Faith Related Q & A
Faith Related Q and A
» My grandma is a WELS Lutheran, but my grandpa was Catholic. Everyone in my family was raised and are practicing Catholics. My grandma's WELS pastor told her (in front of my aunts and uncles- at her sister's funeral) that he felt bad that her children and grandchildren are not saved and that we are all doomed to hell. Is this really what the WELS religion believes?
I was not privy to the conversation you referenced, but I can tell you what we in our church body believe about salvation. “We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends. It is a message relevant to people of all times and places, of all races and social levels, for ‘the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men’ (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for ‘the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men’ (Romans 5:18). “We believe that individuals receive this free gift of forgiveness not on the basis of their own works, but only through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). Justifying faith is trust in Christ and his redemptive work. This faith justifies not because of any power it has in itself, but only because of the salvation prepared by God in Christ, which it embraces (Romans 3:28; 4:5). On the other hand, although Jesus died for all, Scripture says that ‘whoever does not believe will be condemned’ (Mark 16:16). Unbelievers forfeit the forgiveness won for them by Christ (John 8:24). “We believe that there is one holy Christian church, which is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16) and the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:23; 4:12). The members of this one church are all those who are the ‘sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26). The church, then, consists only of believers, or saints, whom God accepts as holy for the sake of Jesus’ righteousness, which has been credited to them (2 Corinthians 5:21). These saints are scattered throughout the world. All people who believe that Jesus is their Savior from sin are members of the holy Christian church, regardless of the nation, race, or church body to which they belong. “We believe that this holy Christian church is a reality, although it is not an external, visible organization. Because ‘man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’(1 Samuel 16:7), only the Lord knows ‘those who are his’ (2 Timothy 2:19). The members of the holy Christian church are known only to God; we cannot distinguish between true believers and hypocrites. The holy Christian church is therefore invisible and cannot be identified with any one church body or with the total membership of all church bodies.” Those statements are from This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body. The first two paragraphs are from the section titled “Justification by grace through faith.” The last two paragraph are from the section titled “Church and ministry.” This link will take you to the complete document. I hope this information is helpful for you.
» As Lutherans, we believe that immediately upon death, our soul enters either heaven or hell - there is no “middle” state, such as the Catholic teaching of purgatory. However, the Bible clearly teaches of Christ raising people from the dead as part of his array of miracles. So that leads me to WELS Lutherans/Christians, where do we profess those souls went after death, and how do we reconcile that belief to our standard “post-death” belief? Take, as an example, Lazarus. We can logically conclude that Lazarus, as a believer, would have immediately entered heaven upon his death. But from what we know of heaven, those who entered heaven would be devastated to be “pulled” from the perfect existence of heaven back into this veil of tears. (In fact, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, we clearly see God rejecting the notion of “sending back” people to earth after death.) So, what is our teaching/belief-set here? Or is this just one we throw our hands up and say that we really do not know?
The Bible teaches that the body and soul separate at death (Ecclesiastes 12:7) and there is judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The soul goes to heaven or hell; there is no in-between place like purgatory, as you noted. When it comes to the biblical accounts of people who were raised from the dead (in Old or New Testament times), Scripture is silent on the specifics and whether or not God might have brought about exceptions to what normally happens. We have to be content with what the biblical accounts teach us. What they teach is that Jesus has conquered death, and he shares his victory with those who are united to him in faith (John 11:25-26; 2 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 1:17-18). In regard to the account of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus’ point was that the rich man’s brothers had what they needed to avoid an eternity in hell: they had the Old Testament Scriptures. The Holy Spirit works through the word of God to create saving faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and give people forgiveness of sins and heaven as their home. The truth in the biblical account is that if the rich man’s brothers rejected the word of God, “They will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
» What is the difference between this synod and the Missouri Synod? Any theological variance, or just geographic? I was raised in the Missouri Synod and, due to relocation, am looking for a new church to call home.
The main differences fall in the categories of church and ministry, the application of fellowship principles, and the roles of men and women. There are many, many essays on the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Essay File that document the history, theology and practices of the two synods, and their relationship to one another throughout the years. This link will take you to those essays. You will also find other questions about WELS and LCMS in the Church and Ministry category of the Q & A section of this website. You might also be interested in A Tale of Two Synods, a book that is available from Northwestern Publishing House. Finally, if there is a WELS church in your new community, do contact the pastor. He will be glad to provide further information and answer your questions. God’s blessings on your relocation!
» Why at Communion does the pastor only say, "Depart in peace," and no longer adds, "and sin no more"? I know it's been changed for some time, but I keep forgetting to ask.
