Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Henry Funk

The Mennonite view of the Sabbath

They keep and sanctify the Sabbath which is not the literal, but the spiritual Sabbath, which never ends with true Christians, not by wearing fine clothes, not by carousing, vanity and idleness, as the reckless world do, but by the true fear of God, by a clear conscience and unblamable life, in love to God and their neighbours ; for that is the true religion, Heb. 12:1.
Menno Simons, 1554 – Complete Works, page 680

For, understand, the prophecy is fulfilled which said with reference to this time, that such people have beaten their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles, rest from their works, and truly observe the spiritual Sabbath. Isa. 2:4; Mic. 4:3; Ex. 20:10, 11.
Headrick Alewins, 1659 – Martyrs Mirror, page 755

Because man so soon transgressed God’s word, he at the same time was overtaken with unrest in body and soul. Hence God commanded him to rest on the seventh day. . . yet this rest day was to man a figure that a rest of both body and soul was awaiting mankind (Heb 4:4; 11). . .
In this Jesus there is rest for the soul, the spiritual, eternal sabbath that has not end; in Jesus this sabbath must be obtained. . .
By faith we receive Jesus, and by faith in Jesus we must make an end of the service of sin, our own sinful works, and turn away from them, and by faith in Jesus do the works meet for repentance; then the believer enters into the rest of soul, then the believer enters upon the spiritual sabbath of the soul in Jesus, which Jesus has wrought in his own body on the tree; then the believer is in the day of salvation and in the day of light (2 Cor. 6:2; John 7:12; 11:9). This is then the spiritual sabbath day for the soul of the believers, in which they shall rest and hallow in both body and soul from the works of sin.
Henry Funk, 1763 – Restitution, pages 99-100

Old Testament ceremonies did not represent literal ceremonies under the gospel, but every one met a spiritual fulfilment. The literal sabbath was bodily rest; the spiritual sabbath is soul rest. He, Christ, said, “Come unto me all yea that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. And ye shall find rest unto your souls.” We must, to be able to obtain or enter into this spiritual sabbath, cease from all our work; that is works according to our sinful will, as God did from His work of creating.
The true sabbath of the gospel dispensation is not the observance of any literal day. We have a perpetual sabbath, rest to our souls.
Wendell K. Petoskey, Messenger of Truth, 1944, Issue 19

God had set the Sabbath as a day of rest, which pointing to Christ and the rest to be enjoyed in Him. In Him is brought back the day of rest as it was enjoyed in the Garden of Eden. When man accepts Christ as personal Saviour, and lives the life of Jesus he comes into this Sabbath rest, as long as he is faithful. . . The Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ and man need not be in unrest.
D. J. H. Schmidt, Messenger of Truth, 1955, Issue 8

[The Messenger of Truth is a bi-weekly periodical of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite.]

A theology of suffering

Henry Funk, whom I’ve been quoting the past few days, was only a generation of two removed from the persecution of the Mennonites in Switzerland. The reality of the possibility of suffering for the faith was real to him, and he did not shrink from it.

A few centuries have passed and Mennonites in North America have grown accustomed to thinking that persecution was a thing of the distant past, not really worth even thinking about today. Now we are beginning to wake up to the fact that the world around us has changed and the friendship and support for our faith that we thought was there is rapidly dissipating.

Genuine Christianity has been a persecuted faith throughout most of history. Of course there were churches that called themselves Christian and allied themselves with the civil powers. These churches were often persecutors of all who would not bend to their particular brand of Christianity. At the same time, there were wars between countries holding to different brands of Christianity and it became difficult to discern if the real cause was religion, political ambition, or a striving for economic advantage.

Anabaptists have stood apart from those waging religious wars and persecutions, but have often been the ones being persecuted. Despite the persecution, they have also been noted for their evangelistic fervour. Menno Simons wrote: “To this end we preach as much as opportunity and possibility affords, in forests and wildernesses, in this land and abroad, in prison and bonds, in water, fire and the scaffold, upon the gallows and upon the wheel, before lords and princes, orally and by writing at the risk of possessions and life, as we have done these many years without ceasing.”

Some people found a way to avoid persecution by conforming to the outward form of the state church, yet meeting privately to share their testimonies of faith. In the Lutheran church such people were called pietists, in the Roman Catholic Church they were called quietists.

One branch of those who called themselves by Menno’s name decided it would be better to be as quiet as possible about their faith to avoid persecution. About two hundred years ago they were invited to move to Ukraine, along with many other Germans, by Empress Catherine of Russia. Here they had peace, at the cost of renouncing any attempt to share the gospel with the Ukrainian people. They also lost the ability to evangelize their own people. They settled on self-governing colonies and people’s livelihood was tied to being a member of the church. How could they then deny baptism to their unconverted children? In time, the bishops and ministers forbade the reading, and even the possession, of Menno Simon’s writings.

Most of the descendents of these people still call themselves Mennonites, but what does that mean to them? In most cases it is simply a cultural heritage. The spiritual heritage, the evangelistic fervour, the willingness to suffer for the faith are a dimly remembered history.

Even among those who still retain a faith that is much the same as Menno’s and all the Anabaptist forefathers, the reality that such faith might entail a risk to life and property is hardly considered. I believe it is time to rediscover the theology of suffering. Do we have a faith that will not waver if it begins to cost us something?

The admonition in 1 Peter 4:12-14 was not only for that long ago  era: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.”

The baptism of suffering

So soon as the believer has the witness of the spiritual baptism and has received the baptism with water, he should yield himself willingly to receive the baptism of the shedding of his blood for the name of Christ, if required, and take on him the witness of blood, according to 1 John 5:8: “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.

