“Love of God and Love of Brother”

Text: 1 John 4:16-21

Love of God and love of brother: these things go together. Peanut butter and jelly, pancakes and syrup, mashed potatoes and gravy, vanilla ice cream and root beer; these things also go together. When one part of those things is missing, we definitely notice. You can’t have a PB&J without the PB or the J; you might not want to have pancakes without syrup. Mashed potatoes without gravy is plain wrong. With these things, we recognize that two elements go together to give the complete experience. Without both things, you don’t have it. Same with love of God and love of brother.

St. John said toward the end of our text, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”[1] St. John meant to teach his flock that the love of and for God is expressed not just in private devotion and prayer, but also in works of love for our fellow man. And, actually, there is a causal relationship between the two, because the faith and love of God which has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit causes us to bear the good fruits of love. A good tree bears good fruit, our Lord once said. Where these fruits are lacking, where the love for neighbor is absent, there is cause for concern. For instance, we heard about the rich man and Lazarus. In our text today, we learn that the love of God, which He demonstrated for us by sending His Son, causes us also to love those around us.


Our text today from St. John’s first epistle picks up in the middle of a discussion he’s been having about love. In fact, St. John writes a lot about love; perhaps, even more than St. Paul – though we give him all the credit for 1 Corinthians 13. But, rather than talk about love from below – from our human perspective – St. John talks about love starting at the top; He starts with its source – God. After all, as he said in our text, “God is love.”[2] What St. John means is that God in His essence is love – perfect, complete, and total love. Now, God is also other things – Scripture also calls God just, holy, righteous, and good. However, according to St. John, all love finds its source and definition in God alone.

We have come to know and believe the love that God has for us,”[3] he said. Not only is God love in its divine, perfect, and purest sense, but He has demonstrated that love toward us. How? By sending us His Son. St. John said earlier in our same chapter, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”[4] St. John writes of the divine work of God, our justification. For us, and for our salvation, God the Father sent His only-begotten Son into the flesh to suffer and die on the cross. By this we know the love God has for us, and what our understanding of love should be.

The Biblical definition of love is love that is self-sacrificial, that gives without counting cost – even to those who are undeserving and unthankful. For, isn’t that what we are as sinners? Each and every one of us is self-centered by nature, not self-sacrificial. We do what we want, at whatever cost, it sometimes seems. If that means going against God’s Word and will, our sinful nature often says, “so be it.” Then, no sooner do we come and confess our sins – and receive forgiveness – than do we show shallow thankfulness by falling back into the same sinful patterns we were in before. We have neither deserved forgiveness, nor have we earned it – quite the opposite – yet God’s love for us was shown in this way: for us dark and depraved sinners, He sent the Light of the World to die in our place and for our forgiveness.


If God so loved us that He sent His Son to die for us cold and unthankful sinners, and even continues to forgive us when we repent and confess our sins, in the words of St. John, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”[5] He said also in our text today, “this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”[6] This is maybe what we can call the “meat” of today’s text. St. John wrote this because, as we have today, there were many in his time – already – who claimed the name of Christian yet lived otherwise. There were many who were glad and content to hear the Word but resisted the Spirit’s work in their lives. The evidence brought up in this Epistle, was that these people did not live in love. Their lack of love for their brother showed their lack of love for God.

Therefore, St. John encouraged his faithful flock to abide in God’s love, and so abide in Him. To abide in God’s love is to remain connected to the heavenly vine. God showed His love for us by sending His Son to die for us, and that same Son gives that love to us through His gifts of Word and Sacrament. To abide in God’s love is to continue to receive these things faithfully and regularly. But there is another aspect to abiding in God’s love, and that is St. John’s focus today – love of God and love of brother are two sides of the same coin. The rich man from our parable today found himself in Hades not primarily for his lack of love, but for his lack of faith. The fact that he did not lift a finger to help the beggar at his gate was proof that in his heart he did not believe in the mercy of God.

