Meditations in St. John’s First Epistle
“I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:12-17
Why does John write this epistle? Why is it so important for us to read and consider? Is it because we have not heard the Gospel and do not know Jesus Christ as our Savior? No, rather, it written to us because we have heard and have come to know the love and mercy of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior. It is written to you and to me – to believers of all time – to strengthen us in the faith that we might continue to trust in Christ and walk in fellowship with God the Father.
John writes to remind us that our sins are forgiven and washed away for Jesus’ sake. Because Jesus fulfilled all righteousness and suffered and died for the sins of the world, you and I have forgiveness for all our sins – in His name.
By the grace and mercy of God, we have been brought to faith in Christ Jesus and now know Him who is from the beginning. We know Jesus, the eternal Son of God, and through Him know God the Father (cf. John 1:14-18; 14:6ff.)
Through faith in Jesus, we have also overcome the old evil foe, the devil. Jesus resisted His temptations for us and then paid the just penalty for all our sins so that He can no longer successfully accuse us before the Father. And, through faith in Jesus, we also are given new life. We are rescued and delivered from the kingdom of the devil and translated into the kingdom of the beloved Son (cf. Col. 1:13). By the Spirit, who dwells in our hearts, we are empowered to resist the temptations and assaults of the devil and to live for Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Should we then love this world and the things of this world? John writes: “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
Desiring that we continue in the faith and not turn from God back into the ways of this world and give in to the temptations of the devil, John warns us against loving this world and the things in it. He cautions us strongly, pointing out that the one loving this world and focused on the things of this life does not have the love of the Father in him.
Why is that so? “Because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” The things which our sinful flesh desires, that which our eyes long after and the self-centered pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world. And, as John writes, the world and the things of it are passing away, along with all the desires of this world. One who lives for this world lives for what is passing away and will himself lose everything. But the one who does the will of God – who trusts in Christ Jesus as Savior and, as a fruit of that faith, lives for God and the things of His kingdom – abides forever.
Since Christ Jesus came into this world and shed His blood to save us from the world and its wicked ways, John warns us against loving this world and returning to it; for the ways of this world lead to death, but Christ redeemed us from this dying world and won for us life everlasting in fellowship with Him and the Father.
Most cannot see and understand these things and do not see the dangers of walking on the ways of the world, but you have forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus the Savior, you have known Him who has been from the beginning, and you have overcome the evil one.
O gracious and merciful God, keep me from the allurements of this world and preserve me in the true faith in Christ Jesus, my Savior, unto life everlasting. Amen.
A Simple Explanation of Christian Doctrine
by Pastor Randy Moll
How did God create man?
The Bible answers that question for us when it says: “And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creepers creeping on the earth. And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him. He created them male and female” (Gen. 1:26-27).
It further explains how the first man was created in Genesis 2:7: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Of the creation of woman, God says: “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every fowl of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. And Adam gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field. But there was not found a suitable helper for Adam. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept. And He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh underneath. And the LORD God made the rib (which He had taken from the man) into a woman. And He brought her to the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife; and they were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:18-25).
The first man and woman were created in the image of God, with His likeness. This does not mean they looked like God, for God is a spirit. It means they were like God in that they knew God and His will and gladly and willingly lived for God in accord with His will and purpose in creating them (cf. Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24; Eph. 2:10). They knew God, loved Him, trusted Him and were of one heart and mind with Him in their thoughts, desires, words and deeds.
We learn from the Scriptures that God formed the body of Adam (man) from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him, making Adam a living soul. He was given life, both physical and spiritual. He was made alive to God.
We learn that the first woman was created from the first man and for the man to be a helper and companion to him who was comparable to him. She was indeed flesh of his flesh.
Though many in our time would deny it, this is also the reason for marriage between a man and a woman. God created the woman for the man, brought her to the man and the two became one flesh. Any sexual union outside of marriage between a man and a woman is contrary to God’s purpose and design in creation.
Though we may think we exist only as the natural result of the sexual union between a man and a woman, the Scriptures teach us that we are no accident. God created each of us in the womb of our mother and gave us life. Not only did He bless man and woman with the ability to have children (Gen. 1:28), He creates and forms each of us in our mother’s womb. The Bible says: “For You have possessed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are marvelous and my soul knows it very well. My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret and skillfully formed in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my embryo; and in Your book all my members were written, the days they were formed, and not one was among them” Psalm 139:13-16).
