Expectant Elizabeth


The particular story from Scripture on which we’ll be focusing our attention today is a familiar one from the

 Bible and in life.  A women who wasn’t supposed to be a mother becomes a mother.  It’s a common story in the Bible (see Sarah, Rebekkah, Rachel, and Hannah), and yet it’s also a story that gets over-shadowed by another story:  the birth of the Savior.  Most of us are very familiar with the events recorded in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel since (along with information from Matthew’s Gospel) they constitute our Christmas story.   But, as you know, the Christmas story didn’t begin when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary or when Jesus was born in Bethlehem;   it began months earlier, and many miles away from Nazareth.

      That’s because, before Gabriel appeared to Mary and Joseph telling them they would be the mother and step-father of the Messiah, he had already appeared in Jerusalem to a priest named Zechariah to announce the birth of another miracle-boy who would be named John.   John the Baptizer would be a cousin to Jesus and, more than that, he would be the one God designated to Spiritually prepare people for the beginning of the Promised Messiah’s public ministry.

      The story of John is also the story of his father, Zechariah, and – of course – his mother, Elizabeth.  

      Historically our story today takes place at the end of four hundred years’ of Scriptural silence in the story of the Jewish people.  The last words of God recorded in the Old Testament had come through the inspired pen of the prophet Malachi.  His book included a prophecy concerning the coming Messiah insofar as He would be preceded by the last of the OT prophets…..a person who would call people to repentance with the same spirit and power of one of Israel’s greatest prophets, Elijah.   For centuries – going back to Adam and Eve in Eden – God’s people had been eagerly waiting for the arrival of the Messiah.   He was finally months from being born.  The angel Gabriel was now informing a dubious Zechariah that he and Elizabeth would be giving birth to that final OT prophet…..their son, John, the Second Elijah would be the one who would serve as the coming Savior’s herald.

      Zechariah and Elizabeth were both from the tribe of Levi.   He served as a priest.   She, too, was a descendent of Aaron, and it was from Aaron that the Jewish priesthood had descended.   In Luke’s Gospel we learn that Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.   They were good, godly people.   They would raise their son, John, to be godly too.

      Interestingly enough, Elizabeth was also a relative of Mary, who became Jesus’ mother.  When Gabriel appeared to Mary at beginning of the Christmas story he revealed to her – as a proof that she would miraculously give birth to the Savior — that her relative Elizabeth miraculously had become pregnant in her old age!

      Elizabeth and Zechariah had had no children because the Bible tells us that she was unable to conceive, and they were both quite old…..although how old, we really don’t know.   But we do know that Elizabeth experienced the heartache of not having a child while many of her peers did have children. All the couple could do was pray, trusting that God knew their needs, waiting on Him to answer their prayers in His time and in the way that He knew was best.   In all likelihood Zechariah and Elizabeth had resigned themselves to the fact that they would grow old together without children.   However, God was about to change their plans.

      Zechariah was serving as a priest in the Temple.   His division, or unit, of priests served on a rotating, part-time basis.   Doing the things he supposed to be doing one day, preparing a sacrifice so that it could be properly offered to the Lord, God interrupted his activity by sending an angel to him with a startling message:   his and Elizabeth’s prayers for a child were finally going to be answered.   Zechariah and his wife were going to become parents after all, even at their advanced age and in spite of Elizabeth being unable to conceive.    God was going to work a miracle in her.  More than that, however, God had a special plan for the child they would have.   That boy, whose name would be John, was going to play a critical part in the ministry of the long-promised Messiah for Whom Elizabeth, Zechariah and generations of faithful believers had been eagerly waiting.

      Because of the special way in which her son’s impending birth was announced, Elizabeth probably pictured him doing great things for God, maybe someday even becoming the high priest.  But God’s plan for her son was different from Elizabeth’s.   John wouldn’t become a priest.   Instead, after John grew up, he would proceed into the wilderness to live, and when the time was right God led him to the Jordan River to begin a public ministry that emphasized repentance, baptism, and preaching the message that the Promised Messiah was going to appear very soon. 


      The time for waiting was about to end.   The redemptive ministry of the Messiah was about to  begin.   And John – as well as his waiting parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were going to play a critical role in the story of our salvation…..a story that we’ll share and celebrate today.


This Morning’s Scripture Lessons


      Our Gospel Lesson and Sermon Text for this morning is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth receiving and believing God’s promise through the angel Gabriel that – even in their old age and with her inability to have children – He would miraculously give them a son.   That son, of course, would become known to us in Scripture as John the Baptist, the predicted forerunner of the Promised Messiah.    Undoubtedly Elizabeth was overjoyed at the prospect of finally having a child for her and Zechariah to love.   And it was certainly a blessing that their son was going to serve the Lord in such a prominent manner.   But what mattered most was that the long-awaited Savior was finally, immanently coming.    This morning we’ll talk about how Elizabeth was Expecting…..not only a Baby, but….Her Savior.   She waited in faith for Him.

      In this morning’s Children’s Lesson we’ll listen to part of the story of Elizabeth’s son: John the Baptizer.    He began his public ministry before Jesus did.   John’s job was to show people their sin and need for a Savior.   He encouraged people in his day (and ours) to repent (or turn away from their sin), and instead to live lives pleasing to God and obedient to His commands.  

      Our First Lesson is a familiar prophecy from Isaiah (who ministered over 7 centuries before Christ was born).   Through Isaiah’s inspired pen the Holy Spirit points ahead to the public ministry of the one (John) who would prepare the hearts and souls of God’s people – via a powerful message of repentance – to receive and believe in the coming Promised Messiah.   Please also note, at the reading’s close, the affirmation that God’s Word – no matter how it might be assaulted – will continue to survive and thrive til the very end of the world.

      In today’s Second Lesson comes to us from the Old Testament’s final book:   Malachi.   As with the preceding lesson, this portion of Scripture prophesies regarding the ministry of John, particularly how he would serve in a role similar to the prophet Elijah, calling people to repent.


Situated near our altar and in the front of the piano today, you’ll find an “Advent Wreath.”  It’s been our practice at Grace Lutheran to use an Advent Wreath during the Advent and Christmas seasons as a symbolic means for both preparing ourselves for the arrival of the Christ child and then joyously reflecting upon the arrival of that Savior.    The following brief history and explanation of the Advent Wreath’s symbolism is intended to help you enjoy and benefit from this traditional Christian expression.


