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by Wayne Blank
The Anabaptists suffered severe persecution from all sides. The Roman Catholic Church fiercely persecuted them, and other Protestants who rejected Rome's leadership, but not most of Rome's doctrines, strongly opposed and shunned them as well - even Martin Luther was against them. They also faced the wrath of the civil authorities because of one of their other major doctrines, the belief in the separation of church and state, which in most European countries was regarded as "blasphemous" (see Emperors and Popes). Their other major beliefs, in pacifism (i.e. one could not protect his rights, or the lives of himself or his family, by the use of force even if attacked), and communism (i.e. one could not have private property but must share all property in common) were their movement's most serious flaws.
Although the Anabaptists may have thought that they were unique, they were, in the 16th century, actually resuming a Biblical practice that others in Europe, generation after generation right from the time that Jesus Christ walked the earth, had never stopped. The Elect were often labeled as Anabaptists, and persecuted along with them (although there were without doubt some of the Elect among them).
Jesus' Example of Baptism
The warning of John The Baptist about repentance and baptism:
"Bear fruit that befits repentance [see Faith and Works], and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance" (Matthew 3:8-11 RSV)
Although He had nothing to repent of, Jesus Christ was baptized as an example for those who truly follow Him:
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan [a section of the Jordan River is shown in the photograph] to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on Him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:13-17 RSV)
Fact Finder: Is baptism a symbol of death and resurrection?