8th Sunday After Pentecost Readings

FIRST LESSON: Isaiah 55:10–1110 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

SECOND LESSON: Romans 8:18–2518 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

GOSPEL LESSON: Matthew 13:1–91 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Matthew 13:18–2318 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Variant Readings in the Bible

Verbal Inspiration and the
Variant Readings

Article from the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, 71, 169–185, (1998).

Author: Siegbert W. Becker

Links to specific topics:

Irresponsible advertising, designed more to sell books than to glorify God, has often urged the purchase of new Bible translations by implying that the discovery of more ancient manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures have so radically altered the message of the Bible that the KJV is out of date because of its content rather than because of its archaic language. More sober and honest scholarship has, however, admitted that the ancient manuscripts that have come into use since 1611 have actually altered the text very little. On the other hand, so-called conservative scholarship has often implied that the more recently discovered manuscripts have changed the meaning of the text to such a degree that a Christian risks his faith by departing from the Textus Receptus (TR), which underlies the King James Version.

There was a time when the whole discussion of the variant readings could be confined to the seminary classroom with perhaps an occasional reference to the problem at pastoral conferences. Our laymen quite generally needed to concern themselves very little with the whole question of the variations in the Biblical manuscripts.

This situation has, however, changed radically in the past few years. This change has taken place as a result of the increasing use of the new Bible translations.

But the new versions of the Bible are not the only cause of this renewed interest in the variant readings on the part of our pastors and awakened concern on the part of our laymen. The variant readings have become one of the principal weapons in the arsenal of those who seek to undermine the full inerrancy and the verbal inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. Over and over, almost to the point of nausea, we are told that verbal inspiration has become an obsolete concept because we do not have exact verbatim copies of the original text, and that it is ridiculous to speak of an inerrant Bible at a time when everybody knows that the manuscripts we have contain errors by which the original text of the autographa has become corrupt. Such arguments may occasionally shake the faith of both pastor and people.

We say both pastor and people. Our laymen are not the only ones who are troubled by the variations from the King James text. Several pastors who have left or been suspended from the fellowship of the WELS out of mistaken zeal for the truth (and for their zeal they might be commended even while we may bemoan their lack of understanding) have attacked all the existing modern English translations including even Beck and the NASB as a “devil’s brew” of truth and error. In many cases their attacks on the modern versions have concentrated on missing words and phrases, and the charge has been leveled that the truth of God has thereby been obscured and vitiated.

It is true that in our congregational work it will be especially the new translations that will force us to deal with the problem. Our laymen, who know the KJV well, in reading the new translations will notice that in some cases familiar passages not only lack certain phrases but that occasionally these passages are omitted completely.

Where the new Bible versions (and we would do well not to call them “new Bibles”) have come into use, it is usually not long before some parishioner asks why the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer is missing in his new Bible. What we answer in reply to such questions can be important not only for them, but it has a bearing on the whole doctrinal controversy in regard to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture that is shaking the Lutheran Church in our time. We can close our minds to all the facts and simply insist that all the new Bibles are a fraud perpetrated by the devil, or we can face up to the issue and give an answer that we can defend before God and our own conscience.

Conservative, orthodox Lutheranism has nothing to fear from the variant readings. These variations in the Greek and Hebrew text will not take our Bible away from us nor compel us to retreat from the doctrine we have proclaimed.

But our people deserve an answer to their questions, and we should be prepared to give them a reply that will not shake or undermine their faith in the reliability and trustworthiness of all the words and promises of God in the Holy Bible. It is, however, not only our laymen who need such an answer. It may well be that some inexperienced young pastor who has heard only the other side during his seminary days may be rewon for orthodox, conservative Lutheranism if we can give him an honest answer to his doubts.

I
Verbal Inspiration and the Variant Readings

It is, of course, almost impossible to separate the question of the variant readings from the doctrine of verbal inspiration. It may be of some value in helping us to come to clarity about this matter if we review some of the details of this doctrine especially as it relates to the form in which the Word of God has come to us. We have only copies of the autographs, or better said, copies of copies of the autographs. Besides, our people in almost all cases know the Word of God only in translation. In our own devotional reading, especially in our family circle, we pastors also use the English versions. I suppose that for most of us it is true that when we read the original text, we are so distracted by questions of grammar and vocabulary that a real devotional reading of the Greek or Hebrew text becomes very difficult. We use the original only to satisfy ourselves that the English translation correctly reproduces the meaning of the passage in question, or to discover linguistic overtones that may be missing in the translation.

When we say, then, that only the original autographs are verbally inspired, does this mean that we do not have the Word of God in the translations we employ in our everyday use of the Bible? This is a question which is often asked when the inspiration of the autographs is discussed. While this is not the question with which we propose to deal here, it is nevertheless a related question. It is safe to say that when the question of the variant readings becomes more common, we will be faced with a similar problem, namely, “If so many changes in wording in the text have taken place, can we still say that we have the Word of God in its truth and purity?” There are people who are sincerely troubled by such questions, and there are others who delight in asking them because they seem to find satisfaction in arousing doubt about long-cherished beliefs.

But again we ought to know what to say when such questions are asked. We may not be able to satisfy everyone, but we can at least try to give an answer that will be helpful to those who earnestly search for the truth. We may take for granted that for the readers of the Quarterly it will not be necessary to review the basic Biblical doctrine concerning verbal inspiration. We know that the words of the Bible written by the holy men of God are truly the words of God, which were not learned from human wisdom but which were taught by the Holy Ghost, so that spiritually revealed truths were communicated to men in spiritually taught words (I Cor 2:13).

Nevertheless, while the words of the Bible are important, we ought to remember that the words of the Bible are words, not just vocables. Words are sounds with meanings attached to them, and it is the divinely intended meaning communicated through the divinely taught words that is important.

