and Luke call the Spirit of God "fire," while John speaks of the Holy Spirit as "water." Yet they are all in agreement.
    Fire and water cleanse all things. In the time of the Scriptures, these were cleaning agents. Any cleaning to be done had to be done with water or fire. Whatever was delicate and could not stand the fire was cleansed from impurities by water. What was hard, like gold, silver, copper, iron or tin, was smelted in fire and cleansed of impurities.
    The Spirit of God is portrayed for us as a contrast of water and fire in which the reason of creaturely work agrees with the obedience of Christ; water, which takes away uncleanliness, and fire, which consumes all dirt, cleansing and purifying from all impurities. The power of God does this as well in its working toward truth through the suffering of tribulation. And whoever does not hear the voice of God in the water must hear it in the fire.
    God thrusts us into various temptations to root out carnal desires in us, and God works in us the renunciation of the whole world in order that He may help us and use us for His work. It is like an impure piece of gold, which cannot be used by a goldsmith until it is smelted in fire and the grime is burned away and consumed. And what passes through the test of fire is pure and good.
    Therefore God puts all disobedience into the fire and changes the spirit in the flames. He likes fire and gives His commands from the fire. He calls Himself a consuming fire which consumes all things and burns in Himself. That is why He will have no foreign fire in His house for His offerings and incense.
    All living creatures display the judgment of water and spirit. For all are conceived and born in water. But if they remain in the water, they will drown and rot. Therefore, baptism has its time and end, just as the first birth has its time and end. All creatures are born in essence through water, until their perfection. And without baptism none can achieve a fulfilled life and be blessed.
    But this infant baptism of the contemporary world is a pure invention of men, without God's word or command. It is a silly betrayal and insidious shame of all Christianity, an arch-rogue's cloak of the godless. For in the whole of Scripture not a single sentence can be brought forward to defend it. It is so groundless that, however much they try to hide it, they all are brought to silence.
    According to the word of Christ and all of scripture, one should baptize no one except the one who gives an ardent and trustworthy account of his faith. Where this sign of baptism is accepted, it symbolizes the coming baptism of suffering. It is in this sense that one may say, "without baptism there is no salvation." But infant baptism is not only unnecessary, it is the greatest hindrance of truth.

(Hans Hut was an Anabaptist leader in South Germany and Austria.  He was baptized by Hans Denck in 1526 and died in prison the next year.)

(Wes Harrison, Bible professor at Ohio Valley College, has an excellent report on water baptism modes in the Vol. 43 issue of the Restoration Quarterly and published on the web at www.centerce.org/BAPTISM/RQHarrison.htm.  The title is "
THE RENEWAL OF THE PRACTICE OF ADULT BAPTISM BY IMMERSION DURING THE REFORMATION ERA, 15251700".)

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