The Example the Wise Men Set


         This morning we have the opportunity to celebrate one of the Christian Church’s oldest and most meaningful festivals, “The Festival of the Epiphany of our Lord.”   Epiphany officially always falls on January 6th – three days from now.  The season of “Epiphany” is the third festival season of the Christian Church year, which began on the last Sunday of this past November (the first two festival seasons were the just-completed Advent and Christmas seasons).  The Epiphany season varies in length from 3 to 8 Sundays, depending on the date of Easter.  An early Easter means a short Epiphany cycle, and vice versa.  (This year’s Epiphany season will be six Sundays in length).

            With the exception of the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord (Easter Sunday), the celebration of the Epiphany of our Lord is the oldest of the Christian church’s festivals.  Almost 2000 years before the birth of Christ, January 6th marked the date of a celebration dedicated to the birth of the sun-god, Aeon.  By the close of the second century A.D., Christians had “taken over” this date and “reformed” it into the Festival of the Epiphany of our Lord, replacing any and all pagan overtones connected to the sun-god, with  Christian meaning, significance, and the worship of the “Son of God,” Who is the true Light of the world.

            The word “Epiphany” comes from the Greek verb, “epi-phan-eh-oh” which means “to reveal” or “to manifest.”  For us, Epiphany reminds us of the manifestation, or revelation, of God’s glory to mankind through the Father’s sending into the world of His Son, Who took upon Himself our human nature.  Until the inauguration of Christmas in the 4th century AD, the birth, circumcision and baptism of Jesus were all commemorated in connection with occasion of the Epiphany of our Lord. 

            When the celebration of Christ’s birth changed to December 25th, the Eastern Church (today’s Eastern/Greek Orthodox Church) chose to celebrate Christ’s baptism in connection with the day of His Epiphany. 

            In the Western Church, however, Epiphany became associated with the story of the Wise Men. The reason for this is not clear.  Since the Wise Men were not Jews, the primary thrust of the Epiphany message in the Western Church has been the importance of our “revealing” Christ as Savior to the non-Jewish people (the Gentiles) of this world.  And so the Epiphany season has become a time to emphasize the missionary/out-reach/witnessing work which Christ has entrusted to every member of His Church on earth.   One final point of interest:  While very little is said about the Wise Men (Magi) in Matthew’s account of their visit to the Christ Child, legend has fixed their number at 3 (no doubt because three gifts were brought to Jesus by them:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh), and has identified them as Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior.  In addition, by another legend they have come to be regarded not only as wise men (magi), but as kings.   Of course, we do not — nor should we — put our faith in legends.

    All three of today’s main lessons (the Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel/Sermon text) are the historic/traditional readings for the Day of the Epiphany.    

            Our Old Testament Lesson is a prophesy God made through Isaiah regarding the Gentile people also coming to believe in the Messiah.   

            This prophecy would find its direct fulfillment in today’s Gospel Lesson / Sermon Text……the story of the Wise Men coming to worship the infant Jesus, along with King Herod’s failed attempt to put the Savior to death. 

             In our Epistle Lesson, Paul rejoices because of the privilege God has given him of bringing the Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world.    Today, you and I are entrusted with proclaiming that saving message, formerly a mystery to all but the nation of Israel, throughout our community and the world.  

            Our Children’s Lesson will then talk about how a star guided the wise men to Jesus….and how God’s Word guides us to believe in Him as our Savior and Lord.

            Finally, our Sermon will focus on the story of the Wise Men and their quest to follow the miraculous star in order to worship Christ.   In a number of ways, those men serve as important spiritual examples for us…..examples we would all do well to follow.





Scripture quotations in this worship flyer, unless otherwise noted,  are taken from the

Evangelical Heritage Version of the Bible.  Copyright 2019 by the Wartburg Project





Prayer Upon Entering Church  –  Heavenly Father, You displayed Your grace by bringing me to faith in Christ through the work of Your Holy Spirit, and then by giving me the blessing of being called Your child.  Though what I offer You today is so small compared to all You have done for me, please accept my humble offerings of praise and thanksgiving, as well as my gifts that I will be bringing before You today.  Also, Lord, help me gladly to hear and take to heart all that You offer me in Your Word this morning – particularly the Good News of salvation from sin for me and all people through faith in Your Son, my Savior.   Renew and invigorate my faith through Your Holy Spirit today and every day, that I might live a confident life of faith and love to Your glory,  and so that I might share with others, by all possible means and at every opportunity, the same Good News of salvation through Christ which has filled my life with peace, purpose, and the promise of eternal life in heaven.  Amen.





