Michael Sattler’s 20 Thesis

Some have deemed the following Michael Sattler’s “20 Thesis”; it demonstrates pre-Schleitheim Confession beliefs of the Anabaptists.

  1. Christ came to save all of those who would believe in Him alone.
  2. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who believeth not will be damned.
  3. Faith in Jesus Christ reconciles us with the Father and gives us access to Him.
  4. Baptism incorporates all believers into the body of Christ, of which He is the head.
  5. Christ is the head of His body, i.e., of the believers or the congregation.
  6. As the head is minded, so must its members also be.
  7. The foreknown and called believers shall be conformed to the image of Christ.
  8. Christ is despised in the world; so are also those who are His; He has no kingdom in this world, but that which is of this world is against His kingdom.
  9. Believers are chosen out of the world; therefore the world hates them.
  10. The devil is prince over the whole world, in whom all the children of darkness rule.
  11. Christ is the Prince of the Spirit, in whom all who walk in the light live.
  12. The devil seeks to destroy. Christ seeks to save.
  13. The flesh is against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.
  14. Those who are spiritual are Christ’s; those who are carnal belong to death and to the wrath of God.
  15. Christians are wholly yielded and have placed their trust in their Father in heaven without any outward or worldly arms.
  16. The citizenship of Christians is in heaven and not on earth.
  17. Christians are the members of the household of God and fellow citizens of the saints, and not of the world.
  18. But they are true Christians who practice in deed the teachings of Christ.
  19. Flesh and blood, pomp and temporal, earthly honor and the world cannot comprehend the kingdom of Christ.
  20. In sum: There is nothing in common between Christ and Belial.[1]

The 20 Thesis is originally a part of an epistle Michael Sattler sent to Martin Bucer (1491-1551) and Wolfgang Capito (1478-1541) two Strasbourg Reformers. The points of addressed related to “baptism, the Lord’s Supper, force or the sword, the oath, the ban, and all the commandments of God.”[2] These points functioned as a summary of Anabaptist beliefs Sattler attained via a meeting with the Gemeinde in Strasbourg. Sattler himself verifies the above by writing to Bucer and Capito, “I recently spoke with you . . . on several points, which I together with my brothers and sisters have understood out of Scripture, namely out of the New Testament”.[3]

The contents of the 20 Thesis is very fascinating and one can see obvious parallels with the articles in the Schleitheim Brotherly Union. Yet, one aspect genuinely stands out is the seventh thesis, which some have taken to denote that Sattler held to predestination.  It states, “The foreknown and called believers shall be conformed to the image of Christ.” To comprehend what is meant it must be read in blocks of text. Points 5-7 need to be looked at jointly to comprehend what Sattler meant in point seven. They read, “Christ is the head of His body, i.e., of the believers or the congregation. As the head is minded, so must its members also be. The foreknown and called believers shall be conformed to the image of Christ.” Addressing these ideas, C. Arnold Snyder elucidates:

Just as the outer baptism of water is the visible manifestation of the believer’s faith, so the community of baptized believers is the visible body of the risen Christ. The believing community, as the tangible “body of Christ,” will bear all the marks of Christ himself. Here again there is strict conformity between inner reality and outward manifestation: the believers will be spiritually conformed to Christ (Christ-minded), but this inward conformity must bear fruit in a visible conformity with Christ’s actions and commands.[4]

According to Snyder, the emphasis is on conformity to Christ’s image as evidenced by one’s thinking and actions. In general-fashion, Sattler paraphrased or directly quoted scripture within his writings while the overall theme dictated the emphasis. As Sattler delineated in the letter the subject matter had nothing to do with predestination.

In addition, it is widely known that amongst the Anabaptists especially during that early period there “was a very un-Protestant emphasis on the role of free will in the process of salvation.”[5] Also shortly, after his letter to Bucer and Capito the Schleitheim Confession was inscribed and it too had statements that conveyed the thought of free will.

[1] John Howard Yoder, The Legacy of Michael Sattler (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1973), 22-23.

[2] Ibid., 22.

[3] Ibid.

[4] C. Arnold Snyder, The Life and Thought of Michael Sattler (Scottdale, Penn.: Herald Press, 1984), 113.

[5] J. H. Burns, ed., The Cambridge History of Political Thought, 1450-1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 189.


2 thoughts on “Michael Sattler’s 20 Thesis

  1. I’m so glad you posted this, this week. For class this week I’ve been reading a number of Anabaptist primary sources, and this is a great piece to add to my study. Thanks!

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