The First Sunday after Christmas         December 27, 2020


Reflections On Christmas


     “Finally it’s over!”   That’s the way some people feel today as they look back at Christmas 2020.   It started in some of the stores way back in September.  It started in our church at the end of November.   As of this morning, the Festival Day of Christmas is two days behind us.   Some of us are probably already thinking about taking down our holiday decorations and un-trimming the tree.  The Christmas music is being turned off until next year.  And the Christmas treats and cookies are beginning to look a little unappetizing.   Christmas 2020 is on the verge of becoming history.    But should it really pass so quickly from our sight and our minds?    How you and I answer that question depends – to a great extent – upon whether or not we are able to view Christmas as an isolated event that comes around every December, or as in on-going, integral part of our spiritual lives.   


     During today’s worship service we’re going to be looking at some of the on-going spiritual implications and the enduring significance of our Christmas celebration.   It’s true that you and I soon are going to be heading back into the ‘realities’ of daily living” without our Christmas trees and treats, but we don’t have to (and we shouldn’t) leave behind the real purpose and meaning (to us) of Christmas……namely God’s unique and essential gift of the Christ-child Who came to earth to do His Father’s will – to be born in Bethlehem’s manger so that He could 33 years later die for us as our Savior on Calvary’s cross.  


     In our Old Testament Lesson Isaiah thanks God for His gift of salvation through the Messiah and prophesies that this good news about the Savior must be made known to all nations.  


     In the Epistle Lesson the inspired writer to the Hebrews speaks with us about the majesty and exaltation of our Savior Who has come to earth, and reminds that the angels in heaven also join us in worshiping Him.  


     In our Gospel Lesson John describes Christ as “the Word” of God Who humbled Himself in order to make His dwelling among mankind so that He might be the world’s Savior — even though many of His own people refused to accept Him.   


     In the Children’s Lesson we’ll talk about the “X” that’s sometimes found in “Xmas,” and what that it can mean for us. 


     And finally, having spent this past week hearing the story of Christmas as presented in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, today’s Sermon will consider the story of Christmas directly from the lips of our Savior.  



The Advent Wreath and Candles


           Central to our celebration of the Savior’s birth throughout the pre-Christmas season of Advent has been the “Advent Wreath and Candles” which are found in the front of the sanctuary today.    The large white candle in the center, the “Christ Candle,” was lit for the first time this past Christmas Day morning in celebration of Christ’s birth.  It symbolizes the fulfillment of Christmas prophesy — the nativity of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Light of the world.  In addition, the four smaller candles (formerly 3 purple and one pink throughout the four week preparation season of Advent) have been now replaced – also as of Christmas Day – by four white candles.   The color of white is used to symbolize the personal purity of Christ our Savior, as well as to typify the righteous status (of fully forgiven, heaven-bound saints) that Jesus’ substitutionary life and death have secured for us.  The significance of each of those four smaller candles is explained in what follows:   

The First Candle (violet/white) is the Candle of Prophesy, symbolizing the Old Testament prophecies of the Advent, or coming, of the Savior.   


The Second Advent Candle (violet/white) is the Bethlehem Candle.  It symbolizes the coming to earth of Jesus, the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary.   


The Third Advent Candle (pink/white) is the Shepherd Candle.   Through this candle’s symbolism we recall the coming of the Savior into our hearts and lives through the Means of Grace (the Gospel in Word and Sacrament).  


The Fourth Candle (violet/white) is the Angel Candle.   It represents the final coming of the Savior in glory with all His angels for the final judgement.


Pre-Service PrayerO Lord God, Almighty Creator, from Whom every good and perfect gift comes, You have bountifully blessed me throughout this year that will soon draw to a close.   You have preserved me in Your Word.  You have provided for my bodily needs.   You have protected me from spiritual harm and have kept me in the true faith.  For Your abundant goodness to me, I humbly praise and thank You.  In the new year that lies ahead, I implore You to continue to bless me with Your abiding presence,  Your Fatherly protection, and Your divine guidance in all areas of my life.   I submit myself to Your gracious will, with the confidence that You will use me, as Your humble servant, in whatever ways will serve to further Your glory and Your kingdom. Bless and enrich my faith as I hear Your Word today, and receive my heart-felt praises in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Savior.  It is in His name that I pray.   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.