Silent prayer

Pre service music                                                                                                                                               


The Service Introduction and Invitation to Worship Invocation


            P:         We make our beginning this morning, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.     Amen.


The Opening Hymn                                                                                               Hymn 82   “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise”


1 Songs of thankfulness and praise,  Jesus, Lord, to you we raise,

Manifested by the star   To the Magi from afar,

Branch of royal David’s stem,  In your birth at Bethlehem.

Anthems be to you addressed,  God in man made manifest.


2 Manifest at Jordan’s stream,   Prophet, Priest, and King supreme,

And at Cana, Wedding Guest,   In your Godhead manifest;

Manifest in pow’r divine,  Changing water into wine.

Anthems be to you addressed,  God in man made manifest.


3 Manifest in making whole   Palsied limbs and fainting soul;

Manifest in valiant fight,   Quelling all the devil’s might;

Manifest in gracious will,   Ever bringing good from ill.

Anthems be to you addressed,  God in man made manifest.


4 Sun and moon shall darkened be;    Stars shall fall, the heav’ns shall flee.

Christ will then like lightning shine;    All will see his glorious sign.

All will then the trumpet hear;   All will see the judge appear.

You by all will be confessed,   God in man made manifest.

5 Grant us grace to see you, Lord,   Mirrored in your holy Word.

May our lives and all we do   Imitate and honor you

That we all like you may be   At your great epiphany

And may praise you, ever blest,   God in man made manifest.


After which the Congregation will rise for


The Blessing


                                    P:                The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.

            C:         And also with you.


The Confession of Sins


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


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


Pastor              Our gracious Lord and Master has shown us His mercy:   He has given His one and only Son to save us from all our sins.     And now, carrying out my office as a called servant of Christ,  and according to His command and authority,   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


Lord Have Mercy


P:         For all that we need in life, and for the wisdom to use all Your gifts with gratitude and joy, hear our prayer, O Lord.


            C:         (sung)   Lord, have mercy


            P:         For the steadfast assurance that nothing can separate us from Your love and for the courage to stand firm against the assaults of Satan and every evil, hear our prayer, O Christ:


            C:         (sung)   Christ, have mercy.


            P:         For the well-being of Your holy Church in all the world and for those who offer here their worship and praise, hear our prayer, O Lord


            C:          (sung)   Lord, have mercy.


            P:         Merciful God, Maker and Preserver of life, uphold us by Your power, and keep us in Your tender care:


            C:         (sung)   Amen.


            P:         The works of the Lord are great and glorious;   His name is worthy of praise.


O Lord, our Lord, How glorious is Your name in all the earth.

Almighty God, merciful Father, Your crown our life with Your love.

You take away our sin;    You comfort our spirit;

You make us pure and holy in Your sight.

You did not spare Your only Son, but gave Him up for us all.

O Lord, our Lord, How glorious is Your name in all the earth.

O Son of God, eternal Word of the Father,

You came to live with us;   You made Your Father known;

You washed us from our sins in Your own blood.

You are the King of glory;   You are the Lord!

O Lord, our Lord, How glorious is Your name in all the earth.



Prayer of This Morning


Almighty and eternal God   +    direct our actions through Your Holy Spirit, +   that we might always please and glorify You.   +     Thank You, Lord,   +   for graciously calling us out of the darkness of sin and unbelief   +   into the light of saving faith in Christ Jesus.   +    Keep the eyes of our faith open by the power of Your Holy Spirit   +   that we may continue to see and confess Your Son,  Jesus Christ, +  as truly God and truly Man, + and as the one and only Redeemer of the entire world.    +   Continue to lead us by the light of Your Word    +   giving us the spiritual wisdom and strength of faith we need  +   to live each day to the honor of Your glorious, saving name.   +   We ask this for Jesus’ sake  +   Who lives and rules with You and the Holy Spirit   +   as the one true God, now and for ever.  +   Amen.



We Give Our Attention to the Word of God


The First Lesson                                                                                                                                                       Isaiah 60:1-6


1  Arise, shine, for your light has come,  and the glory of the Lord is dawning upon you.

2  Look, darkness covers the earth, and deep darkness covers the peoples, but the Lord will dawn upon you, and his glory will be seen over you.