Next time, we shall consider what happened to man and creation.
From the Lutheran Confessions
A Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope
Treatise Compiled by the Theologians Assembled at Smalcald – 1537
Of the Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops.
60] [In our Confession and the Apology we have in general recounted what we have had to say concerning ecclesiastical power. For] The Gospel assigns to those who preside over churches the command to teach the Gospel to remit sins, to administer the Sacraments and besides jurisdiction, namely, the command to excommunicate those whose crimes are known, and again to absolve those who repent.
61] And by the confession of all, even of the adversaries, it is clear that this power by divine right is common to all who preside over churches, whether they are called pastors, or elders, or bishops. 62] And accordingly Jerome openly teaches in the apostolic letters that all who preside over churches are both bishops and elders, and cites from Titus 1:5f : For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest ordain elders in every city [and afterwards calls these persons bishops]. Then he adds: A bishop must be the husband of one wife. Likewise Peter and John call themselves elders [or priests] 1 Pet. 5:1; 2 John 1. And he then adds: But that afterwards one was chosen to be placed over the rest, this was done as a remedy for schism, lest each one by attracting [a congregation here or there] to himself might rend the Church of Christ. For at Alexandria, from Mark the evangelist to the bishops Heracles and Dionysius, the elders always elected one from among themselves, and placed him in a higher station, whom they called bishop; just as an army would make a commander for itself. The deacons, moreover, may elect from among themselves one whom they know to be active, and name him archdeacon. For with the exception of ordination, what does the bishop that the elder does not?
63] Jerome, therefore, teaches that it is by human authority that the grades of bishop and elder or pastor are distinct. And the subject itself declares this, because the power [the office and command] is the same, as he has said above. 64] But one matter afterwards made a distinction between bishops and pastors namely, ordination, because it was [so] arranged that one bishop should ordain ministers in a number of churches.
65] But since by divine authority the grades of bishop and pastor are not diverse, it is manifest that ordination administered by a pastor in his own church is valid by divine law [if a pastor in his own church ordains certain suitable persons to the ministry, such ordination is, according to divine law, undoubtedly effective and right].
66] Therefore, when the regular bishops become enemies of the Church, or are unwilling to administer ordination, the churches retain their own right. [Because the regular bishops persecute the Gospel and refuse to ordain suitable persons, every church has in this case full authority to ordain its own ministers.]
67] For wherever the Church is, there is the authority [command] to administer the Gospel. Therefore it is necessary for the Church to retain the authority to call, elect, and ordain ministers. And this authority is a gift which in reality is given to the Church, which no human power can wrest from the Church, as Paul also testifies to the Ephesians when he says, Eph 4:8: He ascended, He gave gifts to men. And he enumerates among the gifts specially belonging to the Church pastors and teachers, and adds that such are given for the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Hence, wherever there is a true church, the right to elect and ordain ministers necessarily exists. Just as in a case of necessity even a layman absolves, and becomes the minister and pastor of another; as Augustine narrates the story of two Christians in a ship, one of whom baptized the catechumen, who after Baptism then absolved the baptizer.
68] Here belong the statements of Christ which testify that the keys have been given to the Church, and not merely to certain persons, Matt. 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together in My name, etc.
69] Lastly, the statement of Peter also confirms this, 1 Pet. 2:9: Ye are a royal priesthood. These words pertain to the true Church, which certainly has the right to elect and ordain ministers since it alone has the priesthood.
70] And this also a most common custom of the Church testifies. For formerly the people elected pastors and bishops. Then came a bishop, either of that church or a neighboring one, who confirmed tho one elected by the laying on of hands; and ordination was nothing else than such a ratification. 71] Afterwards new ceremonies were added, many of which Dionysius describes. But he is a recent and fictitious author, whoever he may be [this book of Dionysius is a new fiction under a false title], just as the writings of Clement also are spurious [have a false title and have been manufactured by a wicked scoundrel long after Clement]. Then more modern writers added [that the bishop said to those whom he was ordaining]: I give thee the power to sacrifice for the living and the dead. But not even this is in Dionysius.
