The Writings Of Ulrich Stadler
Ulrich Stadler was a leading minister (Servant of the Word) in the Hutterian Brethren church. After suffering much tribulation, he died in 1540 at the Butschowitz church community, which was located about 100 miles north of Vienna, Austria.
Table Of Contents
Introduction to Ulrich Stadler
The Living Word and Its Work
How God's Scripture Should be Understood
The Covenant of our Lord Jesus Christ with His Bride
What Baptism Is
Who and What the Body of Christ is
The Fellowship of Christ in His Sufferings and Blood
Order in the House of God
What Obedience is
What Disobedience is
Administering Punishment in the House of God
Justice and Judgement in the House of God
Confession of Sins in the House of God
Concerning Judgement in Temporal Things
Avoidance of False and Excluded Brothers
The Perverse Shall Not Be Heard
What Marriage Is
How Matrimony is Observed to the Honor of God
What Marriage Signifies and Shows Us
What will Separate such a Marriage
What Passion is and Where it comes from
Speaking Foolishly in the House of God
The Children of God Speak Truth with Neighbors
No One should Depend on His Own Understanding
A Man of God has a Constant Struggle with the Devil
A Teaching of Stadler about Sin
Loosing and Binding in the House of God
The Community of Saints
How the Holy live in Community
Another Letter Concerning Original Sin
Entrance into Christianity
Letter to the Church at Grosnikau
Second Letter to the Church at Grosnikau
Letter to Authorities in Poland
Introduction to Ulrich Stadler
By Robert Friedmann
Ulrich Stadler was one of the strongest personalities of the first generation of Anabaptism, next to Peter Riedemann, the best theological thinker of the Moravian groups, a man of stern conceptions of true discipleship. He was born in Brixen, Tirol, and became a mining official in Sterzing. In the early 1520's he turned Lutheran, but soon joined the Anabaptists of Sterzing. When persecution became unbearable, he moved to Moravia. At first he was a member of the Austerliz Bruderhof, which (when a group of Tiroleans left it for Auspitz) came under the leadership of Jacob Wideman in 1531.
In 1535, when persecution also set in Moravia, Stadler and his co-worker Leonhard Lochmaier, together with a group of Austerlitz brethren, sought refuge in Poland. Two bruderhofs were established there under his supervision in 1535-37: in Ladomir in Podolia (south of Volhynia) near the Galician border and in Krasnikow (Krasnicktau) in Lodomeria, then a small independent principality in the Volhynia area. A letter 'To Authorities in Poland' shows that he encountered much tribulation there too, in spite of the renowned tolerance of Polish nobles.
In 1537, when persecution in Moravia had ceased, he and Lochmaier returned there with about one hundred persons, surviving many dangers on this return march. In Bucovic, east of Austerlitz, he established a bruderhof of his own. At that time Hans Amon was the bishop (Servant of the Lord) of the Hutterites and their only leader; Stadler visited him and after long talks, organically joined the Hutterite brotherhood. He then served as the leader of the Bucovic Hutterite community where he died in 1540.
Stadler's numerous writings can be found in many Hutterite codices both in Europe and in America. Their numbering is difficult since pieces are put together or separated as the copyist felt moved.
Stadler is one of the very few Anabaptist ever to discuss the doctrine of original sin. He might be called the foremost authority on the Inner and Outer Word, a central issue of early Anabaptism. One might call his position 'Biblical Spiritualism', something distinctly different from both 'pure' Spiritualism and later legalism.
Stadler's tract on the Community of Goods might be regarded as the classical expression of this idea of full Christian sharing in the brotherhood-church. It is an original contribution of high spirituality, quite independent of Jacob Hutter's teaching on that point. Stadler's main argument here is the idea of Gelassenheit, a term more often used by him than by any other Anabaptist. Of a true disciple of Christ, he expects a 'free, detached, resigned heart', which has died to the world and is dedicated alone to the Lord and the brethren. That a life of that kind needs rigid discipline he stresses time and again, quite in accord with his idea of purity and fighting sin.
Stadler's term for bishop is 'Servant of the Lord'. The classical exposition of this concept of such a leader and shepherd is found in his paragraph concerning excommunication: 'The servant ought to have the power to punish all self-willed, disobedient members.' One gets the strong impression that his conception of leadership approximates that of a prior or abbot of a medieval monastery. His ascetic ideals fairly correspond to such a life, with the exception of married life.
Few Anabaptists have dealt more often and more thoroughly with the subject of marriage than Stadler. In one of his tracts, he begins with the motto: 'Whoever lacks the gift of chastity [meaning the ability to stand life-long chastity] ought to marry according to the will of God.' Somewhere else he states that 'God will wink at our marital work... for the sake of the children, and He will not count it against us, if it is performed in the fear of the Lord', a typically puritanical thought. In two of his epistles, he elaborates further on this topic, which certainly was a foremost one in a brotherhood-church as strict as the Hutterites.
The over-all ordering of the church, the church discipline or regulation, was a major concern for a leader of Stadler's stature. We know of two such church orders from his pen, forerunners of Riedemann's much larger work of 1541. That he sets an ascetic ideal as his model goes almost without saying. A man who wants to discipline his flesh has, of course, not too much appreciation of 'delicacies and good drink'. But no work should ever be construed as proof of sinlessness. In all our doings we are always under temptation and must never slacken in our 'good fight'. If we continue in it, however, we may eventually be saved from 'eternal death'.