The dogmaticians have always made a distinction between the matter (outward form) and form (essence) of the Word of God. While it is true that the Word of God is made up of words set down in a grammatical sentence structure, yet the form or essence of the Word of God is not found in the words as such, but rather in the thought expressed by those words. In fact, it is possible that certain words in one context express a divine truth while in another context exactly the same words may be a diabolic lie. When we gather as a group of Christians on the basis of the presupposition of a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we may very correctly say that we are all children of God. When those very same words, “We are all the children of God,” are spoken in the context of a Christ-denying lodge, they are not the Word of God. They are not even true. In fact, in that context they are a diabolic false doctrine that has undoubtedly sent many a soul to hell.

That does not mean that the words of Scripture may ever be downgraded. They are truly the words of God. But we must be careful that we never make the words as such bear a weight that they were never meant to bear. While it is certainly true that completely different words would communicate completely different thoughts, yet it is also true that there may at times be a considerable variation in the words without creating a significant variation in thought. For example, the sentence, “We had a great deal of precipitation today,” is a sentence which is vaguer but still expresses the same thought as the sentence, “we had a great deal of rain today.” And yet the two sentences may mean exactly the same thing if they were spoken in the context of a hot day in August, for even then one would expect that some reference might be made to hail if the precipitation did not come down in the form of rain. At the same time we would all grant that there would be many situations in which it would be of little practical advantage to know whether the precipitation came down in the form of hail, rain, snow, or sleet. On the other hand, there might be cases where the difference would be of decisive significance, and a snowfall on a hot day in August would be a miracle.

The Bible itself teaches us that there are many different ways of saying the same thing. We might, for example, think of the many passages on which we base our doctrine of universal depravity. On the basis of those passages we have perhaps all said at one time or another, “The Bible says that all men are sinners.” There is perhaps not one of us who would be inclined to contradict that statement, in spite of our knowledge that there is not one Bible passage that says that precisely in those exact words. It should therefore be obvious that variations in wording will not necessarily create a radical change in the Biblical message. In fact, it is entirely possible for variations in wording to occur without any discernible change in meaning.

It is, of course, also true that there are cases where a very slight change, even in the form of a single word, may have a significant effect on the message which is to be conveyed. But this is by no means always true.

This principle, which asserts that verbal inspiration does not mean that the truth of God can be expressed in only one set of words arranged in one grammatical form, is an important consideration if we are not to be disturbed by the variant readings. Those who are troubled by the variant readings would surely be pleasantly surprised if they would only ask themselves, “How much difference in meaning does this variant really introduce into this text?”

Closely related to this principle is the truth that verbal inspiration does not mean that every word of the Bible is as precise and as definite as every other word. But whether the words are exact and precise, or general and somewhat vague, they are all words of God. This fact is often confused with the clarity of Scripture, and we often in such cases, speak of unclear passages. It would perhaps be closer to the truth if we would instead say that the wording of certain passages is not as precise in some cases as in others, but that the passage is always sufficiently clear to convey the message which God intends to convey in this particular context.

For example, the words of the Lord Jesus, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for many,” has often been misused in the interest of the Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement. And we will have to admit that the word “many” is not precise and comprehensive enough to serve as evidence for our doctrine of universal atonement. If this wording were found in every case in which the beneficiaries of the saving work of Christ are under consideration, the word “many” could be understood in the Calvinistic sense, yet it would not need even then to be understood in that way. We would simply not know how many men have been redeemed by the death of the Savior. It might be as little as ten or as many as the sand on the seashore and more. In fact, it could very easily be all the people who have ever lived and will ever live. That would certainly be “many.” This passage surely demonstrates beyond all doubt that a word may be an inspired word of God and yet not be precise and exact, but nevertheless as a word of God it expresses the thought that God wanted to communicate in that situation, and in that sense it is a clear word.

As additional illustrations of the same principle we might cite cases of hyperbole in the Scriptures. When it is said, for example, that “Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan” went out to hear the preaching of John the Baptist, it would surely be a mistake to say that the word “all” in this case means every single individual who lived in the areas mentioned. And when Luke says that when Jesus spoke in the synagog in Capernaum, they “all bare Him witness and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth,” this may really mean no more than we would convey by saying, “Everybody was surprised.” Not much depends on the precise meaning of the word “all” in this case, and it would surely again be a mistake to conclude that all those who were present, including the babes in arms, expressed the thoughts and the surprise to which Luke alludes. Yet in another context we may insist that the word “all” means precisely this, and we can demonstrate by the context that it has this meaning.

The same might be said about the use of round numbers in the Bible. For example, in the twelfth chapter of the second book of Moses we are told that 600,000 men, besides women and children, left Egypt in the exodus (Ex 12:37). A year later, at the time of the census, we are told that there were 603,550 men above the age of twenty in Israel’s encampment at Mt. Sinai. Now it may be argued that the number of men of military age increased by that amount between the exodus and the census, but is it not also possible that the figure given in the earlier chapter is a round number, and even based on the later census figure? Even the census figure may well be a round number of sorts, for in the individual census figures given for each of the tribes, in every case except one, the numbers are given in what seems to be the nearest hundred. In the one exception we are told that Gad numbered 45,650. None of the census figures contain units and only one contains tens. This fact does not by any means justify the statement that the number 600,000 is “grossly exaggerated,” but we ought not to insist that we have here precise and exact figures, that are correct to the decimal point. They are as precise as they need to be to convey the message that God wants to communicate. It perhaps ought to be said emphatically once more that this does not give us the right to adjust the figures to suit our fancy. This phenomenon has been used to discredit the inerrancy of the Bible. But it ought to be recognized by all of us that when the Bible says that 600,000 men left Egypt there might conceivably have been 601,472 just as well was 599,233, and the man who says that the use of round figures gives us a right to say that the figures are “considerably beefed up” is not operating with round figures but is charging the Bible with error.

Before we consider the bearing of the variant readings on the message of the Bible we need to remember also that the doctrine of verbal inspiration does not “flatten out” the words of Scripture, as is so often charged. It is, of course, true that our doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration means that every word of the original manuscripts is a word of God, and therefore each word deserves our respect as a word of God. Dr. Luther once said that if God would speak to us and say nothing but “La, la, la, la,” we ought still to listen to it as the most wonderful thing that we had ever heard.