The Advent Wreath


         The Advent wreath is a combination of two very common symbols:  light and the fir tree.   From the early centuries of Christianity it has been the practice to represent Christ by a burning candle.  The fir tree also has a long history of religious use.   One of the most popular themes for the medieval “mystery plays” revolved around the telling of the story of Paradise.  In those plays, the Garden of Eden was typically portrayed by a fir tree hung with apples.   In the Eastern churches (Eastern/Greek Orthodox) December 24th was celebrated as the Feast Day of Adam and Eve.    The custom of putting up a Paradise tree in the home on December 24th, decorated with apples, came into Europe (and the Americas) by way of the East.  In Germany there was also a custom of placing a lit Christmas candle on top of a wooden pyramid decorated with evergreen twigs.   In time the wooden pyramid was replaced by the Paradise tree, decorated with apples and lighted candles.

        No doubt the Advent wreath was suggested, at least in part, by the Christmas tree.   It seems that the Advent wreath originated a few hundred years ago among the Lutheran Christians of eastern Germany.  A wreath of evergreens, made of various sizes, was either suspended from the ceiling or placed on a table.   Four candles representing the four Sundays of Advent were fastened to the wreath.  Eventually the use of the Advent wreath became wide-spread and moved also from the home into the church.   The general symbolism of the Advent wreath lies in the growing light of the wreath, increasing each week as we approach the birthday of Jesus the Light of the world.

         The color of the candles in the Advent wreath is dictated by whatever emphasis a particular home or congregation gives to the season.   While the emphasis may change somewhat according to the sermons, the traditional emphases in Advent are those of repentance and anticipation (the Sunday sermons are generally more “up-beat” and “joyous,”  while mid-week sermons tend to be slightly more “sober” and “penitent” in character).  That’s why the altar cloths and furnishings are either in the color of purple (the traditional color of repentance) or blue (another penitential color) throughout the Advent season.   It’s no wonder, then, that the prevalent color (three out of five) of the Advent wreath candles is purple or blue.  

         The purple candle lit in our wreath on the first Sunday in Advent is called “the Candle of Prophecy,” and symbolizes the Old Testament prophecies of the coming of the Savior.   The second Advent candle (also purple) is referred to as the “Bethlehem Candle,” symbolizing the coming to earth of Jesus, the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary.  The Third Advent candle (pink or rose-colored) is the “Shepherd Candle” and represents the coming of the Savior into the hearts and lives of His believers through His Holy Word.  The pink/rose color serves to remind us that a note of joy should also heard in this penitential season.  The final purple candle is the “Angel Candle,” symbolizing the final coming of the Savior in glory with all His holy angels.  The white candle at the center of the wreath is the “Christ Candle,” symbolizing the perfection of Christ, the fulfillment of prophesy, and the centrality of Jesus in our Advent preparations.   This “Christ Candle” remains unlighted during Advent in anticipation of the birth of the Savior, the Light of the world.  Advent’s penitent emphasis focuses our attention on our sins and the need for a Savior, but on Christmas Day we joyfully celebrate the birth of that Savior….and so we then light the white Christ Candle.  

            White candles also replace the purple and pink ones, and the purple altar cloths are replaced by white altar cloths with the arrival of Christmas Day.   The wreath, now with all white candles, continues to be used until the Christmas Season officially ends with the arrival of Epiphany on January 6th.  The white altar cloths continue to be used through the first Sunday of Epiphany.   The colors then change to green.


Prayer in Preparation for Worship:   Heavenly Father, please guide me in wisdom and truth through Your Holy Spirit, as I spend this hour meditating on Your Word and rejoicing in Your limitless love for me.  Assist me in being attentive in heart and mind to Your Word, as well as to the hymns of praise, the various petitions, and the prayers of thanksgiving my voice directs toward You.  Use this worship service, O Lord, to deepen my love for You, to strengthen my trust in You, and to renew my commitment to You.  All this I ask for the sake of and in the name of Your One and only Son, Jesus Christ, my Savior.  Amen.


The portions of God’s Word used in this worship flyer have been taken from

The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version    Copyright 2019,  

The Wartburg Project, Inc.   All rights reserved.   Used with permission.


Pre-service prayer

Pre-worship music                                                                                                                                            


We Praise Our God


Welcoming and Introduction to Worship


after the Pastor’s greeting, the Congregation will rise


The Invocation


“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.   Amen.”


Our Psalm for Today                                                                                          selected verses of Psalm 111


P:   Praise the LORD.    

      C:  I will thank the LORD with all my heart   +   in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.

      P:   Great are the deeds of the LORD;   they are studied by all who delight in them.

      C:  Glorious and majestic is His work;    +   and His righteousness stands forever.  


      P:   He has set up a memorial to His wonders.   Gracious and compassionate is the LORD.

      C:  The works of His hands are truth and justice.     +   all His precepts are trustworthy. 

      P:   They are steadfast forever and ever.   +   Done in faithfulness and uprightness.

      C:  He sent redemption for His people;   +   He commanded His covenant forever —   Holy and Awesome is His name.  


      P:   The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;   all who do His precepts have good understanding. 

      C:  His praise stands forever.


after which the Congregation will be seated for


The Opening Hymn                                                              Hymn 28  “Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord”


1 Let the earth now praise the Lord,    Who has truly kept his word

And at last to us did send   Christ, the sinner’s help and friend.


2 What the fathers most desired,   What the prophets’ heart inspired,

What they longed for many a year   Stands fulfilled in glory here.


3 Abram’s promised great reward,   Zion’s helper, Jacob’s Lord —

Him of twofold race behold –   Truly came, as long foretold.


4 Welcome, O my Savior, now!   Joyful, Lord, to you I bow.

Come into my heart, I pray;   Oh, prepare yourself a way.


5 Crush for me the serpent’s head   That, set free from doubt and dread,

I may cling to you in faith,   Safely kept through life and death,


6 And, when you shall come again   As a glorious king to reign,

I with joy may see your face,   Freely ransomed by your grace.    Amen



after which the Congregation will rise for


We Make Confession Of Our Sins To God


Pastor      God, our Heavenly Father, invites us to come into His presence and to worship Him with humble and penitent hearts.  Therefore, let us now turn to Him, acknowledging our sinfulness and seeking His forgiveness for all our sins.

Congregation       Holy and merciful Father,   I confess that I am by nature sinful   and that I have disobeyed You in my thoughts, words, and actions;    I have done what is evil in Your sight   and have failed to do what is good.    For this I know that I deserve Your punishment, both now and for eternity.     But I am truly sorry for all my sins    and trusting in the perfect life     and innocent death of my Savior, Jesus Christ,     I plead:    God have mercy on me, a sinner.


(Sung)  Lord have mercy on us.   Christ Have Mercy on Us

Lord have mercy on us.