No other Hutterite brother is known to have expressed so radical a viewpoint as Stadler. The numerous copies, however, of his writings prove the high regard for teachings of this kind, which later Hutterites called 'sharp preaching'.
The Living Word and Its Work
By Ulrich Stadler
All things are well ordered and created by God, and are good as the creation and work of God in which the eternal power and Godhead is known. If you recognize this power, then you see that the writings and the spoken word are good creatures and works of God too, but they are not the Living Word. For this reason a man who would desire to use the Scriptures rightly, and not put more into them than is theirs and belongs to them, must distinguish them, together with the spoken word, at their greatest, from the inward Word of the heart at its greatest. The outward Word is the Word that Christ commanded the apostles to preach when he said, 'Preach the gospel to all creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved.'
Here preaching, faith and baptism are all outwardly received and performed, and are signs of the faith and baptism of the living Word, all of which God accomplishes through His righteousness, and therefore Paul says to the Romans (10:17), 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.'
A true and upright preacher must have received the actual, true Word of God in his soul through much affliction. That is then referred to as the Word of God in the "depth of the soul". But what is preached is only a witness or sign of the actual. The eternal Word is neither written on paper nor on tablets but man is assured by it (the Word) by God in the depths of his soul. The eternal Word is written in a fleshly heart through the finger of God.
Saint John shows this difference when he says (I John 2:7), 'Brethren, I write no new command unto you, but an old commandment. The old commandment is the Word which you have heard from the beginning.' In this he shows that everything which is heard of men, or seen in the creation or that may be read in books, is not the living Word of God, but is a symbol, a sign or witness of the inner, eternal or living Word, an inner Witness through the outer Word, if it is diligently observed.
Just as the sign in front of an inn shows there is wine in the innkeeper's cellar, and yet the sign is not the wine, so it is in God's order; something material is a sign of the spiritual.
We believe what we have heard before we are justified; proven faith arises after we have heard, and then works powerfully towards God and all creation.
And this takes time, and does not come as swiftly as our false preachers declare, who persuade the poor people by saying, 'Believe, believe. Yes, yes. For in a little while it will be clearly shown.' Then they say, 'Yes, God can do everything through his almighty power.
The answer is yes, God is almighty and can do everything, but He will not do everything. He arranges everything by His almighty power, according to its measurement, number and weight.
Abraham heard God's word outwardly from God and believed. His faith was unproved, and yet it was reckoned to him for righteousness. He prayed and received justification through the outer Word, but this disappeared into the word of faith. Before he found God's goodness and mercy, he abandoned and turned from his wife, but he was not deserted by God. For such faith as Abraham had at the beginning is overpowered by unbelief, as the father of the diseased child told the Lord and the apostles, 'I believe, help my unbelief.'
Oh, what sorrow comes upon men before unbelief shall be separated from true belief, in justification and testing. However much man believes at the beginning, yet word and faith disappear from him completely before goodness and mercy come to him. If man is to be comforted by God, he must first be without comfort and forsaken, for God speaks thus, 'I have only left thee for a little time, but I have shown mercy to you with everlasting kindness.' (Is 54:8)
Thus it came about that God spoke to Jacob, 'I am the Lord thy God, the God of Abraham and Isaac, thy father. I will protect thee wheresoever thou goest, and never leave thee until I have fulfilled all that I promised to thee.'
O dear God, as Jacob had to come home, he was scared and very much afraid of his brother Esau. The true word and faith he had heard was sealed from him through unbelief, and he fell down before his brother and prayed for mercy. If the outward Word and faith had dwelt in him, he should have rather relied on God's promise than on his brother's favor.
The words of God are so wonderful that no one should glory but in God alone. Through God, David was a mighty king in Israel. Before he reigned, he was overwhelmed in all distresses until he proved his worth in the highest degree and was justified. When he was surrounded by Saul, he believed that he was rejected by God, and did not remember the words of faith which God spoke to him through the prophet Samuel, but said, 'I am banished from before thy countenance and thine eyes.'
It comes in this way to all the faithful and elect. The grain of corn must first die before it bears fruit. Man must first be imprisoned in disbelief before he will let himself see God and His mercy. Men must be judged and justified and crushed before they can reflect the goodness of God, and can understand His kindness. God works according to His order in His compassion for man. They can receive God's working in no other way, as the Scriptures everywhere bears witness.
Everyone must find the eternal Word for himself. It does not help even if he knows what happened to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to all the friends and chosen of God of whom the scripture speaks. It is necessary too for him to suffer ever and again the work of redemption, otherwise he is as a worldly man. Though he knows the whole Bible, it is nothing but a wonder and a delusion and of no use to him.
But if a man gives himself to God as an offering and he daily chooses God's working in his life rather than the world's pleasures; then even if he is overpowered by unbelief and hard beset by it, God does not forsake him, nor take back His promise because of unbelief.
But as long as the Word, which is heard and believed, is only received and is not justified nor proved in life, it can still only be accepted as sign or symbol, and to take it as the living Word is all idolatry, and an attack on what is true, just as if a painted likeness were to be taken to be the real thing. With this Word, the false preachers only deceive the people, pointing to the witness which is heard in the sermons and read in books and convincing the people that it is God's Word. However, the people remain unsatisfied and their lives are not improved but they are greatly misled, that is something you can see before your own eyes.
Oh, with what great and terrible suffering must the world realize that the true inner Word is the eternal and almighty power of God, the same in people as in God, and can do all things. Only after great testing in distress and difficulty through the discipline of God, as John says, will men receive the new commandment which is true for him and for you also.