But, nevertheless, the verbal inspiration of all the words of the Bible does not mean that every single word is of equal importance with every other word. And in translating, for example, we may safely ignore many a men and de of the Greek text. Whole sentences are not as significant as every other sentence. And we may correctly say that there are whole books of the Bible which are not as important as other books. There is a sense in which Luther was absolutely right when he called James a “right strawy epistle.” That does not mean that James is worthless. Luther did not believe that either, for he commends the book very highly. James is still far more important than the Shepherd of Hermas, or the First Epistle of Clement, or the Epistle of Barnabas. These are right chaffy epistles in comparison to James, just as James is a strawy epistle in comparison to Romans.

Finally, it should also be noted that verbal inspiration does not mean that all the details associated with an event recorded in Scripture are given in the account. A doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration which is truly drawn from the Bible will recognize that much was said and done by the Lord Jesus and the apostles and prophets which did not become part of the inspired record. The Bible itself tells us that, for John says that it is his opinion that if all the words and deeds of Jesus were to be recorded, there would not be enough room in the whole world to contain the books that should be written.

And even when the words and deeds of the Lord Jesus, the patriarchs, the prophets and the apostles are recorded, verbal inspiration does not mean that we have a complete and detailed report of what happened. All we can say is that we have a correct and adequate report in which the Holy Ghost gives us His own version of what was said and done.

A comparison of the same account in several of the Gospels will demonstrate very quickly that this is the case. This does not mean, however, as some have concluded, that Jesus did not say what is attributed to Him in the Gospels. It may well be that He did not use the exact words that are preserved for us, but He really did express the thoughts which are conveyed by the words in which the Holy Ghost Chose to preserve those thoughts for us. His preaching may be summarized, but what we have is a correct summary. Different words, even a different language, may be used than He used, but the words will still correctly reflect the meaning of His original statements. Once we understand that clearly, we will be done for all time with the foolish argument of some men who consider themselves to be wise and who say that we cannot lay too much stress on the copula in the words of institution in the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, for Jesus used Aramaic, and Aramaic would not use the copula.

If we remember then

1.    that the essence of the Word of God is to be sought in the meaning of the words of the Bible;

2.    that verbal inspiration does not mean that the truth can be expressed in only one way;

3.    that verbal inspiration does not mean that all the words are always as precise as we might wish them to be;

4.    that verbal inspiration does not mean that all the words are of equal importance in conveying the message; and

5.    that verbal inspiration does not mean that the reports as we have them are never summarized, truncated, or restated,

then the problem of the variant readings will be of far less consequence or significance.

II
The Effect of the Variant Readings on the Doctrine of Scripture

As we have already noted, even our laymen are by this time aware that there are many variations in the wording of the various manuscripts in which the Word of God has been preserved for us from ancient times. A careful reading of the margin and text of the King James Bible would have accustomed them to this idea long ago. For example, in John 8:6, the KJV says that Jesus wrote with His finger on the ground as though He heard them not (italics in the original). In this passage the King James Version used italics to indicate that these last six words are found in a comparatively few manuscripts. In the same version at Acts 25:6, where the text says, that Paul “tarried among them more than ten days,” the margin calls attention to this that “some copies read, ‘No more than eight or ten days.’ ”

While the problem would not be completely unknown, therefore, to a careful reader of the AV, yet there is no doubt that frequent discussion of the problem has become necessary because of the adoption of the new translations and because of the use that has been made of the variants by those theologians who have sought to discredit the doctrine of verbal inspiration and inerrancy.

We are all aware that for several thousand years the Biblical books had to be copied by hand. The printing press was not invented until less than a hundred years before the Reformation. Up to that time errors that inadvertently crept into the text could not be corrected by proof readers before the final printing. The first copy was also the published copy. There was a proof reading of sorts and the result is seen in the many manuscripts in which corrections are made, often by different hands, and scholars are able to identify the various correctors by such criteria as handwriting, type of ink, and so forth. Efforts were also made to compare the copy with the original. As late as 300 a.d. one of the bishops of Alexandria, in discussing a textual problem in John’s Gospel, appealed to what he called “the copy itself that was written by the hand of the evangelist, which, by the divine grace, has been preserved in the most holy church of Ephesus, and is there adored by the faithful.”

The variant readings ought really to come to no one as a surprise. Anyone who has ever tried to copy pages of material either by hand or typewriter knows how difficult it is to avoid all errors in transcription. Such errors have also crept into the Bible manuscripts, as we all know. But when we read that there are as many as 400,000 such copyists’ errors in the New Testament alone, that stupendous figure gives the impression that scarcely anything can be left that can be accepted with any kind of certainty.

However, when these 400,000 variants are divided among the thousands of manuscript copies, it will be seen that the situation is not nearly as serious as it may appear at first glance. Anyone who has done any proof reading knows that it is not unusual to find ten printing errors on one galley sheet, and most of these errors can be corrected with confidence even without any reference to the original copy.

In fact, if we think of the variant readings in terms of printing errors in our English Bibles, we will see the whole problem in much clearer perspective. Many of these errors in the English text we do not even notice, because the sense is crystal clear or at least no false doctrine is introduced even if a word is misspelled or if a different word is substituted. The same is true of many of the variant readings in the original text. A great many of the variant readings do not change the meaning of the text in the slightest. It is a rare variant that changes the meaning of the text appreciably. And even if an occasional variant does make a disturbing alteration in the sense of the text, the manuscript evidence is so clear that the correct wording is undisputed.

A few examples will help us see the true nature of the problem. Many times when phrases or whole sentences are missing from some familiar story, the same phrase or sentence will be found elsewhere in the text. In our KJV, Matthew 18:11, for example, reads, “The Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” The NASB prints these words in brackets with the marginal note, “Most ancient mss. omit this verse.” The NIV omits the verse from the text, but has a footnote which says “Some mss. add verse 11: The Son of Man came to save what was lost.” We will probably never be able to decide for certain whether Matthew really included this verse or not when he wrote his Gospel.

