Faith Related Q & A
Faith Related Q and A
» Why did the Israelites do little to spread God's Word (at that time, the promise of the Savior) to other nations?
I am not sure what led you to that conclusion, but it is not an accurate one. Certainly, the ceremonial laws that God gave to the people of Israel were designed to keep them separate from the heathen nations around them, but God’s will was that his people share the news of a promised Messiah with others. And they did. I can recommend to you two resources that elaborate more on that truth. This first link will take you to a “Light for our Path” column that addressed a question that was similar to yours: “Were the Jews to spread the message about the promised Savior even to Gentiles, as we do mission work today?” This second link will give you access to a short paper: “The Mission Mindset of God’s Old Testament People.” God had promised Abraham: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). The people of the world would be blessed through the Savior who would come through Abraham’s lineage. The people of the world needed to hear of that promised Savior, the Messiah. God’s Old Testament people of Israel spread the word.
» Why do Matthew and Luke show different genealogies for Jesus?
A common explanation of the genealogies is that Matthew provides the legal descent through Joseph, Jesus’ legal father, and Luke provides Jesus’ physical descent through Mary. With Joseph as his legal father, Jesus was David’s legal descendant. Romans 1:3 attests to that. Luke traces Jesus’ family line through Mary, and the evangelist demonstrates that Jesus is connected to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15). Jesus, the eternal Son of God, did not appear out of thin air when he entered this world to fulfill the promises of the Savior. No, there was a lineage and ancestry that could be traced. As you noted, Scripture even provides two genealogies.
» I was speaking with a friend the other day who mentioned that not all "Christian" denominations believe that Christ not only died the worst earthly death, but also suffered in hell for the sins of all people for all eternity. He also mentioned that this was reflected in the Apostles' Creed, and that it was changed years ago. Being a member of the WELS, I am familiar and fully agree with the statement "He descended into hell." However, some denominations changed it to "He descended to the dead." My questions involve a couple concerns: 1) When was this change made and why? 2) Does this change reflect that some Christians don't believe Jesus fully suffered in hell? Thank you.
For years, there have been misunderstandings and false teachings regarding Jesus’ descent into hell. Roman Catholic Church theology maintains that Jesus descended to a limbus patrum, a limbo of the fathers, to free Old Testament believers and take them to heaven. Traditional Reformed theology teaches that Jesus’ descent into hell was part of his suffering for sin. Some churches and people also erroneously believe that Jesus’ descent was to the realm of the dead where all people go upon life’s end: a Sheol or Hades—a place apart from this world that does not take into account their judgment to heaven or hell. “He descended to the dead” reflects that kind of thinking. The English Language Liturgical Consultation is an international group that seeks to gather information and consensus on liturgical forms. Their mission is then to produce and promote common texts. Their version of the Apostles’ Creed states that Jesus “descended to the dead.” The Consultation’s influence is evident when we consider that churches like the Reformed Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America make use of their version of the Apostles’ Creed. Jesus’ suffering for sin came to an end on the cross. After Jesus’ body and soul were reunited in Joseph’s tomb on Easter Sunday morning, and before the risen Lord appeared to his followers on earth, Jesus descended into hell to proclaim his victory over Satan (1 Peter 3:18-20). Jesus’ descent was a victory march (Colossians 2:15), the first step in his state of exaltation.
» While you're in heaven as a spirit and without a body, will you be able to communicate with other spirits if we have no body? Will our thoughts just travel from one spirit to another without talking?
The Bible provides little specific information regarding what souls in heaven or hell are experiencing prior to the last day. The big picture, of course, is that the souls of Christians are experiencing the joys and perfection of heaven, while the souls of unbelievers are experiencing the horror, pain and punishment of hell. The account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) describes the soul of the rich man in hell seeing, speaking and feeling pain. One of the apostle John’s visions (Revelation 6:9-11) describes the souls of believers in heaven speaking to the Lord. The Bible’s emphasis is on judgment day and following—when everyone, body and soul, will experience either eternal joys through Christian faith or eternal sorrows through unbelief (Mark 16:16).
» What's the difference between Islam jihad of wiping out the infidels, and the Old Testament Israelite people going through Canaan and wiping out the peoples there? (e.g., Deuteronomy 7)
The God of Islam does not exist. Any warfare in Allah’s name is illegitimate and idolatrous. On the other hand, the God of the Bible, the Triune God, is God alone (Isaiah 45:5). As the Creator of all things, only God or his representatives in government can end life (Genesis 9:5-6; Deuteronomy 32:39; Psalm 90:3; Romans 13:4). As the Creator and owner of all things (Psalm 24:1), God instructed his people to take control of the land of Canaan. Past answers to similar questions have contained thoughts like these: “The gross idolatries and sexual depravities of the Canaanites were longstanding, persistent, and posed a horrible influence on their neighbors, and spread a deadly contagion among the covenant nation of God. They were impenitent peoples who had hardened their hearts against revealed truth and were dangerous to the spiritual lives of God’s people. They had received ample information that the Promised Land had been promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; had been given opportunity to vacate the territory; and knew very well that God meant business in leading the Israelites into Canaan after the Exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. God’s clear purpose in driving out or exterminating impenitent idolaters was to serve the preservation and spread of the promises of a Savior that God entrusted to the Israelites. God was constructing a hedge around his people to allow them to keep the messianic promises and family line intact so it could ultimately be shared with the world.” There is no comparison between the actions of a false religion’s adherents and the actions of the only true God.