As God has called us to faith by the preaching of the Word and the washing of Holy Baptism, and by the Holy Sacrament, and has continued to sustain and strengthen us in the faith, He now leads and causes us to love those around us. And this love is not a human love, but a perfect love, St. John said. The love that God has given us has been poured into our hearts, and it’s a love that is self-sacrificial. It’s a love without fear, a love that does not count cost. It’s a love that gives without expecting return – even to those who do not deserve it, or who are unthankful. And, why? Because that’s how God has loved us.


Having heard these words of exhortation from St. John, though, we might realize that the love we have received from the Lord, we have not shown to others. At least, not fully, and not all the time. At times, we’ve been plain unloving. We have deemed people unworthy or undeserving of our love. When they’ve been unthankful – or not thankful enough – we’ve felt justified in removing our love from them. Though we’ve been called to love, we have not. We have sinned.

When the rich man called out to Abraham from Hades, Abraham directed him back to the Scriptures. We would do well to heed his advice, for in the Scriptures, we find that God so loved us – undeserving, and sinful as we are – that He sent His only-begotten Son into the flesh to redeem us from our sins. And though we continue to be sinners, He continues to forgive us by sending pastors to absolve us in His stead and by continuing His Sacraments among us. When we find ourselves to be unloving, what do the Scriptures say to do? Repent and confess our sins, be forgiven, and, by the Spirit’s aid, begin again.

Love of God and love of brother go together. Two sides of the same coin, like peanut butter and jelly, mashed potatoes and gravy, green eggs and ham. You can’t have one without the other. So that we might have both, God showed His love for us by sending His Son. By abiding in His love, we are caused to love our brother. St. John said, “We love because He first loved us.” Amen.[7]

[1] 1 John 4:20, English Standard Version.

[2] 1 Jn. 4:16.

[3] 1 Jn. 4:16.

[4] 1 Jn. 4:9-10.

[5] 1 Jn. 4:11.

[6] 1 Jn. 4:21.

[7] 1 Jn. 4:19.

“(In This Way) God Loved the World”

Text: John 3:16-17; 1 Jn. 4

St. John the apostle wrote in his first letter, our epistle reading, that God is love. This a phrase that most people probably know, even if they don’t always know that it’s from the Bible. True, if you’ve ever been to church, you’ve most likely heard it. (I would hope.) But, we also see it in many other places. It’s on everything: from t-shirts and mugs to bracelets, and at present, even on protest signs on TV or in the paper. Something interesting happens when a word or phrase is used so frequently and in so many different places. What happens that its meaning changes. Words and phrases get their meanings from how they’re used, the context. One comes to my mind right now. What frequently changes, as I’ve learned over the past few years is “Sloppy Joe.” I was always taught the a sloppy joe has three ingredients beside the beef: ketchup, mustard, brown sugar. Does that sound like a sloppy joe to you?

I wonder, has this sort of thing happened to the phrase, “God is love?” What I’d like to to do today is go back to the Scriptures, where the phrase originally comes from, and learn what it’s all about. In doing so we’ll also see what the Christianity thing is all about. Just like with phrases, what people think Christianity is all about fluctuates, too. What Scripture says, and what we must preach, is that God’s love for the world is shown in this way: He sent His only Son to die, so that everyone who believes in Him would not die, but have eternal life.


Let’s remind ourselves of the verse we heard a few minutes ago. A lot of people have it memorized from their VBS days, but I’ll read it again. This is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Another verse goes with it today. St. John also wrote, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him.” So, we’ll get this part out of the way: God is love, this is true. Now, Lutherans are a quirky bunch. This is shown by the fact you can tell someone was raised as a Lutheran because they instinctively ask, “What does this mean?” whenever they hear Scripture.

What does it mean that God is love? That’s the question today. First, it means that God created everything – the heavens and the earth. As Scripture says, God is love; but, to love, there needs to be something else – something to love. So, God created. God created all that there is, including us, and He continues to provide for all that we need to support this body and life. Since God is love, He created human beings with the ability to love Him back. But, the ability to love works both ways. If you can love, you can also not love. Unfortunately, that’s what happened. Shortly after God created mankind, they decided that loving God wasn’t what they wanted to do. And that’s where sin comes from.

