The Fourth Sunday in Advent    December 20, 2020

Mary:   Waiting For An Impossibility

(The Reality and Significance of the Miraculous, Virgin Birth)


            There was a bright seventh grade girl, named Kristin, but young as she was, Kristin didn’t understand

everything she heard in church. (I am sure that many of us can identify with that!)  One day when Kristin was in the cafeteria at school, one of her curious friends asked her, “Are you a virgin?” Well, Kristin was really on the spot because she did not know what a virgin was.   But she did some quick thinking that went like this: The only virgin she had heard of was Mary, and everyone knows that Mary had a baby. Therefore, she reasoned, a virgin must be a woman who has had a baby.   Thus armed with that conclusion, Kristin announced loudly to her friend in the cafeteria, “No! I am not a virgin!” As several students nearby registered their shock, one little boy leaned over and whispered in her ear: “Kristin, I don’’t think you know what you are talking about!”    (And, of course, unfortunately she didn’t understand what she was talking about…..even though she was a very good and pure girl.)


Opposition Across the Centuries

            Even more unfortunately…….across the centuries – beginning with Jewish attacks against any and everything  Christian during the first century, and right up to the “post-modernist,” liberal scholars of today who seem to question almost everything Christian – the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ has been attacked from many directions and by many enemies.    Sadly, many people have been deceived and have been led to either doubt or totally reject what Scripture teaches about God’s Incarnation through the Virgin Birth.   ……If only those critics realized that they don’t know what they’re talking about, and Whom they’re up against! Nevertheless, those critics of Christianity continue to accuse us of not knowing what we’re talking about today……   


An “Unexplainable” Miracle              The fact of the matter is:   the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is one of the most incredible, yet essential, teachings in all of Scripture.  It is also one of the most-challenged and most-frequently-denied teachings by those who question the truthfulness and divine inspiration of the Bible.  Before going any further, let’s make it clear that you and I do believe this doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Jesus – not by virtue of our human reason or intelligence, but — by Spirit-given faith in the Divine authority and author-ship of the Bible.  We freely admit that we do not understand how it could have happened…. yet we faithfully accept the reality of this great miracle which is so significant for us!


Through the Incarnation God “Emptied” Himself   ………The truth that God became fully human to be our Savior,  is one of the fundamental elements of our Christian faith.  Theologians sometimes refer to this as the “kenotic” principal of the Incarnation.  The Greek verb “kenoun” means “to empty” or “negate;”  while the noun “kenosis” means “an emptying.”   We use this term because Scripture uses it in Philippians 2:6 order to refer to the activity by which God the Son voluntarily divested Himself (or laid aside) His divine majesty, power, and authority in order to become a human being and take up residence in that manger in Bethlehem before going to Calvary’s cross.  (II Cor 8:9 also describes this act.) There was no other way we could be saved than for God to become one of us, and then save us!


This is a matter of faith, not reason or human opinion

– faith founded firmly and solely on Scripture    Those who have persistently and faithfully held to the teaching of the Virgin Birth (such as our own church body, the WELS) have been accused of being simple-minded, unscientific and unreasonable, as well as of clinging to a myth or legend.    “How,” critics challenge, “can a child be born without a human father?  It’s too impossible to believe.”   In the end, they refuse to accept what the Bible clearly teaches.   Instead, they dare to question our intelligence and faith for believing in the Virgin birth.    Of course, this isn’t about “intelligence” – this is an issue of faith!    And faith has no trouble with the “fact” that miracles ARE impossible for human beings either to repeat, or to explain.   Miracles belong to God, and He can perform them any time He wants.   The Virgin Birth IS such a miracle…..a tremendous “miracle among miracles” performed by the almighty God Who can do the “impossible”…..a miracle which we embrace – comfortably, unquestioningly, gratefully – by the faith that the Holy Spirit gives us.

            This morning, then, as a part of our Advent (pre-Christmas) preparations, we’ll consider the doctrine of the Virgin Birth as the focal point of our worship service.   We’ll examine it – not on the basis of “human reason” or “science” but – on the basis of the inspired words of God and through the faith which God the Holy Spirit has worked within us.   It’s been said that “Words do mean things,” and indeed the words we’ll consider – both the Biblical context in which they’re found, and the very words of the original Biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek – DO mean something.    In fact, they demand ONLY one understanding….that Jesus truly was miraculously born, the Son of God and the Son of Mary.


