The Sixth Sunday after Trinity

also known as the Eighth Sunday of the Pentecost Season

July 24, 2022

The Way to Heaven isn’t by  “Being Better Than Uncle Joe”


….it’s by God’s grace alone, through Spirit-given faith in Jesus Christ.


            The following is an illustration of Grace.   It’s a story about Fiorello LaGuardia, who, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII, was called by adoring New Yorkers “the Little Flower.”  That’s because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his lapel.   LaGuardia (after whom one of New York’s major airports is named) was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, go on raids with the police department, and take entire orphanages to baseball games.  On one occasion, when the local newspapers went on strike, he went on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to New York’s children.  He was a good guy!

            One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself.   Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread.  She explained why she committed the crime.   Her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving.   But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges.  “It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor,” the man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.”  LaGuardia sighed.   He turned to the woman and said “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions–ten dollars or ten days in jail.”   But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket.  He pulled out a bill, and said:  “Here is your ten dollar fine which I now remit.   Furthermore, I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat.   Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”    The following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old woman who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren…..fifty cents of that amount having been contributed by the grocery store owner.  What’s more, some seventy petty criminals, plus folks with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, who were all in the courtroom watching, and who had all  just paid their fifty cent fine, all gave the mayor a standing ovation……

            What LaGuardia performed was an act of human grace….. impressive, and yet it pales in comparison to the Divine Grace that God chooses to extend to us sinners.   We deserve to be cursed…condemned to eternal suffering in hell – a debt we could never pay.   Instead, we get what we don’t deserve: God’s grace in Christ.   Jesus bore our punishment, paid our penalty, suffered God’s wrath against our sin (and every else’s) in our place, and for our benefit.   Because of God’s grace, we are not only forgiven all our sins, but are regarded as “sinless” by virtue of Christ’s perfection applied to us, as well as because of His suffering totally the damnable curse of our sins while on the cross.  As a result, we have been given salvation and eternal life in heaven.   For us, it’s not a matter of “earning” heaven by our goodness, but simply believing – by faith – in what Jesus has done for us.

            That’s the essence of the Christian Gospel…..which Paul’s letter to the Galatians stresses over and over again.   Over the past few weeks we’ve been going through the book of Galatians in our Sunday worship services, section by section.   This letter, written by Paul under Divine inspiration (and so these are God’s Words….not just Paul’s), was sent to a group of congregations in Galatia (today, a portion of the central area of the country of Turkey).   God had used Paul’s preaching of Law and Gospel to establish those churches during his first mission trip (recorded in Acts 13-14).   Predominantly Gentile in their ethnicity, though with some former Jews in their fellowship, the Galatian Christians had eagerly embraced the Gospel.  They found comfort and peace in the assurance that their salvation and place in heaven depended on Christ’s efforts and righteousness applied to them – and not on their goodness, sufferings, offerings, or any other efforts on their part.   

            However, false teachers followed Paul.   They intimated that Paul’s Gospel was incomplete and that he wasn’t an authentic apostle.   They taught that faith in Christ as the Promised Savior was, indeed, necessary to salvation, BUT so was following the Old Testament Mosaic  laws about circumcision, diet, purification, observing Jewish holy days, etc.    The “Gospel” they introduced confused and frustrated some Galatians, even as it appealed to others who felt an inner need “to contribute” to their salvation.   (Theirs was the same inner “legalism” that compromises the faith of many today, and steers others out of the Christian faith to a “my-own-goodness-based” security for heaven.   Of course, what these false teachers (often labeled “Judaizers”) taught was a lie….and not only wasn’t it the true Gospel that saved souls, it actually cost souls their salvation.   That’s because “faith in Christ PLUS anything” is not the Gospel…..   The Gospel offers salvation, not based on our goodness, but only on Christ’s righteousness and death for us.   Faith in that saves.   Faith in anything else doesn’t.

            That’s the message the Apostle reconveys in the first fourteen verses of Galatians chapter three, which serves as our Sermon Text(also our Epistle Reading) for today.   Our sermon theme will be:  The Way to Heaven isn’t by ‘Being Better Than Uncle Joe.’”   We’ll hear Paul “prove” that point:   1) by making the Galatians examine their own prior, joyful and life-changing experience with the true Gospel;   2) by showing from Scripture that Abram was saved – not by his obedience – but by faith in God’s promise of a Savior;   and 3) by reminding them that Christ has saved them from the Law’s “be absolutely perfect or be damned” curse of hell, by embracing that curse for them.   Jesus did it all.  There’s nothing to add.

            This morning’s Old Testament Lesson is Genesis 15.   Some time after God called Abram to follow Him (Genesis 12) and then led him to the Canaan, God affirmed His covenant with Abram.  He again promised to give him and his descendants the land in which Abram was living.  Also, God promised that He would give the as-yet fatherless Abram a son….in fact a multitude of descendants so that they would become a great nation.   We’re told in verse 6 that Abram believed the Lord.   Then, through a ritual theologians and historians call a “Babylonian Blood Covenant,” God again unilaterally committed Himself to providing those blessings to Abram and his descendants – in particular, the blessing of one day (centuries later) taking control of the land of Canaan as their (the Israelites’) Promised Land.