Pastor      Our gracious Lord and Master has shown us His mercy:   He has given His one and only Son to save us from all our sins.     And now, having humbly and sincerely confessed your sins before Almighty God, be strengthened in your faith, mindful that our Lord is not willing that anyone should perish eternally, but that everyone should come to repentance, turning from their evil ways and receiving from Him everlasting life.    God has commanded His ministers to declare His forgiveness of sins to all who are penitent.   Therefore, addressing you as a called servant of Christ,  and according to His command and under His authority,   I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


May the peace of God rest upon all of you.    Amen.


Pastor –                        “Behold, people of God!  Your King comes to you; 


Congregation –            He is just and brings salvation!


Pastor –                        “Rejoice people of God!   Your Lord Jesus Christ has appeared and fulfilled God’s promises of old for your comfort and salvation.”


Congregation –    Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.   +   From the house of the Lord we bless You!


(Sung)   Glory be to God on high and on earth peace good will to me.

We praise You, we bless You, we worship You.

We glorify You, we give thanks to You for Your great glory.

O Lord God heavenly King, God the Father almighty.

O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ,

O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,

You take away the sin of the world.   Have mercy on us.

You take away the sin of the world.   Receive our prayer.

You sit at the right hand of God the Father.   Have mercy on us.

For You only are holy.   You only are the Lord.

You only, O Christ, with the Holy Spirit.

Are most high in the glory of God the Father.   Amen



The Prayer For The Third Sunday in Advent                                                                                                 


O Almighty God, Father in heaven  +  mercifully hear the prayers of Your people,   +   that as we rejoice in the celebration  +   of Your only-begotten Son’s first coming   +    to live among us and to give His life for us,  +   so may we also joyfully receive Him without fear   +   when He comes again in all His glory   +   to redeem His Church and to judge our world on the Last Day.   +  All this we ask   +   in the name of Jesus Christ,   +  Your Son our Lord   +   Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit   +   as the One God,  forever and ever.   +   Amen. 


after which the Congregation will be seated


We Hear God’s Word


The First Lesson                                                                                                                            Isaiah 40:1-8


1  Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.   2 Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call out to her.  Her warfare really is over.  Her guilt is fully paid for.  Yes, she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  3 A voice is calling out: In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord.  In the wasteland make a level highway for our God.  4 Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain and hill will be made low.  The rugged ground will become level,  and the rough places will become a plain.  5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,  and all flesh together will see it.   Yes, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.  6 A voice was saying, “Cry out!”

And I said, “What shall I cry out?”  All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like a wildflower in the countryside.  7  Grass withers, flowers fade, when the breath of the Lord blows on them.  Yes, the people are grass.  8  Grass withers, flowers fade, but the Word of our God endures forever.



The Second Lesson                                                                                                              Malachi 3:1;   4:5-6


Look! I am sending my messenger! He will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord, whom you are seeking, will come to his temple! The Messenger of the Covenant, in whom you delight, will surely come, says the Lord of Armies………5 Look! I am going to send Elijah the prophet to you before the great and fearful day of the Lord comes! 6 He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with complete destruction.


after which the Congregation will REMAIN SEATED for


The Gospel Lesson (and Sermon Text)                                                                     Luke 1:5-25, 39-45, 56-66


            5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a certain priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and righteous decrees of the Lord. 7 They did not have a child because Elizabeth was unable to bear children, and they were both well along in years. 8 On one occasion, while Zechariah was serving as priest before God and his division was on duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 The whole crowd of people were praying outside the temple during the hour of the incense offering.

            11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome by fear. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son for you, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 because he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, to turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to prepare a people who are ready for the Lord.”

            18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this, because I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years?”

            19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and was sent to speak to you in order to tell you this good news. 20 Now listen, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things happen, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at the proper time.”

            21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering what was taking him so long in the temple. 22 When he did come out, he was unable to speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. He kept making signs to them and remained unable to speak.

            23 When the days of his priestly service were completed, he went back to his home.

            24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived. She kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25 “The Lord has done this for me in the days when he looked with favor on me and took away my disgrace among the people.”

            ………..39 In those days Mary got up and hurried to the hill country, to a town of Judah. 40 She entered the home of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 Just as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 She called out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 In fact, just now, as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy! 45 Blessed is she who believed, because the promises spoken to her from the Lord will be fulfilled!”

            ………..56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home.  57 When the time came for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they were rejoicing with her. 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. They wanted to call him Zechariah after the name of the father. 60 But his mother answered, “No. He will be called John.”

            61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 They made signs to his father, to see what he wanted to name him.

            63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they were all amazed.

            64 Immediately Zechariah’s mouth was opened, his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came on all who lived around them. In the entire hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 And everyone who heard this took it to heart, saying, “What then will this child be?” Clearly, the hand of the Lord was with him.


after which the Congregation will rise to join in confessing


The Nicene Creed


I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,   +   Maker of heaven and earth,   +   and of all things visible and invisible.   +   And in one Lord Jesus Christ,   +   the only-begotten Son of God,  + begotten of His Father before all worlds,  +  God of God,   +  Light of Light.   +  Very God of Very God.   +   Begotten, not made.   +   Being of one substance with the Father,  +   By whom all things were made;    +   Who for us men and for our salvation,   +   came down from heaven    +   And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary    +   And was made man;   +   And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.   +    He suffered and was buried;  +   And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures;    +   And ascended into heaven,  +   And sitteth on the right hand of the Father;    +   And he shall come again with glory,  +  to judge both the quick and the dead;   +   Whose Kingdom shall have no end.    +    And I believe in the Holy Ghost,   +   The Lord and Giver of Life,   +   Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,   +   Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,   +   Who spake by the Prophets.   +   And I believe one holy Christian and Apostolic Church.   +   I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,   +   And I look for the resurrection of the dead,   +   And the life of the world to come.    +  Amen.


The Children’s Lesson                                                                                                             Matthew 3:1-12


In those days, John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, 2

“Repent, because the kingdom of heaven is near!” 3 Yes, this is he of whom this was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:  A voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight.”

            4 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem, all of Judea, and all the region around the Jordan were going out to him. 6 They were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for his baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit in keeping with repentance! 9 Do not think of saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. 10 Already the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I baptize you with water for repentance. But the one who comes after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clean out his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”


What John Preached….We Should Practice


The Sermon Hymn                                                              Hymn 16 “On Jordan’s Bank The Baptist’s Cry”


1 On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry   Announces that the Lord is nigh;

Come, then, and listen, for he brings  Good news about the King of kings.


2 Then cleansed be ev’ry life from sin   And furnished for a guest within,

And let us all our hearts prepare  For Christ to come and enter there.