72] From all these things it is clear that the Church retains the right to elect and ordain ministers. And the wickedness and tyranny of bishops afford cause for schism and discord [therefore, if the bishops either are heretics, or will not ordain suitable persons, the churches are in duty bound before God, according to divine law, to ordain for themselves pastors and ministers. Even though this be now called an irregularity or schism, it should be known that the godless doctrine and tyranny of the bishops is chargeable with it], because Paul, Gal. 1:7f , enjoins that bishops who teach and defend a godless doctrine and godless services should be regarded as accursed.
73] We have spoken of ordination, which alone, as Jerome says, distinguished bishops from other elders. Therefore there is need of no discussion concerning the other duties of bishops. Nor is it indeed necessary to speak of confirmation, nor of the consecration of bells [nor other tomfoolery of this kind], which are almost the only things which they have retained. Something must be said concerning jurisdiction.
74] It is certain that the common jurisdiction of excommunicating those guilty of manifest crimes belongs to all pastors. This they have tyrannically transferred to themselves alone, and have applied it to the acquisition of gain. For it is certain that the officials, as they are called employed a license not to be tolerated and either on account of avarice or because of other wanton desires tormented men and excommunicated them without any due process of law. But what tyranny is it for the officials in the states to have arbitrary power to condemn and excommunicate men without due process of law! 75] And in what kind of affairs did they abuse this power? Indeed, not in punishing true offenses, but in regard to the violation of fasts or festivals, or like trifles! Only, they sometimes punished adulteries; and in this matter they often vexed [abused and defamed] innocent and honorable men. Besides, since this is a most grievous offense, nobody certainly is to be condemned without due process of law.
76] Since, therefore, bishops have tyrannically transferred this jurisdiction to themselves alone, and have basely abused it, there is no need, because of this jurisdiction, to obey bishops. But since there are just reasons why we do not obey, it is right also to restore this jurisdiction to godly pastors [to whom, by Christ’s command, it belongs], and to see to it that it is legitimately exercised for the reformation of morals and the glory of God.
77] There remains the jurisdiction in those cases which, according to canonical law, pertain to the ecclesiastical court, as they call it, and especially in cases of matrimony. This, too, the bishops have only by human right, and that, not a very old one, as appears from the Codex and Novellae of Justinian that decisions concerning marriage at that time belonged to the magistrates. And by divine right worldly magistrates are compelled to make these decisions if the bishops [judge unjustly or] are negligent. The canons also concede the same. Therefore, also on account of this jurisdiction it is not necessary to obey bishops. 78] And, indeed, since they have framed certain unjust laws concerning marriages, and observe them in their courts, there is need also for this reason to establish other courts. For the traditions concerning spiritual relationship [the prohibition of marriage between sponsors] are unjust. Unjust also is the tradition which forbids an innocent person to marry after divorce. Unjust also is the law which in general approves all clandestine and underhanded betrothals in violation of the right of parents. Unjust also is the law concerning the celibacy of priests. There are also other snares of consciences in their laws, to recite all of which is of no profit. It is sufficient to have recited this, that there are many unjust laws of the Pope concerning matrimonial subjects on account of which the magistrates ought to establish other courts.
79] Since, therefore, the bishops, who are devoted to the Pope, defend godless doctrine and godless services, and do not ordain godly teachers, yea, aid the cruelty of the Pope, and, besides, have wrested the jurisdiction from pastors, and exercise it only tyrannically [for their own profit]; and lastly, since in matrimonial cases they observe many unjust laws, there are reasons sufficiently numerous and necessary why the churches should not recognize these as bishops.
80] But they themselves should remember that riches [estates and revenues] have been given to bishops as alms for the administration and advantage of the churches [that they may serve the Church, and perform their office the more efficiently], as the rule says: The benefice is given because of the office. Therefore they cannot with a good conscience possess these alms, and meanwhile defraud the Church, which has need of these means for supporting ministers, and aiding studies [educating learned men], and caring for the poor and establishing courts, especially matrimonial. 81] For so great is the variety and extent of matrimonial controversies that there is need of a special tribunal for these, and for establishing this, the endowments of the Church are needed. 82] Peter predicted, 2 Pet. 2:13, that there would be godless bishops, who would abuse the alms of the Church for luxury and neglect the ministry. Therefore [since the Holy Spirit in that connection utters dire threats] let those who defraud the Church know that they will pay God the penalty for this crime.
DOCTORS AND PREACHERS
Who Subscribed the Augsburg Confession and Apology, A. D. 1537.