            Today’s Gospel Lesson is the closing portion of John 8.   Earlier Jesus had challenged the Jews, suggesting that they were not truly Abraham’s descendants because Abraham looked forward in faith to His (Jesus’) coming as the Savior.  They, on the other hand, refused to believe in Him.  In fact, Jesus calls them children of the Devil because they reject Him.  He tells them that anyone who truly believes in Him will never die, which further offends them, since they knew that Abraham and the prophets all died.   (They didn’t understand that He was talking about eternal life in heaven.)   Toward the close of our reading, Jesus says “Before Abraham was I AM.”  The Jews wouldn’t recognize that He was the eternal God, but they did hear Him call Himself “I AM,” which they considered blasphemy….since this “Man” was calling Himself “the LORD” (which is what “I AM” means in Hebrew).  Consequently, they picked up stones to stone Jesus to death as a heretic.   Of course, as it wasn’t His time to die for our sins, Jesus evaded their murderous attempt, by slipping past them.

            Finally, our Children’s Lesson will be based on Proverbs 14:12.  We’ll talk about the sad fact that most people today believe that there are many ways to heaven, and that believing in the God of the Bible (the only True God) isn’t that important.   God’s Word, however, clearly states that there is only ONE way into heaven (through faith in Jesus, our Savior) and that all the other ways lead – not to heaven – but to hell.


Prayer Upon Entering Church    Heavenly Father, You showed 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 thanks, as well as my gifts.  Also, help me to gladly hear and take to heart the Good News of salvation from sin for me and all people through faith in Your Son, my Savior.  Invigorate me with Your Holy Spirit, that I might live a confident life of faith and love to Your glory, and that wherever I can I might share with others, the same Good News of salvation through Christ which has filled my life with peace and purpose.  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 Music and lyrics, as needed, are used with permission via  #A712831


Silent Prayer upon entering the sanctuary

Pre-service music                                                                                                                                              


Pre-Worship Hymn Singing, beginning at 9:25 a.m.


We Praise Our God


The Welcoming and Introduction to Worship


the Congregation will rise for the invocation



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.



Today’s Psalm Reading                                                                                                                      Psalm 84


Pastor:                         How I love Your dwelling place, O Lord of Armies.  

Congregation:             My soul grows weak and even wastes away,   +   as I long for the courtyards of the Lord.   +   My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.


P:         Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow has found a nest for herself, where she may place her young near Your altars, O Lord of Armies, my King and my God.

C:         How blessed are those who live in Your house.    +   They are always praising You.   


P:                     How blessed is everyone whose strength is found in You.   The highways to Jerusalem are in their hearts.  

C:         As they pass through the Valley of Baca, it becomes full of springs.    +    The autumn rain also covers it with pools.   


P:         They go from strength to strength. 

C:         Each one will appear before God in Zion.


P:         O Lord, God of Armies, hear my prayer.   Give ear, O God of Jacob. 

C:         Look upon our shield, O God.  


P:                     Look with favor on the face of Your anointed one.

C:         Yes, one day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. 


P:                     I would rather wait at the doorway of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 

C:         For the Lord is a Sun and Shield.   God gives grace and glory. 


P:         The Lord does not withhold any good thing from those who walk with integrity.  

C:         O Lord of Armies, how blessed is everyone who trusts in You.


After which the Congregation will be seated for

The Opening Hymn                                                                       “Dearest Lord, While You Are Watching”

                                                                                                                           sung to the melody of “Neander”


Dearest Lord, while You are watching   O’er Your universe today.

Pause a moment as we’re praying,   Hear the words we have to say.

Bless us, please, oh Friend so dear,   As to You we now draw near.


We have thrived on Your attention.   We have prospered at Your hand.

Gifts too numerous to mention,   You have showered on our land.

Earth and heaven sing Your praise,   Mighty Ancient of all days!


Though at times we groan and grumble, Though our sinful deeds You see,

Though our prayers we often mumble,    You forgive us constantly.

Could we find a friend so true,   As the Friend we’ve found in You?


If You see some tear-drops falling,    Lord, You know the reason why.

We are saddened at recalling,    How You sent Your Son to die.

Such a wond’rous gift of love,    We are so unworthy of!


Gracious God, oh please direct us,    Every day and every night.

Send Your angels to protect us,    From the Tempter’s evil might,

‘Til the day when we can see   You in heav’nly majesty!       Amen.



            After which the Congregation will rise as

We Confess our Sins to the Lord

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.

The Order of Matins                                                                                                                            

Pastor            O Lord, open my lips.

Congregation   (Sung)   And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.

Pastor            Hasten, O God, to deliver me.

Congregation    (Sung)   Hasten to help me, O Lord.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son    And to the Holy Ghost

As it was in the beginning   Is now and ever shall be   World without end.  Amen.   Hallelujah!