But even if Matthew did not write these words, there is first of all no question that the addition of these words does not add anything to the truth which God has made known to us in the Bible, and by the omission of these words we lose nothing of the truth. For the pastor who knows his Bible well knows that these same words are found in a slightly different form in Luke 19:10, where that evangelist writes, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Here there is no textual problem, for all the manuscripts have the words in this passage. It is interesting to note also that while most of the manuscripts of Matthew have the words, “The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost,” a number of late cursive copies of Matthew and quite a few lectionaries at Matthew 18:11 have exactly the same words as Luke’s Gospel, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” A similar example will be found at Matthew 23:14 (cp Mk 12:40; Lk 20:47—Note also: Matthew has a tendency to arrange in groups of five, seven, and ten. If we adopt the TR here, we get a group of eight “woes.”)

Such variations in wording we find in the Gospels even when there are no variant readings involved. All three Synoptic Gospels give us a rather detailed account of a day’s activity of Jesus in Capernaum, early in His Galilean ministry. Toward the conclusion of the storye we are told about large numbers of people who were brought to Him for healing. Matthew says that this happened “when evening was coming on.” Luke says that it took place “while the sun was setting.” Mark’s Gospel reads, “When evening was coming on and the sun began to go down.” This, by the way, is also an interesting example to show how the same thought can be expressed, and expressed correctly, in two different ways. And many of the variant readings do exactly this same thing.

In fact, some of the variant readings introduce synonyms that are of use in discussing certain doctrinal questions. Mark tells us, for example, that when the Pharisees come from the market, they do not eat unless they first wash (Mk 7:4). The Greek word for “wash” here in the TR is βαπτισοονται. An interesting variant is found in both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus which here read ηραντισοονται which means “sprinkle,” a reading which calls our attention to the fact that many OT baptisms were by sprinkling, as we are clearly told in Numbers 19.

In connection with the doctrine of baptism, attention might also be called to Acts 8:37. This verse is probably the strongest Biblical argument that Baptists have for their doctrine of “believer baptism.” In verse 36, the eunuch of Ethiopia asks Philip whether he can be baptized, and verse 37 then reads, in the KJV, “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” The NASB, which appears in some cases to show a slight Baptistic bias, omits this verse in the text but prints it in the margin with the comment, “Late mss. insert verse 37.” The NIV does the same, but says, “Some mss. add verse 37.” It is perhaps safe to say that if the verse were not in the KJV, it would very likely be completely ignored in more modern translations, for there simply can be no doubt that the verse was not in the original verbally inspired text. No ancient manuscript has this verse and it would seem that it got into the TR only by accident. Practically the whole Byzantine text tradition, which is for all practical purposes the source of the TR, does not have this verse. Only one important uncial from that tradition, E, has the verse, and even there the wording is very significantly different from that of the KJV. It does not read, “If you believe with all your heart, it is permitted (to be baptized)”, but rather, “If you believe with all your heart, you will be saved.” Only very few very late manuscripts have the verse, and if I were editing the NASB and the NIV, this is the way I would introduce the footnote. While the passage as it stands in the KJV can not bear the weight which Baptists sometimes place on it, yet there is no doubt in my mind that here the modern versions have rendered a service by dropping the verse out of the text. The Living Bible, with its unwarranted Baptistic and Calvinistic alterations of the text, is one of the few modern versions that tries to salvage something of the verse, and it does so with an inexact footnote which tells us that many ancient mss. omit verse 37 in whole or in part. The fact is that all truly ancient manuscripts omit it entirely, and that almost all very late manuscripts omit it in whole or in part.

While many of the modern English translations are justly censured for a few mistranslations, yet we do them an injustice and our people a disservice when we attack them on the basis of most of their changes and omissions which are based on variant readings, concerning many of which no man living is really competent to render final judgment. We may not like some of the omissions, and we may not agree with the importance that is assigned to Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and the Chester Beatty papyri, but we cannot deny that these are ancient manuscripts and that they could be correct in many places.

We run a grave risk of playing into the hands of Bible-doubting churchmen if we refuse to take the variant readings seriously or to deal with them honestly. We run an even greater risk of placing ourselves in an indefensible position when we imply or openly state that the omission of certain words or phrases, or the adoption of variants from the TR changes the doctrine of the Bible. This is simply not true.

For example, in a mimeographed attack on all existing modern English translations offered on a Lutheran radio program, the statement is made that when the NASB omits the word “first-born” in Matthew 1:25, it has removed one of the “guarantees” of the virgin birth. There is textual justification for omitting the word in this passage. On the other hand, apparently without exception all the manuscripts contain the word in Luke 2:7. In fact, Luke’s phrase is identical with the wording found in most of the manuscripts of Matthew that have the Byzantine text. Since Luke’s story of the birth of Christ was very likely the standard pericope for Christmas day from ancient times, Luke’s phrase, “She brought forth her first-born son,” was undoubtedly known by heart by all the copyists, and it is not at all surprising that it found its way into Matthew’s account.

It would be wrong to accuse the modern versions of modernistic bias against the word, for I know of no modern version, not even the RSV or the NEB or Goodspeed, which omits the word in its translation of Luke. And even if the word is omitted in Matthew, this has no bearing on the virgin birth, for virginity can be lost without any child being born. The modernistic argument that the Jews considered a woman to be a virgin until she had given birth to a child simply cannot be substantiated, and those who say that the word “first-born” “guarantees” the virgin birth are simply playing into the hands of modernistic opponents of Mary’s purity. The fact is that the word “first-born” does not “guarantee” the virgin birth. That doctrine rests on far firmer grounds than this.

