Focal Passage: 1 Timothy 1:3-17
We who are Baptists owe much to Balthasar Hubmaier. Who? Hubmaier lived in Switzerland and Austria in the early 1500’s. He and some like-minded friends held revival meetings near Zurich. They also led prayer meetings in private homes. Those who experienced regeneration (a salvation experience in Christ) were baptized. Having instituted believer’s baptism, they proceeded to celebrate their membership into the fellowship of Christian community and faith by partaking of the Lord’s Supper. The organized church of that day was outraged. They called Hubmaier and his friends Anabaptists, a term of ridicule and derision.
In fact, Hubmaier was a true Baptist. He considered “infant baptism” invalid; his adult baptism was his only authentic and recognizable baptism. For the rest of his short life, Hubmaier would start churches founded on the scriptures, not upon the traditions of any state instituted church. For his efforts, Hubmaier would be burned at the stake in Vienna on March 10, 1528, and his wife would be drowned in the Danube River. Balthasar Hubmaier was willing to risk his life on the principle of following sound doctrine.
As Paul wrote this pastoral letter to his protégé Timothy, he urged the younger church leader to stay away from heresies. False doctrine was a constant foe to the young evangelical church. While numerous forms of heresy abounded in Paul’s day, the two dominant enemies to the faith of the Ephesian congregation were the most extreme forms of Jewish legalism and Greek gnosticism. One extreme (Jewish) said one could only please God by obeying every minute detail of law; the other extreme (Greek) said that since the body was separate from the spirit, one could do as one pleased and not be guilty of sin.
Since Paul had spent his formative years preaching the extremes of Jewish legalism, he knew of what he spoke. He admitted he had been the worst of the worst, a blasphemer against Jesus, a persecutor of the Way, and a most arrogant and prideful man. His message to Timothy: stay true to Christ at all costs.