This is our Confession as Christians……and on this our Salvation Depends    We confess the truth of the incarnation/virgin birth both in our Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, maintaining that our Savior Jesus Christ, the God-Man (Colossians 2:9), took upon Himself our human flesh and nature through the miracle of being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to the Virgin Mary.   In so doing, He became both fully God and fully human all at the same time.    He had to do this if He was going to rescue from our sin and restore us to a right relationship with the eternal God!   First of all, our Savior had to be “fully human” to sinlessly (Hebrews 4:15) live under the law (Galatians 4:4,5;  Romans 5:19) and to die (Hebrews 2:14) for all our sin as our Substitute (Mark 10:45).   Our Redeemer also had to be the eternal God, so that His sacrificial death (Hebrews 7:26,27) could be supremely sufficient (Psalm 49:7,8) enough to pay for the sins of all mankind (John 1:29; I John 2:2).  This is what Scripture teaches, and – by God’s grace – we believe it because it is the truth.  Our salvation depends upon it! 


This amazing miracle and divine truth of salvation is the Focus of our Worship Today    The truth of the Virgin Birth is sufficiently expressed in all of our Scripture Lessons today. 


            Our Old Testament Lesson was penned under inspiration 700 years before Jesus’ first coming.  Wicked king Ahaz was ruling Judah at a time when the nation was gravely threatened by its enemies.  In spite of his unbelief, God wanted to assure Ahaz that He could enable Judah to be victorious, and told the king – through Isaiah – to ask for a “sign” from the Lord as a proof of the Lord’s faithfulness.  In mock humility, the idolatrous  Ahaz refused to ask….suggesting that He didn’t want to “test” the Lord (but doing what God tells us is never akin to “testing” Him – rather, we’re simply being obedient, as Ahaz should have been).    Following Ahaz’s false display of piety, the Lord responded by declaring that He would provide a sign that would prove He would deliver not only Judah but all mankind.  It was a sign that Ahaz would not live to see – but one that would be fulfilled centuries later through the miraculous virgin birth of the Messiah, also known as Immanuel (God with us).   In this portion of Scripture the Hebrew word for “virgin” is “Almah,” which is used in the OT to refer to a young woman of marriageable age, but one who has not had sexual relations and therefore has remained a virgin.     In the Greek translation Old Testament (called the Septuagint) as well as in the Greek New Testament (specifically our Gospel Lesson and Children’s Lesson) the word used to describe Mary is “parthenos” – which is always translated “virgin.”  

            In our Children’s Lesson ans Sermon Text, the Angel Gabriel explains to Mary how it is possible for this miracle to take place inside of her.   He says the “power of the most High”God would overshadow her, and that the Lord would work the humanly impossible in her (since all things are possible for God).   Please also note that Mary humbly accepted, in faith, that which human reason finds “impossible” to grasp…… because believers know that our Lord can do the impossible!

            Gabriel explained the same to Jesus’ earthly step-father, Joseph, in our Gospel Lesson.   Joseph was ready to divorce Mary (engagement was considered “marriage” in those days – even though the engaged couple stayed celibate until the formal wedding ceremony) because he naturally assumed she had behaved adulterously in becoming pregnant.   Gabriel sets him straight, saying that she was still a virgin and that the child in her was conceived through the miraculous intervention of God the Holy Spirit.  This would take place to fulfill the Messianic prophesy given through Isaiah (7:14) years earlier……”The Virgin would be with child” and give birth to the “Immanuel, God with Us.”  

            In our Epistle Lesson Paul affirms the “two natures” of Christ (His truly human and thoroughly divine natures) – which was the “product” of the incarnation through the Virgin Birth. 

            Another feature of today’s and all our Sunday morning Advent services, is our use of one of our Lutheran Church’s traditional Advent hymns “Lift Up Your Heads You Mighty Gates” in place of the usual liturgical hymn “the Gloria in Excelsis” (“Glory be to God on High”).  It is based on Psalm 24, a Messianic Psalm (a psalm which points ahead to an aspect of the Messiah’s work  – in this case Christ’s reigning over all things through His Kingly “office,” or role).


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


Pastor              We begin this service in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.    Amen.



Our Psalm for Today                                                                                                                           Psalm 8


P:              O LORD, our LORD, how majestic is Your name in all the earth.