The believer, in his baptism, is baptized into the body of Christ, the church (1 Corinthians 12:13. 27). And then he puts on Christ and unites himself to him to follow him truly and constantly, and bearing his cross after him. And should the believer be called on to suffer for the name of Christ, and to lay down his life for his name, he should be willing to be baptized with the same baptism of suffering and shedding of blood wherewith his Lord and Master was baptized when he laid down his life to redeem man from death, and this is the allegiance of all the true disciples of Jesus Christ in this world. “ye shall drink indeed of my cup and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with (Matthew 20:23). “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. The servant is not greater than his lord, if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:18. 20). “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service (John 16:2).

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). And verses 22 & 25: “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27).

For it is evident that when believers, as members of Christ, will enter heaven with Christ the heavenly bridegroom to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and drink of the new and sweet wine in heaven (which is manifested in John 2:10 and Matthew 26:29), that they must first drink with him the bitter wine of affliction and tribulation, and be baptized with his baptism (Matthew 20:22-23). But the drinking of this cup and being baptized with this baptism must be done and endured for the sake of Jesus Christ and for his name alone.

Henry Funk, A Mirror of Baptism

No earthly ground

Of this water we find further, extensively, in the prophet Ezekiel, chapter 47, where he was brought to the house and saw waters issuing out from under the threshold of the house eastward. . . .  This water is typical of the spiritual water of the word of God which flowed from the temple, that is, from God and the Lamb, Revelation 21:22, till it increased and became, by Jesus Christ and his gospel, so full and deep that in this spiritual water no earthly ground of man’s salvation can be found; but man must swim without any ground or support from the doctrine and commandment of man. For the ground is alone in Jesus and in His heavenly word, which is spirit and life — therein must he be grounded, — therein swim and walk; for that is given for the salvation of man; in Jesus and his word alone will the souls of men be blessed.

Henry Funk, A Mirror of Baptism

Baptized into the death of Christ

From the words, to be baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3); and to be buried with him by baptism into death (v. 4) flows also the following doctrine: that when the believer delivers himself to baptism, he gives himself up with body and soul to become a member of the body of Christ and by baptism binds himself with Christ to bear his cross – to cleave to him and follow him, though it be at the loss of his earthly goods, his life and blood, and rather than deny Christ, to die the death of a martyr and be buried so that he may rise with Christ in glory. For, saith Paul, if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection (v. 5).

Henry Funk, A Mirror of Baptism

(Henry Funk, 1697-1760, was the first Mennonite bishop in North America.)

The sabbath restored in Christ

When the Lord God had made all things he rested on the seventh day, and since man was made in the image of God and was adorned with the image of God, man was right and good, and without any sin.  If man had remained in this state, he would have rested with God.  But because man so soon transgressed God’s word, he at the same time was overtaken with unrest in body and soul.  Hence God commanded him to rest on the seventh day.  Man could not, however, return to his first or Edenic rest in body and soul, yet this rest day was to man a figure that a rest of both body and soul was awaiting mankind (Hebrews 4:4, 11).

But this sabbath or rest day for the soul had to be fulfilled by Jesus; and afterward also for the glorified body, when all things shall be fulfilled and restored.

Jesus went forth from the Father and came into the world, into the flesh, that he might by his flesh take away the enmity — the sin of the transgression of the law — and by his blood redeem man from the sin of Adam which had brought so much unrest to body and soul that man could not obtain rest (1 John 4:2; Ephesians 5:16).  He came and by the gospel proclaimed the peace of the kingdom of God; and by his suffering and death and resurrection, and by his gospel, rest was found for the soul (Matthew 11:29), and was obtained by coming to Jesus.   Jesus offered up sin, the enemy of the soul, by the sacrifice of his own body on the tree (Isaiah 53; 1 Peter 2:24).  In Jesus there is rest for the soul, the spiritual eternal sabbath that has no end; in Jesus this sabbath must be obtained.

By faith we receive Jesus, and by faith in Jesus we must make an end of the service of sin, our own sinful works, turn away from them and by faith in Jesus do the works meet for repentance; then the believer enters into the rest of the soul, the spiritual sabbath of the soul in Jesus, which Jesus has wrought in his own body on the tree.  Then the believer is in the day of salvation and the day of light (2 Corinthians 6:2; John 5:12; 11:9).  This is then the spiritual sabbath day for the soul of the believers, in which they shall rest and hallow in both soul and body from the works of sin.  This sabbath shall be hallowed by the praise of God in his word, by a holy life in the wedding garment of the Spirit (Revelation 19:7, 8; Jeremiah 17:21).  Then shall the believers not carry any burden of sin through the gates of Jerusalem, nor out of their houses on the holy sabbath.

The keeping of the sabbath by the believers in Israel consists in rest from the works of sin; and even if the believer through weakness or ignorance does a work of sin then comes in his sorrow and calls upon God through Christ, Jesus is the propitiation for sin (1 John 2:12).

The true believers shall hallow the fulfilled sabbath of the Lord and not knowingly or wilfully sin against the command of the Lord, either in the inward or the outward man.  The believers must strive to live holy in body and soul, that body and soul may obtain the future sabbath restored by Christ in the everlasting kingdom.  Consider well therefore the fulfillment of the sabbath by Christ and keep it as far as lies in your power.

[Excerpted from Restitution, written by Henry Funck, the first Mennonite bishop in North America.  Henry Funck died in 1760 and the book was first published in 1763 by his children.]

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