Pastor            O come, let us worship the Lord.

Congregation  (sung)    For He is our Maker


Oh come, let us sing unto the Lord    Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving.   And make a joyful noise unto Him with Psalms.

For the Lord is a great God.   And a great King above all gods.

In His hands are the deep places of the earth.   The strength of the hills is His also.

The sea is His and He made it.   And His hands form-ed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down.   Let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker.

For He is our God,    And we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son   And to the Holy Ghost

As it was in the beginning   Is now and ever shall be    World without end.  Amen.   



The Prayer for Today

O Almighty God, our Heavenly Father  +  as we meditate on Your Word today   +   move us to repent of all our sins  + particularly the sins of being legaistic   +   of thinking that we must do something to add to Christ’s redeeming work   +   in order to be confident of Your salvation.   +    Enable us,  +   through Your Spirit’s aid,   +   and motivated by the Gospel,   +     to resist these and all other temptations of the Devil,   +   the evil influences of this wicked world,   +   and the deceitful desires and wicked ways of our own sinful nature.   +   Empower us through Your Word and Sacraments   +   to grow in our faithfulness to You   +   and to increase our trust in You, O Lord, +   so that we might daily bring honor and glory to Your holy name,   + and be more certain of our salvation in Christ.    +  All this we ask  in the name and for the sake   +    of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Savior,   +   Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,   +   One God, for ever and ever.  + Amen.

after which the Congregation  may be seated


We Hear God’s Word

The Old Testament Lesson                                                                                                             Genesis 15

After these events the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. He said, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

2 Abram said, “Lord God what can You give me, since I remain childless, and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Abram also said, “Look, You have given me no offspring, so a servant born in my house will be my heir.”

4 Just then, the word of the Lord came to him. God said, “This man will not be your heir, but instead one who will come out of your own body will be your heir.” 5 The Lord then brought him outside and said, “Now look toward the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” He said to Abram, “This is what your descendants will be like.” 6 Abram believed in the Lord, and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness. 7 He said to him, “I am the Lord, Who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as a possession.”

8 He said, “Lord God, how will I know that I will possess it?”

9 The Lord said to him, “Bring Me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Abram gathered all of these, divided them in half, and laid the two halves across from each other, but he did not divide the birds in two. 11 Birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 When the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. Then terrifying, deep darkness fell on him. 13 The Lord said to Abram, “Know this! Your descendants will live as aliens in a land that is not theirs, and they will serve its people, who will afflict them for four hundred years. 14 But I will surely judge the nation that they will serve. Afterward your descendants will come out with great wealth, 15 but you will go to your fathers in peace. You will be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come here again, because the guilt of the Amorites is not yet full.”

17 Then when the sun had gone down and it was dark, suddenly a smoking oven and a flaming torch passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram. He said, “To your descendants I have given this land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates. 19 I will give you the territory of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaites, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

The Second Lesson                                                                                                                  Galatians 3:1-14


O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I just want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?    3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now trying to reach the goal by the flesh? 4 Did you experience so many things for nothing, if it were indeed for nothing? 5 So then, does the One Who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the law? Or does He do it by your believing what you hear— 6 in the same way as Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”?

7 Understand, then, that those who believe are the children of Abraham. 8 Foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, Scripture proclaimed the gospel in advance to Abraham, saying, “In you, all nations will be blessed.” 9 So then, those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 In fact, those who rely on the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.” 11 Clearly no one is declared righteous before God by the law, because “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law does not say “by faith.” Instead it says, “The one who does these things will live by them.”

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. As it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we would receive the promised Spirit through faith.

After which the Congregation will rise for the reading of

The Gospel Lesson                                                                                                                        John 8:46-59


46 Who of you can convict Me of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe Me? 47 Whoever belongs to God listens to what God says. The reason you do not listen is that you do not belong to God.”

48 The Jews responded, “Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon. On the contrary, I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 I do not seek My own glory. There is One Who seeks it, and He is the Judge. 51 Amen, Amen, I tell you: If anyone holds on to My word, he will certainly never see death.”

52 So the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets. Yet You say, ‘If anyone holds on to My word, he will certainly never taste death.’ 53 You are not greater than our father, Abraham, are You? He died. And the prophets died. Who do You think You are?”

54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing. It is My Father Who glorifies Me, about Whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 Yet you do not really know Him, but I do know Him. If I said, ‘I do not know Him,’ I would be a liar like you. But I do know Him, and I hold on to His word. 56 Your father Abraham was glad that he would see My day. He saw it and rejoiced.”

57 The Jews replied, “You aren’t even fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham?”

58 Jesus said to them, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: Before Abraham was born, I AM.” 59 Then they picked up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus was hidden and left the temple area.