God created everything out of love, desiring nothing other than to love us and be loved back. Instead, Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Bad happened. It’s kind of like going into the basement and loosening up the one light bulb so that it flickers. When it flickers, there’s light. But, in between you stub your toe and knock things over. When Adam and Eve decided to not love God, it broke the world. When they decided to not love God, it also introduced a new and terrible thing: death. See, to live in fellowship with God is life. To live apart from Him is death.

The Scriptures do say that there is a punishment for sin, and that is death. The failure to love God results in death. All those times where we don’t listen to the Bible and do what we want instead, all those times where we think thoughts about those whom we aren’t married to, all those times where we maybe aren’t as helpful to others as we could be add up. The end result is that, for our sins, we will all die.


But, the Scriptures say this: God is love. Love is what led God to create and take care of us. Love is also what made it so that God couldn’t just stand by while the whole world dies. Instead, He loved the world so much that He acted. He acted in this way: He sent His only Son as the payment for our sins. God is a loving God, but He is also a just God – a fair God. Fairness demands that transgressions be punished, that wrongs be righted. God is also mercy, however. Instead of demanding that we right our own wrongs, pay for our own sins, God sacrificed His Son, His only Son, Jesus.

In this way, God’s love for the world is demonstrated. He sacrificed His only Son to pay for our sins. Now, we might not think that we’re really that bad. Think about it this way. When you speed you get a ticket. If you lie to a judge, you can be placed in jail. If you disobey a king, in some countries, you will be put in prison – or worse. That’s for a single offense, and we’re trained to accept that. What do you think should happen if you disobey God? What do you think should happen if you willingly and purposefully break the law many times a day for an entire life? But God is love, so He sent Jesus to die in your place, to pay for your sins.

Jesus Christ’s death did pay for our sins, and for the sins of the whole world. By His death on the cross and His resurrection, Jesus has restored us to a right relationship with God. He put the water back under the bridge, tightened the light bulb so that it shines like it should. By His death and rising again, Jesus has brought back to mankind eternal life. He won for us the ability for us to again call God, “Father,” and the ability to live at peace with those around us and in our community. These things He gives to us not because we deserve forgiveness, eternal life, and peace – but by His grace as a gift. As it says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Some of us are newer to the whole Lutheranism thing. Some of us have been around it for a while; and we sometimes forget, but this is what it’s all about. The Christian faith, and Lutheranism as a part of it, is all about how Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. We’re talking forgiveness of sins for everyone who believes in Him. It doesn’t matter whether you were born into the Church, or came as an adult. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, where you live, how much you give, or even how often you warm a church pew – Jesus died for you. He gives the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life to everyone who believes in Him.

Now, this is all fine and good, but some of us might be thinking why we need to hear this again. Why should I to go to church, if I’ve heard this once already? For starters, life is hard. It is a struggle; it is busy; some days we don’t even know how to do. Even beyond that, before we’ve noticed, we’ve been short with people; we’ve treated them poorly and they’ve done the same in return. Church allows us to hit pause, to hit reset and reflect, to hear God speak to us and tell us that it’ll all be okay – that our sins our forgiven, and that eternal life awaits us in heaven. In heaven there is no pain or sorrow or stress.

Then, St. John also says, “If God so loved us, we also ought to love each other.” Speaking for myself – even as a pastor – I’m not always so good at that part as I should be. So, in addition to pausing to hear God speak through His Word that my sins are forgiven, church also helps me to love others as I have been loved by Christ. “We love because He first loved us.”

May the peace of God be with you this week and always. God is love, and this is the way He showed His love for you: He sent His Son Jesus to die for you, so that through faith in Him, you might not die but live eternally. In Jesus’ name.

The Victory that Overcomes the World

Text: 1 John 5:4-10

I’ve never been much of a winner in my life. Granted, I don’t have a very competitive personality. But when I do compete, I very seldomly win. I don’t think it’s because I’m particularly bad at the things I do. It’s just that, no matter how much I practice, there always seems to be someone better equipped or more skilled than me. Maybe you’ve felt this way. I think my most celebrated victories are in the virtual world of video games or the crowning achievement that is finishing Easter leftovers. But even in that, there’s always someone that can pack in more food than me, both in larger amounts and less time.