Only Christ, under the holy cross, teaches this Word of God according to God's true order. The outward Word is to be preached, and man shall be warned through the outward Word to surrender themselves to the inward master and teacher so that the people are not left to continue only in the outer Word.
Otherwise you make an idol of preaching, scriptures and words. These are only pictures, signs and tools which have to disappear, continuing only as examples to the created beings, as God said to Moses.
When man gets so far as to be able to say that Christ has come in the flesh, that does not help and is not enough, but Christ also has to come into our flesh and live within us. At this point man has to confess that Christ has become flesh in him and that his flesh is ruled by the Word of the Holy Spirit. He must be purged of all worldly lust as Paul says, 'Its no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me, and the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.' (Gal 2:20)
Yes, that man who confesses to Christianity must assuredly praise the living Word and can honestly witness to the truth. Such preachers we want to have and expect them from God. All the others who come without this confession and only stick to the fuss of the external noise, all come without Christ since he does not live in them yet. The whole world is rather full of such preachers and fellows. May God turn it to the best and protect all wretched men from them, since they do not preach God but only their belly.
The Old Testament, as it is written according to the letter, would be not different from the new, if it were preached and heard by men of true faith. As long as it remains a testimony, listened to, read and preached, it is all called the Old Testament, commandments, laws or word, be it Moses or the prophets, the evangelists or apostles, Peter or Paul. As John reports, 'I do not write a new commandment for you, but the old one, that you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have listened to.' (I John 2:7)
On the other hand, in the New Testament is everything that we are to live by, planted in our hearts by God's Spirit which is truthful with us and with God and is called the New Testament. The new commandment or the living Word of God, whether written by Moses, the prophets or the apostles, when it lives in us, governs us and is given new purpose and force according to God's will, it is this which God desires for us and longs to have, a new man in Christ Jesus.
This, then is the meaning of the New Testament.
How God's Scripture Should be Understood
A true Christian teaching on how God's scriptures should be understood, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the testimony of the three parts of the Christian faith, together with their interpretation.
Because the holy Scriptures, which is a testimony from Moses and from the Prophets and Apostles, comes to clear expression at only a few places in the whole work, but is mostly written in part and not given in full, we therefore are completely mistaken if we do not understand it in its proper context of the whole thought or meaning.
For one part may contradict another. Here it says, 'Yes', in another place, 'No'. We must rather have an understanding of what God really is and means, taught and given to us according to the truth. In the same way that we have to know God by His threefold nature, so we must know the scriptures.
First, God is revealed through His almighty power, and the Father's power is revealed in all creation. Secondly, God is revealed through the steadfast righteousness of the Son, and thirdly, through the goodness and mercy of the Holy Spirit. However, God can never truly be recognized in these three until each is revealed in due order in time, one after the other, and is understood as of one essence. Only here is shown the true interpretation of the essence of God. God, through His almighty power and strength, shall be known by every man in the whole world.
As Paul shows us, man knows Him through His works from the creation of the world on, but this knowledge of God is not enough. For though I already know that I, together with all creatures which exist, am made by God, yet I may be still ignorant of two parts of God's essence. These must be shown me through the steadfast righteousness of the crucified Son of God, whose sufferings and power I must bear in me so that I may attain to that to which I was created. It was for this that He gave Himself as an example to us, the eternal Son of God, to whom all must become conformed. In Him the third part of God's essence is plainly shown to us, it is the goodness and mercy of the Holy Spirit through whom we shall know, in full, the whole essence of God in men.
Any man who does not suffer and know and discover these three within himself, knows no more of God than a heathen. However much he can prattle away, it is no more than a pretense with which the whole world tries to patch itself over, and so whoever wants to read the scriptures profitably and fruitfully must come to a sure understanding of them in the proper order, according to the three parts which are not together, or at least are very seldom found side by side. For this reason each part must be read in the context of the whole, so that a correct interpretation shall be reached, and all grasped as a whole.
Firstly, the scripture speaks of the created things or creatures of God, of how men rejoice in these things and turn away from God because of them, as you can see, because they only blind and confuse their hearts with such things.
Secondly, the scriptures speaks of the pain, suffering and persecution of certain men, as you have read, and how they have gone astray because of created things and their desire for them, turn again to their creator.
Thirdly, the scripture speaks of the perfection that shall be revealed through the Holy Spirit wherever men live in accord with God's will. Where men do not strive in an orderly manner to understand the three parts in every way, it becomes impossible to understand the scriptures, because some contradiction of the scriptures will always be found. For in the scriptures, one place seems to contradict another, as we see in a number of passages.
We must take heed and look carefully so that we come to a right interpretation which sets all these contradictions at one and brings us to see them as part of the whole. Where no order is observed, it is impossible for man not to be deceived. The scribes were misled in this way at the time of Christ, as they are now, in our own time, for they read in part only as it was written down. This caused their downfall and from this time on, they never arrived at a true understanding. They deceived themselves and others with them.
Yes, although the scribes had a masterly knowledge of the whole Bible from beginning to end, their teaching and interpretation were false and it is the same today. Although they all teach and preach the scriptures, their teachings contradict each other, and no one is made better by their teachings, nor do they make themselves better. The reason is that they lack the understanding that men receive in suffering, want, and poverty, and through which they are set free from the world and abandon it and become one body with the Body of Christ, in whom all understanding is revealed.
