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Monday, February 27, 2012

Wer War Menno Simons?

Wer War Menno Simons?
Who was Menno Simons? by Isaac Peters (1911)

    He was one of the great reformers of the Christian church in the 16th century at the time of the great Reformation, the time of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli in Holland.  From the pulpit, all three attacked the secular authorities, and the secular church of Rome while taking shelter in their own state churches to avoid severe persecution.  Menno Simons and his associates made a decisive break with these Reformers.  They determined to base their faith on the rock or foundation of Jesus Christ, testifying as their motto, “No other Foundation can any man lay than that which is laid, that is Jesus Christ.”  I Cor. 3: 11.  For this, Simons was willing to risk everything – loss of property, life and exile.  For this risk, he found plenty of opportunity, facing persecution not only from Rome but also from the other more newly-established state churches who were just as quick to stain their hands in martyrs’ blood. 
    Luther, the main Reformer, called these simple, quiet followers of Christ swarms (Schwärmer), of which he wrote to Duke Albrecht of Prussia:  “Wherefore do I have to ask why it pleases your highness to suffer such people in your country.  Why would you allow such factious spirits and suffering?  Prussia’s conscience should complain against this credible threat against Her soul, lest this swarm seduces the Holy Church (of Luther), against which their leader preaches.  It is not just I who fear this swarm, but all emperors and princes fear them.  Suffer just a little of this heresy and you will see what comes of it.”  Luther further advised Albrecht to overcome this monstrous threat with fire and sword.  All this was in pursuit of Menno and his companions in their following of the Lord’s leading.  But Luther wanted to please man, not God, to re-establish Rome, not God’s Truth.

    Menno Simons’ writings from beginning to end have the consistent underlying theme – that is “Justification by Faith alone in the blood of Jesus Christ.  (2 Pet 2, 21 to 25).  In searching the Scriptures, Menno found that Christ not only died for our sins, but also that he takes away our sin (1 John 3, 1-5).  After all, who is born of God, no longer serves sin according to these verses.  Understanding that salvation is only through Christ, Menno Simons evangelized and taught during this time of great persecution, eventually convincing the secular authorities to tolerate this message.
    Today, Menno’s great name has often eclipsed the truth of his faith and teachings – a true contradiction to his message.  Menno’s teachings are of infinitely greater value than the greatness of his name.  What is Menno’s name without an understanding of his faith and teachings?  Many of our ethnic core group do not recognize this truth about Menno’s faith.  They call themselves Christians but have veered away from Menno’s recognition of the true doctrine of Christ (2 John v 9; Ev. John 8: 31-32). 
    Therefore we should nowadays adhere more closely to the religious edifications or teachings of Menno than to the teachings and examples of the other Reformers of the state churches.  Then we would not have so many divisions nor have so many schisms injected into our community as we are now seeing happen.

Isaac Peters
January 1911
from der Evangelisations-Bote.

Trans. Steven Wall, Chicago, IL, 2011.

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