In the same document, much is made of the omission of the word “Lord” in Matthew’s account of the resurrection. Where the King James Version has, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay,” most of the modern versions have, “Come, see the place where He lay.” This omission is cited as proof that the modern versions attack the deity of Christ. While it is true that some of the modern versions surely do not give the Lord Jesus the honor and the glow to which He is entitled, yet there is no modern version which says that Jesus is not God. While we may lose a passage here or there which is supportive of the doctrine of the deity of our Lord, and while we may justly object to some modern versions because of this, yet it ought to be said, in order to keep everything in proper perspective, that those who deny the deity of Christ will find little to support, in fact they will find nothing to support, their point of view in most of the modern versions, except the version of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

An examination of the facts will show how unjustified some of the more radical statements about the modern translations sometimes are. The NASB, for example, is one of the versions that omits the word “Lord” in Matthew 28:6. The facts are that Matthew uses the word “Lord” in reference to Jesus 37 times. The NASB retains 34 of these. One of them it changes to “Sir” (which is not altogether wrong, even if we may consider it unjustified to do this in this passage (Mt 8:6), especially since the very same word in the mouth of the same man is translated “Lord” two verses later.) It omits the word in two places, both times on the basis of what could be considered by many to be valid textual evidence. To say that this is a “denial” of the deity of Christ makes the textual variations far more important that they are. What are we going to do with the evangelist Mark, who also omits the word “Lord” in his account and says, “Behold the place where they laid Him.” Are we going to say that Mark was not quite as sure of the deity of Christ as Matthew was? It reminds me very much of the unwarranted argumentation of modernistic theologians who say that the Gospel writers disagreed in their views about the virgin birth because Mark and John do not mention it. This example is just another indication that the variants do not change the doctrine.

Now it is true that it may sometimes seem that certain variants lend support to false doctrinal views. In the document alluded to several times, the modern English translations are soundly castigated because they adopt the reading eudokias, in Luke 2:14. This reading is characterized as being “synergistic.” Now it is true that it could be understood in a synergistic way, if the word is separated from the whole context of the Bible. But it is also true that the phrase, “men of good will,” even if it is translated in this manner, is not necessarily synergistic. Out of context it could mean men who are characterized by good will. But it could also mean men who are the objects of good will. “Children of wrath” in Ephesians 2 are not angry children, but children who are the objects of God’s wrath. It is interesting to note that the Dead Sea Scrolls contain the phrase which Delitzsch used in his Hebrew translation of Luke 2:14, ‘enoshe retsono, “men of His good pleasure,” or “men of His good will.” If the genitive is the correct reading, it is such a Hebraistic genitive. It would have to be translated in this way in the context of the Bible, which rejects all synergism.

Yet, when most of the modern translations reproduce the Hebraistic genitive very correctly, eg. “for men on whom His favor rests” (NEB), then the author of the cited document writes, “NOTE: The word “He”, “His”, “Him” is not within a thousand miles of any Greek text. To add these words is an attempt to wiggle around the false teaching demanded (my emphasis) by their genitive “of good will.” The fact is that the false teaching is not demanded by this reading. What will a man who operates with such logic do when he is confronted with such a passage as “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” when there is no textual variant from the TR that he can blame for it?

It is, however, true that there are some textual variants that are doctrinally incorrect. It is not easy to find an example of this because there are so few. But luckily there is one in the very first chapter of the New Testament, where a few manuscripts read, “Joseph begat Jesus.” Now this is a denial of the virgin birth. According to the textual apparatus in the United Bible Societies text only one very late uncial and a few other scattered witnesses give this reading. This is a typical example of how a reading which would create a doctrinal difficulty is so poorly attested that no fair-minded person could by the wildest stretch of the imagination conclude that this was the original wording set down by the apostle. Of the modern versions which I examined for this essay, only one, that of Moffatt, takes this reading seriously. Even the RSV, in its later editions, has removed the objectionable footnote, which says that this is the wording of “other ancient authorities.”

The conclusion to which we may come is this, that the more one studies the variant readings, the less formidable the whole problem becomes.

SUMMARY

In summary we may say that, in spite of all claims to the contrary, the variant readings do not make the doctrine of verbal inspiration a mere academic question, because we do not have the autographs.

The doctrine of verbal inspiration remains of crucial importance in spite of all variations in our present text. To see that this is so one need only consider where we would stand if we had perfect copies of an erring text which contains nothing more than man’s witness to and record of revelation. Perfect copies of such a document would still not bring us the TRUTH, they would still not be the inerrant Word of God, worthy of our trust in everything that it says. The most painstaking textual criticism of imperfect copies of such a document would bring us closer only to more human opinions.

But if the original text is really verbally inspired and inerrant, then we have a firm foundation for our faith in the Lord Jesus, for, after all, faith in Jesus is also faith in the words and promises of God. The most scholarly textual criticism helps to make us certain that for most of the text we have so many agreeing witnesses that there can be no doubt whatever that we have the inspired and inerrant words of the autographs.

Where some doubt exists about the exact words, the variations are usually of such a nature that they do not change the meaning of the inspired message in any perceptible way. After all, in a Christian context, it does not really make any difference whether we say the the Lord died for us, or the Lord Jesus died for us, or the Lord Jesus Christ died for us, Jesus died for us, or Christ died for us, or Jesus Christ died for us, or Christ Jesus died for us, or He died for us. Most of the variants are of such a nature.

Of course, if we are dealing with someone who says that Christ is risen but that Jesus is dead and stayed dead, such variations may be significant, but you may be sure that anyone who confesses such a faith, or such a lack of faith, will not be persuaded if all the copies of Scripture in exactly the same words say what he denies. Our problem with Bible-doubting Lutherans does not rest on the variant readings, but with their denial of what is plainly said in Scripture in words which the variant readings do not call into question. For example, there are 42 passages in the NT which refer to Moses as the author of the Pentateuch. In only one of these 42 passages (Jn 8:5) is the name of Moses omitted in any manuscript listed in Nestle’s critical apparatus.