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 on 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.


after which the Congregation will be seated for


The Children’s Lesson                                                                                                              Proverbs 14:12

12 There is a way that seems right to a man,   but in the end it is the road to death.

There’s Only ONE Way to Heaven ….NOT Many Ways

The Sermon Hymn                                                              Hymn 382  “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less”


1 My hope is built on nothing less  Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare to make no other claim   But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;   All other ground is sinking sand.


2 When darkness veils his lovely face,   I rest on his unchanging grace;

In ev’ry high and stormy gale   My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;   All other ground is sinking sand.


3 His oath, his covenant and blood   Support me in the raging flood;

When ev’ry earthly prop gives way,   He then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;   All other ground is sinking sand.


4 When he shall come with trumpet sound,   Oh, may I then in him be found,

Clothed in his righteousness alone,   Faultless to stand before his throne.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;   All other ground is sinking sand.



after which the Congregation will rise for

The Pre-Sermon Salutation


Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, our Lord!  Amen.

The Sermon Text                                                                                                                     Galatians 3:1-14

today’s second lesson

The Way to Heaven isn’t by “Being Better Than Uncle Joe”

afterward the Congregation will REMAIN SEATED for blessing

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, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.  Amen.

We Offer Our Gifts to the Lord

Our Offerings of Love to our Lord


Offerings will be received this morning through offering plates passed among those who have gathered here for worship.

   However, for those viewing this service online,  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 donate on our website:


after the offerings are brought forward, the Congregation will rise for

The Prayers for this Day

A Prayer of Intercession for Bill Krizsan, who is

contending once again with cancer of the bladder.

concluding with….

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 Leave With The Lord’s Blessing

The Benediction

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                                                                                          God the Father, Son and Spirit

Melody 8787   (Regent Square)    cwh 2009

God the Father, Son and Spirit:    As our service ends today 

Thank You, LORD, for granting us this   time to study, sing and pray —

May our faith, which You have strengthened,  Be for Your praise, now, alway.


From eternity You chose us, All by grace and grace alone.

Through Your saving Word You called us,      In our hearts, You made Your throne —

Gave us faith in Christ, our Savior, Who for our sins did atone.


Help us all, Lord to be faithful  Throughout life, unto the end.

May each one of us be useful —   that your Kingdom might extend

Through this town, across this nation, and to earth’s remotest end.


Grace for all, from every station,  blood-bought souls from near and far

Christ has earned for us salvation:  “Reconciled to God, we are —

Life through His death.   It is all done.”     Glorify our Morning Star!


LORD, for Your great love, we praise You,  Guiding us our whole lives through

Day by day our faith, You renew       May we e’er to You be true

Serving You in all that we do    ‘Til in heav’n, we live with You.   Amen.   




Last Week at Grace                                                                Worship Attendance: 48            Online views: 32

Sunday Bible Class: 25   (Online views 9)               Tuesday Bible Study: 11   

Budgetary Offerings: $ 2577    Online: $419.27     Scholarship Fund: $125

Birthdays among us this week         July 24 – Rosy Krizsan;            July 25 – Brenda Bontke;

This Coming Week at Grace Lutheran Church

Today              Morning Worship,  9:30 a.m.        Fellowship, 10:40 am                            Bible Class/Sunday School, 11 am 

Tuesday          Bible Class,   10:30-11:30 am     Church Council Meeting, 6 pm

Saturday         Outreach Calls, 10 a.m.

Sunday           Morning Worship, 9:30 a.m.     Fellowship, 10:40 am     Congregational Voters’ Meeting, after worship

                        Sunday School – 11am            Picnic/Potluck/Cookout at noon

Serving Us Next Sunday (7-31)                                                                    Elders: Rick Tragasz, Steve Stone

Ushers: Pat Quinlan and Ben Quinlan              Altar Guild:   Marilyn Outlaw, Linda Winnat

July 31 Voter’s Meeting AND Potluck/Cookout/Indoor Picnic …’s coming NEXT SUNDAY.   Please choose to be part of our July 31 pot-luck/cookout/indoor picnic.   Prior to the meal we’ll hold a voters’/ congregational meeting, in which we’ll address – among other matters – our congregational budget for the fiscal year we’ve recently begun.


 Grace Lutheran Church of Northwest Arkansas

is affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, a church body which spans the United States and Canada, and which also operates a number of foreign missions.

Our Vision:      Extend God’s Kingdom through His Word, serving each Soul.

Our Mission:  Share the Gospel, Encourage Faith, and Prepare Souls through Worship, Education and Fellowship.

Authentic Apostleship vs False Teachers

2 Corinthians 6:3-7:1

One of my wife’s and my favorite movies was filmed almost 30 years ago.   It’s simply called “Dave.”  The title character, played by actor Kevin Kline, is a presidential impersonator who’s a dead ringer for the president.   He gets hired by the real president’s chief of staff to serve as a double for the president, who had a stroke and is on life support.   Why not tell the truth?  Because the chief of staff wants to keep the vice president from rightfully assuming the presidency.  He covets the position for himself.  The chief of staff even tries to set the vice president up in a bribery scandal so that the VP can be disqualified and he (the COS) can be appointed by Dave as his replacement.   After that his scheme will see that the stroke-ridden president is allowed to die and he (the chief of staff) will become the president.   Meanwhile, Dave is to quietly return to his former life as an impersonator.  In the course of the movie, Dave has to fool the First Lady into believing his actually her husband, as well as to lead the country as if he were the president.  I won’t spoil the ending for you (so you’ll have to watch the film), but I will say Dave is wonderful comedy, as well as a lighthearted, clever satire of American politics developed around a case of false identity that results in an ordinary, everyday person temporarily functioning as the President of the United States.