                                          The Service of Worship and Praise 

Pre-Service Prayer

Pre-service Music  


We Praise Our God


Welcome and Introduction to Worship


after which the Congregation will rise for


The Invocation


     Pastor             We begin this service in the name of the Father


     Congregation      Who gave us our lives through His almighty power.


           P:        And of the Son

           C:        Who redeemed our lives with His precious blood.


           P:        And of the Holy Spirit

           C:        Who gave us eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus.

           P:        Amen.



The Psalm for Today                                                                                                                    Psalm 138


P:       I will thank You with all my heart.  Before the gods I will make music for You.

C:      I will bow down toward Your holy temple.   +   I will give thanks to Your name       +  because of Your mercy and because of Your truth.


P:       Yes, You made Your word even greater than Your name.

C:       By day I called, and You answered me. +  You have made my soul strong.


P:       All the kings of the earth will thank You, Lord,  when they have heard the message from Your mouth.

C:       Then they will sing about the ways of the Lord, +  because the glory of the Lord is great.


P:       Indeed the Lord is exalted, but He sees the lowly,

C:       and He recognizes the proud from a distance.


P:       If I walk surrounded by danger, You keep me alive  in spite of the anger of my enemies.

           You stretch out Your hand. You save me with Your right hand.

C:       The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.


P:       Lord, Your mercy endures forever.

C:       Do not let go of the works of Your hands.


After which the Congregation will take their seats for



The Opening Hymn                                             Hymn 42  “Come Your Hearts And Voices Raising”


Come, your hearts and voices raising,  

Christ the Lord with gladness praising;

Loudly sing His love amazing,   Worthy folk of Christendom.


See how God, for us providing,   Gave His Son and life abiding;

He our weary steps is guiding   From earth’s woes to heavenly joy.


Christ, from heaven to us descending   And in love our race befriending,

In our need His help extending,   Saved ys from the wily Foe.


Jacob’s Star in all its splendor   Beams with comfort sweet and tender,

Forcing Satan to surrender,    Breaking all the powers of hell.


Gracious Child, we pray Thee, hear us,   From Thy lowly manger cheer us,

Gently lead us and be near us   Till we join the angelic choir.     AMEN


after which the Congregation will rise for



Hear Us and Forgive Us, Lord


Pastor –               We have come together to worship the Triune God.


Congregation  He is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


P:             “Jesus said, ‘Wherever two or three come together in My name, there am I with them.”

C:             “The LORD Almighty is with us.  The God of Jacob is our Refuge.”


P:             “But who may come into His presence?   And who may call on Him for help?”

C:             “He whose walk is blameless   +   and who does what is righteous.”


P:             “Who speaks the truth from his heart,  and who has no slander on his tongue.”

C:             “Who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow man.”


P:             “Who keeps His oath even when it hurts.”

C:              “Who honors those who fear the Lord.”



We Make Confession Of Our Sins To God


Pastor           Brothers and sisters in Christ:    the Word of God urges us to confess to our Lord all our sins of thought, word, and action.   This is something that ought to be daily part of our spiritual lives, and should come forth from every heart that is humble and  penitent. But we should especially do this when we meet together in His house to thank God for all that He has done for us, to praise Him, and to hear His life-giving Word.    Therefore, come with me now, to our Heavenly Father’s throne of grace, and let us confess our sins together.

Congregation     Miserable person that I am,   +   I confess and lament to You, O most holy God,  +   that I  am a weak and sinful creature,  +  guilty of every sin, of unbelief, and of blasphemy. +   I also confess that Your Word has not brought forth good fruit in me.   +   I hear it, but do not receive it earnestly.   +   I do not show works of love toward my neighbor.   +   I am full of anger, hate, and envy.   +   I am impatient, greedy, and bent on every evil.   +   Therefore my heart and conscience are heavy.   +   Lord, I ask You, free me from my sins,   +   strengthen my faith,   +   and comfort my weak conscience by Your divine Word,  +   that I may obtain Your promised grace.