3 We hail you as our Savior, Lord,  Our refuge and our great reward.

Without your grace we waste away  Like flow’rs that wither and decay.


4 Stretch forth your hand, our health restore,  And lift us up to fall no more.

Oh, make your face on us to shine,  And fill the world with love divine.


5 All praise to you, eternal Son,   Whose advent has our freedom won,

Whom with the Father we adore  And Holy Spirit evermore.     Amen.


After which the Congregation will remain seated for


The Greeting      Grace and peace be yours in abundance, through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  May the God of peace fill you with all joy in believing!   Amen.


Sermon Text                                                                                                                Luke 1:5-25,39-45, 56-66

                                                                                                                                    (Today’s Gospel Lesson)


Elizabeth Was Expecting….A Son….and Her Savior


following the Sermon, the Congregation will rise for



The Post-Sermon Blessing


Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, to Him to glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever.  Amen!


The Offertory –                                                                                                                          Psalm 51:10-12


(Sung)    Create in me a clean heart O God   And renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from Your presence,   And take not Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation.   And uphold me with Your free Spirit.    Amen.


We Offer Our Gifts and Prayers to the Lord


Our Offerings of Love to our Lord


Because we aren’t able to pass an offering plate today during today’s worship service, those in attendance may leave their offerings in the offering plates by the exits at the close of our service.    For those watching today’s service, we offer you the following suggestions for providing God with Your thank-offerings through our ministry:     

1) You can mail a check (no cash) to the church address (415 N. 6th Place, Lowell, AR 72745)

2) You can go to our website (www.gracelutherannwa.com) and use the giving option.


At the Pastor’s invitation, the Congregation will rise for                      


The Prayers for this Day  

Included in our prayers today are:


An Intercessory Prayer on behalf of our brother and sister, Darrell and Bev Anderson,

who are receiving treatments at the Highlands Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

following a recent automobile accident.

We also offer

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Bill and Rosy Krizsan, who will celebrate their anniversary Saturday.


The Lord’s Prayer


Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen.


We Celebrate the Lord’s Supper


Pastor –                        The Lord be with you.


Congregation                          (Sung)       And with You also



Pastor –                        Lift up your hearts.


Congregation                          (Sung)       We lift them up to the Lord



Pastor –                        Let us give thanks unto the Lord, our God.


Congregation                          (Sung)       It is good and right so to do.



Pastor –    It is truly good and right that we should at all times and in all places give You thanks, O Lord, Holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Whose way John the Baptist prepared when he called people to repentance and pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.    Therefore, with angels and archangel, and all the company of heaven, we praise Your holy name and join their glorious song:




(Sung)    Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of heavenly hosts.

Heaven and earth are full of Your glory

Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is He, Blessed is He, Blessed is He

Who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.



Consecration of the Communion Elements                                                                                                                                                                (Pastor)



Pastor –                        The peace of the Lord be with you always.


Congregation                       (Sung)  Amen.


O Christ, Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world;

Have mercy on us.

O Christ, Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world;

Have mercy on us.

O Christ, Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world;

Grant us peace.   Amen.



The Exhortation Regarding the Lord’s Supper                                                                                   (Pastor)


The First Distribution Hymn          “Thy Table I Approach”


Thy table I approach, dear Savior hear my prayer.

Oh, let no unrepented sin prove hurtful to me there.


1   Lo, I confess my sins    And mourn their wretched bands;

A contrite heart is sure to find   Forgiveness at Thy hands.


2   Thy body and Thy blood,    Once slain and shed for me.

Are taken here with mouth and soul,   In blest reality.


3    Search not how this takes place,   This wondrous mystery.

God can accomplish vastly more than seemeth plain to Thee.


4    Vouchsafe, O blessed Lord,   That earth and hell combined

May ne’er about this Sacrament   Raise doubt within my mind.


5    Oh, may I never fail   To thank Thee day and night

For Thy true body and true blood   O God, my Peace and Light!    Amen.


The Second Distribution Hymn                                Hymn 315  “Here, O My Lord, I See You Face to Face”


1 Here, O my Lord, I see you face to face;

 Here would I touch and handle things unseen,

Here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,

And all my weariness upon you lean.


2 This is the hour of banquet and of song; 

Here is the heav’nly table spread anew.

Here let me feast and, feasting, still prolong

The brief bright hour of fellowship with you.


3 I have no help but yours nor do I need

Another arm but yours to lean upon.

It is enough, O Lord, enough indeed;

My strength is in your might, your might alone.


4 Mine is the sin but yours the righteousness;

Mine is the guilt but yours the cleansing blood.

Here is my robe, my refuge, and my peace:

Your blood, your righteousness, O Lord, my God.


5 Too soon we rise; the vessels disappear.

The feast, though not the love, is past and gone.

The bread and wine remove, but you are here,

Nearer than ever, still my shield and sun.


6 Feast after feast thus comes and passes by,

Yet, passing, points to that glad feast above,

Giving sweet foretaste of the festal joy,

The Lamb’s great marriage feast of bliss and love.   Amen.



We Leave With The Lord’s Blessing


at the Pastor’s invitation the Congregation will rise for


The Closing Prayer


The Benediction        


The LORD bless you and keep you.

                        The LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.

                                    The LORD look with favor upon you, and give you His peace.   Amen.



The Closing Hymn                                                                        Hymn 6   “Come, O Long Expected Jesus”


1 Come, O long-expected Jesus,  Born to set your people free;

From our sins and fears release us   By your death on Calvary.

Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope to all the earth impart,

Dear Desire of ev’ry nation,  Joy of ev’ry longing heart.


2 Born your people to deliver,   Born a child and yet a king,

Born to reign in us forever,   Now your gracious kingdom bring.

By your own eternal Spirit   Rule in all our hearts alone;

By your all-sufficient merit   Raise us to your glorious throne.    Amen.


Silent Prayer, Announcements, Post-Service Music                                                                                         




This Past Week at Grace Lutheran Church                                      Last Sunday’s Worship Attendance: 62

Bible Class: 16           Sunday School: 7             Tuesday Bible Class: 13

Budgetary Offerings:   $3955         School Fund: $10      

Midweek Advent Attendance:   28                                       Wednesday Evening Budgetary Offerings:   $735


Birthdays and Anniversary This Week       Dec 17   Rose Diesel;     Dec 17 – Ledger Lemmon

 Dec 19   Rosy & Bill Krizsan (A);


Serving Next Week:                                                                 Altar Guild:   Harriet Johnson, Tina Wambold

Ushers:   Drake Schwartz, Kent Mayer, Tom Otto                                       Elders: John Johnson, Steve Stone


This Coming Week at Grace Lutheran Church


Today                          Morning Worship with the Lord’s Supper,  9:30 a.m.