The prophets, apostles and all who loved God were unable to come to a true understanding and they too had to leave the world and be freed from it. The world is against them, and they are against the world. It is in such poverty and need that men learn the true understanding of God. Just as the holy David, when he had been persecuted by Saul because he would not help excuse Saul's wickedness, prayed to God that God should teach him His judgement. Yes, David knew the Bible and the scriptures, yet he did not understand them. He had to gain understanding and true knowledge through chastisement and punishment from God.
However, the man who turns aside from God's chastisement is going astray and from this time on, never comes to a true understanding. He would be like a false preacher.
Any man who would read and interpret the scriptures fruitfully, must come to them in their threefold order, in accordance with the clear direction that we have in the Twelve Articles of Faith. They are distinctly set out in three parts.
We learn through a true testimony of this threefold nature: Father - almighty power, Son - steadfast righteousness, Holy Spirit - mercy and goodness.
Just as the Twelve Articles of Faith are divided or learnt in three parts, and not one of them can be learnt or understood without the others, in the same way, the scripture speaks of many other articles which must all be understood in these three, so that each is comprehended with the other two.
The first part shows us the almighty power of the Father:
We believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
All sensible men know and experience this first part of God's essence through nature, either through human beings or the animal world and in this they distinctly see the almighty strength and power of God the Father. Paul points this out to us when he says, 'For men to know what God is, it is revealed to them, because God has revealed it to them.' Moreover the invisible nature of God, which is His eternal power and God-head, shines forth so that men recognize Him through His works, from the beginning of the world on. They therefore have no excuse because they know that there is a God, and yet have not served Him nor honored Him, they turn away although, as Paul says, all creatures and works of God stand as a clear testimony to men that there is a God.
But we still do not know by what means we may come to Him, and this is given in the other two parts of God's nature. It lies in the steadfast righteousness through which, in Jesus Christ, the Father works in every member of the whole body, and by this, the third part of His nature is revealed, which is the goodness and mercy of the Holy Spirit.
Where men do not go on to these two, and set them with the first, it is much too inadequate and stays as an empty interpretation, and is just darkness; however wise they think themselves, they are still empty fools. For this reason such knowledge of the first part by itself does not make one truly righteous nor Christian.
The second part, however, which comes through the true righteousness of Jesus Christ whereby the Father works in all members and which, when a man receives it as he received his first creation, makes him an instrument or force for God. This second part will, through the redemption in the cross of Jesus Christ and the suffering of all troubles bring him to the third part, which is the goodness and mercy of the Holy Spirit.
For all creatures and created beings become coarsened through the entry and reception into them of created things and no creature can be used or led to a better way except through suffering.
We may take the parable of the great trees growing in a forest, they are to serve in building houses. All of them are God's work and His creation but are subject to man that he may use them for a good purpose. Yet no house will be made out of them, except from those that will suffer the carpenter's working, to be cut into pieces, smoothed and hewn at the master's wish. Only from such trees as these will the house be built.
In the same way, many men who are creatures of the almighty God, have become insensitive through their joy and delight in the created things which men gather to themselves. Because of this, the man who has fallen away from God has become empty and useless. From youth on, man is inclined to evil, not because created things are evil, but because man has gone out of the order in which God set him, and wants to be a lord of all created things. He strives for this with all his might, and forgets his true Lord.
Because men are fallen away from God, they put all their trust and hope of good in created things instead of in the creator, and serve these more, and, when their hearts are bound to these, do not know how to return to that whereto they were created.
Men were created to be a house and dwelling of God, through the true righteousness of the cross of Christ by which they are made one body with Christ's Body, whose head is Christ. From this grows first the true understanding of the Father in the Son, that we dwell in Him, and He in us, so that we are in one spiritual Body of Jesus Christ the crucified.
This is the second part of the Articles of Faith, and the scriptures show us and sets down in a few words how this second part follows in our Faith:
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He rose again on the third day to judge the living and the dead.
Now men come to the second part, which is knowledge of the living Son of God.
We must wait for God to work through the cross of Christ. We must bear the cross, and, as Christ gave us example, must follow in His steps wheresoever they lead us, in the steadfast righteousness of the Father. The Father gives this righteousness through Christ, and all who long to be members of Christ's body shall know the Son because of this.
Paul explains to the Romans how through this we become children of God and joint heirs with Christ, if we suffer with Him, are like Him, and become the image of God's Son, having been justified by the Father.
Whoever does not walk in His footsteps along this way, and will not bear the cross of Christ, he has not the Son in him, and does not know the Son. He who has not the Son does not know the Father, nor can he be helped through the goodness of the Holy Spirit which dwells in us.
Only in this second part of God's nature therefore, are we shown the way, truth and righteousness of the crucified Son of God, through whom we must become part of His body and share in the unity of the three natures. This shall be revealed to us when we are in the midst of that most extreme suffering which the whole world fears and hates.
Every article of the Faith must be part of a man's personal experience, if he would come to understand the highest good. The Word must be received in him with a pure heart, through the Holy Spirit, and be born within him. We see what great fear and trembling was in Mary when she heard, by an angel, the will of God. The Word must be born in us too, and this cannot happen except through great inner and outer pain and need and poverty.
Where the Word is born and becomes flesh within us, there we live in righteousness and in the way of God, and so our hearts are at peace, and we become brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Such men, who are now at peace with God, are made the scorn of the whole world, and are called, as was Christ, a dreamer or Beelzebub. Everything he says must seem false to the world, and of a lying spirit, because he speaks of the false direction of the world, and will not continue in it, and the world is soon turned against such a man.
