My Vows to the Amish Church: Are They Binding?
By Eli Stutzman
February 8, 2017
As a young Amish boy, I was taught that when I reached a certain age, I would be expected to join the church. In doing so, I would be declaring Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and also my personal vows to our church. And like most other young people my age, I did this without a full knowledge of how salvation works.
As I got older, I realized that what I’d been taught did not satisfy my spiritual need for knowing exactly what salvation is. And in time, a very strong sense of not belonging, finally led me to leave the Amish.
But what about those vows I made to the church?
As a young teenage boy, I had promised on bended knee to help build the church and to obey all of its rules and regulations. Was I sealing my own condemnation, by breaking those vows?
The bishop and ministers certainly wanted me to think so.
Yet, I was puzzled by the fact that I did not have any assurance of my salvation. The thought of dying was terrifying, even if I was a good Amish youth.
Little did I know, at that time, that you cannot place part of your trust in Jesus, and part of your trust in living a good Amish life!
The need for obedience was drilled into us from an early age, yet Jesus’ role in our salvation was hardly ever talked about.
To seek answers only raised suspicion in the minds of those in authority.
But the question kept coming back to me—was the Amish church the only right way, or were there other churches that taught the truth? If other churches, outside the Amish had the truth, than why was it right for one and wrong for others.
Have we not all been created by the same God?
Some Amish leaders believed that others, too, might be saved, but they did not know how this would work. I now suspect very few Amish leaders know clearly how salvation works. To experience peace with God, I need to be clear about this, just as anyone else does. It doesn't matter if you are Amish or not.
Does the Bible teach, or in any way indicate, that to be born again, one needs to make a vow to a certain church or person?
The Answer is clearly No! Scripture teaches that salvation comes from a promise made by God Himself. We are saved from our sin, by receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. In John 1:12, God says:
But as many as received Him, to them gave He the power [right] to become the sons [children] of God…
The apostles and all New Testament believers taught that we needed to confess our need for salvation, to repent, and ask for the free gift of salvation, that is given through Christ’s act of redemption in dying on the cross for our sins.
In Romans 10:9,10 and 13, God says:
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
This was the basis of the Gospel from the time the apostles preached it, and still is. Never was anyone asked to make a vow before being baptized.
At an early age, I recall reading the Bible story of Jesus telling Nicodemus how Moses had lifted up the brass serpent for healing from the fatal snake bite. Likewise, the Son of Man was lifted up on the cross to bring healing from sin.
It was at that moment that I, by faith, reached out to Jesus. Jesus reached out to me, and He lifted me into a place where a whole lifetime of vow making and law keeping was never able to take me.
Nowhere does Scripture ever indicate that salvation comes as a result of good deeds or by making and keeping vows. In fact, it tells us quite the opposite in Ephesians 2:8-9:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.
To teach vow keeping, is a serious error and needs to be settled in ones mind. The church of the Middle Ages may have required vows, however, our forefathers saw fit to break them, when those vows did not lead to a full and deep commitment to God’s principles. So, if the act of breaking a vow is sin, then our forefathers, indeed, sinned in breaking away from the mother church in Germany and Switzerland!
A vow, required by men, when scripture does not require it for salvation, results in becoming trapped. It is a no-win situation.
Answering to only the Amish vows is disobedience to God by not being open to a direct leading from Him, or allowing a personal relationship with Him. Leave the Amish, they say, and sin by violating your vows to them.
It becomes clear, on closer examination, that God cannot call any person in the Amish community to serve in any area of God’s choice. Thank God for His solution in providing a way to freedom from sin’s grip through the blood of Jesus!
The words in Proverbs 29:25 are so true:
“The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.”
Does the Amish church have power over those who leave the church, by condemning them? If they cannot assure salvation, can they assure condemnation?
Clearly, God has ultimate control over Heaven and Hell. His word is final. What He says is all that counts.
The charge of taking the blood of Christ under your feet may be made by those in authority. Is that true? Since we cannot accidentally, but only willfully come under the protection of the blood, we cannot accidentally trample or lose the protection of His blood.
When men lay such charges, we need to check with God, from His own Word, the Bible.
The laws of Moses were a direct dictation from God, but they could not save me. They do not have power over me. The law was given as a “schoolmaster” to lead us to a place where we would seek God’s provided means of salvation.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
The Amish Ordnung was not handed down from heaven. So, how can it have more power to save or condemn than the law? The fact is, the Ordnung of men is powerless to save, and has no power to condemn, when we are new creatures in Christ.
Think how many Amish people are defeated and often discouraged because they continually come short of their man-made standards. How many are bowed down and depressed, feeling unworthy and unacceptable before God. How many are crushed because they feel they have not only failed the church, but failed God. No matter how much they have tried to keep the law—to do good—they have failed. Therefore, God may not accept them, or so they feel.
Colossians 2:14 says:
[Jesus] Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances [man made rules] that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Now, it is a very common teaching among the Amish that we must obey our parents. The Biblical concept of obedience is of a love motivation, not a forced obedience. If we obey because we do not like the outcome of disobedience, we will never serve God with a pure heart.
If, when we find the gift of salvation, our heart overflows with a desire to follow and obey Jesus; only then will we be able to serve with a true heart.
Forced obedience never pleases God.
The Bible makes it very clear that sometimes we will have to disappoint those near to us in order to follow Jesus.
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
The main function of the Amish vows is to maintain control. After one becomes a member, what the leaders would call the “fear of God” is used to keep members in line. Just about any method is permitted to keep those members in line.
The leaders are often not very knowledgeable of the Bible, and have to use “mental force” to drive members back into the fold. They teach all members that they have the power of Heaven and Hell. Especially the power of hell, to bind any person over to Satan who continues in disobedience to the church rules.