C:             Set this glory of Yours above the heavens.   +   From the mouths of little children and nursing babies   +   You have established strength because of Your foes, + to put a stop to the enemy and the avenger


P:              Whenever I look up at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and have set in place,

C:             What is man that You remember Him, + the Son of Man that You pay attention to Him?


P:              Nevertheless You make Him suffer need, apart from God for a while.”     But you crown Him with glory and honor.

C:             You make Him Ruler over the works of Your hands;   +   You put everything under His feet:


P:              all flocks and cattle, and even the wild animals,   +   all the birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea, which pass through the currents of the seas

C:             O LORD, our Lord, + how majestic is Your name in all the earth!


after which the Congregation will be seated for


The Opening Hymn               Hymn 23  “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel”


1 Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,   And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here   Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel   Shall come to you, O Israel!


2 Oh, come, O Root of Jesse, free   Your own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell your people save,   And bring them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel   Shall come to you, O Israel!


3 Oh, come, O Dayspring from on high,   And cheer us by your drawing nigh;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,   And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel  Shall come to you, O Israel!


4 Oh, come, O Key of David, come,   And open wide our heav’nly home.

Make safe the way that leads on high,   And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel   Shall come to you, O Israel!     Amen


after which the Congregation will rise for


We Make Confession of Our Sins To God


Pastor      Beloved in the Lord!  Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins to God our Father, asking Him, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to grant us the forgiveness of all our sins.  Our help is in the name of the Lord.


Congregation    (Sung)   Who made heaven and earth.


Pastor      I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.


            Congregation           (Sung)   And You forgave the iniquity of  my sin.


Congregation       O Almighty God, merciful Father, I a poor miserable sinner confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment.  But I am heartily sorry for them, and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You in Your boundless mercy, and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your  beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being.


Pastor      Upon this, your confession, I, by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto you all, and in the place of and according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.


We Respond To God’s Forgiveness


(Sung)    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.   World without end.   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 –    The Lord is near to all who call upon Him in truth.   My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord.    O my God, You are my Help and my Deliverer;  do not delay.


ALL:                                                                              (join in singing “Lift Up Your Heads, You Mighty Gates”


1 Lift up your heads, you mighty gates!         Behold, the King of glory waits.

The King of kings is drawing near;   The Savior of the world is here.

Life and salvation He will bring;   Therefore rejoice and gladly sing.

To God the Father raise   Your joyful songs of praise.


2 The King is born in poverty,    His chariot is humility,

His kingly crown is holiness,   His scepter, pity in distress.

The end of all our woe He brings;   Therefore the earth is glad and sings.

To Christ the Savior raise   Your grateful hymns of praise.


Redeemer, come!   I open wide   My heart to You;   here, Lord, abide!

Let me Your inner presence feel,   Your grace and love in me reveal;

Your Holy Spirit guide us on   Until our glorious goal is won.

Eternal praise and fame    We offer to Your name.     Amen.


The Prayer For The Fourth Sunday in Advent                                                                                               


O Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth + through Your Spirit’s working in our hearts + enable us to live faithful, holy lives in this present world;   + and as we look forward to Your second coming   + may we walk day by day + in the paths of Your righteousness.   Permit us all, by Your grace, + to one day receive – through faith – the eternal inheritance which You have prepared for Your Church.  + We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ, +  Your Son our Lord +  Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit   +   as the one true God, +   now and forever.   +  Amen.



We Hear God’s Word


The Old Testament Lesson                                                                                                          Isaiah 7:1-17


This took place in the days when Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah. Rezin king of Aram, and Pekah son of Remaliah, the king of Israel, marched up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but they could not capture it.


2 The house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim.” The heart of Ahaz trembled, and the heart of his people trembled as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind.


3 Then the Lord said to Isaiah:  Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear Jashub.   Meet him at the end of the water channel from the upper pool, on the road that goes to the launderers field.   4 Tell Ahaz, “Get control of yourself, and remain calm. Do not be afraid. Do not lose your courage because of these two stubs of smoldering torches. Do not be afraid because of the fierce anger of Rezin, Aram, and the son of Remaliah, 5 even though Aram, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah have plotted evil against you and said, 6 ‘Let’s go up against Judah and tear it apart. Let’s divide it among ourselves and set up a king over it, namely, this son of Tabe’el.’”


