Baptists > History > The Anabaptists
   First ridiculed for their views on baptism, this 16th century group of Bible believers planted a seed that has grown into virtually millions of modern-day Baptists around the world.
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   The name was originally intended as one of scorn and ridicule.  Theose who held that infant baptism is not Scriptural and that baptism by immersion is for believers only were called Anabaptists (rebaptizers).
   Considered the "radical" wing of the Reformation, the Anabapists in 16th century Europe were condemned and persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants.
   Church history tells us that the very first Baptists were located primarily in Germany, Switzerland, Morovia, and the Netherlands.  The first converts were baptized in Zurich in 1525.  It was there that the Swiss Brethren separated themselves from the state church that had been established by Ulrich Zwingli.  They became the first to practice the separation of church and state which is now held to be a Baptist distinctive.
   As the fledgling Anabaptist movement began, they modeled their churches after those from apostolic times (Acts of the Apostles).  The Biblical concept of being free to practice their faith as individuals while congregating together to emulate the early first century church became the driving force that fueled this movement.  While refusing to associate themselves with the Protestant movements of their day, these believers simply desired independency; both for themselves and their churches.  Feeling that the reformers had only gone half-way in separating themselves from Roman Catholocism, the Anabaptists determined that they would leave both them and the Protestants to themsleves while they struck out on their own.  Since then, they have never looked back.
   Historically, there have been three marked groups of Anabaptists...
   The contemplative Anabaptists accepted adult baptism but were not so inclined to fellowship with any visible body of believers in a church setting.  Those like Hans Denck (1500 to 1527) believed that the inner Word held priority over any gathering of believers, regardless of the reason for which they congregate.
   A more radical and revolutionary group attempted to set up an theocracy in Munster between 1534 and 1535.  Their idea was to establish the New Jerusalem of the Scriptures by force.  Of course, they failed.
   It was the evangelical Anabaptists of that same time period who went on to become the sole survivor of the three groups.  They were avowed pacifists, church and state separatists, and committed to bringing others into the fold.  The names of Jacob Hutter and Menno Simons (Mennonites - portrait to the right) stand out as their first leaders.
   This early manifestation of what are now contemporary Baptists can be traced back to these committed Christians who decided to look to the Bible to determine the framework of their lives and the church assemblies in which they worshipped.  The twenty-first century Baptists can trace themselves back to this brave band of believers who risked for the purpose of aligning themselves with the Bible.
   Today's Baptists still do the same.
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