3  Nations will walk to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

4  Look up. Look all around and see! All of them have been gathered. They are coming to you.

Your sons will come from far away, and people will carry your daughters on their side.

5  Then you will look and be radiant.  Your heart will race with excitement and burst with joy.

For great riches from the sea will be delivered to you.  The wealth of the nations will come to you.  6  Caravans of camels will cover your land,  young camels from Midian and Ephah.

All those from Sheba will come. They will carry gold and incense, and they will announce the good news of the praise of the Lord.



The Epistle Lesson                                                                                                                                                 Ephesians 3:1-12


For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 Surely you have heard of the administration of God’s grace given to me for you, 3 namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation (as I have already written briefly). 4 When you read this, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. 5 This mystery was not made known to people in past generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that in Christ Jesus the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and people who also share in the promise through the gospel.

7 I became a servant of this gospel, in keeping with the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. 8 To me—even though I am the very least of all the saints—was given this grace: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ 9 and to enlighten everyone about the administration of this mystery. In past ages this mystery remained hidden in God, who created all things. 10 He did this so that, through the church, the multifaceted wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was done according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him we can freely approach God with confidence through faith in him.



The Children’s Lesson                                                                                                               Matthew 2:1-2


After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, when Herod was king, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, 2 “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”


A Star Guided Them….God’s Word Guides Us



The Gospel Lesson                                                                                                                                                          Matthew 2


After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, when Herod was king, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, 2 “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 He gathered together all the people’s chief priests and experts in the law. He asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, because this was written through the prophet:  6 You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are certainly not least among the rulers of Judah: because out of you will come a ruler, who will shepherd my people, Israel.”


7 Then Herod secretly summoned the Wise Men and found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find him, report to me, so that I may also go and worship him.”


9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. Then the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them, until it stood still over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with overwhelming joy. 11 After they went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Since they had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.


13 After the Wise Men were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream. He said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, because Herod will search for the child in order to kill him.”


14 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and left for Egypt. 15 He stayed there until the death of Herod. This happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”


16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Wise Men, he was furious. He issued orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding countryside, from two years old and under. This was in keeping with the exact time he had learned from the Wise Men. 17 Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:   18 A voice was heard in Ramah,  weeping and great mourning,  Rachel weeping for her children,   and she refused to be comforted,  because they are no more.


19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. The angel said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”   21 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus, Herod’s son, had succeeded his father as ruler in Judea, he was afraid to go there. Since he had been warned in a dream, he went to the region of Galilee. 23 When he arrived there, he settled in a city called Nazareth. So what was spoken through the prophets was fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.”



The Public Confession of our Christian Faith

according to the words of 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.



Hymn of the Day                                                                                                 Hymn 83      “As With Gladness, Men Of Old”



1 As with gladness men of old   Did the guiding star behold,

As with joy they hailed its light,   Leading onward, beaming bright,

So, most gracious Lord, may we   Evermore your foll’wers be.


2 As with joyful steps they sped,   Savior, to your lowly bed,

There to bend the knee before   You whom heav’n and earth adore,

So may we with willing feet   Ever seek your mercy seat.


3 As they offered gifts most rare   At your cradle, rude and bare,

So may we with holy joy,   Pure and free from sin’s alloy,

All our costliest treasures bring,   Christ, to you, our heav’nly King.


4 Holy Jesus, ev’ry day    Keep us in the narrow way;

And, when earthly things are past,   Bring our ransomed souls at last

Where they need no star to guide,   Where no clouds your glory hide.


5 In the heav’nly country bright   Need they no created light;

You its light, its joy, its crown,   You its sun which goes not down.

There forever may we sing  Alleluias to our King!



The Pre-Sermon Greeting


Grace be yours, and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   Amen.



The Sermon                                                                                                                                       Matthew 2


The Wise Men….We’ll be Wise to Follow Their Example

After the sermon the Congregation will REMAIN SEATED as



We Bring Our Offerings and Prayers Before the Lord


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.

Today’s Special Prayers


A Prayer of Intercession on behalf of Jim and Jo Allen

(grandparents of MiKaela Lemmon) in Arizona, and who have the Corna virus;

for Scott and Renee Scholton (son-in-law and daughter of Bill and Rosy Krizsan)

who live in Louisiana and who also have come down with the Corona virus; and

for Bev and Darrell Anderson, who are recovering from Covid.


