Anabaptists have always had a view of salvation that differed sharply with Reform traditions in that it emphasized repentance and transformation of life into conformity with Jesus Christ. This is a quick look at Protestant and Anabaptist views of salvation based on confessions of faith down through the years.
In my view the “1921 Christian Fundamentals Mennonite Church” (Garden City) is the low water mark in that it seemingly copied and articulated the Reform view of salvation almost to a word.
In my view the “1921 Garden City Christian Fundamentals Mennonite” is the low water mark in that in it Mennonites seemingly copied and articulated the Reform view of salvation almost word for word. This is of continuing concern since many conservative Anabaptist groups still based their confessions of faith on the 1921 Garden City Confession.
Now, note the progression, influence and shifts.
1527 (Anabaptist) The Schleitheim Confession
This Schleitheim Confession was not an attempt to be a complete confession but it just addressed areas that were of immediate concern so it does not specifically have a section on salvation. The first article on Baptism does indirectly cover repentance, new life and faith so I have included it below.
First. Observe concerning baptism: Baptism shall be given to all those who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and who believe truly that their sins are taken away by Christ, and to all those who walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and wish to be buried with Him in death, so that they may be resurrected with Him, and to all those who with this significance request it [baptism] of us and demand it for themselves. This excludes all infant baptism, the highest and chief abomination of the pope. In this you have the foundation and testimony of the apostles. Mt. 28, Mk. 16, Acts 2, 8, 16, 19. This we wish to hold simply, yet firmly and with assurance.
1530 (Lutheran) Augsburg Confession
IV. Justification by Faith: Man cannot be justified before God through our own abilities; we are wholly reliant on Jesus Christ for reconciliation with God.
VI. Of the New Obedience: Lutherans believe that good deeds of Christians are the fruits of faith and salvation, not a price paid for them.
XII. Of Repentence: Repentance comes in two parts: in contrition for sins committed according to the Law and through faith offered through the Gospel. A believer can never be free from sin, nor live outside of the grace of God.
XX. Of Good Works: The Lutheran notion of justification by faith does not somehow condemn good works; faith causes them to do good works as a sign of our justification (or salvation), not a requirement for salvation.
1632 (Mennonite) The Dordrecht Confession of Faith: VI. Of Repentence
We believe and confess, that, since the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth, and, therefore, prone to all unrighteousness, sin, and wickedness, the first lesson of the precious New Testament of the Son of God is repentance and reformation of life, and that, therefore, those who have ears to hear, and hearts to understand, must bring forth genuine fruits of repentance, reform their lives, believe the Gospel, eschew evil and do good, desist from unrighteousness, forsake sin, put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness: for, neither baptism, supper, church [membership], nor any other outward ceremony, can without faith, regeneration, change or renewing of life, avail anything to please God or to obtain of Him any consolation or promise of salvation; but we must go to God with an upright heart, and in perfect faith, and believe in Jesus Christ, as the Scripture says, and testifies of Him; through which faith we obtain forgiveness of sins, are sanctified, justified, and made children of God, yea, partake of His mind, nature, and image, as being born again of God from above, through incorruptible seed. Gen. 8:21; Mark 1:15; Ezek. 12:2; Col. 3:9, 10; Eph. 4:22, 24; Heb. 10:22, 23; John 7:38.
1915 (Protestant) The Fundamentals: 4. Salvation
It is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
1921 (Mennonite) Christian Fundamentals Mennonite Church: VI. Of Salvation
We believe that man is saved alone by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ; that he is justified from all things on the ground of his shed blood; that through the new birth he becomes a child of God, partaker of eternal life and blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ. Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3:20-26; Acts 13:38, 39; John 1:12, 13; John 3:4, 8, 16; John 5:24; Ephesians 1:3.
1963 (Mennonite) Mennonite General Conference: Article 6. Salvation by Grace Through Faith
(short) 6. We believe that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, a free gift bestowed by God on those who repent and believe
We believe that men are saved, not by character, law, good works, or ceremonies, but by the grace of God. The merits of the death and resurrection of Christ are adequate for the salvation of all men, are offered to all, and are intended for all. Salvation is appropriated by faith in Christ. From all eternity God knew who would be the believers in Christ, and these persons foreknown as believers are elect according to the foreknowledge of God. Those who repent and believe in Christ as Saviour and Lord receive the gift of righteousness, are born again, and are adopted into the family of God. Saving faith involves the giving of the self to Christ, a full surrender of the will, a confident trust in Him, a joyful obedience to His Word as a faithful disciple, and an attitude of love to all men. It is the privilege of every believer to have the assurance of salvation. The God who saves is also able to keep each believer unto a happy end in Christ. As long as the believer lives, he stands in need of the forgiveness, cleansing, and grace of Christ. John 3:16; John 10:27-29; Romans 4; Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 1:8-10; 1 John 5:13; Jude 24.