                                    Bible Class/Sunday School – 15 minutes after worship concludes

                                    Confirmation Class, 12:00 to 1:15 p.m.          

Tuesday                          Morning Bible Study, 10:30 to 11:30a.m.                                                                  

Wednesday         Third Midweek Advent Worship Service, 7:00 p.m.

Saturday                     Outreach Calling/Visitation, 10:00 a.m.

Sunday                       Morning Worship, 9:30 a.m.              

                                    Bible Class/Sunday School, 15 minutes after worship

                                    Youth Confirmation Class, 12:00 to 1:15 p.m.


“Angels of Grace” Tree in the Lobby  – Every year we put up a Christmas tree in our lobby….and every year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas we put special needs and requests “angels” on our tree – opportunities for us, as the “church family” that is Grace Lutheran, to give gifts to brothers and sisters in our congregation who have a variety of personal and special needs.    This year has been a very unusual one, as we all recognize.  But one thing that hasn’t changed is that there are a number of personal needs within our church family that we can meet together.   If you are so inclined, we encourage you to use this angel tree to provide one of your brothers or sisters with a special gift that expresses your love, concern and encouragement.   (……..And for any questions, please speak with Pastor.)

            What to do………Please take one or more of the angels off the tree (there are 60 of them).  They are “color-coded” by category and responsibility (see notes below).  Inside each envelope is a numbered gift suggestion.   Please try to satisfy that need during this week.   With the number displayed prominently on the outside for identification, bring your gift either to our December 16th Wednesday evening service, or next Sunday (Dec 20)  and leave it in Pastor’s office.  He will see to it that they are distributed in the days leading up to Christmas.        Gift/Need Color Code…….Blue  –  General Needs ($25+ gift card & food gift);    Orange – Special/ General Need (larger monetary gifts….$40 and up);     Green – Special “Someone” (male or female gift, & food gift);    Purple–  Shut-in Gift (card/plant-poinsettia/ food snack/gift);       Pink – Special Health Issue (encouraging card;  plant/Poinsettia, and food snack-gift);     and Yellow – Special Need – children’s need or a need for a particular household (gift cards for Christmas gifts or help with a bill).    Thank you! God bless you for your kindness and love!


Midweek Advent Worship Services Continue THIS WEDNESDAY –    We’ll once again meet up in our chapel to hold the last of three special midweek evening worship services this coming Wednesday, December 16th, starting at 7:00 p.m     The theme of this year’s services is “Isaiah’s Inspired Names For Jesus.”   The topic of Wednesday evening’s meditation, based on Isaiah 9:6b, will be “Jesus is our Everlasting Father.”    We hope that all of you will make the effort to be with us this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. as we join together to better prepare ourselves spiritually for the celebration of our Savior’s birth.    


Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Worship Services     Please join us for worship on Christmas Eve (Thursday) at 7:00 p.m. as we close our out Advent preparations through a special service called “The Names of the Christ Child.”   The next morning, (Friday, December 25th), we’ll return at 9:30 a.m. for the festival celebration of Christ’s nativity.  This service will include the singing of some very traditional and meaning-filled Christmas hymns.   We’re looking forward to joining with you in this special observance of Jesus’ birth. – And don’t forget to invite those of your family and friends who don’t have a church home of their own to come and celebrate our Savior’s birth with us!


Bible Classes This Week      This morning, we’re starting a new Bible study course:   The Letters of John.   Known as “the Apostle of Love,” John had been part of Jesus’ “inner circle” of disciples and so was an eye- and ear-witness to the events and messages of Jesus’ ministry.  The Holy Spirit had John prepare three letters (as well as the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation) for the benefit of the Church 2000 years ago….but also for our benefit today.   Given the stressful events of the particularly the last nine months, and the effect of that stress on our culture (and our own dispositions, at times), John’s Letters are well worth our attention today, since they provide us (among other instruction) with a better, more loving approach to dealing with each other.  Class starts approximately 15 minutes after our service concludes.   In our Tuesday morning Bible Class (10:30 to 11:30;   in-person and over-the-phone) we’ll continue working through the book of 2 Samuel.   This Tuesday we’ll be studying the final chapters of that book….chapters 22-24.   As we do we’ll examine a Psalm David wrote (chapter 22….which is also Psalm 18), talk about David’s “mighty men of valor” who supported him throughout days as king-in-waiting and as Israel’s monarch, and then study the traumatic three year famine that afflicted Israel because of David’s arrogance. 


DEVOTIONAL BOOKS FOR YOU,   In the entry are 2 devotional books:   Meditations (our church’s daily devotion book);  and “The Jesse Tree,” a set of Advent devotions, prepared by our Martin Luther College faculty (where Kelvin Johannes goes).   Take home your copy today!


Your Photographs are  needed……….   for a new church “Picture Display.”   We’d like to have a CURRENT photo of every one in our congregation.   Some of you have already had your picture taken today.   If not, please give us the opportunity to do so before you leave today, or next week.   Fred Cusanelli will be at the main entry/exit after worship to take your photos.


New Year’s Eve Worship Service Coming……   Please remember that on Friday evening, December 31st, we will be holding a special service of thanksgiving to our God for His guidance and blessings from which we benefitted physically and spiritually during this very unique year of 2020, and we’ll seek His continued blessings as we sit on the threshold of a new year, 2021.  Our service on New Year’s Eve will include a celebration of the Lord’s Supper and begins at 7:00 p.m.  We’ll hold this final service of the year 2020 in our chapel.   Please join us!

Bible Study Winter 2020

Grace Lutheran Church, Lowell, AR

The Three Letters of John


I John

The Christian’s Confident Assurance……..

We Have the Truth, and We Truly Are God’s Children Through Faith in Christ


  1. Author and Date


The writer is not directly identified by name in the text, but there has never been any question regarding who was the author of I John.  Both from external affirmations of very prominent early Church “Fathers” (such as Irenaeus [140-203]; Clement of Alexander [150-215]; Tertullian [135-222]; and Origin [185-235]), as well as from the internal evidence in this epistle, we can be certain that the Apostle John wrote this letter which bears his name.  Even the most casual of readers cannot fail to recognize the profound similarities in writing style, vocabulary, and choice of expressions between the Gospel of John and the first Epistle of John.  In addition there are a number of “eyewitness” references regarding the person and work of Christ (1:2; 4:14), an authoritative tone (consistent with the office of an Apostle), and indications that the author was an aged man (“my little children”) which all support the church’s traditional position that John the Apostle wrote this epistle.