7 This is what the Lord God says:   Their plan shall not succeed.   It shall not take place.   8 Yes, the head of Aram is Damascus,  and the head of Damascus is Rezin,  but within sixty-five years Ephraim will be broken into pieces, so that it will no longer be a people.  9 The head of Ephraim is only Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.  If you do not stand firm in faith, you will not stand at all. 


10 The Lord spoke to Ahaz again. He said, 11 “Ask for a sign from the Lord your God. Ask for it either in the depths below or in the heights above.”  


12 But Ahaz responded, “I will not ask. I will not test the Lord.”


13 So Isaiah said:   Listen now, you house of David. Is it not enough for you to test the patience of men? Will you test the patience of my God as well? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give a sign for all of you.   Look! The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son and name Him Immanuel.   15 He will eat curds and honey by the time He knows how to refuse evil and choose good, 16 because even before the Child knows how to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.   17 The Lord will bring on you, on your people, and on your father’s house days worse than any since the day that Ephraim broke away from Judah. The Lord will bring the king of Assyria.



The Epistle Lesson                                                                                                                      Romans 1:1-7


Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised in advance through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. 3 This gospel is about His Son—Who in the flesh was born a descendant of David, 4 Who in the spirit of holiness was declared to be God’s powerful Son by His resurrection from the dead—Jesus Christ, our Lord. 5 Through Him we received grace and the call to be an apostle on behalf of His name, to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, 6 including you, who were called by Jesus Christ.


7 To all those loved by God who are in Rome, called to be saints:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


After which, the Congregation will rise out of respect for


The Gospel Lesson                                                                                                                Matthew 1:18 -25


18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother, Mary, was pledged in marriage to Joseph. Before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her. So he decided to divorce her privately. 20 But as he was considering these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because the Child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus,  because He will save His people from their sins.”


22 All this happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin will be with Child and will give birth to a Son. And they will name Him Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.”


24 When Joseph woke up from his sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. He took Mary home as his wife, 25 but he was not intimate with her until she gave birth to her firstborn Son.    And he named Him Jesus.


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.


after which the Congregation will be seated for



The Children’s Lesson                                                                                                                  Luke 1:26-38


26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin pledged in marriage to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.”


29 But she was greatly troubled by the statement and was wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, because you have found favor with God. 31 Listen, you will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you are to name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will never end.”


34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”


35 The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Listen, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age even though she was called barren, and this is her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible for God.”


38 Then Mary said, “See, I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.



“There’s Nothing Our God Can’t Do!”


The Sermon Hymn              “We Now Praise Christ, the Holy One”

sung to the melody of “O Heilige Dreifaltigkeit” / “O Blessed Holy Trinity”

adapted from a hymn by Coelius Sedulius, c 450, (cwh 2006)


We now praise Christ, the Holy One,    The blessed Virgin Mary’s Son.

From east to west, from shore to shore    Let earth its Lord and King adore.


He Who Himself all things did make    A Servant’s form agreed to take

That He, as man, mankind might win   And save His creatures from their sin.

The grace and pow’r of God the Lord     Upon His mother was outpoured;

A Virgin pure and undefiled    In wond’rous way conceived this Child.


The noble mother bore a Son –    For so did Gabriel’s promise run –

God’s holy Law He’d satisfy     Then give His life, our death to die.


All honor unto Christ the Lord     Eternal and incarnate Word

Who, with the Spirit, e’er shall be    One in the Father’s majesty.     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                                                                                                                                Isaiah 1:26-38

                                                                                                                                 Today’s Children’s Lesson


WHAT is going to happen to me?”

(The Biblical Truth and Significance of Mary’s Miraculous Virgin Birth)


The Post-Sermon Blessing


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


We Offer Our Gifts and Prayers to the Lord


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.


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 ( 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 continuing to receive treatments at the Highlands Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

following a recent automobile accident.

We also offer

A Prayer of Intercession for Kevin and Kyle York, (John and Tina Wambold’s nephews)

who both recently contracted the Corona Virus.


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 also with You



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                     “I Stand Here Before You”

 Sung to the melody of “How Firm A Foundation”


I stand here before You, O mightiest One

In need of forgiveness for wrongs I have done.

Oh, grant me Your pardon, my spirit now pleads

Forgive my transgressions in thoughts, words, and deeds.


The Tempter keeps taunting me day after day,

I often succumb and submit to his way.

From birth I’ve been evil — my mortal flesh weak,

I do not abide by the words that You speak.


