Faith Related Q & A
Faith Related Q and A
» I once heard a Catholic say about salvation that “he has been saved, is being saved, and will be saved.” I didn’t know what to think about this. Is this an accurate thing to say? I guess in other words the Catholic is saying that salvation is a process. So what is it? Is salvation a process or a one-time event?
The person who spoke to you was expressing the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes the Council of Trent: “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.” That mixture of justification and sanctification is not what the Bible teaches. This link will take you to the section of This We Believe that conveys our confession of what the Bible teaches regarding justification. You may also be interested in A Lutheran Looks at Catholics. You may find it in your church library or through Northwestern Publishing House.
» What times on what days should be considered the beginning and end of the Paschal Triduum? I've heard versions including Thursday evening through Saturday night, Friday afternoon through Sunday morning, and Thursday evening through Sunday evening. I recently taught a class on our church year and there was confusion on this topic among members, including some lifelong WELS members. Thanks in advance for clarifying this for us.
With human customs, it is not surprising to find variations. I can pass along to you this introductory information about the Triduum from the WELS Resource Center. “For more information about the history of the Triduum, see page 183 and following in Christian Worship: Occasional Services. However, a simple explanation would be this. The Triduum adds one service to Holy Week from what most WELS churches are used to. Specifically, it adds the Great Vigil, one of the most ancient services in the Christian Church. And it organized the services of the ‘three days’ (i.e. triduum) so that they go together. There is no benediction after Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, because they are just parts 1 and 2 of a three part observance. “Some churches have arranged the three services into one large worship folder. For ease of printing and customization, we have kept them distinct. This allows churches to modify the services using sound pastoral judgment to be appropriate for each congregation’s sensibility. In some locations, it might cause confusion to not have a benediction and to ask people to leave the church in silence. That portion of the worship folder can be easily modified. “The Great Vigil is growing in popularity throughout the WELS. There are churches that have used it for years now and find it as well attended as Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. Traditionally, it is held late on Saturday night. However, one possibility to introduce it to your church would be to do it as your Easter sunrise service. It has a very different tone than a festival Easter service. Members would be encouraged to come to it and a festival service on Sunday morning. You could have an Easter breakfast in between.” These links will take you to the preceding information and will also provide you with worship service templates for the Triduum.
» Hi, I’m a Lutheran who wants other people who aren’t Christians to receive salvation and go to heaven. But I understand that we believe it is faith alone and that it’s not our choice to “accept” Christ as Savior; it’s the work of God alone. If we believe that it’s God’s work alone, doesn’t that mean that we shouldn’t even bother preaching to non-believers? And also, if I were to preach to them, what do I say about receiving salvation? Many evangelicals would tell people to accept and trust him, but since we don’t “accept” Christ, do I tell them to put their faith in Jesus and they will be saved? I’m sorry if this is a long question, but I don’t know who to ask and it’s hard to put into words.
Conversion certainly is God’s work (1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 2:8), but Romans 10:14-15 explains that God works through his word to bring people to faith. So, there is a need to share the word of God with people. As you witness to other people about Jesus, you can encourage them to look to the Lord as their Savior. If it happens that they do, it is because of the Holy Spirit’s working in their hearts through the word of God and not because of any decision on their part. When the apostle Paul answered the jailer of Philippi’s question about salvation, he said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (Acts 16:31). Paul was not looking for the jailer to make a decision and invite the Lord into his heart. The Bible explains why we can’t do that and don’t want to do that by nature. Theologians have called a statement like Paul’s a “gospel imperative.” Statements like that direct people to action, but the words themselves contain the power to carry out the instruction. God alone is responsible for Christian faith. Keep witnessing to your friends. God bless your witnessing of Jesus!
» Can a non-member, non-believer stand as maid of honor and/or bridesmaid/groomsman in a WELS wedding?
Yes. There are no biblical fellowship principles involved with the scenario you present. The individual is not leading or conducting any part of the worship service. Ideally, the individual will benefit from hearing the word of God and its focus on Jesus Christ as Savior.
» Recently my church, a WELS church, changed the words to our Lord's Prayer. The word trespasses was changed to sin. I believe that only God or a called servant may forgive sin. Why was this change made? This issue is very disturbing to the older members of the congregation to the point that some are considering leaving our church.
On the two occasions when the Bible records the Lord speaking the prayer that is named after him, Jesus used different words for violating God’s holy will. That is not surprising, as the Bible does as well. It speaks of “sin,” “debt,” “transgression,” “trespass,” among other terms for disobeying God. In the Lord’s Prayer we find in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus used the word “debt” – “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” In the Lord’s Prayer we find in Luke’s gospel, Jesus used the words “sin” and “debt” – “Forgive our sins as we forgive everyone indebted to us.” There is a Greek word for “trespass,” but that word does not occur in Matthew or Luke’s account. So, how did we come to speak “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”? We can thank the Anglican Church for that. For hundreds of years already, the version of the Lord’s Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer has focused attention on forgiving “trespasses.” When the time came for German Lutherans in our country to begin utilizing English liturgical materials, they adopted the version of the Lord’s Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. Tradition has led many Lutherans in the United States to continue using that version. If your congregation recently began using the “contemporary Lord’s Prayer,” substituting “sins” for “trespasses,” it is not doing anything wrong. “Sin” is a more accurate translation of the original Greek than “trespass.” And, whether we use “sin” or “trespass,” we are acknowledging in the Lord’s Prayer that we have acted contrary to God’s holy will and seek his forgiveness. In addition, we also speak of forgiving those who sin against us. Speaking the news of forgiveness is not limited to pastors. Keep in mind that in the Lord’s Prayer you and I speak of “forgiving those who sin against us.” That is what God, elsewhere in the Bible, tells us to do. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). I would encourage you—and others in your congregation who share your view—to speak to your pastor and allow him to show you how the words of the Lord’s Prayer in the original Greek can be translated into English.
