Meditations in St. John’s First Epistle
“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1 John 4:4-6
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have overcome the many false prophets and teachers who have gone out into the world denying Christ’s deity, humanity or full and complete atonement for the sins of the world. We have overcome these assaults of the devil upon our souls because Christ dwells in us by His Spirit and gives us the victory by revealing to us, through the Scriptures, His true and saving doctrine – salvation by grace alone and through faith alone in Christ and His blood shed for us upon the cross.
The false prophets and teachers are in the world and speak in accordance with the wisdom and thinking of the world. Instead of accepting and believing the truth God has revealed in the Scriptures, they use their own reasoning and pervert and deny what they cannot comprehend. Thus, they would deny such Scriptural teaching as the virgin birth of Christ Jesus, that Jesus truly is God the Son and true man, that His holy life and innocent sufferings and death are full and complete payment for the sins of all, that simply through faith in Him one is saved and has forgiveness and life eternal, that God conveys to us forgiveness of sins and salvation through the waters of Christian Baptism and through the body and blood of Jesus offered and given to us in the Lord’s Supper.
And, of course, the world hears them. People are quick to accept the man-made excuses and denials of Biblical truth. They are quick to reject the authority God has over them and the exclusive claim of true Christian doctrine that only in Christ Jesus is there forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation.
But as believers, we have been born anew from above. God’s Spirit has revealed to us through the Word the person and work of Messiah Jesus. He has revealed to us that the man Jesus is the Son of the Living God and that apart from Him there is no salvation (cf. Matt. 16:16; Acts 4:12; John 6:68-69; 14:6).
Those who are of God hear us when we proclaim the true doctrine of God’s Word, but those who are not of God do not hear. Those who are mercifully called and chosen of God hear God’s voice; those who are not remain in the darkness of their unbelief and sin.
Consider Jesus’ words in John 8:47: “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” He also said (John 10:27-28): “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
Thus, by the gracious election and calling of God, by the enlightening of His Spirit, believers hear and believe the Word of God. They place their faith and trust in Christ Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God and Savior of the world.
And we as believers can distinguish between children of God and children of this world by their attitudes toward and acceptance of the teaching of God’s holy Word. Those who are of God hear and believe the truth; those who are not of God do not.
O gracious and merciful Lord, thank you for graciously opening our eyes and revealing to us Messiah Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior from sin, death and hell. Graciously keep us in the true faith unto life everlasting. We ask this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
A Simple Explanation of Christian Doctrine
By Pastor Randy Moll
What does the Bible teach about the final judgment?
In the book of Hebrews (9:26-28), we read of Christ Jesus: “…once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”
From God’s Word, we see that – unless Christ returns first – each person will suffer temporal death; and after death comes God’s judgment. We also hear again that Christ came into this world to go to the cross, sacrifice Himself in our stead and for our sin that He might return on the Last Day to receive us to Himself and grant us eternal salvation.
God’s Word reveals to us that, at death, the souls of believers are taken to be with their Lord and Savior in heaven, and the souls of unbelievers begin suffering the eternal torments of hell.
Consider Jesus’ words in Luke 16:19-31. When the beggar died, he was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. When the rich man died and was buried, he was in torment in hell and asked his ancestral father Abraham to have mercy on him and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue because he was tormented in hell’s flame.
Note what Jesus said to the dying thief who repented and looked to Jesus for mercy: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Philippi (Phil. 1:21-23): “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”
In Rev. 14:13, we read: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
Of those who have died in unbelief, we read of their imprisonment when the crucified and risen Christ Jesus “went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water” (1 Pet. 3:19-20). And the Bible also says: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment … then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Pet. 2:4,9).
The Bible also teaches that, on the Last Day, Jesus Christ will return to judge the living and the dead; and on that Day, all the dead will be raised up.
Jesus said, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). Job expressed his confidence: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27; cf. Revelation 20:11-15; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
The wicked and unbelieving will be cast, both body and soul, into the everlasting torments of hell; but those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation will, according to both body and soul, dwell with Christ forever, enjoying the blessings of heaven.