I humbly confess with the deepest of shame

The times I abused Your magnificent Name.

In spite of Your right to demand faithfulness,

My life’s often guided by my selfishness.


I covet, I slander, I look with lust, too.

I fail to give honor where honor is due.

I steal and I gossip… far do I fall –

Your perfect commandments:   I’ve broken them all.


Right here at Your table forgiveness is found

In Christ’s holy blood that flowed down to the ground,

His body and blood in the bread and the wine

A marvel of love that is truly divine!


That blood of Your Chosen was shed to erase

The sins of the world.   How I cherish that grace!

Dear God I am thankful to be such a one,

Washed clean by the blood of my Savior, Your Son.

The Second Distribution Hymn               Hymn 47 “Behold A Branch Is Growing”


1 Behold, a Branch is growing   Of loveliest form and grace,

As prophets sang, foreknowing;   It springs from Jesse’s race

And bears one little flow’r   In midst of coldest winter,

At deepest midnight hour.


2 Isaiah had foretold it   In words of promise sure,

And Mary’s arms enfold it,   A virgin meek and pure.

Through God’s eternal will   This child to her is given

At midnight calm and still.


3 The shepherds heard the story   Proclaimed by angels bright,

How Christ, the Lord of glory,   Was born on earth this night.

To Bethlehem they sped   And in the manger found him,

As angel heralds said.


4 This flow’r, so small and tender,   With fragrance fills the air;

His brightness ends the darkness   That kept the earth in fear.

True God and yet true man,   He came to save his people

From earth’s dark night of sin.


5 O Savior, Child of Mary,   Who felt our human woes,

O Savior, King of glory,  Who conquered all our foes,

Bring us at last, we pray,   To the bright courts of heaven

And to the endless day.



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 21 “Hosanna to the Coming Lord”


1 Hosanna to the coming Lord!  Hosanna to the incarnate Word!

To Christ, Creator, Savior, King  Let earth, let heav’n hosanna sing.


2 O Savior, with protecting care   Abide in this your house of prayer,

Where we your parting promise claim,   Assembled in your sacred name.

3 O Advent King, our sins forgive;   Come in our lives and hearts to live,

And let our humble souls become   A temple worthy of your name


4 Then in the last and dreadful day,   When earth and heav’n shall melt away,

Your flock, redeemed from sinful stain,  Shall swell the sound of praise again.


Silent Prayer





Last Week at Grace Lutheran Church                        Worship Attendance: 42    Budgetary Offerings: $1820

Online Budgetary Offerings: $51.81        School Fund:  $555                                      Tuesday Bible Study: 13

Wednesday Evening Advent Attendance: 28      Budget Offerings: $350    Capital Imv: $1


Serving Us Next Sunday

Ushers –    Kent Mayer, Fred Cusanelli, Kelvin Johannes

Altar Guild – Tina Wambold, Harriet Johnson                                            Elders:   John Johnson, Steve Stone


This Coming Week at Grace Lutheran Church

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

                                    Fellowship Period, 10:45 a.m.                         Bible Class/Sunday School  – 11:05 a.m.

                                    Youth Confirmation Class, 12:15 to 1:30 p.m.

            Thursday        Christmas Eve Worship Service, 7:00 p.m.

Friday                    Christmas Day Festival Worship, 9:30 a.m.

                             Sunday      Morning Worship Service, 9:30 a.m.

                                    Bible Class/Sunday School, 11:05 a.m.                                  (No Confirmation Class)


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!


“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, please bring your gift back to church – if possible – either tomorrow or Tuesday….or on Christmas Eve, and leave it in Pastor’s office.  He will see to it that they are distributed during this Christmas season.            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!

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!



            Situated in the front of the church, to your right of the lectern, you’ll find an “Advent Wreath.”  It has been our custom to make use of an Advent Wreath during the Advent/Christmas seasons as a symbolic way of preparing ourselves for the arrival of the Christ Child and then joyously reflecting on the coming of our Savior, Who is the Light of the world.   The following brief history and explanation of the Advent Wreath’s symbolism is intended to help you better 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.   Evidently 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.  In addition to its continued use in the home, it found its way 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 blue or purple (the traditional colors of repentance) throughout the Advent season.   It’s no wonder, then, that the prevalent color (three out of five) of the Advent wreath candles is purple/blue.  