The title for the Sunday after Easter is Quasimodogeniti, and it comes from the Introit. It means, “As newborn infants.” Such were the words of St. Peter in his first epistle, “As newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” This text was placed here by our fathers in the faith long ago as part of the continued instruction of confirmation students. In the ancient Church confirmation was three years long, ending on the Vigil of Easter (Saturday evening). There the confirmation students would be baptized and receive the Lord’s Supper for first time. In the Introit for the next Sunday (today) the newly confirmed Christians are encouraged to continue learning God’s Word, which is the pure spiritual milk we all need.

Our text today is from St. John’s first epistle, especially verse 4, “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” John writes this to the churches of Asia Minor after his return from exile to encourage them in the faith. In some ways they had become discouraged by the world around them that was so filled with evil and ungodliness. They had lost sight of Christ’s Easter victory, the resurrection from the dead. St. John encouraged his congregation and us that the resurrection is not just for Jesus, but for us as well. His resurrection becomes our own. Through faith in His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, we also are victorious over the world and we have the confidence of eternal life.

St. John writes to his beloved flock in a post-Easter world about their new status in life: victorious. Through Christ’s death their sins were forgiven and by His resurrection life and immortality were restored to mankind. The Church celebrated this fact. The letters of St. John, we call them First, Second, and Third, were all likely written during the end of his long career as pastor in Ephesus. By this time the Christian Church had existed for more than fifty years, gathering every Sunday for the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and to receive the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins. The post-Easter Church was a vibrant and lively place, even amidst their surroundings.

St. John wrote in a post-Easter world. Post-Easter, in the sense the resurrection of Christ was a present reality for them. John was an eyewitness of the fact, as were some others who were still alive. But the Church existed even then in a world that was totally and completely opposed to the Christian faith. We believe that John spent most of his career in Ephesus, except for his exile during the reign of Emperor Domitian. Ephesus a short time after that was the third-largest city in the empire. There were about 250k in this seat of Roman power. In addition to being an imperial city, Ephesus was also a center of pagan worship. The principal god of Ephesus was Artemis. You can read in Acts 19 of the riot that happened while St. Paul was preaching there. Everyone yelled back and forth for two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Around this time also emperor worship was gaining steam. It consisted of parades, festivals, and public worship. There was almost no aspect of life that was not affected by the false gods of Ephesus, and all of it was opposed to the Church. The Ephesians could have very easily felt like they weren’t winning.

It’s easy for us to feel the same way. We’re not immune or oblivious to the context we live in. The Christian faith is blasted in the media and on social media. We’re told that our faith is ignorant and harmful. In some areas adoption agencies will not place children in the care of parents who hold to certain core Christian beliefs. The only way that the Christian faith is allowed is when Christ is removed. This is the faith that is comfortably touted from political podiums, “Do unto other as you would have done unto you.” Though Jesus did say that, when left to stand apart from the context, it works against our Christian witness. “Do not be surprised, brothers, when the world hates you,” St. John says. He echoes the words of Christ, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

Sometimes, though, it’s not the world that hates us and robs of the victory in Christ. It’s easy to turn off the TV, ignore the internet, change the dial. Our heart is also a problem. That is the devil’s target: your heart. He wages every war and battle he can to steal the hope we have in Christ from us. He’ll do this by tempting you to doubt God’s Word: to doubt it about Jesus, to doubt the faith of the Church, and especially, to doubt the forgiveness we have in Christ. The truth is that Christ died for every single sin. There is no sin that Christ did not die for. Murder, theft, adultery, homosexuality, alcoholism, abortion. These are all sins, but sins that Christ died to forgive. He offers that forgiveness freely by His grace through faith. The devil will try to tell you that there are sins that Jesus didn’t die for, and if He didn’t die for those sins, how can I be sure that He died for mine? Over against these things: the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature, St. John writes, “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”

Everyone who believes in Jesus has been born of God and everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. How? By faith. By faith in Jesus’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins we receive victory over sin, death, and the devil. We have this confidence for a few reasons. First, Jesus. The text says, “This is He who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ; not by water only but by the water and the blood.” That sentence is a little confusing. John is writing, in part, against those who had infiltrated the Church and were claiming that Jesus only appeared to be human. They taught that Jesus was a spirit being and didn’t actually die on the cross, and other variations on that.