It’s difficult to determine exactly when I John and its sister epistles were written.  In all probability, they were penned after 85 A.D. (the approximate date of the writing of the Gospel of John) and before 95 A.D.



  1. The Recipients


Unlike most epistles, I John does not address a specific congregation or group of people.  It seems quite likely on the basis of the foregoing that I John was a “circular” letter, intended to be read in a number of congregations.   From early church history evidence that we possess, we know that John resided in the city of Ephesus from @ 70 to 100 A.D.   We also know that he was directed to write what we now know as the book of Revelation for seven Asia Minor churches that surrounded the city of Ephesus.  In all likelihood, then, this circular letter also was written for the members of those congregations surrounding the “mother church” of Ephesus.   Incidentally, on the basis of internal evidence (see  2:13, 14, 20, 21) we can confidently say that I John was addressed to experienced Christians (not novices) who had been well instructed in the faith.



III.   Observations by Luther on I John


“….the first epistle of John is a genuine apostolic epistle and ought to follow right after his gospel.  For as in the gospel he promulgates faith, so here he opposes those who boast of faith without works.  He teaches in many different ways that works are not absent where faith is….He does this, however, not by harping on the law, as the epistle of James does, but by stimulating us to love even as God has loved us…..He also writes vigorously here against the Cerinthians, against he spirit of Antichrist, which was beginning even then to deny that Christ has come in the flesh…..Thus the epistle…keeps us in the true middle way, that we become righteous and free from sin through faith;  and then, when we are righteous, that we practice good works and love for God’s sake, freely and without seeking anything else.”  LW 35:393).



  1. A Brief Outline


  1. The great blessing extended to us by the incarnation and death of Christ (chapter 1)
  2. How we should show our gratitude to Christ for His blessing (chapters 2 and 3)
  3. A warning not to be turned from this gratitude by false teachers (chapters 4 and 5)



  1. The Gnostic/Cerinthian Heresy in John’s Time


There were a variety of heresies that afflicted the Christian Church during its first centuries.  Those heresies included:  Docetism, Arianism, Cerinthianism/Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Apollinariasm, Pelagianism, Nestorianism, and monophysitism.   The heresy with which John contended was an “embryonic” from of Gnosticism (which would become fully developed over the @ next 150 years).   This type of gnosticism was essentially “dualism,”  where anything spiritual was regarded as good and anything material was regarded as evil.  As a result, the gnostics of John’s time taught:


            1)         The human body is evil;  and that they body, therefore, can be treated severely (e.g. asceticism).

            2)         Salvation is release from ones physical body, and is achieved through attaining a special “gnosis” (knowledge)

3)         That Christ was not a true, physical human.  The Gnostics maintained either that He merely  “seemed” to be human, but wasn’t (Docetism);  or that the real Christ “inhabited” the body of the man Jesus immediately after His baptism and left Him just before His death on the cross (Cerinthianism).

            4)         Amazingly, they also allowed for a very libertine (sexually immoral) lifestyle, reasoning that the physical body was evil (as opposed to evil being the breaking the Ten Commandments), and so was beyond redemption;  and that there were no moral or eternal consequences for breaking God’s Law.


Specific to John’s writing was the fact that some of the more talented, intellectual and influential members of the congregations to which the Apostle was writing had withdrawn from the fellowship in order to form another/different fellowship of their own (2:19).   They claimed that they had improved upon what they had previously been taught by John and others.     Naturally, confusion abounded.   Who was right?   To what truths/teachings should they hold fast?     How could anyone truly know who was, and who was not a child of God?



  1. The Purpose of I John



…in a phrase, was “to combat the gnostic/Cerinthian heresy.”    John states his purpose in two ways:    A)    to expose false teachers (2:26), highlighting their immorality (3:8-10);  and, conversely,   B)    to give believers the assurance of salvation through faith in the Gospel (5;13), especially focusing on the incarnation of Christ for them (1:3).


John’s aims were to alternately prove that Christ is God; and then to move his readers to Christian action as their grateful response (and glowing evidence) to their being saved.


We need to recognize that the spiritual problems and challenges that John and his readers faced in the late 1st century are our issues too – and so the principals and objectives of faith which the Apostle lays out are not at all irrelevant to us, but are actually very contemporary and applicable to our lives of faith.




  • The Main Emphases of this Epistle


To the question, “How can a person know whether he/she has the truth, or is just merely being presumptuous?”  John offers us three “tests.”  They are:


            Truth – (The Doctrinal Test)  that God has given us the sure knowledge of Himself in Christ

                        (Also, bear in mind that “truth” without “love” is dead orthodoxy);


Righteousness/Obedience – (The Moral Test) Through the Gospel He has given us the motivation to obey His commandments (Also, remember that “righteousness” without “truth”/doctrine results in legalism); and


Love – (The Social Test)   He has given us the basis for a new relationship with Him and with  others  (Also, we need to realize that “love” without “righteousness” is nothing more than immorality.)



VIII.  Notes on Key Verses


            1:1       “which we have seen with our eyes, which we have observed, and our hands have touched regarding the Word of life” – John affirms his right to speak as an eyewitness of the ministry of the “Word of Life.”


Incidentally, let’s take notice of the similarity between these opening verses of I John and the opening verses of the Gospel of John.        


            1:3       John’s purpose:  “so that you also may have fellowship with us.”     This implies that there were divisions in the church(es) to which John wrote…division developed by certain teachers – who, in spite of their claims to be orthodox are actually outside the true fellowship of believers.    These individuals had actually denied the truth about Christ and so – whether they realized it or not – they were attempting to deprive their unwitting hearers of continuing fellowship with Christ.


In general, from your personal experiences what are some of the ways through which contemporary false teachers – notably those “inside” the visible church – try to compromise and corrupt true Christian “fellowship” today?


            1:1-4    Why does John in these verses make such a point of emphasizing the way in which He “experienced”/encountered the Word?


            1:5       “heard from Him and proclaim to you” – John’s Gospel was not “here-say.”


“God is light.  In Him there is no darkness at all” – an interesting way of expressing God’s righteousness and holiness.


            1:6       “But still walk in the darkness” – i.e., living impenitently in our sins…all the while claiming a faith-relationship with Christ.


            1:7       “the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” – ours is a bloody religion, built upon the blood of our sin-substitute, Jesus Christ.   Succinctly, John describes the atoning justifying work of Christ for us.


Why did God demand “blood” (offered/displayed in various ways in connection with the OT ceremonial/worship laws) as the way of making payment for sin?


            1:8       How can any human being actually and “honestly” claim to be without sin?


            1:9       What hope does John offer to those who have failed to live as God expects His children to live?


            1:10     “we make Him out to be a liar”   ….How?