               In our church the purple candle lit 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.

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.

Lesson 10:    An Unwillingness to Compromise

      God’s Will &  Word

Daniel and his associates could have satisfied their superior and peers in order to gain an earthly advantage for themselves.   Instead of opting to be “politically correct,” however, they chose to satisfy their Lord.    When opportunities come to compromise God’s will and/or confess our faith…..what do we do?


Scripture   Daniel 1 and Daniel 6


Background  Daniel (Belteshazzar), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – among others – were part of the Jewish nobility and/or Jewish elite which had been among the first to be carried off into captivity in Babylon as a manifestation of the Lord’s judgement against Judah’s apostasy.     Owing to their skills and potential, Daniel and his associates were pressed into the service of the king of Babyon, with Daniel eventually rising to the very heights of Babylonian governing power.    The story of these men is one of faithful service to the Babylonian government, but especially of faithful service to their Lord……even in the face of hostility by those jealous of God’s favor toward them and in spite of commands from their earthly superiors to compromise their religious beliefs, and even in the face of threatened death.    God has surely given us their stories both as encouragement and as an example of faithful commitment and confidence to Him. 


Daniel 1




v 1       “In the 3rd year of Jehoiakim”


v.3-5   “to teach them the language and literature….to train them”


  1. 7 Why the new names?




  1. 8 “chose not to defile himself” …Why did Daniel resist?


What would be an equivalent choice for you between God’s way and the “royal food” of the world today?     


  1. 9 “God had caused….” —


v10      “I am afraid of….the king” – (see v.5)  


            What often keeps Christians from taking a stand for the Lord’s truths?


  1. 12 “test your servants for 10 days” ……        “nothing but vegetables…and water”


v.15     Is this a Biblical endorsement/encouragement of a vegetarian diet?

v.17     “To these four young men God gave…..”


            How has God favored you in the past year?


v 19, 20           “none equal” ….  “ten times better”  – 


  1. 21 “Daniel remained….until the 1st year of King Cyrus” –



Daniel 6


  1. 1 “satrap”


  1. 3 “Daniel so distinguished himself”


            “To set him over the whole kingdom”


  1. 4 “he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent”


            How do you think Daniels’ peers viewed him?


Share a time when (because of your faith) someone tried to do you in by “pulling the run out from under your feet.”


            What stirs up jealousy in people?


  1. 6-7 How do the satraps, etc, manage to get their way (to get Daniel) with the king?


            Does having strong principles/values cause a person to be more, or less vulnerable to others?


            If you were tried for being a Christian…..would there be enough evidence to convict you?


  1. 10 Doesn’t Daniel’s behavior here violate the 4th commandment (to obey those in authority over us – see also Romans 13:1 ff)?


  1. 14-16 Whose side is the king really on?


            What parallels do you see here between Daniel’s betrayal and Jesus’ betrayal?


  1. 15 Look at the role the law of the Medes and Persians plays in this story. What role should God’s laws play in our lives?


  1. 22-23 Daniel was unscathed……how?


            Relate a similar event/circumstance from your life.


  1. 24 As part of his complete vindication, Daniel’s accusers receive the very punishment they had demanded for him. Can you think of incidents in the Bible where the Lord dealt with evildoers in the same manner?


  1. 26 Do you think the king is “genuine” in his confession/declaration?

Daniel 5



In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand, along with some of the vessels of the House of God, and he brought them to the land of Shinar, into the house of his god. He brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.


3 The king told Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials, to bring some young Israelite men from the royal family or from the nobility. 4 He was to choose young men who had no blemish, who were good looking, who had insight into all kinds of wisdom, who possessed knowledge, understanding, and learning, and who were capable of serving in the king’s palace, in order to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them daily rations from the special royal food and from the king’s own wine. He ordered that they should be trained for three years. At the end of training they were to serve the king. 6 In this group of young men were the Judeans Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 The chief of the officials gave them new names. He gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar, Hananiah the name Shadrak, Mishael the name Meshak, and Azariah the name Abednego.


8 Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the special food of the king or with the wine that he drank. So he sought permission from the chief official, so that he would not have to defile himself. 9 God made the chief of the officials favorable and sympathetic toward Daniel. 10 Then the chief of the officials said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink. Why should he see your faces looking less healthy than those of the other young men who are your age? You put my life at risk before the king.”