The high priests, Annas and Caiaphas, and such festering sores, act so as to defend their god, which is their belly. They become detractors and traitors towards such a man, and lead him before the magistrates to give answer there, against the teachings of Paul. Yes, if they did not fear worldly shame, they would beat him with rods themselves, may God have mercy. The false preachers do these things too. They let no one speak or come to make an answer, but cry with their fathers, 'Crucify him, crucify him! He will stir up the people. The people will listen to him, and our knavery might be discovered.'
He must answer in their synagogue, and if he will not answer to their liking, O dear God, then shall Pilate first judge the Word of God. In this way it comes about as Christ has said, imprisonment, banning by the state, or death. Then the man is tempted as David was, who would rather have died.
There is no comfort from the world nor from any created thing, for he sees that nothing in heaven or earth can help him so that he feels as if he was forsaken by his creator, and will perish.
Then man becomes conscious of his faith when he feels as if he was dead and senseless, with Christ in Hell, and dammed with Jonah in the belly of the whale. He seeks help like a young swallow, and finds none, and is like Christ, quite without comfort, when He hung on the cross and said, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' What wouldn't such a man give to rest content with God?
Yes, that comes to a man not only once in his life, but many times. It is the instrument by which he is planed, hewn and chiseled for the House of God, freed from all lust and delight of the world, and of all created things. Such a man, who is poor in spirit, and hungers and thirsts after righteousness, God cannot forsake, but must feed spiritually with His Body, that thereby he becomes changed and at one in the Body of Christ.
Through this there shall be revealed to him the third part: the mercy and goodness of the Holy Spirit, to which no one can come except through the waters of suffering, and the bath of rebirth. By this a man shall be born anew, a child of God, a brother of Christ, and shall be comforted, awakened out of death and led up out of Hell, and made alive in Christ.
This man does not live in himself, however, but Christ in him, and therefore he is glad and rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, through whom he knows the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These men have received Christ through the cross, and confess that Christ is come in the flesh and dwells in them. Then they will rule through the Holy Spirit, according to the Word of God.
In this we come to the third part of the Articles of Faith, which renounces the whole world:
We believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
Now, therefore, all delight in the world and love of created things are taken away through the pain and suffering of the cross, that the light of Christ might shine in us, which will give us understanding so that we can understand all of God's mercy and goodness which no one can perceive nor acknowledge while he is completely taken up with worldly delights.
Now through the Holy Spirit and in truth, he sees the Father with the almighty power by which he was created, and he knows the Son in whom he is maintained, made pure, redeemed and circumcised. Truly he is a child of God, and therefore he has free access to the Father, and is now made one with Christ and all members of His Body.
All these are one Church and one body in Christ. In this Church all members fight against sin, and all their joy and love is for righteousness. Even if such a man falls and sins, it is not through wilful desire, and therefore he is not rejected, for the Lord sustains him with His hand and the sin is put away from him and is not counted for sin. This man is in God's Kingdom, and has Christ as his Lord.
Such a man, whose soul is fed by God, will not suffer death, for all Christians are subject to God, and He is Lord over them. Then all goodness and mercy, great praise and honor is appears in the Holy Spirit. Then everything is held in common, nothing is one's own. It has been thus from the beginning of the world until now, but as yet it has never been fulfilled completely, as the prophets foretold that the Lord would pour out His Spirit over all flesh, and all men would be taught of God for ever to live according to God's will, and would be filled with all goodness. This can not and may not come completely until the suffering of all pain and need has brought the world to humility.
Every interpretation of Scripture, and every saying and command of the Lord, must, therefore, be part of and comprised in the threefold nature, and no part can take the place of another in a true understanding. The whole of the Scripture must be divided into three parts, and we must always notice of which part it is speaking, for it speaks in one place of what God has created, and here His almighty power is shown to us. Through desire and love towards these created things, a man is coarsened and his way is darkened, and he is silent about the other two parts which must be understood with the first, for the Scripture proclaims suffering and the cross, mediation and redemption, through which a man comes to the third part, where Scripture says how man is to live according to God's command.
Scripture must always be understood in this way, and be set in its true order, being always comprised of three parts.
If it speaks of mediation, you must add to that mediation the reason why men suffer, and how he deserves it and conclude to what purpose it serves.
But if Scripture speaks of a true and godly life, we must see how we must come to that for which we were created, even if it were not exactly written out in the same passage, for those who have the Holy Spirit see the true meaning in all things.
The prophets and apostles have written of God's judgement piece by piece for the sake of brevity, and did not include the whole, for the Scripture is given for the sake of the righteous, that they may receive a testimony from it as they are taught of God.
In that way a truly learned preacher is well able to judge and recognize what he must preach and lay before the people, and for their sake, the blessed Paul wrote his Epistles and letters to every Church in a way fitting the group to which it was sent, writing in one way to worldly and materialistic men, and differently to devoted and discerning brothers. Differently, too, to the stubborn and those who rejoice in their own wisdom, and differently again to the weak.
If the preachers who are learned in Scripture speak to the worldly and wilful men and tell them the message which Peter or Paul, Christ or the prophets have written to these men, but do not tell them how to fulfill it, they make an insolent and worthless people who do not want to improve, for they receive such teaching as if they had longed for it through Christ in suffering and utmost misery. They want to believe and to be redeemed by their belief in a work which God has never done, but which is only accomplished through faith, and therefore faith is called a work of God, and may the good Father help us. The foolishness of these men must be revealed.
The Covenant of our Lord Jesus Christ with His Bride
The true baptism of Christ is a true covenant, sealed by God, with all those who know and are taught of Him through Christ. It is an assurance to all the children of God, a sealing of faith, the pledge and testament which, in His grace, He has promised through His Son, and presented as His Bride.