While the movie “Dave” is a comedy, there was nothing funny about what happening to the Christians in Corinth  during Paul’s day.   As you know, the Apostle had brought the Gospel to these Gentiles on his second missionary journey, and God the Holy Spirit had blessed Paul’s work.   Many were brought to faith in Christ, trying in His life, death and resurrection for their eternal salvation.   But after Paul left Corinth, false teachers arrived (we refer to them as “Judaizers”).   They claimed Paul was not an authentic apostle, while they were the real representatives of the Christian faith and had the support of the “mother church” and Jesus’ original disciples in Jerusalem (which, of course, was a lie).   They also claimed that Paul’s Gospel message was inadequate.  Yes, faith in Christ was necessary to go to heaven, but not faith alone.   These Judaizers maintained that faith in Jesus had to be accompanied by good works – specifically obedience to the Old Testament Mosaic Law, and particularly embracing the practice of circumcision.   Undermining Paul’s personal authenticity (he had been called and trained by Christ Himself) as well as the reliability of his Gospel, these “false apostles” deceived the Corinthians into thinking that they were the superior teachers of the truth.  The result was Spiritual chaos and confusion…..and the endangering of the souls of the fledgling Christian community in Corinth.

Paul had to do something, and he did.   He wrote a serious, blunt, forceful, but also Biblically faithful letter that we today know as his Second Letter to the Corinthians.  It’s not so much a defense of his position or person, as it is a defense of Christ’s Gospel that he proclaimed in his role as an Apostle.  In spite of what some people were critically feeling about him, Paul loved the members of the church in Corinth.   He also knew that the souls of the Corinthians  were at stake, and would be lost if they believed the works righteousness lies of those false teachers.   Although he’s already been addressing this issue in prior chapters of his letter, Paul continues his defense of his apostolic office and his Gospel ministry here in chapter 6.

6:3       “reason to stumble in any way”  – Paul couldn’t make the Gospel effective….only the Holy Spirit can do that.

But he could hinder it.  For example, he could lead a lifestyle that was inconsistent with the Gospel and contradicted its message.  His goal was not to cause “offense” in any way at all, and in so doing cause anyone to “stumble” Spiritually.   This was a continuing concern for him….which the present tense verb indicates.

“that our ministry will not be blamed”  — Paul was dedicated, as God enabled him, to live and honorable life that brings credit, rather than discredit to His Lord and to the ministry God had entrusted to him.   The Greek word for “blamed” also implies “ridicule.”

6:4       “we show ourselves in every way”  – our Apostle was committed to leading a demonstratively

commendable, righteous life in every way he could.  Why?   What people see adversely in the messenger can hinder his God-given message and, in so doing, keep souls from believing in Christ.

“God’s ministers”  – we belong to God, having been created and redeemed by Him, and we exist to serve Him…which is what “ministry” means.

Paul begins with a list of the afflictions he has experienced thus far.   He groups them into “threes” with

three terms that describe affliction in general.   Paul had previously told the Galatians (Acts 14:12) that we Christians will go through many hardships before we enter the Kingdom of God in heaven.  He personally experienced those hardships throughout the course of his ministry.  (See Acts 9:16)

“endurance” – being stretched beyond our limits, and yet not breaking.  Going farther that we can imagine going.

“troubles” – The first of the first group of three.   Jesus promised that in this world His followers would experience troubles of all types (John 16:33).    Paul certain knew trouble in life.   From persecutions to failing fiends, from physical impediments that hindered his daily living to being in danger from robbers, shipwrecks and more.   No matter what, he always trusted that in everything, God was working for his earthly and everlasting good (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11).

            “hardships” – quite possibly a reference to being tortured.

“difficulties” – this could also be translated “tight squeezes”…..situations where Paul felt certain that he was not going to escape unscathed, and perhaps not escape at all.

6:5       “beatings….imprisonments….riots”  – the second group of threes, this group dealing with public abuse at the

hands of hostile government and hostile citizens.   We think of Paul’s imprisonment in Philippi (Acts 16) as well as the riot he was caught up in (and almost killed) in Ephesus (Acts 19).   Note the plurals throughout this section, which indicates that these things occurred more than once.


“hard work” – this can also be translated “toil”…..the kinds of activities (even when good results come) that wear a person down and wear him out.   Think here of Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:6-8.

“sleepless nights” – Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in 2 Thess 3:8 that he worked day and night to serve them…..possibly referring to a combination of his ministry and the way he supported himself through making tents.