» Is baptism necessary for justification and salvation?
Christian faith is necessary to enjoy God’s verdict of “not guilty” (Romans 3:28; 5:1). It is the lack of faith that condemns, not the lack of baptism (Mark 16:16). Baptism is necessary in the sense that the Lord commands us to administer baptism. It is not for us to decide whether or not we are going to do what the Lord says. However, baptism is not absolutely necessary for salvation because the Holy Spirit can bring people to saving faith in Jesus through the gospel in Word alone. In cases like that, people will still want to be baptized—to do what Jesus says and to receive, in addition to the message of the Bible, another guarantee of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ.
» I heard a nondenominational/Baptist pastor say that the ascended Lord's body is only present in heaven at God's right hand, and thus, cannot be present in the Lord's Supper. On the contrary, I believe our WELS teaching on the true body of Christ present in Holy Communion, and the obviously miraculous way that his true body can be present at multiple places in the world at the same time. Can you explain what the Bible says about the corporeal body of Christ in this post-ascension time of history? And how does the truth of God's omnipresence relate to the corporeal body of Christ.
Traditional Reformed theology holds the erroneous view that Jesus’ human body can occupy only one space at a time. With that wrong idea in mind, Reformed theology envisions Jesus’ body—after his ascension—only in heaven, and the earthly elements in the Lord’s Supper merely symbolize his body. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he withdrew his visible presence from his followers on earth. He did not abandon them. He promises: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). The God-Man, Jesus, with his human nature and body as well as according to his deity, is present when his followers gather in his name. Shortly before his ascension, Jesus gave a similar promise of his presence in the lives of his followers: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus’ divine nature shares with his human nature characteristics or attributes so that his body is also capable of being present anywhere and everywhere he wills to be (omnipresence). His body is truly present in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-28). While these truths of Scripture may go beyond our understanding, Spirit-worked faith believes them. Like you, I do not seek to change Scripture to make it more understandable to my mind.
» The new seminary graduate who recently began serving our congregation has an unusual approach to consecrating the elements during the Lord's Supper. When it is time for him to read the Words of Institution, he takes a step or two away from the altar (it is built into the chancel wall), turns his back to the elements on the altar table, and reads the Words of Institution to the congregation. He doesn't make the sign of the cross over the cup and paten, or make a simple hand motion to indicate what is being set aside for the Sacrament. One would be hard pressed to know we were celebrating the Sacrament until the distribution begins. Am I wrong in asking him to at least stand next to the elements when reading the Words of Institution instead of turning his back to them?
I contacted Professor James Tiefel of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary regarding the training seminary students receive to consecrate the elements in the Lord’s Supper. Prof. Tiefel serves as Dean of Chapel and teaches worship and homiletics courses. He explained that when the consecration takes place at a wall altar, the presiding minister is either to take the vessels in his hands and turn toward the people (and make the sign of the cross at “This is my body/This is my blood of the covenant”) or stand at the side of the elements and speak to the people while pointing to the elements, alternately looking at the people and the elements. He demonstrates how this done. You can certainly speak to your pastor about the instruction he received and his current practice. You might be interested in an article Prof. Tiefel wrote: “The Orientation of the Presiding Minister to the Altar During the Words of Institution.” While your question addresses a subject that Scripture does not address specifically, the article explains how liturgical actions can help communicate doctrine clearly. This link will take you to that article.
» I noticed that WELS made no official condolence statement following the passing of Rev. Billy Graham. Considering his worldwide impact on preaching the gospel during the 20th century, is there a reason for WELS saying nothing?
It is not the regular practice of our church body to issue press releases on the announcement of an individual’s death. Like the apostle Paul (Philippians 1:18), I am glad when Jesus Christ is proclaimed as Lord and Savior. Through many people and various means, the gospel is reaching more and more people. Also, like the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 2:8-9, I am desirous that people understand that faith in the gospel message is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Finally, like the apostle Paul, my prayer is that “the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored” (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Christians pray that prayer for the glory of God and the growth of his kingdom.
» Why aren't women allowed to vote for board positions within their own church?
Elsewhere on this website you will find This We Believe: A Statement of Belief of the WELS. The “Church and Ministry” section addresses your question on the basis of Scripture: “We believe that women may participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where that work involves authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11,12). This means that women may not serve as pastors nor participate in assemblies of the church in ways that exercise authority over men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35).” One of those assemblies is the voters’ assembly. Another resource on this website that may be helpful for you is the document titled “Man and Woman Roles.” This link will take you to that document. While women in WELS congregations do not cast votes in voters’ assemblies, that does not speak at all to their status in God’s sight. Scripture says to Christians: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23