The Responsive Prayer


Brothers and sisters in Christ.   Let us now pray for everyone who is part of our Lord’s Church here on earth, as well as for all people according to their needs.

Once, O Lord, You led the Magi and brought them into the presence of Christ by the light of a star. Shine the light of Your Word on those still living in spiritual darkness, that they may be brought into Christ’s marvelous light and believe in Him Whom You have sent.


C:    Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.


May Your light shine on us and through us in our words and works of faith.   Bless the proclamation of Your Word that those who hear may believe, and in believing enjoy eternal life in Your name.   Bless all our Synodical leaders, our South Central District officers, our staff here at Grace Lutheran Church and School, along with all our Synod’s professors, pastors, teachers, missionaries and church workers and through their faithful labors produce a harvest of souls, and of righteousness for Your kingdom and for Your glory.


C:    Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.


May Your light shine in our world for the correction of error and the promotion of truth and virtue.  Bless our President, our Governor and all elected and appointed civil servants at the national, state and local levels.   Guide them in the pursuit of justice and peace for all the people.   Protect and defend those who protect and defend us against all enemies – especially those in our military and law-enforcement agencies.


C:    Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.


May Your light shine upon those whose lives are touched by struggle, sorrow, illness, despair and death. Come to the aid of all those persons who have asked for our prayers and grant them healing, strength, comfort and peace according to Your will.  Encourage and support care-givers everywhere and bless all those persons who practice medicine in its varied forms.


C:    Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.


May Your light shine upon the new year; teach us to number our days and apply our hearts to that which is good and wise. Receive the talents and abilities we call our own and, as once You received the gifts of the Magi, we pray You to accept the tithes and offerings we bring as signs of our gratitude and faith.


C:    Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.


May Your light shine in our hearts that we may humbly come forward in faith before Your altar, and receive to our benefit the spiritual blessings You promise us in the Sacrament of Your Son’s body and blood.   Give to this congregation unity of doctrine that nothing may detract from our faithful witness to Your truth.


C:    Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.


Finally, may the light of Your love always shine on us and bring forth the fruits of repentance and faithfulness in our daily lives.   Give each of us a deep and abiding confidence in Your Word that we may embrace Your holy will without fear, and grow stronger in our faith day by day – until that day when we stand before You and receive the goal of our faith…..everlasting life in heaven.  . Hear us and answer us, dear Lord, for we offer this prayer in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, in Whose name we also pray:


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


P:    The Lord be with you.


C:    (sung) And also with you.


P:    Lift up your hearts.


C:    (sung) We lift them up to the Lord.


P:   Let us give thanks to the Lord our God


C:    (sung)     It is right to give Him thanks and praise.


P:    It is truly good and right that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, O Lord, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, for in the wonder and mystery of His birth You have opened our eyes to the glory of Your grace and renewed in our hearts the fervor of Your love. 


Now have come the salvation and power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ.  To Him Who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and thanks and honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen


(Sung)     Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. 

The whole earth is full of Your glory.

You are my God and I will exalt You. 

I will lift You up for You have become my salvation.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.

The whole earth is full of Your glory.


The Words of Institution

P:    “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”


C:    (sung)   Amen.


(Sung)   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 Your peace.  Amen.


After which the Congregation may be seated.


The Exhortation Regarding the Lord’s Supper                                                                                               


The Distribution of the Sacramental Elements




                                                                                   (Please read the following if you have not spoken with

                                                                                            our Pastor about taking communion.  Thank you.)



We ask that only “Confirmed, Communicant” members of this congregation, or of

one of our Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod congregations come forward to receive the Lord’s Supper at this time.                                                                                                                                           


     We seriously believe, according to Scripture, that only those who are “one,” that is, in complete doctrinal agreement, united in a common public confession of faith, are to commune together at the same altar (see I Corinthians 10:17 and I Corinthians 1:10).

     That’s because to be “in communion” means to share and to hold in common.   By eating and drinking at our Lord’s Table, we are not only sharing in, with, and under the bread and wine, Jesus’ very body and blood…we are also publicly declaring that we hold in common a specific confession of faith and Christian teaching.  In other words, as a result of having comprehensively studied the Scriptures together all of our communicants have agreed to accept and proclaim as the truth…the same Biblical doctrines and practices.