Where words are missing from some manuscripts and added in others, we may not be certain that these words were part of the autographs, but one thing is still certain. Even if we would grant that the missing words are not verbally inspired, because they were not part of the autographs, we will not need to admit that the added words, if they are added in any significant number of otherwise reliable manuscripts, are untrue or that they really add anything to the Word of God. The comma Johanneum is a case in point. The words, “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one,” are found in not one single important manuscript nor in a single ancient version except the Vulgate. The Byzantine tradition, at least in all its early development, knows nothing of this passage. Every major manuscript family omits it. But all of us recognize that the statement is a divine truth taught in other clear Scripture passages. If we add it, we are not adding to the Word of God in its essence. If we omit it, we are not taking away from the Word of God in its essence. Only by confusing the form and essence of the Word of God will we experience difficulty here.

Finally, where false doctrine would result from a variant reading (and such cases are so rare as to be almost non-existent), no one need have any doubt about the reading of the autographs. Such readings are manifestly false. And we can say this on two counts. First, the manuscript evidence does not support the doctrinally false reading. Secondly, we are not wholly dependent on the manuscript evidence. The same manuscript of Matthew that says that Joseph begat Jesus also says that he knew her not until she had brought forth a son called Jesus. This second passage in the same chapter of Matthew and every other passage that testifies to the virgin birth brands that reading as incorrect. Unless the copyist was incredibly stupid, one can only conclude that he understood the word “begot” to mean that Joseph was the legal father of Jesus, not the biological father of Jesus.

Those who see the variant readings as an excuse for the denial of verbal inspiration and inerrancy are not motivated by true scholarly concern for the facts. They have a theological ax to grind. Any honest examination of the evidence will show that the facts do not support them. As we said at the beginning, true orthodox conservative Lutheranism has nothing to fear from the variant readings. The message brought to us in the Holy Scriptures is not distorted nor vitiated by any of them that could conceivably be correct.

Baptism for Infants

Hi Melissa,

Again, congratulations on your new little precious girls, what an amazing gift! I was excited to hear the news. I pray that my mentioning baptism is not too strange. As I study God’s Word, I keep seeing it come up. What blessings the Lord connects with baptism. However, it is important to also continue to bring our children to know the Lord and his eternal salvation. There truly isn’t a greater gift we can give our children, than eternal life and peace with God. I apologize, this does not look the greatest. I put some passages and a sheet that had them laid out on here, but it did not get formatted yet. I will work to update it a bit. Again, if you have any questions, please let me know. I know that your background is Catholic. I see that as a valid baptism. However, I think it is important for you to understand and know Jesus’ teaching on it and work to bring your girls to know the Lord, especially in our strange times. It is also good to ask any questions you have. I promise that any question you ask, I will try to answer it, but answer it, pointing you to God’s Word. It is God’s Word that Jesus tells us we can rely on and know God will keep! God is faithful. For now, God be with you. Darren – Pastor Green.

Baptism Connects Us To Christ’s Promises
The Gift of Faith Is A Gift From God

Infant Baptism

 

We need to start with what is faith. Faith is a gift from God.

 

It connects us to Jesus and to all of His promises: forgiveness, righteousness, holiness, child of God, heirs, belonging to God, sons & children of God, redeemed and eternal life.

 

Jesus’ Command – Make Disciples of ALL Nations

  • Matthew 28:18–2018 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

What does he tell us to use in order to make disciples?

 

 

Whom should we make disciples? How many people is that?

 

 

What about babies? Should they be baptized too?

  • Acts 2:38-39 – Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
  • Mark 10:14,16 – When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

 

 

What does it mean to “baptize”?

  • Mark 7:4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash (Greek: baptize). And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles and dining couches.

 

Scriptures speak of two things needed for baptism, what are they?

  • Ephesians 5:25–2725 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

What does baptism do for us?

  1. What does baptism do for our sins?
  • Acts 22:16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

 

  1. What does baptism do about death and the devil?
  • Romans 6:3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
  • Hebrews 2:14-15 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

 

  1. What is the greatest blessing baptism gives?
  • Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
  • 1 Peter 3:18–2218 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

 

What gifts does God give through baptism?

  • Acts 2:38–3938 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
  • Acts 22:1616 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

 

Faith a gift from God. It directs our eyes to God and his promises for certainty and comfort, not to ourselves and what we need to do.

  • Ephesians 2:8–98 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
  • Ephesians 3:1212 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

 

Do Children need to be saved? Do they have sin?

  • Psalm 51:55 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
  • John 3:1–81 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
  • Romans 5:12–1512 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

 

Can Children, especially infants, believe?

  • Matthew 18:5–65 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
  • 2 Timothy 3:14–1714 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

Jesus has the power to do the impossible, miracles.

 

Baptism Saves & Brings the Promises of God  to Us

 

What did God cause to happen when a person is baptized?

  • Titus 3:4–74 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
  • Romans 6:1–81 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
  • Colossians 2:6–156 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
  • Galatians 3:24–4:724 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. 26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. 1 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
  • 1 Peter 1:3–93 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Plan for Worship at St. Peter’s

Return to Worship – COVID-19 Guidelines

for

St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Monticello

May 29, 2020

Dear Member and Friends of St. Peter’s,

As members of the body of Christ, I pray Jesus has continued to fill you with his peace and the certainty of salvation and eternal life. The Apostle Paul lifts us with his words to the Colossians:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. … 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12,15-17).

I rejoice to know you have continued to grow in your faith through Jesus’ word proclaimed online and in your daily devotions. However, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord'” (Psalm 122:1). During the COVID stay-at-home order, God’s people have longed to gather in the same space to spiritually feast on God’s Word and sacrament and join our voices in praise to God our Savior. While online worship has been a blessing for continued spiritual nourishment, it does not and cannot replace the social aspect of worship as a community of believers gathered in place and time.

We are moving toward that opportunity, but carefully with a plan in place and encouragement to all. The council has decided to resume public worship starting June 7th and 8th. We ask that you continue to look to one another’s needs and in love strive to encourage and build one another up. We also do not want you or anyone to feel pressure to come to worship until you feel comfortable. We will continue to offer online worship, although, since we will be recording the morning worship, the service may be put up later on Sunday afternoon.

