Today (31st October) is reformation day, and so my focus will be on the reformer, Menno Simons.
Menno Simons was a contemporary with Martin Luther, who seems to have taken all the credit for the reformation. But where Martin Luther failed in his reformation, Menno Simons didn’t.
Menno Simons was born in the old Holy Roman Empire, which was a huge empire during the 14th century (1500s). But the part of the Empire to which he was born is now part of the Netherlands. Menno Simons was born in the year 1496, but the actual date of his birth is uncertain.
Menno Simons was brought up as a Roman Catholic, and as this was the only version of Christianity in the western part of Europe at that time, I guess he really had no choice in the matter.
As a young man it was Simons’ desire to become a Catholic priest, and so he went into training. The Catholic Bible was the vulgate, written in Latin, and the only translation allowed in the Catholic Church, so it was necessary that as a training priest, Menno Simons should learn Latin. But through all his catholic training, he never once touched a Bible (and that’s not exaggerating).
In the year 1515 or 1516 Simons was ordained as a Catholic priest.
During this period Martin Luther was working as a Doctor of theology at the University of Wittenberg, which is where he began to read his Bible, and to realise that the Catholic religion was unscriptural. Menno Simons had a similar revelation from the Holy Spirit, which we will read about in the following paragraphs.
Menno Simons was a priest for about 10 years, and yet had never studied the Bible. But then there began to be discussion about the doctrine of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is the doctrine that the Catholics believe, that in communion the wine and the bread supernaturally transform into the literal body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. So it was that the curious Menno Simons decided to look in his Bible for the true answers about the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Looking in the Bible, Simons found out that the wine and the bread were only the memorial of Christ’s death and not some kind of supernatural ritual.
It was also during this time of studying the scriptures that Simons noticed that there was no evidence for infant baptism, in fact to the contrary, he noticed that every baptism in the Bible was of a believer. Then it was that he became a great advocate for Believer’s baptism, then known as “Anabaptists”.
Although there were Baptists before the time of Menno Simons, it was through him that God spread His true religion in a time when there was much heresy in the church.
Then on the 30th January 1536 at the age of 39, Menno Simons made his first profession of faith, and was subsequently baptised as a believer.
After this he became a great leader in the Baptist church, and preached fearlessly against the false practices of the Catholics. And so it was that the Catholic Church denounced him as a heretic, and put a large sum of money as a bounty for anyone who should betray Simons. And many who confessed their belief in Simons’ doctrines paid with their life.
But we all know that God is much stronger than all our foes, and Menno Simons proved this. He lived a further 25 years and died a natural death having never been caught by the Catholics. And the work which he has done for Baptists still lives on, and God’s truth is not without witness to this very day.
Menno Simons died 31st January 1561 the day after his 25th anniversary of publicly professing Jesus Christ.
Let us learn from the examples of great men like Menno Simons who gave their life for God. And why should we not likewise give our whole lives over to the service of God, Didn’t He come to earth and give his own precious life to us so that we might be saved?
Well, may this be of some use to someone this day, and may you all find encouragement to stand up for the truth of God’s word.