11 Daniel said to the superintendent whom the chief of the officials had placed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days. Tell them to give us only vegetables, and we will eat them and drink water. 13 Observe our appearance and the appearance of the young men who eat the special royal food. Then deal with your servants based on what you see.” 14 So he listened to what they said about this and tested them for ten days.


15 At the end of ten days, their appearance was noticeably better than that of the others. They were healthier than any of the young men who had been eating the special royal food. 16 So the superintendent permanently took away the special royal food and the wine they were to drink and gave them only vegetables. 17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and insight into all kinds of literature, as well as wisdom. In addition, Daniel also understood every kind of vision and dream.


18 At the end of the time which the king had set for them to be brought to him, the chief of the officials brought them before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king spoke with them, and none of the others were found to be comparable to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they served the king. 20 In every matter concerning wisdom and understanding that the king sought from them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and spell casters in his entire kingdom. 21 So Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.



Daniel 6


It seemed like a good plan to Darius to appoint one hundred twenty satraps over the kingdom. They were to rule throughout the kingdom. 2 Above them there would be three supervisors (Daniel was one of them) to whom these satraps would report, so that the king would not suffer any loss. 3 It came about that this Daniel distinguished himself above the supervisors and satraps, because there was an outstanding spirit in him. So the king intended to promote him so that he would be in charge of the entire kingdom.


4 Then the supervisors and satraps kept trying to find a basis for an accusation against Daniel in regard to his administration of the kingdom. However, they were unable to come up with an accusation or any evidence of corruption, because he was trustworthy and no neglect of duty or evidence of corruption could be found against him. 5 Then these men said, “We will not find any accusation to bring against this Daniel unless we find something against him concerning the law of his God.”


6 So these supervisors and satraps came as a group to the king and said this to him, “Darius, Your Majesty, may you live forever! 7 All the supervisors of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the advisors and the governors advise the king to establish and enforce a decree that prohibits anyone to pray a prayer to any god or person for thirty days except to you, Your Majesty. Anyone who does so will be thrown into the den of lions. 8 Now Your Majesty, please establish the decree and sign a document that cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians that cannot be revoked.”   9 That is why King Darius signed the written decree.


10 Now, when Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went to his house. It had windows on its upper story that opened toward Jerusalem. Three times each day he would get on his knees and pray and offer praise before his God. He continued to do that, just as he had been doing before this. 11 Then these men came as a group and found Daniel praying and seeking favor from his God.   12 They then went and asked the king about the decree. “Your Majesty, did you not sign a decree that anyone who prays to any god or person for thirty days except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the den of lions?”    The king answered, “Indeed I did. The order is established as a law of the Medes and the Persians that cannot be revoked.”    13 Then they responded to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, does not pay attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree that you signed. Instead, three times each day he is praying his prayers.”


14 When the king heard this report, he was very upset about it, but he was determined to save Daniel. So until sunset he worked hard to rescue him. 15 Then these men came as a group to the king and kept saying to the king, “You know, Your Majesty, that it is the law of the Medes and the Persians that every decree or statute that the king establishes cannot be changed.”


16 Then the king gave the order, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you.” 17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the pit. The king sealed it with his signet ring and the signet rings of his nobles so that nothing could be changed with regard to Daniel’s situation. 18 Then the king went to his palace. He spent the night without food, and no entertainment was brought before him. But he could not sleep.


19 At dawn the king arose as soon as it was light and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 As he came near the pit, he cried out in a fearful voice. The king said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, was your God, whom you serve continually, able to rescue you from the lions?”


21 Then Daniel spoke with the king. “Your Majesty, may you live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the mouth of the lions. They have not hurt me because he found me innocent in his presence. Also before you, Your Majesty, I have committed no crime.”


23 Then the king was very glad and said that Daniel should be brought up from the pit. So Daniel was brought up from the pit, and he was unharmed because he trusted in his God.


24 The king gave the order, and those men who maliciously accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the lions’ den—they, their children, and their wives. They had not reached the bottom of the pit when the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.


25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in the entire earth:   “May your peace and prosperity increase.   26 I give this command throughout my royal dominion:   People should continually tremble and be afraid before the God of Daniel, because he is the living God, who endures forever.  His kingdom will not be destroyed, and his dominion is eternal.  27 He rescues and he saves.   He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth. So he saved Daniel from the power of the lions.


28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius, that is, during the reign of Cyrus the Persian.