Here is a summary of our plans, starting June 7th for Sunday and Monday worship following:

  • Church will be regularly cleaned and sanitized, especially all the high touch areas.
  • Hand sanitizer is available.
  • In the worship area, every third pew will be open for seating in the worship service.
  • Members and visitors are asked to practice social distancing – keeping at least 6 feet apart. Social distancing does not apply to those living under the same roof and care-givers.
  • All services will be printed fully in the bulletin and on the screen for the service. We ask members to take their bulletin home with them after the service. Bulletins will not be reused.
  • Offering plates will be at the door to the worship area for you to place your gifts.
  • We will have doors wedged open to achieve as little touching as possible.
  • If you desire to wear a mask, please do so. However, for singing portions of the service, we are recommending people wear their masks.
  • The congregation will be dismissed pew by pew allowing for people to keep a respectable distance from one another. You are encouraged to visit outside but be conscious of your distancing.
  • We encourage no handshaking, but an encouraging smile and wave as you greet one another.

Communion (The Lord’s Supper will be offered on the first three Sundays & Mondays following in June! June 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22).

  • The elements of the Lord’s Supper will be consecrated as usual by the pastor and will be offered by way of continuous flow communion; setting aside kneeling and being next to one another. This will also keep from having to use the railings to go up to the altar.
  • You will be invited to come up the outside rows keeping social distance from those not of your family.
  • As you approach the pastor, please hold out your hand to receive a wafer. He will give you the wafer with the words: “The body of Christ given for you.” Following that, you will move to a table and take the individual cup place there and hear: “The blood of Christ shed for you.” Please place your empty cup in the basket and return to your seat. The pastor will come to those that are not able to come up for communion in their seat. After the entire assembly has received the Lord’s Supper, the dismissal and blessing will be spoken to all. We also understand if some are not ready to commune.
  • The pastor and those assisting him will have a mask and will wash and sanitize before the distribution.
  • Private communion is still available for those that are not able to come yet or not comfortable receiving it in worship.
  • Members and visitors are urged to use common sense and practice the same precautions as with the cold and flu, which you have heard from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic:
    • Wash hands your hands regularly.
    • Stay home if you are not feeling well, have a temperature or are sick.
    • Cover your cough in your elbow or handkerchief.
    • If you start to feel ill during the service, please leave immediately.
    • If you have been exposed to someone with Covid-19, please stay home.
    • Exercise Christian love and consideration as best you can. May the peace of Jesus continue to fill you each day as you strive to live representing him.
  • We want to encourage Christian freedom and love for one another to guide members – including those who are not ready to meet but wish to stay home. Continue to pray for each other and for our governing officials.
  • Thank you to everyone that has helped in so many ways in church, outside church, with your time, your gifts and offerings. A special thank you to Noah, Naomi & Natalia Green for their work on the video services. It has been a great blessing to our church and worship. It is often in difficult times that the Lord grows us and helps the body of Christ shine.
  • It is also a time that our weaknesses and fears show, but a time in which our Lord Jesus grows us, forgives us and guides us forward with our eyes focused on our Jesus ruling on his throne. He promises to be with us always and to use to us to do great things to his glory.

This document is for purposes only of outlining how our church plans to handle and maintain

social distancing practices for worship. Your pastor and church council will continue to monitor these protocols and make adjustments as appropriate. This has been put together using guidance from the CDC guidelines and MN state health guidelines. While we cannot safeguard against every germ and sickness in this sin-fallen world, we seek to conduct our lives and ministry in love for others – both soul and body.

In Christ,

Pastor Green and the St. Peter’s Church Council

Pdf format link

7th Sunday of Easter Readings

Jesus Lives to Assure Us of His Abiding Presence!

Live in eager expectation of glory! That glory is not dimmed by earthly suffering; rather, such suffering reminds us of the glory that awaits us. First the cross; then the crown. Our light and momentary troubles cannot mute the joy of living in eager expectation of glory. The week that falls between Ascension and Pentecost is one of waiting and expectation for the promised Spirit and the promised glory. The Prayer and Verse of the Day mark the impending nature of our departure and Christ’s return.

Gospel Lesson: John 17:1–11

Can you hear the certainty in Christ’s voice? Can you feel the authority resonate from his words? Stop for a moment and marvel at the words Christ speaks even as his enemies prepare to arrest him, to torture him, to kill him. Christ enters his passion as victor. We know the end of the story; we know this is Christ’s path to glory. But what would the disciples think in the next few hours as the blows landed, the whip bit, the nails pierced, and the blood flowed? This is glory? Just wait…these sufferings would not last. Just wait…glory is coming. Look at Jesus’ promise: he has been granted all authority—but he uses it to give, not to take. He gives us life eternal won by the glory of his completed work. On this post-ascension Sunday, Christ’s promise to return to his Father has proven true. What comfort, then, is his promised prayer for us who remain behind! We are in the world, but not as orphans, and so we bear our sufferings in eager expectation of the glory that’s coming.

John 17:1–111 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. 6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

First Lesson: Acts 1:1–14

The disciples rightly expected glory; they just expected it too soon. The time would come for them to rule with Jesus in his kingdom. The time would come for glory that knows no limit. But that time had not yet arrived. The Christian life is not lived in glory here and now, but in eager expectation of the glory that’s coming soon.

Acts 1:1–141 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” 12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Second Lesson: 1 Peter 4:12–17, 5:6-11

Peter wrote at a time when Nero and the empire had turned against the Way (Name for Christians). As followers of an illegal religion, great suffering impended for the faithful Christians. The lion’s roar could be heard coming ever closer to the people of God. In this life, sufferings will come; but we live in eager expectation of glory. The God of all grace called us to future glory, and no suffering, no emperor or empire can make us lose sight of what awaits us. The cares we have, we cast on him, knowing that any suffering can be borne in joy with eyes fixed on the glory that’s coming.

1 Peter 4:12–1712 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

1 Peter 5:6–116 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Verse of the Day:
Alleluia. Alleluia. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Alleluia. (John 14:23).

 

Ascension Worship

Ascension Worship – Joint Service of Crow River East Circuit

Red Cross Blood Drive – June 1 – 1 to 7 PM

Give the gift of Life, give blood! Red Cross will be collecting blood at St. Peter’s on June 1, 2020 from 1:00 to 7:00 PM.

