On this day in 1549, a bold, young woman named Elizabeth Dirks was drowned for her faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ and nothing else.

Dirks, as a child, was sent to live in a nunnery in the Northern part of Germany.  Here, she was taught how to read and speak Latin, all the while being groomed to become a nun when she was of age.  But as Dirk learned to read, she began to devour the Bible.  She read it through several times and allowed the truths to grow in her heart.  As she read it, she began to understand that, not only was the life of the convent unbiblical, but so was the entire system of works salvation!  Under the cover of darkness, Dirks escaped the nunnery.

Not long after her escape, Dirks became involved with the teachings of Menno Simons and the Anabaptist.  Simons taught that the Bible was the sole authority of a believer’s life.  And the only thing that could save a man was the blood of Christ, not baptism or church membership.  The Anabaptist were also opposed to a state forced religion, which was being practiced in many kingdoms.  Dirks soon became extremely involved in the work of the Anabaptist.  Throughout Northern Germany and Holland, she worked tirelessly with Simons and the other Anabaptist to spread the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Dirks and the other Anabaptist grew bolder in sharing the truths of scripture, the local authorities stepped up their efforts to stop them.  In 1549, the authorities finally caught Dirks in southern Holland.  The following days were filled with hours of torture and interrogation, as the authorities tried in vain to get Dirks to give up the other Anabaptist missionaries.  But Dirks simply replied every time, “No, my Lords, do not press me on this point. Ask me about my faith and I will answer you gladly.”  So they began to attack her beliefs, hoping she would recant.  When challenged on the saving power of Baptism, Dirks replied: “No, my Lords. All the water in the sea cannot save me. All my salvation is in Christ, who has commanded me love the Lord, my God, and my neighbor as myself.”

The authorities finally realized that nothing they did or said would make Dirks recant and betray her fellow Anabaptist.  So, on March 27th, they ‘baptizing’ her to death. She was tied up in a large cloth bag and drowned. It would become a common method of executing the Anabaptists.  The heroic deaths of Dirks and others who stood for the truths of the scripture did much to open the hearts of the people they worked among to the gospel.  And their labors gave rise to churches that  her heavily involved in fulfilling the Great Commission, including many of the believers that formed the early Moravian churches.  The sacrifice of these believers helped flame a fire that burned for all the world to see.



Week in Church History

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