» When did hell come into being? Was it before the fall of "the evil angel" (devil)? God surely knew that the angel would fall and had a place where he (and others) would spend all eternity.
Without putting a timeline on the origin of hell, the Bible simply tells us that at the end of God’s creating work, he pronounced everything he had made as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). At some point after that, and prior to the temptation in the Garden of Eden, Satan and other angels rebelled against God and were cast into hell (2 Peter 2:4). Jesus explained that hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
» I was baptized and confirmed in the WELS. A few years after my confirmation I began to walk away from the faith until I no longer considered myself a Christian. The Holy Spirit has worked faith in my heart again. Is my baptism still relevant even though I walked away for years? Thank you.
Through Baptism God gave you great blessings (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27; Titus 3:5-7). If you “walked away from the faith,” you forfeited those blessings. Now, through the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart, those blessings of Baptism are yours again. Yes, your Baptism is certainly still relevant. Praise God for that! Think of Jesus’ parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32). When the wayward son returned home, he enjoyed all the blessings of his loving and forgiving father. In a much greater way, God our Father welcomes back those who strayed. His children enjoy again the blessings that they had previously forfeited. Stay close to your Lord through faithful use of word and sacrament. God bless you.
» I am having a small debate/discussion with non-WELS friends and I would like to convey the belief I have that we believe that Christ died for our sins. The definition of believe is 'to accept something as true...' according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The friends are saying that it is a two-step process to 'accept' Christ... first to 'know' that Jesus died for your sins and then to 'accept' him as your Savior. I grew up in the WELS Lutheran church from birth and was baptized and confirmed in the same church. I recall this discussion over the years, but would like to know if there are any Bible verses that I could mention to them in addition to saying what I have here about the definition of believe. Thank you for your time.
Saving faith consists of knowledge (John 17:3), assent that the knowledge is true (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and, above all, trust in Jesus Christ as Savior (Psalm 31:14; John 20:28; 2 Timothy 1:12). The Bible makes it clear that saving faith is not a human decision (Romans 8:7; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 12:3; Ephesians 2:8. That last verse states clearly that saving faith is a “gift” from God. What Jesus said of his first disciples is true of all his followers: “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16). The only reason you and I can accept as true what the Bible teaches is because of the Holy Spirit’s working in our hearts through that same word of God. I hope this helps. God bless your conversations with your friends.
» Every day I see more written about a godless society. I became a Christian, a child of God, a little over a year ago and I am still learning about what our Lord Jesus Christ and what He wants me to do to become stronger in my faith. My question is, how can I as one person help to bring more people to Jesus Christ? This world we live in can sometimes make it difficult to get people to understand why coming to Jesus Christ can make their lives so much better.
How wonderful to hear what God worked in your heart and life a year ago! God bless your faithful use of his word and sacrament, that you grow and mature in the faith. How can you—one person—help to bring more people to Jesus Christ? Here are some thoughts that come to mind. “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Live your Christian faith in every area of your life. Let people see the joy, the hope, the confidence you have as a child of God. Live your faith, and then see if people inquire about your faith. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15). When you live your Christian faith and people ask about it, be ready to tell them who Jesus is and what he means to you. You don’t need to have all the answers; just letting people know about your Savior can spark their interest in him. “Pray…that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored… (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Recognize that neither you nor I can change anyone’s heart. But God can, and God does through his powerful word. So, pray that God blesses those people to whom you witness. Pray that God changes their hearts, that they look to Jesus alone for life and salvation. “We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth” (3 John 8). You are one person, yes, but when you pool your resources with others of the same faith and fellowship, much more kingdom work can be done. Your offerings and mine can support people to take God’s word to places that we cannot go in person. So, we give back to God, joyfully and generously, some of the gifts he has given us. The Christian life will be less stressful if we keep our role in mind. We are planters and sowers of God’s word; only God can bring about positive results from the planting and sowing of his word (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). So, let’s do what we can—individually and collectively—and then trust God when he promises, “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, 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” (Isaiah 55:10-11). God’s blessings to you!
» Hi, pastor. From a Christian point of view, is it OK for a person (man or woman) to have a friendly relationship (like texting or calling over the phone) with your former boyfriend/girlfriend after getting married? I personally feel like it would lead to sinning and never should have such a relationship behind the spouse's back which would lead to unnecessary suspicions. Kindly guide, and appreciate your response. Thank You!
I remember once reading a person’s humorous explanation as to why the bride and groom extinguish the two separate candles after lighting the unity candle during their wedding ceremony: “That is to signify that there are no old flames.” When “two become one” in marriage (Matthew 19:5-6), they pledge their faithfulness to one another. I would have to ask what kind of faithfulness it is to maintain the level of contact with a former girlfriend or boyfriend that you describe in your questions. Such contact would present temptations for unfaithfulness and hurt the other spouse. On a related matter, it is not a surprise to learn from studies that, when the kind of contact you describe occurs on social media, marriages suffer greatly. When husbands and wives put each other first (Ephesians 5:21-33), a person could say to them, “Hand your cell phone over to your spouse,” and there would be no inappropriate communications on the device. Love for God and love for one’s spouse call for that kind of openness and honesty and faithfulness. I hope this response addresses your concerns.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23