Grebel’s entire life was shorter than 30 years. His Christian ministry was compressed into less than four years and his time as an Anabaptist was only about a year-and-a-half. Conrad Grebel’s impact earned him the title “The father of Anabaptists” because of the stand he took for baptizing believers. Today, we look at men such as Grebel and understand that they have been forgotten during the era of the Protestant Reformation. Our heritage as Baptists comes from men like Grebel who refused to be mandated by the state church to baptize infants. They stood for believer’s baptism, as we do, and the gathered assembly of believers in the local church. For this cause–may we stand with Grebel. We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Rev. Ron Hale
Senior Adult Pastor
West Jackson Baptist Church
In his renowned work on 16th Century Anabaptists, Dr. William R. Estep says, “If the most obvious demarcation between the Reformers and the Roman Catholics was biblical authority, that between the Reformers and the Anabaptists was believer’s baptism. Believer’s baptism was for the Anabaptists the logical implementation of the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura.” Believers’ baptism, by its very nature, eliminates any possibility of infant baptism. “If you can show me a single instance of infant baptism in the Bible, I am defeated,” was the repeated challenge by one Anabaptist leader whom I will mention in a moment.
Southern Baptists need to understand the theological tributaries that have pointed us to deep pools and simple truths through the years. As Baptists, we were dunked down under. We were not sprinkled or poured upon. “A little dab’ll do ya” was not the sentiment of the Baptist pastor that laid me back into a watery grave (Rom. 6:4) and raised me up to walk in newness of life at the age of 23. I went under, realizing that Jesus had already forgiven me of my sins through the shedding of His blood and the water baptism was my first step of obedience in following Him.
I had a discussion with someone on facebook a few months ago about believer’s baptism by immersion (a cherished Baptist belief). It became apparent we were not communicating when he didn’t understand why I shared a kinship with the Anabaptists as my spiritual ancestors, or that the name “Anabaptist” might indicate being against baptism.
The reason the name “Anabaptist” was given to them because of their beliefs about baptism, about which they felt the early reformers and Catholics had ignored Scripture. They were called Anabaptists because they rejected infant sprinkling and believed baptism was only for believers in Christ, normally by full immersion in water. Thomas White says, “They were rebaptizers because they viewed second baptism as the first legitimate baptism.” The Anabaptist leaders discovered through reading the Scripture that baptism in the New Testament was for believers. So their practice caused them to contradict or oppose the traditional mode of the day — sprinkling infants. Despite their first staggering attempts at pouring instead of immersion most eventually believed immersion was the only sufficient mode of baptism.