This covenant is divided into three parts, that is: Spirit, Water and Blood, and the three are one and bears testimony on earth to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The first baptism is when man hears the word of God and believes it, prepares himself for repentance and regrets his sins, and makes amends, puts off the old man, burns and cleanses the filth in his heart and gives himself to God for His own. Then God will come and dwell in such a man, grant him His Spirit and peace, plants His love in his innermost members, through which man learns to know God as truly God, and Jesus as truly Lord.
First man must recognize in what misery and distress he has lain for so long, he then develops a sincere hunger and desire to eat of the heavenly food or bread, which God has given the world through His Son. This man has a heartfelt desire to become friends with God, and seeks to reconcile himself, for he tastes that it is good.
On these conditions, he receives the baptism of water, which is the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, sealed in the council of God as a testimony to the inhabitants of the world, a reliable covenant of divine promise that whosoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. But whosoever does not believe the council and will of God will be dammed, for he is an enemy of God.
Whosoever believes the voice of God will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with water. The love of God is kindled within him, and this love is the bond of God's glory and perfection which binds him in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, so that no one can divide them, neither the world, nor tribulation or distress, or any other creature. For the love of the Bridegroom to His Bride, and the Bride to the Bridegroom, is very great, nothing can quench it. Then follows the third baptism, the baptism of blood. For whom the Father loves, He chastens. Christ suffered this baptism with pain and sorrow. He spoke of this to His disciples, so that when such baptism befalls them, they will remember His words. Before Christ could kindle His holy love in this world, he had to be baptized with this baptism. As Christ, the head, has suffered and endured the chastening of his Father, so must His friends and brothers follow Him and bear with Him, for He is their Lord and Master.
What Baptism Is
Because there is a longing to know what baptism is, or what it brings with it, I will explain as briefly as possible how I understand it.
It must, however, be rightly understood of which baptism I am speaking. For I am not speaking of the infant baptism of Rome, which is performed without love, faith, covenant nor conscience, but I am speaking of the true Christian baptism which Christ himself commanded.
Neither do I speak of that which is performed in water alone, but that performed in the spirit, for this baptism has the power of making a new man.
Christ says that this new man dies to sin and to the sinful human life of the old Adam, for sin and the old Adam can not rise again with Christ into a new life.
True baptism is the putting off of the old man, abandoning sin and the desires of the flesh and human planning, to live according to God's will, in obedience, becoming grafted into Him so that we join Him in death and resurrection, so that we become like Him. Yes, in this we are baptized into one body in Christ, and one is member of another in spirit and in truth and in true and divine love.
In this we bear witness to Christ in truth, and in this we become purified through the washing with water in the Word, and are redeemed through the water of regeneration and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit which He pours out over us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we, made faithful and loving through this same grace, are heirs of the eternal Kingdom in hope.
Where the three signs are shown in truth, the two that are present and the third which is still to be fulfilled, as John shows, baptism brings us first the gifts and grace of the God, and of the Holy Spirit, and then true peace with God our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ. In this baptism, and with this baptism, we are made one with the true Christian Church, which is the community of saints and true believers. We can see this through Jesus Christ when He was baptized by John in the river Jordan, when John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him. And lo, a voice from heaven saying, 'This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased, and with whom I am at peace.'
We read further in the Acts of the Apostles that where they learned and believed the Word and the preaching of Christ which is the Gospel, and received the same in truth, and were baptized by the Apostles and with the laying on of hands, and in truth called upon the name of the Lord, then they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
And he too, who at this time and in these days, hears the Word of God in truth, believes and accepts it in his heart, and determines in his heart to live in accordance with it, and receives the water as a sign of a true covenant, to him too it will bring the riches and grace of the Holy Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. This man will be recognized by his fruits.
Until this was accomplished, the world, the flesh and the devil held us prisoners and ruled us, for we cannot stand against them in our hearts even though our conscience rebukes us and complains bitterly and shows us what is evil, if the power of God's Spirit is not yet within us that we might resist sin with all our hearts. Sin held us prisoners, and we were its servants, as Christ says, 'He who sins is the servant of sin.'
If we have known the truth in our hearts and received it, if sin is killed in our hearts through baptism into Christ's death, sin can never rule us. Even though it seeks us out, assails us, attracts and entices us, yet it cannot rule us, but through God's grace, strength and Spirit is given to us from God in heaven, out of pure mercy, so that we can stand firmly against sin. All who receive this and have taken this to themselves, can only believe and bear witness to it.
As baptism moreover brings much peace with God and with His children, it also brings us enmity, persecution and trouble from the devil and the world, as Christ himself gives witness when he says, 'I have not come into the world to bring peace but a sword' (Mt 10:34), and elsewhere he says as well, 'I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on, a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three, father against son, son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother.' (Luke 12:49-53)
Jesus says, 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.' (John 14:27) He also says, 'If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. I have drawn you out of the world, that is why the world hates you. Remember the words I have spoken to you: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecute me, they will persecute you also. If they keep my words, they will keep yours also. But it will be on my account that they do these things to you, because they do not know the one who sent me.' (John 15:19-21)
'I have told you all this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues, and indeed the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy service to God.' (John 16:1-2) 'I have given them your Word, and the world hates them because they do not belong to the world no more than I belong to the world. I do not ask you to remove them from the world but to protect them from the Evil One. Sanctify them in the truth, your Word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For their sake, I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified in the truth.' (John 17:14-19)
James writes, 'Adulterers! Don't you realize that love for the world is hatred for God? Anyone who chooses the world for a friend is an enemy of God? Do you think that the Scriptures speaks in vain?' (James 4:4-5)
Just as we are made one and encompassed in the true Christian Church, with the same dedication of our hearts, so we thereby make plain that we have separated from the worldly church, and will never have fellowship with or in the worldly church, which is wood and stone, in which every kind of blasphemy, idolatry and idol-worship has been and is still done, although it has been forbidden by God in heaven.
