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This editorial is concerned with an issue that lacks clarity within present-day Anabaptism. It lies at the very core of our belief system and yet there is an almost intentional obscuring of the issues. The question before us is “How does one obtain salvation from sin?”

The first response of most conservative Anabaptists is “Of course we agree on the Biblical teaching of salvation.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Our Protestant friends have tended to totally divorce faith from works. Their implication (perhaps unintentional in some cases) is that it does not matter how one lives as long as he believes in Christ as his Saviour from sin. The Anabaptist position has always called for holy living as a necessary result of saving faith. Pollutions of doctrine have taken place so that faith and works have been mixed together, on the one hand resulting in a works salvation. On the other hand a moral yardstick has been established resulting in the loss of one’s salvation if anything on the “list” is disobeyed. This all has become very confusing and has caused some people to throw up their hands and avoid the subject altogether.

Confusion abounds within Anabaptist circles as to what salvation really is. As this writer understands the writings of the early Anabaptists, the following seems to be the case. First, in response to the Catholic works salvation of the day, Anabaptists wanted to be clear that salvation was not by works. In this way they appeared to share the Protestant position that salvation was by grace through faith plus nothing else.

Yet, in response to the Protestants’ individualistic libertarianism, the early Anabaptists wanted it clearly understood that a salvation that did not produce a radically changed and holy life was no salvation at all. Thus the Protestants accused the Anabaptists of mixing justification and sanctification together into some kind of unbiblical porridge. The Anabaptist position was no different than the emphasis of New Testament James in the requirement that genuine saving faith will be demonstrated by righteous works.

Anabaptist people tend to be confused by the two extremes. Legalism, which is nothing more than the old Galatianism, teaches that one is saved by faith plus works. Antinomianism, which represents the large body of Protestantism today, teaches that a holy life is not necessary for Christians today. Biblical Anabaptism rightly labels both of these as heresy.
In our next installment we will attempt to present a Biblically balanced view of salvation for today, consistent with the passion of the early Anabaptists.

Written by: Paul Emerson

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