No, St. John says, our confidence is based on the fact that Jesus came by both the water of His Baptism and the blood of the cross. At His Baptism the Spirit descended in the form of a dove and the Father spoke from heaven that Jesus is His Son. The Baptist proclaimed that Jesus is the Lamb of God come to bear the sins of the world, and that is what Jesus did on the cross. Jesus came by water, being baptized for the repentance of our sins, and then He paid for them as a ransom by the shedding of His blood on the cross. This the first reason for our confidence.

The second reason we can claim victory over death and the devil is the testimony of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was in the Upper Room with His Disciples on the night He was betrayed, He promised to send them the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth whom, Jesus said, would reveal to the Disciples all truth. What was the truth the Spirit revealed? Jesus! Jesus is the Son of God who died in accordance with the Scriptures for the sins of the world, and who broke the bars of death by bursting forth from the grave. The Spirit bore witness to the Disciples and through their Word. In the same way, He continues to bear witness even today. He works through the preaching of the Gospel to comfort our hearts. He works through Baptism to bring us the gift of faith and the forgiveness of sins. He works through the Lord’s Supper strengthening that faith and the hope we have in the resurrection.

The third reason that we can be confident of the victory we have in Christ is the testimony of God the Father Himself. We already mentioned the voice from heaven at Jesus’ Baptism. The same voice spoke again at the Transfiguration that Jesus is His Son. He is the one who would bear the sins of the world and win us forgiveness. St. John says, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater.” Meaning, if we believe something because a man tells us, how much more should we believe something when God tells us. And what has God told us? He has given us eternal life, and that life is in Jesus.

St. John closes his first epistle with these words, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” In other words, St. John writes to assure us that we have the victory in Jesus Christ. It’s easy to be discouraged by the world that hates us, and by the devil who causes our hearts to doubt. But, in these things we are more than conquerors. Christ has been raised from the dead. Death no longer has dominion over Him or over us. In Christ we are more the conquerors, we are victorious and we will live forever with Him in the eternal glory of heaven.

Because He First Loved Us

Text: 1 John 4:7-21

This week was St. John’s vacation Bible School. The title was Camp Discovery: Jesus at Work through Us. Each day the children learned about the work of Christ through His Word and Sacraments. They learned that Jesus gives them courage and wisdom, that He saves them through faith and then leads them to share His love by serving others. The theme verse for the week and our text today is from 1 John 4, “We love because he first loved us.”[1]

This text was the Epistle reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, but it is profitable for us for it to come up again today. In 1 John 4, the apostle exhorts his beloved fellow Christians to test the spirits, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. Those that confess that Jesus has come in the flesh are from God, and those that don’t are not of God. They may rage against us, but St. John assures us, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”[2] Therefore, since those who have faith in Jesus overcome the world, the apostle then exhorts us as to what sort of people we have been called to be.


St. John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”[3] Before we can begin talking about anything, we must start with the source of our life: our Triune God. Last week on Trinity Sunday we took a few minutes to confess our faith in the One God in Three Persons. We believe from Scripture that God exists eternally as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Today we learn what is the epitome, the essence of God Himself: love.

John writes that love is from God because God is love. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always appear that way. That’s not because God isn’t always love, but because our sinful nature drives us to see things differently. Instead of seeing the love of God in Christ Jesus, many people only see the God of the Bible as one of hate and Law. This is due largely to the sinful condition we are all in that reacts scornfully against any attempts to curb its evil desires. But often it’s also because we as Christians abuse God’s Law. Instead of learning from Christ that He is the fulfillment of the Law and that the whole goal of the Law is love, we remake the Law in our own image. We turn the Law from a mirror that shows us all our sins and need for salvation, we take it and turn it into a set of rules that one must follow to be a good member of the church. The Law becomes a maze for human rats to follow to get cheese at the end. Thus, we fail to live in love.