     Through membership in a particular church body (for us, that church body is the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), each person makes a public statement that he/she is in full agreement with the teachings and practices of that body.  Because not every church body or Lutheran Synod teaches and practices the same things, we in the WELS want to be honest in our recognition of the doctrinal/teaching differences that, here on earth, separate us from other church bodies.   Please bear in mind that we are not, in any way, judging the legitimacy of your Christian faith.  Still, we ask that  if you have not (upon study of the Word with us) declared yourself to be in full doctrinal agreement with us, you would respectfully not join us in the Lord’s Supper this morning.  

     It is our prayer that our Scripture-based practice of “Close Communion” will encourage anyone among us today who is not presently in full fellowship with us to seriously examine the teachings and practices of his/her church in order to determine if those teachings and practices are really in full agreement with God’s Word. 

     And if you are guest among us today, we want you to know that it is our earnest desire that you might become familiar with the Biblical doctrines/teachings which our congregation confesses, in order that you might one day join with us at the Lord’s altar in this public expression of full unity of doctrine and practice.  Until then, please know that we are most grateful for your participation as a fellow Christian in this worship service, and that we truly appreciate your understanding and respect for our Bible-based Communion practice. 





The Distribution Hymn                                          Hymn 309   “Draw Near And Take The Body of the Lord


1 Draw near and take the body of the Lord,    And drink the holy blood for you outpoured.

Offered was he for greatest and for least,  Himself the victim and himself the priest.

2 He that his saints in this world rules and shields   To all believers life eternal yields,

With heav’nly bread makes them that hunger whole,   Gives living waters to the thirsty soul.


3 Come forward, then, with faithful hearts sincere,   And take the pledges of salvation here.

Before your altar, Lord, your servants bow;   In this your feast of love be with us now.



                                                                                                                                    “Your Table I Approach”


1 Your table I approach;   Dear Savior, hear my prayer.

Let not an unrepentant heart  Prove hurtful to me there.


2 Lord, I confess my sins  And mourn their wretched bands;

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


3 Your body and Your blood, Once slain and shed for me,

Are taken at Your table, Lord   In blest reality.


4 Search not how this takes place,   This wondrous mystery;

God can accomplish vastly more   Than what we think could be.


5 O grant, most blessed Lord,  That earth and hell combined

May not about this sacrament  Raise doubt within my mind.


6 Oh, may I never fail  To thank You day and night

For Your true body and true blood,  O God, my peace and light.



The Closing Prayer


Almighty God, to Whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from Whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the power of Your Holy Spirit, that we may love You more completely, praise You more joyously, and serve You more faithfully.  These requests we make in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and rules with You and the Holy Spirit, as the one true God, both now and forever.   Amen.




Now Dismiss Us, Lord


The Benediction        Brothers and sisters, now go in peace.  

                                    Live in harmony with one another.   

                                    And serve the Lord in gladness.


                                    The LORD bless you and keep you,

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

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



The Closing Hymn                                                                          Hymn 471  “Renew Me, O Eternal Light”


1 Renew me, O eternal Light,  And let my heart and soul be bright,

Illumined with the light of grace   That issues from your holy face.


2 Destroy in me the lust of sin;    From all impureness make me clean.

Oh, grant me pow’r and strength, my God, 

To strive against my flesh and blood.


3 Create in me a new heart, Lord,   That gladly I obey your Word.

Oh, let your will be my desire  And with new life my soul inspire.


4 Grant that I only you may love   And seek those things which are above

Till I behold you face to face,   O Light eternal, through your grace.





This Coming Week at Grace Lutheran Church


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

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

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

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

Sunday           Choir, 8:40 a.m.     Morning Worship 9:30 a.m                                                            

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

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


Last Week At Grace Lutheran                                                                                                                          

Sunday Worship Attendance: 47                 Bible Class Attendance: 16                                  Sunday School: 2

General Offerings: $1370     Benevolence: $100

New Year’s Eve Worship Attendance: 34      New Year’s Eve Communed: 25

Online Offerings: $ 2525.56           Budgetary Offerings: $2090


Serving Us Next Week                                                                          Elders:    Vic Walker, Tim Pfortmiller

Altar Guild:   Tammy Schwartz, Linda Winnat                  

Ushers:   John Wambold, Jim Winnat


Birthdays This Week               Jan 07 – Dick Milas:         Jan 08 – Fred Cusanelli;    


Wednesday Evening Bible Classes Resume in a week and a half….on Wednesday evening, January 13th, at 6 p.m. with separate classes for women and men.   Please join us for this midweek opportunity to study God’s Word and enjoy some good Christian fellowship and encouragement.

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.