Disobeying the church is considered the same as disobeying God. This belief is not based on the knowledge of scripture and what it says, but rather, it is the commandments of men, and their threats of punishment that occur when a transgression of the Ordnung takes place. Therefore, a warped idea of who God is, and what sin is, develops in the member’s mind.
The greatest reason why young Amish folks make that vow to the church in the first place is because they were intimidated and pressured into doing so.
Many of the young persons who are leaving the Amish church are not familiar with Scriptures, and soon reject all religious teaching, due to their previous training; they rebel against anyone who would dare to use authority over them.
Sin is seen as wearing the wrong clothes, different haircut, having electricity in the house, and driving a car. We were taught that anyone who turns their back on this teaching is to turn their back on God.
Clearly, this teaching has led many a young Amish person to leave the culture and live an immoral lifestyle. It also causes social disabilities, which, in turn, leads to alcohol, crime, and sometimes even prison.
Stories, such as explained in the previous paragraph, travel back to the Amish community. Those in authority positions, within the church, then give rise to more warnings, as to the downward path that results from anyone who has the nerve to make the break from the Amish community.
God hath spoken once; twice I have heard this; that power belongeth unto God. Psalm 62:11
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. John 14:6
In John 10:8-11, Jesus plainly teaches us…
All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers. But the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.
Marriage vows are scriptural. Church vows are not. Any church that preaches salvation through any other means than the blood of Jesus Christ, is not faithful to God’s Word.
The problem that many of us face when we feel led to leave the Amish culture, is that we usually have no Bible training to prove our case. Therefore, we tend to go on strong feelings, which may or may not be God working in us.
The question of whether it is sin to break one’s vows is not easily answered. I have discussed this at length with people that are not against, or for the Amish. I found that even Martin Luther and other Anabaptist forefathers had to break vows to get to where we are today in understanding scriptures!
If all vow breaking is sin, and can only be forgiven by going back, then even Martin Luther is lost!
Vows made in the Old Testament were always done with a love motive. They were made voluntarily, not a forced situation. But even if we don’t know for sure if our case is sin, there is a way to settle the issue. Take it to the cross and leave it there. The desire for a clean conscience has to overshadow any other desire.
As mentioned before, the main function of Amish vows is to maintain control over the local church. In almost all cases, Amish vows are made by young people who are not familiar with scripture. When we are then told that the vow was made by our own choice…was there any other option in Amish baptism?
Thank God for the power of the blood of Jesus Christ to completely wipe out the power of all sin! His power to save is so much greater than I had ever realized.
The writer to the Hebrews, says:
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated [set apart] for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. And having an high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Jesus Christ has opened up the way into God's presence for us. He has taken our sins upon Himself and bore the guilt and judgment of them for us. He has freed us from sin, removed all sin off of us. He is now ready to present us to God as being sinless and righteous. Jesus Christ has made us acceptable to God. He has provided a new and living way into the holiest place of all, into the very presence of God Himself. We can now know God, know Him personally and intimately; we can now commune and fellowship with God, have His presence and power in our lives as we walk day by day.
I Peter 1:18-19
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”—I Peter 1:18-19
Believers are to admire, worship, and stand in awe of God, because they have been redeemed. The word "Redeemed" means to be set free, delivered, and/or released from sin and shame.
Note again what the Scripture says:
"Ye were…NOT redeemed… from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers."
We need to be set free and delivered from the empty life that we have been taught to live. Our forefathers were wrong to ask for a vow. They have no Scriptural basis to stand on. Man-made rules and forced vows, only leave us empty and void, incomplete and unfulfilled, and it dooms us to death, to an eternity apart from God. —-See Colossians 2:21-23
Yes, I even took the promise that I had made, and then broke, to the cross where His blood is more then able to wash it clean!
Now, I am Free!
Are You Born Again?
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. —John 3:3
Being born again means to be saved and given a brand new life. This new birth does not come about through good works that you have done but is a free gift from God.
For by grace (God’s mercy) are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. —Ephesians 2:8-9
“...But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” —Romans 6:23
Jesus wants you to know
Receiving eternal life is as simple as receiving this gift. You don’t work for a gift … You just accept it. Read His promise to you in Romans 10:9-10 and John 3:16
Salvation is God's will for you, made real on earth. All His blessings are freely available in salvation. It includes everything Jesus Christ died to provide. A new life, peace with God, righteousness, mercy, love, faith, deliverance, and joy.
Why You Need To Be Born Again?
Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: —Romans 5:12
No one is born innocent before God. Romans 3:10 says…There's none righteous, no not one.
God Wants To Give You A New Heart Today!
The Bible says: A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. Ezekiel 36:26-27
We all need a heart transplant. We all need to be born again. That's why you must be born again. We are all condemned to death, and eternal punishment in Hell for our sins.
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. —John 3:18
The New Birth Is For Everyone!
The Bible says: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For whosoever shall call (or pray) upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. —Romans 10:9 & 13
Whosoever Means You!
Have you called on His Name? There's no need to wait because 2nd Corinthians 6:2 says: …behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
- Do you want to be forgiven and saved from all your sins?
- Do you believe Jesus Christ, God's Son died for you?
- Are you willing to repent of your sins and follow the Jesus?
- Will you receive Him as Lord of your life now?
Do You Want To Be Born Again?
If so, would you pray this prayer from your heart right now and tell God that you want to be saved.
Dear Lord, the best I know how, I come to you, asking you to save me and give me a new heart. I believe that you are the Son of God and that you came to earth and died on the cross for all my sins. Please forgive every sin that I have ever committed against You and save me right now. Amen
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