According to the command of the most illustrious princes and of the orders and states professing the doctrine of the Gospel, we have reread the articles of the Confession presented to the Emperor in the Assembly at Augsburg, and by the favor of God all the preachers who have been present in this Assembly at Smalcald harmoniously declare that they believe and teach in their churches according to the articles of the Confession and Apology. They also declare that they approve the article concerning the primacy of the Pope and his power, and the power and jurisdiction of bishops, which was presented to the princes in this Assembly at Smalcald. Accordingly, they subscribe their names.
1] I, Dr. John Bugenhagen, Pomeranus, subscribe the Articles of the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, and the Article presented to the princes at Smalcald concerning the Papacy.
2] I also, Dr. Urban Rhegius, Superintendent of the churches in the Duchy of Lueneburg, subscribe.
3] Nicolaus Amsdorf of Magdeburg subscribed.
4] George Spalatin of Altenburg subscribed.
5] I, Andrew Osiander, subscribe.
6] Magister Veit Dieterich of Nuernberg subscribed.
7] Stephen Agricola, Minister at Hof, subscribed with his own hand.
8] John Draconites of Marburg subscribed.
9] Conrad Figenbotz subscribed to all throughout.
10] Martin Bucer.
11] I, Erhard Schnepf, subscribe.
12] Paul Rhodius, Preacher in Stettin.
13] Gerhard Oeniken, Minister of the Church at Minden.
14] Brixius Northanus, Minister at Soest.
15] Simon Schneweis, Pastor of Crailsheim.
16] I, Pomeranus, again subscribe in the name of Magister John Brentz, as he ordered me.
17] Philip Melanchthon subscribes with his own hand.
18] Anthony Corvinus subscribes with his own hand, as well as in the name of Adam a Fulda.
19] John Schlainhauffen subscribes with his own hand.
20] Magister George Helt of Forchheim.
21] Michael Coelius, Preacher at Mansfeld.
22] Peter Geltner, Preacher of the Church of Frankfort.
23] Dionysius Melander subscribed.
24] Paul Fagius of Strassburg.
25] Wendel Faber, Pastor of Seeburg in Mansfeld
26] Conrad Oettinger of Pforzheim, Preacher of Ulric, Duke of Wuerttemberg.
27] Boniface Wolfart, Minister of the Word of the Church at Augsburg.
28] John Aepinus, Superintendent of Hamburg, subscribed with his own hand.
29] John Amsterdam of Bremen does the same.
30] John Fontanus, Superintendent of Lower Hesse, subscribed.
31] Frederick Myconius subscribed for himself and Justus Menius.
32] Ambrose Blaurer.
I have read, and again and again reread, the Confession and Apology presented at Augsburg by the Most Illustrious Prince, the Elector of Saxony, and by the other princes and estates of the Roman Empire, to his Imperial Majesty. I have also read the Formula of Concord concerning the Sacrament, made at Wittenberg with Dr. Bucer and others. I have also read the articles written at the Assembly at Smalcald in the German language by Dr. Martin Luther, our most revered preceptor, and the tract concerning the Papacy and the Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops. And in my humble opinion I judge that all these agree with Holy Scripture, and with the belief of the true and genuine catholic Church. But although in so great a number of most learned men who have now assembled at Smalcald I acknowledge that I am of all the least yet, as I am not permitted to await the end of the assembly, I ask you, most renowned man, Dr. John Bugenhagen, most revered Father in Christ, that your courtesy may add my name, if it be necessary, to all that I have above mentioned. For I testify in this my own handwriting that I thus hold, confess, and constantly will teach, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
John Brentz, Minister of Hall.
Done at Smalcald,
February 23, 1537.
Bible Study in Preparation for Sunday
Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 139:1-16; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Acts 2:1-21; and John 15:26-27; 16:4-15. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship on Sunday.
The Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the book of Hebrews, in chapter 11, verse 5ff.
Remember to Pray
Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us; for our extended families; and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. Continue to pray for Lutheran congregations and believers around the world who are persecuted or suffering for their faith in Christ Jesus.
Events and Announcements
Information for bulletins or newsletters may be sent to Pastor Moll by calling him at 479-233-0081 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
A Pot-luck dinner is tentatively being planned for Sunday, June 10, in honor of the 60th anniversary of Ray and Bonnie Hawes.