Thankfully, our failure to live in love does not undo the fact that God is love. Scripture says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”[4] But wait a second, I haven’t said anything about not loving God, right? But that’s exactly the point: our failure to live in love towards our neighbor is a failure to love God. Ever since the Fall our natural inclination is to love ourselves more than God and our neighbor. None of us by nature possesses the ability to truly love as love itself was created.

Our failure to love is what prompted God to send His only begotten Son. In this is love, not that we loved first, but that He first loved us and sent Christ to bear the guilt of our sin. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God bore our sins, our constant failure to love, in His body on the cross. He suffered the ultimate punishment for us. He died for you. God is love, even the perfect model of sacrificial love.


St. John writes, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”[5] What he means is that, if God has loved us so much as to look past the guilt of our constant sinning by sending His only Son to die for us, thus we also ought to love one another. The Bible says that as we abide in Christ and His Word, He abides in us and His love is perfected in us. The children learned this week in VBS that the main goal of the love of Christ that dwells within us is that we serve others and share the saving work of Jesus Christ with those in need.

If you’ve ever gone to a wedding, you’ve probably heard the familiar words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. Maybe you had them at your own wedding. Paul writes of perfect love saying, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”[6] This is a long description of the life to which all Christians have been called. But, if we’re honest, it doesn’t sound much like us. We might be able to check off a couple of the boxes here and there, but never are we able to live perfectly in the love that Christ has shown us and has called us to. At the bottom, all our problems are the result of our sinful failure to live in Christian love.

The theme verse for VBS this year is 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.” There’s two parts to that sentence: our love, and Christ’s love. We already know that more often than not, our love is poor or non-existent. We fail to serve others, we gossip and slander; we’re inactive and apathetic; instead of building others up, we puff ourselves up. But Jesus is none of those things. He is God, He is perfect love. He is patient and kind, bearing with us when we fail to love. He does not envy or boast. He is not arrogant or rude; He does not shame us when we sin. He is not irritable or resentful, but always willing to freely forgive.

Therefore, we love. We love because He first loved us. Christ knew our weaknesses and the punishment we deserve for our sinfulness. He knew that we, all too often, fail to love. And so, He loved us. He loved us even to the point of death, death on the cross. There He won for us the free forgiveness of all our sins. Now He freely gives us that forgiveness through the preaching of His Word, through the renewal of the Holy Baptism, and in the supper of His own Body and Blood. By these things we are strengthened for lives of service in love towards Him and one another. We love because He first loved us.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn. 4:19.

[2] 1 Jn 4:4.

[3] 1 Jn 4:7–10.

[4] 1 Jn 4:10.

[5] 1 Jn. 4:11.

[6] 1 Cor. 13:4–7.

And So We Are

Text: 1 John 3:1-3

Today we remember and give thanks to God for all those who have preceded us in the faith, especially for the good He permitted Edwin, Geraldine, Imogene, and Ina to receive and to give. They are those who hunger no more, neither thirst anymore, who are shepherded by the Lamb beside springs of living water; whose every tear has been wiped from their eyes. They each have received their crown of life and now live before the throne of God forever. But we are still here. This is a common theme that we’ve been dealing with for the past couple months. While we are here on earth awaiting the return of Christ and the completion of all things, we sometimes deal with disconnect. Things are not always as they seem.

Often it seems that life just goes on, then we die and it’s over for us. Society exhorts us, in fact when you leave this building, it’s like the world is ready to give you a second sermon: telling you to live in the now. St. John wrote our epistle reading, in part, to combat those who denied the humanity of Jesus – saying that He wasn’t really human; He was a spirit. Therefore, they concluded that the flesh was of no concern to eternal life and they lived fulfilling and seeking to fulfill whatever desire they should have. But, St. John writes, “all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world,”[1] and this world and all that is in it is passing away.