To give, go to this link: GIVE

(Click on St. Peter’s, Monticello, MN)

or https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/drive-results?zipSponsor=ST%20PETER

Gerane Strehler’s Graveside Service

Gerane Strehler’s Graveside Service

St. Peter’s & COVID-19 Update to Worship

St. Peter’s & COVID-19 Update to Worship

Dear friends,
What a strange time it is that we are living in! So many updates, scary information, isolation, fear, uncertainty. At this time when many of us might have been filling in our brackets for March Madness, instead, we are wondering when life will go back to normal. Crazy. The Apostle Paul’s words to the Romans comes to mind in chapter 8. A chapter that speaks of a shaking world and actions of sinful minds, but Paul also directs us to Jesus, our Advocate and Redeemer. He reminds us that we have been chosen and called. Since we have God doing all this for us, what do we have to fear?

33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:33–39

At a time like this it is important to take an inventory of our life and faith. In Jesus, we have forgiveness, God’s certain love and the promise of eternal life! Stepping back from that, we know that even in difficult times, God is still in control using events to humble the proud and lift up the humble. He promises to be with us and grow us in our faith. He is working to share his powerful gospel to lead more to eternal life. You have your Lord’s sure promises!! Stay close to Jesus in these times by remaining in God’s Word. Nothing can separate you from your Savior as you remain close to him in Word and sacrament.

After listening to the information shared by our federal and state governments, discussing things with our council and with pastors in the area, we have decided on the following decisions as a way to respect and honor our government and to show love for one another:

  • LENTEN SERVICES CANCELLED – We will cancel the rest of our Lenten services on Wednesday evenings. Video sermons of the pastors in our area will be made available online as well as written sermons and links to the passion reading videos.
  • SUNDAY SERVICES ONLINE – We will cancel Sunday morning worship for the next two Sundays in March. Instead, we will have a shortened devotional service online via video and/or audio. I will be sending out a note to those without internet, inviting them to call in and listen in to the service live on Sunday morning at 9:00 AM. Go to mywels.com/live for links and information.
  • Communion & Meet with Pastor at Church – I am willing and offer to meet with anyone that would like to at church. Private communion is available to members that would like to receive it. I am also willing to meet with families or if you want to video chat, just let me know.
  • OFFERINGS – The Council and I would also ask that you prayerfully consider the Lord’s blessings and continue to give offerings according to your plan in support of our Kingdom work. You are welcome to use our online giving at mywels.com/giveonline or send in your envelope and/or offerings to church. If you have any questions, please just contact pastor.
  • BIBLE STUDY, JESUS CARES & SUNDAY SCHOOL – Bible studies, Jesus Cares Bible study and Sunday School will be canceled for now, although I will be looking at possibly offering online bible studies.
  • IN NEED OF HELP – if you are need of any help during this time, whether it is getting groceries or supplies, whatever it may be, please just call and ask. It is important for us to show the love of Christ in action at this time. Look for opportunities to show love and kindness for your neighbors. Go out of your way to help others. AND especially keep praying for your neighbors, your governing officials, health care workers, people working in the grocery stores and our senior citizens that are isolated in their apartments or nursing facilities. It is a challenging time, but our Lord promises to answer our prayers and never leave us!
  • Rodney Kisner made it through his procedure Tuesday to repair a valve in his heart. We are thankful and pray he will get home in the day or two. We pray for healing and strength.
    Your fellow servant, priest and Kingdom worker in Christ Jesus, our Lord, Pastor Green

Bulletin from last Sunday – Third Sunday of Lent – March 15, 2020

Here is an interesting video of a fellow pastor describing steps taken during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and the history around the hymn, Now Thank We All Our God by Martin Rinkert. Hopefully you can open it. It is on Facebook. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/1140436124/videos/10217084023229644/

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Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice – Follow


My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life.

John 10:27-28b

Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice – Follow

Have you noticed how many people think of God as a driver of the sheep. What I mean is this, they describe God as a hard God only demanding people what he wants them to do! Yes, certainly God does give us his law that demands. However, notice how Jesus describes himself and the sheep. He says they listen to his voice.

The shepherd of Jesus’ day walked ahead of his sheep and led them with his voice. He did not drive them as we often imagine. The shepherd knew his sheep and was with them all through the day and night. The sheep knew him and followed him through the countryside as they foraged for food.

By nature, we often can fall into that thinking of seeing God as a demanding Lord, driving his sheep and making us do what he wants. Let’s be honest, often that is how we work with others and certainly how we often treat God. We want and expect him to give us what we want, expecting and even demanding him to answer our prayers and bless us as we desire. We often judge God by the things he gives us. By nature, we have that law or driving mentality. Also, the less we h

ear and know our Shepherd’s voice, the more we fight and only see God as a driver. Satan loves to get us here. He is one of those enemies, along with the world and our sinful nature. He wants to destroy, to wound and finally to separate us from our Good Shepherd and eternal life!

“I know them” Jesus knows this about us. We are sheep! I may not like to describe myself in that way. But if I am honest, I need help. I need a Savior! Jesus came as our Good Shepherd. He knows you, me! He knows how easily we get lost or taken advantage of or belligerently bolt away on my own, only to need rescuing. In his Word he sooths my soul and forgives my guilt! In his Word I hear of his love and rescue. In his Word, I find peace and certainty. In his voice, I find his mercy that never turns away, but a Shepherd that goes out of his way to bring me back! They follow me. I give them eternal life.

How we get things too confused and mixed up about God. Jesus steps into our lives to love, to save and to give us eternal life – now and for eternity. In the church, we follow our Savior, listening together to our Savior voice! Come listen and follow Jesus!

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, You are the Good Shepherd. You know my life, my fears and where I have fallen. Jesus thank you for rescuing me and having brought me to faith. I am part of your flock. Help me listen and know your voice. Satisfy my soul. Give me strength to endure the challenges of this world. Amen.