Just as we are made one in and subject to the community of saints and true believers, and our hearts are surrendered to this, to live among them and walk in true righteousness, love, peace and unity, and holy and divine community, so we here witness and affirm that we have left the pit of the ungodly, yea, the whole world, and will no longer bear its yoke, and will not have part in its sinful life and blasphemy.
John bears witness to this, 'Love not the world, nor the things of the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not from the Father, but is of the world. And the world is passing away with all its lusts, but he who does the will of God abides forever.' (I John 2:15-17)
He who has now received and accepted this baptism in truth, and acknowledges it as right, and now does what is right, will no longer have a dwelling place here but will be persecuted and hated by the whole world.
Yes, this baptism must now be considered a new sect by the world, although Christ himself commanded it, for He commanded His disciples first to teach and preach the gospel, for whosoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.
His disciples have thus acted and dealt according to their Master's promise and command. Peter, when he was sent to Cornelius preached to him first, although he had witness from the Holy Spirit that Cornelius was a faithful man.
Philip, when he came to the uncircumcised man and taught him about Christ, told him of baptism, requiring faith first of all, and then baptized him on his confession of faith.
Paul, when the jailer asked him what he should do, said that he should believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and preached to him the Word of the Lord and baptized him on his confession of faith.
Peter said that baptism should be the seal of the covenant of a good conscience with God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is indisputable that we have to make a covenant first, and also to write the letter before sealing it. That's how it is with baptism. First we make a covenant with God and His Church and then we receive baptism as a sign of a good conscience with God.
Who and What the Body of Christ is
All Christians are baptized into one body and have all equally put on Christ, have died with him, were buried and raised with Christ through faith in the active power of God (Col 2:12).
Just as there are many members in a body but not all members have the same function, likewise, all who are baptized in Christ Jesus are of one body and each one is a member of the other, each with the gift he has received from God, and each is subject to the Body that is the Church.
Each one cares for the other, and if one member suffers, all members suffers with him, and if one member is exalted, all the members rejoice with him, for they have become partakers of one bread, and are one in the Lord as Christ is in the Father.
The Fellowship of Christ in His Sufferings and Blood
The people of God, the lowliest among all people, are called to one hope. Only in them alone does God manifests His love, for He has purified and cleansed them from all filthiness to be a holy Church, without spot nor wrinkle, but is holy and without blemish.
In this Church every dedicated child or member lives not for himself, but for the Lord and His Church. Each one helps the other. No one seeks his own, but they love one another, each one loving his neighbor as himself. All strive for the truth, and all hate and abandon the world, so that they can be in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. They are bound together with the bonds of divine love, pledged to each other to suffer and die.
The greatest among them is the servant of all. The governing rule of this Church is love given from a pure heart which binds them together in one mind and hope, to the glory of God. They are a blessed seed, their citizenship is in heaven. They serve one Lord, and have one Master, one Shepherd, one faith, one heart, and one baptism. They have the unity of the Holy Spirit, who lives among them for ever and ever.
This is the community of the chosen and anointed of God in the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one heart and one soul. None call anything his own, but have all things in common.
Whosoever is not in this community, who keeps his own goods for future need, his bread shall stink before the face of God, and he shall have his part in the company of the dead where the Lord is not praised. He is dead while still living, and has no God in heaven, for God is the God of peace and unity, and not of discord.
God is pleased where brothers live together and praise Him in the House of the Lord, which House is the Church of God. In this House everything is in order according to His will, and is pleasing to Him.
Order in the House of God
God has ordained all His works in number, measure and weight. Therefore He has given His holy people customs and laws. He has given us His divine order in all things that we might live in the obedience of Christ, who is the only door into the House of God.
Christ, in his priestly office, has always remained in the divine order of things. After Him, his brethren and apostles have always kept the divine order in the Church by guiding the members in praying, in marriage, the ban, the breaking of bread, in the selecting and the sending out of the apostles.
Therefore Paul commanded that all things should be done decently and in order in the House of God. Whosoever conducts himself disorderly, is obstinate and opposes the order of God, brings upon himself a terrible judgement.
How disobedience shall be punished follows.
What Obedience is
How it is Praised and Blessed by God
Proper obedience is a diligent path to the wisdom of God and a reminder of such things that serve to honor God and to do those things with pleasure and joy. This is greater and more acceptable by God than sacrifice.
Therefore the obedience of Abraham was accepted by God as a sacrifice and He blessed him above all peoples. He also blessed the house of the Rechabites when they were obedient to their father Jonadab and would drink no wine when He had forbidden them wine, wherefore God gave to them in abundance. (Jer 35)
Christ, the Truth, was an example of obedience. He has been an influence to all his servants, that they should be obedient unto the Father, even to death. The Holy Spirit testifies in many ways that obedience should be preserved with all diligence, praises it, and commands us to obey the order, customs and laws of Jesus Christ in great trembling. Again He commands us that disobedience must be seriously punished and eradicated from the House of God.