            “times of hunger” – Typically refusing to accept material support from the congregations he served, there

were times when Paul didn’t have enough means to feed himself adequately.  No doubt Paul did this voluntarily, so that the work of the Lord could be advanced.

What follows are two groups of four things.   First, Paul speaks about the attitude and approach with which he ministered to the Corinthians.   Next, he speaks about the tools/means that he employed in his ministry.

            “purity” – Paul strove to be as godly in serving others as his sinful nature would permit.  

“knowledge” – He tried his best to be informed/knowledgeable about the people he served.   In other words, Paul got to know personally the sheep of his flock.    (See Jesus’ words in John 10:14).  The Greek term used here for “knowledge” speaks to acquiring information that is useful.

“patience” – Many times the people Paul served with the Gospel were not receptive, particularly right away.  They also were frequently Spiritually disappointing and disobedient.   It required great patience on Paul’s part to keep on serving them.   See 2 Timothy 4:2.  Sometimes the Greek word used here is translated “long-suffering,” the steadfast determination never to give in or give up.

“kindness” – See Ephesians 4:32;   Mark 9:41;  and Matthew 25:34-36.   Works of kindness are not the cause of our salvation, but they are among the evidence that we have been saved.

            “in the Holy Spirit” – This begins the next group of four…..speaking about the means/methods Paul

employed in his ministry.  He begins with a reference to the One Who began faith in Him (and in us):  God the Holy Spirit.   Paul realized that his conversion, and well as the conversion of anyone he would serve with the Gospel would come about solely because of the Holy Spirit’s enlightening power….and not by his (Paul’s) persuasiveness and effort.

            “in sincere love” – the Greek word for “love” is “fileo” – the same brotherly love Jesus asked of Peter in John                 21:17…’s not the selfless, perfect love of Christ/agape-love (which we’ll be able to share in heaven, but not here because of our imperfection).   Rather, this is the “love” that cares deeply (and so is “sincere”….not hypocritical) about others.  Paul’s love for the Corinthians, by the way, was evidence of his genuine commitment to them and their souls.  It served to favorably contrast Paul over against those false teaching “super apostles” who only wanted to use the Corinthians for their gain and self-aggrandizement.

6:7       “in the Word of truth” – The Holy Spirit (see above) works through the Means of Grace to establish and

maintain faith.  That is, through the Word of God as it is written and spoken, and as that Word is utilized in connection with the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.    NOTHING ELSE (not guilt, manipulation, reason, scientific evidence, etc.) can work faith.  ONLY the Word of God.

“in the power of God” – The Greek word for “power” here is “dynamis” from which we have our word “dynamite.”   Paul would say in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

            “with the weapons of righteousness on the right and on the left” – Paul depended on the power of God as the

Holy Spirit provided it in the Means of Grace to conduct his Christian life and ministry.   He describes those “weapons” with which he fought as one of God’s soldiers against the Devil in Ephesians 6:10-18.  The term “right hand” often referred to offensive weapons, while “left hand” referred to defensive weaponry.

6:8       “through glory” – God was glorified when souls were converted and strengthened in their faith through

                        Paul’s ministry.

“and dishonor” – At other times God was dishonored or disrespected when people rejected the message that He had given Paul to bring to them.    See Luke 10:18.

6:9       “treated as unknown” – The false apostles indicted Paul as an imposter and unauthentic.   The word in Greek

speaks about someone who is not worth knowing.   Sadly, some of the Corinthians tended to accept their false characterization of Paul.

“and yet being well known” – Paul was fully known by God, Who knew his heart (and so his genuineness;  he was not a hypocrite nor was he an imposter).    God’s recognition of us, ultimately, is all that matters.   Nevertheless, some of the congregation’s members also realized Paul was a genuine believer and an Apostle of the Lord.  Their support and acceptance greatly encouraged Paul.

“as dying, and yet look – we live” – In 2 Corinthians 4:11 Paul had told the Corinthians that he was always facing death as a Christian for the glory of God and the good of souls, and yet so often God delivered him (see Psalm 118:18).   Eventually, as he anticipates it in 2 Timothy 4:18, Paul will be martyred through execution for his service to Christ and the Church.  And yet, he steadfastly looked forward to the eternal life in heaven, the crown of righteousness that was promised to him (and to all who believe) for Jesus’ sake.

            “as punished and yet not put to death” – so often in his ministry Paul “flirted” with death for Jesus’ sake.

6:10      “as grieving” – Life didn’t always put a “smile” on Paul’s face.  Life in a sinful world as a sinner dealing with

sinners is hard….and it often hurts.   As Jesus reminds us, “in this world you will have trouble.”  (John 16:33)

“yet always rejoicing” – Still, no matter what happened to Paul and no matter how it hurt physically or emotionally, Paul had a deep-down joy in his heart because God not only had graciously called him out of unbelief into saving faith in Christ, but had granted him – the chief of sinners (I Timothy 1:15) – the added blessing of being able to serve Christ by being an ambassador of the Gospel for Him.  That’s why he could tell the Philippians (and us) that no matter what our circumstances in life might be, the Christian can “rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again, rejoice.”  (Philippians 4:4)

“as poor” – probably Paul is speaking of his typical material poverty here.   But he could be speaking about his Spiritual poverty too……that he had nothing of value to bring to God either to secure his salvation (which, of course, is impossible for any sinner) or to express his gratitude for the free gift of salvation from God.