The Song of Penitence                                                                                                        “Create in Me”

                                                                                                            sung to the melody of “Abide With Me”


Create in me, O God, a spotless heart.

Renew in me a spirit that is right.

And from Your presence, never make me part

Or take Your Holy Spirit from my sight.


Restore to me salvation’s joy, O Lord.

Grant me a willing spirit, keep me true.

Then I will teach transgressors in Your Word

And many sinners will turn back to You.     AMEN



We Receive and Celebrate God’s Absolution


Pastor           Having humbly and sincerely confessed your sins before Almighty God, now 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, in the place of, and according to the command of our dear Savior, Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  May the peace of God rest upon all of you.   Amen.


Now, in the peace of God’s forgiveness, let us together praise our gracious and glorious LORD!



Our Response To God’s Forgiveness

                                                                                                                                 “The Gloria in Excelsis”

                                                                                         to the tune of “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less”


All glory be to God on high, we praise we thank we glory

And worship You Who gives earth peace, Whose love and favor never cease.

O Lord, our King on heaven’s throne, Our Father – the Almighty One.


O Lord, the sole-begotten One,   Lord Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son

O Lamb of God, You take way the sin of all – now hear us pray:

You rule at God’s right hand this day, have mercy on us, Lord, we pray.

You only are the Holy One, O’er all things You are Lord alone.

Lord Jesus Christ, we glorify You only as the Lord most high.

Who with the Spirit e’er shall be    One in the Father’s majesty.    AMEN



The Prayer For This Day


Heavenly Father, +   like the shepherds who first worshiped the ChristChild,   +   we stand before Your Son, our Savior, in humble faith today   +   grateful for the privilege +  of being able to worship Him, You and the Holy Spirit,   –   not only with our lips, but also with  our hearts and our lives.   +   Give each of us the added privilege   +   of being able to effectively share our faith with others …. as the shepherds did following their return from Bethlehem,   +   so that others might also come to believe in You as we do.  + Finally, enable us also to find in Your Word   +  the daily spiritual encouragement and guidance we need   +   to look beyond this life  +  to the certainty of everlasting life in heaven  +  that is ours through faith in Jesus Christ, Your Son our Savior, + Who lives and rules with You and the Holy Spirit  +   as the One true God,   +   now and forever.  +  Amen.


After which the Congregation may be seated as



We Hear God’s Word


The Old Testament Lesson                                                                                                     Isaiah 12:1-6


In that day you will say:      I will give thanks to You, Lord,  for though You were angry with me, Your anger has turned away,  and You comfort me.     Surely God is my salvation.    I will trust Him and will not be afraid,  because Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song,  and He has become my salvation.  3 Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

4 In that day you will say:  Give thanks to the Lord! Proclaim His name.   Declare among the peoples what He has done.  Proclaim that His name is exalted!   5 Sing to the Lord, for He has done amazing things!   Let this be known in all the earth!   6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, daughter of Zion,  for the Holy One of Israel is great among you!



The Epistle Lesson                                                                                                                Hebrews 1:1-6


In the past, God spoke to our forefathers by the prophets at many times and in many ways. 2 In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son, Whom He appointed Heir of all things, and through Whom He made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of the divine nature. He sustains all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins,   He took His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high.


4 The Son became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 5 For to which of the angels did God ever say:   You are My Son. Today I have begotten You?    And again:   I will be His Father, and He will be My Son.    6 And again, when He brought His Firstborn into the world, He said:   Let all God’s angels worship Him.



The Gospel Lesson                                                                                                                     John 1:1-18


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through Him everything was made, and without Him not one thing was made that has been made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 5 The Light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


6 There was a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as an eyewitness to testify about theLight so that everyone would believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the light.


9 The real Light that shines on everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to what was His own, yet His own people did not accept Him. 12 But to all who did receive Him, to those who believe in His name, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They were born, not of blood, or of the desire of the flesh, or of a husband’s will, but born of God.