                        “and His word is not in us” – Isn’t that an awfully strong and judgmental statement to make?


                        Look at the following verses (1:6, 8, & 10;   2:4, 6, & 9)  and answer these questions:    What were the false teachers evidently saying about……God?     Sin?    Forgiveness?    Christian living?       In contrast, what truths does John stress about each of those subjects?


            2:1       “so that you will not sin” …..  Seriously, is this possible?   Isn’t “the bar” being set too high here?    What hope does John give when people to slip and fall into sin?


                        “We have an Advocate before the Father” – part of Jesus’ office as High Priest:  He is our mediator.   (I Timothy 2:5).    By the way, which are the other two “offices”/roles of Christ our Redeemer?


            2:2       “Atoning Sacrifice”  – (see Leviticus 16:6-22, 34)


                        What modern-day example(s) might you offer – as a way of better explaining to someone unfamiliar with the OT rituals — to describe what John is talking about in connection with “the atoning sacrifice”? 


“He is the Atoning Sacrifice…for the whole world” – He died for all;  not just for believers!  Since this is true, then, what some church bodies teach as the “limited atonement” (that Jesus died only for those who would believe in Him) cannot be correct.   Can you identify a few of those church bodies which teach that Christ’s atoning work was/is limited only to those who do, or will believe?     


What are some of the theological problems that might arise out of this false teaching of a “limited atonement”?


            2:4       “The one who says ‘I know Him,’ but does not keep His commands is a liar…”    This is an important passage to remember when matters pertaining to “Church Discipline” develop in the midst of a Christian congregation.


                        The “Know” in verse 3 is contrasted with the “know” in verse 4;  the latter is “intellectual”/head knowledge, while the former is an “intimate, spiritual” knowledge.


            2:6       What does this really mean for me and my spiritual life that I “walk as Jesus did?”


            2:7-8    What is the “old command” about which John writes in this verse?  (See John 15:12, 17;   Leviticus 19:18;    Deuteronomy 6:5)   


Likewise, what’s the “new command” that the Apostle mentions here?


            2:9       What constitutes “hate”?


            2:10     “there is nothing in him to make him stumble”   What’s John saying here?


            2:11     “darkness has blinded” – this is a man’s hardening of his heart toward God


Regarding the deadly sin of “hardening” ones heart toward God……..see Mark 3:28,29;    Acts 7:51-53;    Matthew 23:37;   Exodus 8:15, 19, 32   plus Exodus 9:7, 35 – also Exodus 9:12;  Exodus 10:1, 20, 27;   and Exodus 11:10


            2:12-14            ….did you notice the repetitious pattern here:   Children, Fathers, Young Men, Children, Fathers, Young Men?     What’s the significance of this list and the information provided about the children, fathers and young men?


            1:5-2:14           In light of what’s been said in this section, how would you respond to the person who says the following:   “It doesn’t really matter how I live.   As long as I’m a Christian God will forgive me anyway”?


Where today (in our/your world) do you see some of the false claims/teachings and attitudes that John has challenged (and corrected) in this opening section of his epistle?


            2:15     “do not love the world or anything in the world” … more than God;  it’s alright to love family and friends, pets and even material possessions unless and until those “worldly” objects/people replace the number one spot in the believer’s life which belongs only to the Lord.

                        Where are some of the places and ways in you life where love for the world competes in your life with love for the Lord?


            2:16     “Everything in the world” – what does John mean by this term?


2:17     “the one who does the will of God remains forever” – does this teach that “works righteousness” is actually the way for us to secure a place in heaven?


            2:18     What does John mean by the words – “last hour”?


                        How would you recognize an antichrist if you met one?  (see also I John 4:1-3)


                        “many antichrists” – anyone who opposes Christ is an “antichrist”


                        “THE Antichrist” – who/what is this?


            2:19     “They went out from us” – enemies of the Church who, although the were members of the visible congregation, really didn’t belong to the true/invisible Church.


            2:20     “an anointing from the Holy One” – (see John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13)   How is this related to knowing the truth?


            2:23     No one who denies the Son has the Father – in John’s time it was the Gnostics who denied the truth about Christ.   Two hundred plus years later it was the Arians.  In our time it is the “Theological Liberals/Higher Critics” and the “Post-Modernists.”   The point is that regardless of the era in history, the lie lives on….through Satan’s efforts to undermine the Gospel.


            2:26     Here is one of the purposes of I John:  to warn the faithful about false teachers.


            2:27     You don’t need anyone to teach you “anything new” – this was a recurring problem in the Church in its infancy….the false teacher’s continuing claim that the basic Gospel (the Good News about Christ living perfectly, dying sacrificially and rising glorious for us and our salvation) wasn’t the whole truth;  that there was more that one had to know and become in order to actually be certain of his/her eternal salvation.     Where can you see that kind of “add on” attitude in the “Christian church” today?


            3:1       “The Children of God”


            3:2       “what we will be has not yet been revealed”


            3:3       “Everyone….purifies himself” – Isn’t this the Holy Spirit’s work?


            3:4       “Sin is lawlessness” – a good, succinct definition.


            3:6       “keeps on sinning”  – without genuine repentance.   What’s the difference between being “sorry” for a sin and being “contrite/repentant” over a sin?

            3:8       “to destroy the works of the devil” – the destruction of our souls.


            3:9-10  “Nobody has been born of God continues to sin” …..  “Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God” …..Since you and I sin and don’t always do what is right, do these two verses say that we aren’t God’s children?


            3:11     Why is it so hard for us — even as Christians — to “love one another?”


            3:13     What are some of the manifestations of the world’s hatred toward the Church that you have witnessed or experienced?


            3:16     This is “agape” love (giving sacrificially without asking for anything in return).  It’s the love that God enjoins us to demonstrate for each other, and which husbands are to demonstrate toward their wives (Ephesians 5:25).


            3:17-18            ….an encouragement to actually be benevolent by physically giving and helping, not just by offering our words of support.


            3:19-20            When would your heart condemn you?  Where do you find comfort when your conscience afflicts you?


            3:22     “whatever we ask” – really, whatever?


            3:23     This is almost a parallel to Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37-40.


            4:1       “test the spirits” – Why?  How?


                        How do people motivated by the Spirit differ from false teachers in their (the false teachers’) attitudes toward Christ?    ….and, how do they differ in their attitude toward the world?


            4:4       “the one in you is greater than the one in the world” – what a comforting statement/truth for the Christian!


            4:5-6    Note the obvious contrast that will exist between children of the world and the children of God…..we’ll talk and act differently.  At least we should….


            4:7-21              “Love” is mentioned 27 times in this section.   About what kind of “love” is this section talking?