What Disobedience is
How it shall be Punished in the House of God
Disobedience is the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. (I Sam 15:23) God has always severely punished disobedience, and has ordered that it should be punished in the House of God.
Paul was diligent in this and commanded that all disobedience should be noted and punished, for all disobedient deserve their just reward, according to the authority and power that Christ gave to His disciples.
Administering Punishment in the House of God
The Lord said, 'You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall reprove your brother firmly and thus avoid burdening yourself with a sin.' (Lev 19:17) Christ also taught us that if our brother sins against us, we are to go to that brother alone and tell him his fault. Tell it to him alone and do not spread it about, as Ham told of his father Noah, and was therefore cursed of God.
If your brother acknowledges his fault and says, 'I repent', even should he come seventy times seven in a day, you shall forgive him, and cover his sin, as Shem and Japhet covered their father's shame. That is love!
But if your brother will not hear you, then take with you one or two others and reprove him but do it with kindness, and do this as often as a brother is overcome by a fault.
Do not slander one another, for with such practice, we do not save one another from the eternal fire.
Whoever will not accept such reproving shall be brought before the Church to ascertain if he will accept the punishment of the Church. If he does, and repents, he shall be forgiven. But if he resists, it is a sign that he is turning away from God, and God's people shall put him under the ban that his flesh may be chastened.
Wherever there is such order, there is love, peace and harmony in the heart and in the Lord. But where this is not accomplished, there is dissention, strive, discord and all sorts of evil.
How authority and power shall be administered in the House of God is described below.
Justice and Judgement in the House of God
In the final judgement, God will sentence the immortal to either eternal life or to eternal punishment. Whoever here, in this life, is punished by God, and who accepts the punishment will not perish with the world (I Cor 11:32). Whoever does not is bound by God's word to eternal death.
In such judgements, God is no respecter of persons or gifts, but follows unswervingly after truth and righteousness. The command and authority of Jesus Christ is to punish the disobedient that they might improve their ways and not perish.
This authority is given to the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says that whoever disobeys this authority is rebelling against God's ordinance, and rebels must expect to receive the condemnation that they deserve, for they are rebelling not against a man, but against God, who has given His Holy Spirit to His Church. Therefore Paul commands Titus to rebuke the disobedient with all firmness and authority and not to allow anyone to despise him.
This authority is to be feared, but it is not a terror to the good but to evil, for it is a servant of God, an avenger to administer punishment to the evil doer.
The Holy Spirit commands that such judgement should be without guile, and should be to the praise and glory of God. Therefore he who punishes should act with care and understanding. He should have two or three witnesses of the fault and should be careful of punishing on the word of only one witness.
Paul writes to the Corinthians that the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain a charge. He tried, reminded and admonished the Corinthians twice, but they were stubborn. So he threatened to use the authority that he had received from God for their edification.
Confession of Sins in the House of God
The Holy Spirit bears witness when He says that he who denies his sin shall not prosper, but he who acknowledges his sin and turns away from it, shall obtain mercy and his sin shall be forgiven him. (Prov 28:13)
Therefore no one should be ashamed to confess his sin.
The hand of God is heavy day and night on those who would hide their sins. They have ever a gnawing worm in their heart and conscience, they heap coals on their own head. Therefore David says, 'I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.'
For this shall all the saints pray unto thee at the proper time. And his sins will be forgiven. (Ps 32:6)
Concerning Judgement in Temporal Things
No Christian shall judge or condemn along with the ungodly, for the Holy Spirit tells us not to take part in the judgements of the ungodly (Ecc 11:9).
David says, 'Blessed is the man that does not walk in the councils of the wicked nor sits in the seat of the scornful, but has delight in the law of the Lord.' (Ps 1:1)
We should not allow matters that concern the brothers to be judged by the ungodly. If the saints are to judge the world and the angels, then certainly they should judge the things that pertain to this life.
Jesus said, 'I give you a kingdom, as my Father has given one to me. You will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.' (Luke 22:30)
Avoidance of False and Excluded Brothers
We must shun and withdraw from the offensive and rebellious, we must draw apart from them and not eat nor drink with them. We must not go to where they gather. For God has suspended and taken His peace from them and hates their assemblies and rejects their prayers. We should not only shun, but also flee from them, for their way is the way of destruction.
Whoever saves himself from such protects his soul. Yes, whoever cleansed himself from such people shall be a sacred vessel unto the Lord, honorable and useful to all good works.
He that transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ has no God. We should not greet such a person. Whoever greets him and has fellowship with him, takes part in his sinful ways, and is defiled with his sins. (II John 9-10)
Blessed are all who have their part with the righteous.
The Perverse Shall Not Be Heard
Christ says, 'My sheep do not listen to a strange shepherd, but will flee from him because they do not know his voice.'
The Holy Spirit faithfully admonishes the flock of Christ that they should not listen to false and lying tongues, for in them lie hidden poison and serpent rage that will kill man's soul.
The enemy speaks sweet words with his lips, he sheds tears, but in his heart, he takes counsel how he may make the unwary fall into the pit. Just as the wolf comes to the sheep, so does the ungodly come to the faithful. They come in sheep's clothing, hiding their true nature, but inside they are full of deception.
Therefore withdraw from them, that you may not come into contact with what they spew out. Withdraw from them that you may stay in peace. If Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed.
 - Also known as the Apostles' Creed: We believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He rose again on the third day to judge the living and the dead. We believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
 - Compare this passage with Hans Hut's "Christian Instruction", 1527, in Muller's Gaubenszeugnisse, pp. 34-45