But it is not so among you. Our text today reminds us that we are God’s children now. Jesus said in the Gospel last week that the slave does not remain in the house forever, the son does. You, like those who have gone before you in the Christian faith, have been purified by the blood of Christ. You are a co-heir of eternal life. We don’t always look at things that way, meaning that we don’t always see things as they are – that those purified by the blood of Christ have been made children of God and will see Him as He is.


See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” [2] Thus, the words of St. John. He says, see what kind or  what sort of love that God has given to us – that we should be called His children, children of the Heavenly Father. If you know your catechism, this is the idea that comes up every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer. Martin Luther writes that when we say the words, “Our Father who art in heaven,” we confess that “God would tenderly encourage us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.”[3]

God loves us in such a way that He brings us into His family, where He becomes our true Father and we, His true children. In confirmation we’ve just been going through the Book of Exodus, particularly the Exodus itself and now the giving of the Ten Commandments. Before He gave the commandments, God went through how He brought the people out of slavery in Egypt to make them His own treasured possession.[4] He says that all the earth is His, but those He rescued out of slavery are His treasure, His children. As Luther says in his catechism, God invites us to pray to Him because we are His children, because He loves us. The word in the Greek is ἀγάπη, love. This is the kind of love that would lead a shepherd to lay down his life for his sheep, the kind of love that would lead a father to sacrifice his only son to receive adopted children as his own.

St. Paul writes, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”[5] We are only able to become the children of God only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through His fulfilling of the Law, through His suffering and death, He has reconciled us to God and made us co-heirs with Himself of the kingdom of heaven. In Him we are no longer children of wrath and darkness, but of life and light.

John writes, “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”[6] The world scoffs at this, that we have become His children, because it does not know God nor His Son, Jesus Christ. It scoffs at our hope, because it does not know the true God and insists that what we see here before us is all that there is. It says to walk by the senses and the rational human mind, and not by faith. And so it scoffs at the idea of a Father God, the idea that there is God out there who created us, who cares for us and sent His Son to die in our place, who like the father in the prodigal son runs to meet his son who once was dead. We even battle our own flesh over this idea.


Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.”[7] The future, and even the present, looks pretty good for those in Christ. This is where we start to see the disconnect. Even amidst the death of loved ones, amidst crippling sickness and suffering, through personal turmoil, the beloved in Christ are God’s children. Those who hope in Christ have been purified by His blood. In Holy Baptism you were given the gift of faith and the hope that in Christ all things are made new. You were purified by the washing of the water and the Word and welcomed into the kingdom as a child of God.

Those baptized in Christ have put off the sinful flesh, slavery to the desires and passions, the cares of the world – and the temptation to despair and lose hope. Paul writes that while we are on earth we see things like looking through a dim glass, but we will soon see things clearly. The text says that we don’t know entirely what the future holds, but we know that we will be like Christ and see Him as He is, face to face. For us, this is a future reality. We look forward to the time when we will be in heaven, where we will be united with Christ and with one another, and removed from the sorrows of this world.

But for those who have preceded us in the faith, this is their present life. The live before the throne of the Lamb with the multitudes who have gone before them. There is no more crying, no pain, no shame, no suffering, no death, no mourning, just purified perfection. There is only happiness and bliss forever. This is what we look forward to, but we do get a glimpse of it here on earth, even today, even during this service.

Dr. Arthur Just, a professor at our seminary in Fort Wayne wrote a book called, Heaven on Earth. The book is about how our liturgy transcends time and space; it connects us with the saints of God in every time and place, even with those in heaven. The songs that we sing are sung by choirs of angels and the white-robed faithful in heaven as well. Especially are we connected in the Lord’s Supper, in the communion of saints, we feast on Christ’s true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. We when approach this rail we are connected with those around us here and with the faithful in heaven. It is a foretaste of the future that belongs to us all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn 2:16.

[2] 1 Jn 3:1–3.

[3] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 331.

[4] Ex. 19:5

[5] Ga 4:4–5.

[6] 1 Jn 3:1.

[7] 1 Jn 3:2–3.