“yet making many rich” – See 2 Corinthians 8:9.   Christians are not necessarily “rich” in monetary terms (though God blesses some that way, as He sees fit), but are in possession of even greater “riches”:   the treasure of eternal life in heaven through faith in Christ.   Something that all the wealth of the world couldn’t purchase for even a single soul, let alone the souls of all humanity.   Poor as Paul was, materially, he offered the Corinthians and others he served the greatest treasure of all through Christ.

“as having nothing” – The unbelieving world saw Paul and sees all Christians as “losers” because of what we give up in the way of worldliness and because we don’t embrace the wisdom of the world.  See I Corinthians 1:18-31.

“yet possessing everything” – However, we have “everything” insofar as we have God’s promise of everlasting pleasure and glory in heaven.   Even if we had everything this world has to offer for our short lifetimes, it would be nothing, by comparison, to what heaven offers those who believe.

6:11      “we have spoken to you openly” – The Greek here literally speaks about opening ones mouth, and means to

speak frankly.  Paul was honest and transparent with the Corinthians.   He didn’t pretend to be something he was not (as the false apostles did) and he said what he meant and meant what he said.   In particular, he didn’t “beat around the bush” when it came to sin.  Don’t you wish most people today were that honest and transparent?  

            “Our heart is standing wide open” – Paul’s transparency let him to express his emotions and love for the

Corinthians.  He literally “wore his heart on his sleeve” before them.  The Greek word refers to someone who has no secrets.    He was emotionally exposed, and so he made himself vulnerable to them……and some took unfair advantage of that to hurt Paul with their criticisms and indifference toward him.

6:12      “we have plenty of room for you, but you do not have room for us in your affections” – he cared for them,

but that care was not reciprocated as it should have been by all the members of the church.   He freely offered them his affection, but many of them withheld or restricted their affection from Paul.  The word “affections” in Greek literally means “inner parts” and refers to the contents of a person’s  abdomen (the heart, lungs, liver).  It is used to describe a person’s deepest emotions and is the strongest word in Greek for the expression of ones compassion.

6:13      “as my children”  – as their “Spiritual Father,” having brought the Gospel to them, Paul regarded the

Christians in Corinth as his Spiritual children, caring deeply for them and especially their souls’ salvation.

6:14      “unequally yoked together with unbelievers”  – by turning away from Paul and his Gospel to the legalistic

lies of the false, super apostles, the Corinthians were – in effect – having fellowship with unbelievers and so were endangering their souls.   The Greek verb used here intends to strongly prohibit habitual action… this was something (being unequally yoked in a false fellowship) that the Corinthians were regularly doing.   It had to stop….now!     This passage is critical in our day and age, particularly because of the “ecumenical movement” that urges us to regard all religious as equal, each offering a worthy path to God and heaven.   Nothing could be farther from the truth.   There are not many paths to heaven through many religions.   There is one way:   Christ alone (John 14:6;   Acts 4:12).   All the other avenues into eternity lead, not to heaven, but to hell (Matthew 7:13-14).    God, through the Scriptures, provides us with a multitude of warnings about the necessity of our avoiding false teachers and unbelievers.    See Romans 16:17-18;   2 John 8-9;   and Galatians 1:6-9….among others.

                        “Yoked” is an obvious reference to prohibitions by God found in Deuteronomy 22:10 and Leviticus

 19:19.   The concept of the yoke was used in relation to marriage and also to agreeing with teachers and their doctrine.  A Spiritually mixed marriage, or cooperation with one who had a different doctrine was considered being “unequally yoked.”

At the same time, Paul is not saying that believers and unbelievers cannot have any contact        whatsoever.  (See I Corinthians 5:10).   If we totally avoided unbelievers, how would they hear the Gospel?  Nevertheless, we must be Spiritually vigilant when we associate with them, where we fill the role of the teacher-witness, rather than the other way around.

“righteousness” – While we are called and empowered by God the Holy Spirit to live sanctified, godly lives,

as sinner-saints we can never attain functional righteousness here on earth.   Our true “righteousness,” therefore comes not from our behavior, but from Christ’s holiness applied to us.   That being the case, as people who are forgiven and declared righteous in God’s sight for Jesus’ sake, why would we want to revert to our former (prior to conversion) state of ungodliness, hostility to God and general lawlessness?

“lawlessness” – the state of the unbeliever…..who is naturally hostile to God (Romans 8:7) and committed to a life lived in constant violation of God’s holy will (Romans 1:18-32).