14 The Word became flesh and dwelled among us. We have seen His glory, the glory He has as the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.


15 John testified about Him. He cried out, “This was the One I spoke about when I said, ‘The One coming after me outranks me because He existed before me.’” 16 For out of His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The only-begotten Son, Who is close to the Father’s side, has made Him known.



The Apostles’ Creed


 I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,  And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;  Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost;  Born of the virgin Mary;  Suffered under Pontius Pilate;  Was crucified, dead, and buried;  He descended into hell;  The third day He rose again from the dead;  He ascended into heaven;  And sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.   I believe in the Holy Ghost;  The Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints;  The forgiveness of sins;  The resurrection of the body;  And the life everlasting.  Amen.


The Congregation will now be seated for



Today’s Children’s Lesson                                                                                           Colossians 1:19-20


19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself (whether things on earth or in heaven) by making peace through the blood of His cross.


What Does the “X” in Xmas Mean to You?




The Hymn of the Day                                                          Hymn 36   “A Great And Mighty Wonder”


A great and mighty wonder,   A glorious mystery:  

A virgin bears an Infant   Who veils His deity.

Repeat the hymn again:   “To God on high be glory   

And peace on earth to men.”


The Word becomes incarnate   And yet remains on high,

And cherubim sing anthems   To shepherds from the sky.

Repeat the hymn again:   “To God on high be glory   

And peace on earth to men.”


Since all He comes to ransom,   By all be He adored, 

The Infant born in Bethl’em,   The Savior and the Lord.

Repeat the hymn again:   “To God on high be glory  

 And peace on earth to men.”        AMEN



The Pre-Sermon Salutation


Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, our Lord!   May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.


The Sermon Text                                                                                                                 Hebrews 10:5-9


5 Therefore when He entered the world, Christ said:  Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but You prepared a body for Me.   6 You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings.   7 Then I said, “Here I am.  I have come to do Your will, God.  In the scroll of the book it is written about Me.”   8 First He said:   Sacrifices and offerings that were offered according to the law, both burnt offerings and sin offerings, You did not desire, and You were not pleased with them.   9 Then He said:  Here I am.  I have come to do Your will.


The Christmas Story in Jesus Own Words



The Post-Sermon Blessing


May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, Who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, now encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.  Amen.



Following which the Congregation will be seated as



We Respond To God’s Word through our Offering and Prayers


Our Offerings of Love to our Lord


Because we aren’t able to pass an offering plate today during tonight’s worship service, those in attendance may leave their offerings in the offering plates by the exit at the close of our service.    For those watching this worship 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.


Special prayers For Today


The Prayers for the Church


P:       We come to You, Father, with praise and thanksgiving for all Your benefits toward us, and especially during this holy season for the nativity of Your Son, our Savior and Lord.


C:       We praise You that He came to earth to reconcile us to You, _ and to open the closed doors of Paradise   +   for us and for all who believe in Him.    +   We also thank You, Lord,   +   for the comfort, peace, assurance and joy   +   that Immanuel has brought to us all!


P:       We further implore You, O Lord, to continue to watch over and guide Your one, holy, Christian Church, blessing that Church here on earth with ever-growing faithfulness to You, and a unity of faith that is grounded in a comprehensive commitment to everything You have given us in Your Holy Word.


C:       We pray especially for our synodical president,   + as well as for all the other leaders of our Wisconsin Synod and our South Central District.   +     We also pray for all the pastors, teachers, and servants of the Church at large.   +   May they remain firm in Your Word, +   teaching and living the true Christian faith,   +   so that Your Kingdom will continue to be extended   +   and so that Your name will be glorified through us.


P:       Remember, Lord, all those who serve in our government and especially those who serve in our nation’s military services.   


C:       Grant them wisdom and faithfulness in their service.   +   Strengthen their families during times of separation.   +   And guide all nations into the ways of peace and justice.