The Bible says: “It is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thess. 1:6-10; cf. John 5:29; Matt. 10:28; Luke 16:23-24; Isa. 66:24; 1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 John 3:2; John 3:36; 17:24).
On that Day, those who trusted in the perfect atonement of Christ Jesus will not be condemned but receive everlasting life, as Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
Jesus also said: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). The Bible also says of heaven: “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Though many have, over the ages, attempted to determine the Day of Christ’s return and judgment of the living and the dead, the Bible teaches that the Day of Christ’s return is known only to God and not to man. Christians believe Jesus’ words: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36; cf. v.29-42; Mark 13:32; 2 Pet. 3:10).
Some would separate Christ’s return from the Day of Judgment, saying that Christ will secretly return and rapture away believers before a period of severe tribulation and an earthly millennial kingdom, however Jesus’ own word refute this lie of Satan.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:29-31).
The Word of God is clear. Notice that Jesus will come visibly – every eye will see Him (Rev. 1:7) – and with the sound of a trumpet and gather His elect from the four winds “after the tribulation of those days.” Note in 1 Thess. 4:13-18 (quoted above) Jesus coming with the sound of the trumpet. Jesus’ coming for His elect marks the end of tribulation in this world and Jesus’ final judgment of the living and the dead.
In regard to the millennial reign of Christ in Revelation 20, read it carefully and you will note it is not on earth. Rather it is the reign of the souls of believers with their Savior in heaven until the Last Day when Christ returns and brings them with Him (1 Thess. 4:13ff.), the dead are raised up and judged, and all believers – those who have fallen asleep in Jesus and those who are alive and remain at His coming – will be forever with the Lord Jesus in the mansions of His Father’s House.
Therefore, true believers and students of God’s inspired Word will reject as false all contrary doctrines, such as purgatory and limbo, a secret rapture, an earthly millennial kingdom, and any attempts to predict the day or hour of Christ’s return.
Next time we shall consider what the Bible teaches about the Son of Perdition and Antichrist.
Congregational Evening Study
On Wednesday, the topic of our monthly study dealt with the upcoming election and the Christian’s duty as a citizen to evaluate candidates and vote for good and honest rulers who will uphold what is good and right and punish evildoers (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-14).
Since the Bible teaches that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34), and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7), Christians will, where possible, select as rulers God-fearing men with high moral standards and who are guided in their decisions by God’s Word.
The need for America to turn from its evil ways was discussed, together with the Word of God given at the dedication of the Temple of Solomon: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
Also presented was the duty of Christians to pray for their government leaders: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
Some “litmus tests” for Christians in evaluating candidates include moral character, position and record on life issues such as abortion and euthanasia, position and record on preserving marriage as defined in the Bible (between one man and one woman), position and record on religious liberty and freedom of speech, faithfulness to Constitutional oaths, fiscal responsibility and more.
At issue for many was how to vote in cases where neither major party candidate met those standards. The question of voting for the lesser of two evils or voting on principles was discussed. Also related to the discussion is whether voting is a strategy to elect or remove a candidate or one’s true voice in a democratic form of government for what is good and right.
Some political platforms discussed briefly were Democrat, Republican and Constitution Party.
No one was told how to vote, but it is hoped that the brief study gave opportunity to consider the importance of voting and of what a Christian’s vote is a statement.
Watch the newsletter for next month’s class. Topic suggestions are welcome.
Bible Study in Preparation for Sunday
Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 104; Romans 12:1-21; and Mark 9:38-50. 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 James at 3:13ff.
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 Dawn Hiebert who is recovering from surgery, and for Mel Boren who is in a nursing home; 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. Remember the efforts to spread the Word of God through publication of the Scriptures and other faithful materials on the Internet through the Sword Project, Crosswire Bible Society, and other organizations.
Events and Announcements
Choir practice will be held after church on Sunday. New members are always welcome.
Church Council will meet at 7 p.m., Oct. 10, at the church.
The annual Voters’ Assembly, with the election of officers, will follow our worship service and a pot-luck dinner on Nov. 12.
Information for bulletins or newsletters may be sent to Pastor Moll by calling him at 479-233-0081 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.