            4:9       Jesus is the manifestation of God’s love among us.  See also Hebrews 1:1-3.  We know that God and God’s love are like by virtue of Jesus having assumed our humanity and living among us for a time.


            4:10     God loved us…even when we were His enemies.


            4:11     Our motivation for loving one another…..not because someone is likeable, or nice, or sorry, but because God loves us….how can we not love one another?

            4:12     “No one has ever seen God”  – really?


            4:17     How can love be “brought to its goal in us”?


            4:18     “there is no fear” – fear of divine judgment.


            5:3       “and his commands are not burdensome” – this is a theme repeated often in Psalm 119.  God’s Law is the believer’s delight!  ….


            5:4       “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” …. both in the sense of the initial victory of turning from unbelief to faith, and in the continuing, day-by-day overcoming of sin (even if it isn’t flawless) of the Christian who sets his/her heart — with the Holy Spirit’s help — on doing the will of God.


            5:6       “water” and “blood” – baptism and the cross.


            5:7       “there are three that testify” – the OT law required two or three witnesses to verify truth (Dt 17:6;  19:5)


            5:11-12            Without proper faith in Christ there is no hope of eternal life, regardless of a person’s religious sincerity and devotion.


            5:13     The second stated purpose for this letter.


            5:1-4 & 10-13 Using these verses, how would you explain to someone what being a Christian is all about?


                                    Using the “love test” (from verse 1;  to love God is to show love to His children), how are you doing at loving God?


            5:13-15            How does the assurance of eternal life (v. 13) relate to our confidence in prayer?


            5:14     Prayer, according to God’s will, works.   But not when it’s “My will be done.”  This verse goes a long way in explaining why many people don’t get what they pray for….


            5:16     The sin that leads to death – Matthew 12;31,32.  – Impenitence.


            5:18-20            The letter ends with three strong “we know” statements


                        What has convinced you that true life is found in Jesus?


                        What “idols” of the world today tempt you away from steadfastly following Jesus?


            5:18     “anyone who has been born of God” – Jesus Christ.


            5:20     “He is the true God” – a description of Christ, and an affirmation of His deity.



II John & III John


  1. Luther on II & III John


“The other two epistles of John are not doctrinal epistles, but examples of love and of faith. They too have a true apostolic spirit.”           (LW 35:393)



  1. The Occasion/Reason for II John and III John


In especially the first two centuries of the Christian Church the Gospel was spread primarily by traveling missionaries.  They would often receive bed and board in the homes of believers in the communities which they served.  John’s words here are to encourage the believers to be discerning in welcoming teachers into their homes and church;  after all, not everyone was a faithful teacher of the Gospel, and those who weren’t, were not to be welcomed.   In III John he commends Gaius for his faithfulness and hospitality.  He also rebukes Diotrephes, for his rudeness and dictatorial behavior both in dealing with faithful traveling teachers and with his brothers in the church.



III.   Date and Recipients


Certainly these two epistles were written after I John, but as far as exactly when (sometime between 85 and 95) and to whom II John was written (whether to a congregation or an individual), we don’t know.  III John was addressed to Gaius and Diotrephes.



  1. The Text of II John


            II:1      “The Elder” – John


“The chosen lady and her children” – possibly a woman and her family;  more likely a congregation and its members.


“Truth” – the term is used here in a comprehensive sense, referring to all that Jesus is, does, and represents for mankind;   as a result, truth is not only known, but followed/practiced (see verse 4) by the Christian.


            II:7      the core of the gnostic heresy:  that God, in Christ, did not become flesh/fully human.


                        “antichrist” – anyone who denies Christ as Savior and God.   (for specific Scripture relating to THE Antichrist (the Papacy), see II Thessalonians 2:3-12;  I John 2:18;  Daniel 11:36-45;  and  Revelation 13:1-15;  also see the Smalcald Articles [Power and Primacy of the Pope, 39-59])

            II:8      “what you have labored for” – all the God-given energies with which they have “worked out their salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).  John is warning them not to lose sight of the goal of their faith:  eternal life in heaven….by instead being deceived by false teachers and their false gospel.


            II:9      “goes on ahead” – who thought they were advanced believers. 


                        There are many people like that today.


            II:10-11           What error would “the lady” be guilty of if she were to show hospitality to these strangers?


How then are we to handle people like the Jehovah’s Witnesses (in light of this passage, esp. v. 11)?


Have you ever been involved in an association or relationship that had to be terminated because of an overriding issue involving your faith?


            II:12    “Paper and ink” – paper in those days was made from papyrus;  the ink was a mixture of carbon, water, and oil.



  1. The Text of III John


            III:1     “Gaius” – this was a very common name in Roman times.   Although it is possible that he could be one of the Gaius’ mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament (Acts 19:29;  20:4;  Romans 16:23;  and I Corinthians 1:14) we really cannot be certain who he was.


            III:3     “when brothers came and testified” – John had received a good report about Gaius’ hospitality.   


            III:4     “my children” – possibly people for whose conversion John was humanly responsible, or believers who were under his spiritual care.   Note the fatherly affection in which John holds them.


            III:6     “send them off” – this seems to be an almost “technical” term, some type of a formal send-off for missionaries, although not as formal as the our (one-time) practice of “commissioning” of missionaries which we carry out today.   The practice in John’s day evidently involved providing material support (Acts 15:3;  Romans 15:24;  I Corinthians 16:6;  and Titus 3:13) for those missionaries.


            III:7     “the Name” – Jesus Christ, see Philippians 2:20 and John 15:21.


            III:8     Practically speaking, how do we (as a congregation) show hospitality to such men today?


How does III John deal with the “hospitality” issue differently than II John did?


            III:9     “I wrote something to the church, but…” – since a letter previously sent to the church, dominated by Diotrephes, seems not to have had the desired effect, John promises to make a personal visit to deal with Diotrephes’ malicious behavior.


“Diotrephes, who loves to be first” – a dictator, who always wanted to be in the limelight.


            III:10   “I will call attention” – those who sin publicly are to be rebuked publicly  (I Timothy 5:20;  see also Titus 3:10).


“puts out of the church” – Diotrephes was exceeding his authority, to the extent that he was arbitrarily excommunicating (invalidly) anyone who “displeased” him.


            III:11   “the one who does what is evil has not seen God” – But don’t we do evil?  


            III:12   “Demetrius” – probably the leader of a group of evangelists.


            III:13-14          The conclusion here is similar to that of II John 12-13


            III:15   “Friends” – though by no means inappropriate, this term for fellow believers is rarely used;  the term “brothers” being the commonly used designation.