P:       Remember, Lord, all who cry to You in their time of need.   Grant them healing and help in all their trials and troubles,  as You alone know best.  Please bless all those who are serving in the health care field – particularly those who are attending to the many people stricken with the Corona Virus.    Keep them and their patients safe.   Also please support and sustain everyone else providing other essential services to our population during this challenging time.  According to Your will, please bless the dissemination of the vaccine for this virus, that very soon it might help bring about the end of this pandemic not only in our community, state, and nation, but throughout the world.


C:       Remember, Lord, those which You in the past   +  have made Your own in Holy Baptism,   +    but who have neglected to hear Your Word +    and return thanks to You as they should.   +    Grant them a spirit of repentance  +    and restore them to active, regular fellowship with Your Church.


P:       Graciously receive our prayers, preserving us in the true faith that You have given us and delivering us from every inclination of our sinful nature, as well as from all our other spiritual adversaries.  


C:       For You live and reign with the Son and the Spirit, +   as the one, true God forever and ever. 


P:       Also hear us, Father, as we take a few moments to silently offer You our personal petitions and praises.


A Moment for Silent Prayer  


P:       And finally, with all our prayers being offered in Jesus’ name, we also join in that special prayer which has been given to us by our Savior:


C:       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   for ever and ever.    Amen.




We Leave With The Lord’s Blessing


The Benediction


May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,  and the love of God,  and the  fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.


The Closing Hymn                                                                   Hymn 43   “To Thee, My Heart, I Offer”


To Thee my heart I offer,  O Christ-child sweet and dear,

Upon Thy love relying;   Oh, be Thou ever near!

Take Thou my heart and give me Thine   And let it be forever mine,

O Jesus, holy, undefiled,  My Savior meek and mild.


My heart within is glowing,   O Christ-child sweet and dear;

I love Thee, Lord and Savior,   Oh, be Thou ever near!

I see Thee in a manger laid,  Near cattle resting unafraid;

I see Thy deep humility   And lowly bow to Thee.


What brought Thee to the manger,   O Christ-child sweet and dear?

Thy love for me, a stranger   Oh, be Thou ever near!

O Lord, how great is this Thy love  That reaches down from Heav’n above,

Thy love for us, by sin defiled,   That made Thee, God, a child!


Let me be Thine forever,   O Christ-child sweet and dear;

Uphold me with Thy mercy,   And be Thou ever near.

From Thee I gladly all receive,   And what is mine to Thee I give,

My heart, my soul, and all I own.   Let these be Thine alone.    AMEN



Silent Prayer


Post-service Music                                                                                                                                          




Recently at Grace Lutheran Church                             Sunday’s Attendance:   63   Online Views: 39

Bible Class in-person Attendance: 19      Online:   10       Budgetary Offerings: $1520 

Online Offerings:    $309.27       Capital Improvement:   $10            Benevolence: $25

Tuesday Morning Bible Class:   11

Christmas Eve Attendance:   68        Online views: 37      Budgetary Offerings:   $1051

Christmas Day Attendance:   40         Online views: 26      Budgetary Offerings: $1405


Serving Us Next Sunday (1-03-21)             

Ushers – Chris Roberts, Tom Otto, Kent Mayer

Altar Guild – Tammy Schwartz, Linda Winat

Elders:   Tim Pfortmiller, Vic Walker


Birthday This Week                            Dec 31 – Sarah Bruns;        


This Coming Week at Grace Lutheran Church


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

                                                Bible Class/Sunday School  – 11:05 a.m.                                                     

Tuesday       Morning Bible Study

Thursday     New Year’s Eve Worship Service with the Lord’s Supper, 7 p.m.

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

                       Bible Class/Sunday School  – 11:05 a.m.

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


New Year’s Eve Worship Service THIS THURSDAY……December 31st, we will hold a special service of thanksgiving to our God for His guidance and blessings from which we have all benefitted during 2020, and we’ll seek His continued blessings as we sit on the threshold of a new year.  Our service on New Year’s Eve includes a celebration of the Lord’s Supper and begins at 7p.m. and it will be held in the chapel.

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.