“fellowship” – the intimate commitment to worship, work together, and influence one another in Spiritual matters.   The Greek word refers to things held in common or done together.

            “light” – faith, and faithfulness.

            “darkness” – unbelief and wickedness.  See John 1:5. 

6:15      “what agreement does Christ have with Belial?”   – Belial is another name for Satan.    It means “that which

is wicked and lacking worth.”   Christ came to destroy the devil’s work (I John 3:8), not to work together with him (Luke 4:6-8).  

“what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?” – Good question.   We do share a sinful nature. 

We also – currently – share a common location, living here on earth.  But we will never not share the same  eternal destination, and we do not serve the same master.

6:16      “mutual agreement”  – harmony, commonality.   How can an unbeliever and a believer agree on anything

                        Spiritual?   They can’t and won’t.

“God’s temple” – another way of describing the Christian (see I Corinthians 6:19,20).  We are, after all, the dwelling place/temple of the Holy Spirit.   And through the way we think, talk, and action God is (at least ought to be) worshiped.    The term “temple” in Greek was often used in connection with the inner-most sanctuary of a temple, where the divine presence was supposed to be located.

            “idols” – anything in this life that a person loves more than God.   (See I John 2:15)

“I will live and walk among them”  – this certainly could refer to Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28:20 that He would always be with us.   It also could refer to Christ’s Incarnation, where He became fully human in order to become one of us by living under the law, and living with us and for us.  He understands us because He identifies in every way with us – except that He never sinned  (Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15;   also Hebrews 13:5).

“I will be their God and they will be My people” – God chose Abram to be His follower, all by His grace, not due to Abram’s merit or decision.   God has also chosen us (Ephesians 1:3-11) to be His people and has graciously revealed Himself to us as our God.  Having redeemed us through the substitutionary, sacrificial work for us, we now belong to Him (Acts 20:28;   I Corinthians 6:20)

6:17      “Therefore” – This is a single, small word in Greek (oun) that packs a big punch.   It looks back to what has

been said and then looks ahead to an important conclusion or point.   When we see this word, we want to get ready for God to tell us something significant.

“come out from them… separate” – again, these words are reminiscent of Romans 16:17.    In the original Greek the verb is an aorist imperative.   In other words, the command is to do this right now and don’t repeat it!   It has always been God’s will that His people (John 15:19;   John 17:16-17;   Romans 12:2;   Ephesians 4:22-24)

“touch no unclean thing” – as part of the Mosaic Covenant Law, the Old Testament believers were directed by the LORD to not come in contact with a variety of things (a dead body, a leper, certain foods, etc) that He had deemed “unclean.”  Why?   To reinforce on a regular basis the unacceptable reality of their inherent and functioning sinfulness, as well as the world’s sinfulness all around them.   They need to see their sin/uncleanness, in order to want God’s forgiveness/cleanness.

“I will welcome you” – God will accept us, for Jesus’ sake.   One day, He will welcome us into heaven’s perfection for the sake of our Savior.   (See Matthew 25:34-35)

6:18      “I will be your Father and You will be My sons and daughters” – see Matthew 7:11;   John 1:12;  

Romans 8:15-16;   I John 3:1.     What a wonderful privilege and assurance!   By His grace alone, God allows us to address Him as “our Father” (Matthew 6:9) and brings us undeserving sinners into His “family of faith” for all eternity.

            “the Lord Almighty” – the God who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present.

7:1       “So then”  – Another important conclusion is coming on the basis of what has just been stated.

“since we have these promises” – The verb in Greek is in the present tense, indication that our possession is a continuous one.    The promises are the ones just stated in 2 Corinthians 6:16 and 18.   We sinners have been promised fellowship with the holy God for Jesus’s sake, and also fellowship with all His people who believe in Him.   Consequently, in the case of the Corinthians, they will want to cleanse themselves of any false fellowship with the Judaizers and any other false teachers, in order that they might live in a faithful fellowship with the Lord.

“dear friends” – even though they have not always treated Paul as a friend and brother in the faith, Paul regards them – weak though they are – as his fellow believers and friends in the true faith.

“let us cleanse ourselves from everything that defiles flesh and spirit” – The form of the verb in Greek is a “hortatory subjunctive” and the tense is “aorist” which indicates that a complete break with uncleanness needs to occur promptly.    “Flesh and spirit” refers to the outer man and the inner man….what we do (and what is seen by others) as well as what is inside….in our heads and hearts.    God expects us to keep clear of any- and everything that can negatively influence, contaminate, damage and even destroy faith.    Do you?

“as we seek to bring sanctification to its goal”  – “sanctification” means “the process of making holy/godly” and refers to the Christian’s continuing growth/progress in faith and faithful living.   The goal is perfection (Leviticus 19:12;   Matthew 5:48), which is unattainable here on earth, but will be granted to us in heaven.

“in the fear of God”  – “fear” here primarily refers to “respect and reverence” for God, but it also keeps in mind the awesome power God possesses to judge with hell those who refuse to believe in Him.   (Matthew 10:28)