I cannot say that I have heard those words of dismissal at Holy Communion worship services. What I often hear is something along the lines of “The true body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in the true faith unto life everlasting. Depart in peace. Amen.” Variations of that go back well over one thousand years in liturgies of the Christian Church. Because there is no divinely-mandated liturgy, Christians have, in freedom, developed liturgical practices that reflect biblical teaching. “Depart in peace” has us think of Simeon’s words (Luke 2:29). And in the Song of Simeon in the Common Service (Christian Worship, page 24), we utilize more of Simeon’s words. “Sin no more” points to Jesus’ words to the woman who had been caught in adultery. After assuring her that he did not condemn her for her sins, Jesus instructed her to leave “her life of sin” (John 8:11). The more common dismissal of “Depart in peace” puts emphasis on the peace that comes through the forgiveness of sins. As a response to God’s forgiving love, we certainly want to avoid sin as best we can (and the gospel provides strength for that), but the final instruction of “sin no more” can leave the communicant with more thoughts of sanctification (living for God) than justification (God’s decree of “not guilty” to sinners) right after receiving the sacrament. Also, if the words of dismissal are intended to be words of blessings, an instruction to “sin no more” goes beyond “words of blessings.” Finally, Scripture does not tell us what words to use when dismissing communicants—or that we even have to use such words in the first place. Whatever words we do use at the end of the distribution, we want them to reflect the truths of the Bible.
» I have been 'baptized' twice, first by my mother and once in a Baptist church. The Baptist church baptism is the only one I have documentation for, even though it came second. Even though my mother baptized me first and would have used the Trinitarian formula, I can't actually remember it, and have no documentation. Which one should I view as my one and only baptism?
If you were baptized following the Bible’s directive of using water and the word of God, you were the recipient of a legitimate Baptism. It sounds like your second Baptism was not necessary. Rather than focusing on differentiating between your Baptisms, I would encourage you simply to focus on the blessings of Baptism. “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” (Galatians 3:26-27).
» Back in high school I made a huge mistake of having sex with one guy. I didn’t know Christ fully, but I came to Christ three years later. But the past still haunts me. I’m 23, still single and haven’t dated since then. Is it possible of bearing the consequences now for my past sin, even though I’ve gotten baptized and have been serving at church? Does God ever punish us for past sin, or is that the enemy sending those thoughts?
Satan thrives on accusing Christians of their sins (Revelation 12:10). Thankfully, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became man to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8). Jesus did just that by resisting Satan’s temptations (Matthew 4:1-11) and by crushing him (Genesis 3:15) through his atonement for sin and triumphant resurrection from the dead. The comforting message of the Bible is that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Jesus Christ was punished for your sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). God does not punish Christians for sins they commit. God may discipline his children (Hebrews 12), but his motive is love and correction not punishment. “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). It sounds like you have confessed the sin that remains in your memory. With that being the case, cling to the gospel message that your sins are forgiven. When God forgives sins, he blots them out of his memory (Isaiah 43:25). The fact that you can remember your sin from the past does not mean that your sin is not forgiven. It means—in a sense—that you have a better memory than God. I encourage you to use God’s gospel in word and sacrament faithfully to grow in the confidence and conviction that God has forgiven all your sins for Jesus’ sake. Remember your baptism. In it, God clothed you with the garments of salvation Jesus won for you by his holy life and innocent death (Galatians 3:26-27). Seek the counsel of your pastor or other trusted Christian counselor if you need further assistance in dealing with the past. God bless you!
» Is an NRSV with Apocrypha an acceptable Bible to use for devotional purposes?
The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is a 1989 revision of the Revised Standard Version (RSV), which first appeared in 1952. Both versions are products of the National Council of Churches. While the NRSV updated the English language of the RSV, it retained some of its objectionable features. Probably most noteworthy is its denial of the prophecy of the virgin birth of Christ (Isaiah 7:14). While the apocryphal books are not canonical, they can serve as useful reading materials. Martin Luther included them between the Old Testament and the New Testament in his German Bible. He did so with the instruction that, while the books can provide useful reading, they are not to be considered on the same level as the canonical books. I would encourage you to use a different, more reliable Bible translation for your devotional purposes. If you use the one about which you are inquiring, you would do well to use another, more reliable Bible translation alongside it. This link will take you to the Bible translations offered by Northwestern Publishing House.
» Could you please explain the meaning of the word "folly" which is in Mark 7:22, and also what may be some current examples of this in our society? Thank you.
The meaning of the Greek word is “foolishness, lack of sense: moral and intellectual.” We can find current examples of this in our society simply by looking at the sins Jesus mentioned in Mark 7:21-22. The commission of those sins indicates a lack of moral sense. As Jesus pointed out, such sins flow from within—from hearts that are sinful by nature. This is why we confess that we are naturally sinful and that we have sinned against God by our thoughts and words and deeds. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we also confess that we have forgiveness for our sins through Jesus, who lived perfectly in our place and endured the punishment our sins deserved.
» During the general confession (non-private), do I have to bring/mention my sins mentally before God for Him to forgive them? The liturgy moves too fast and I don't have time to silently bring my sins before God. Does that matter, or are all my sins forgiven anyway?
As opposed to private confession when we might confess specific sins, the general confession in our worship services provides the opportunity to confess our sinfulness (our sinful nature) and our sins of thought, word and deed (both sins of commission and sins of omission). You are correct in observing that the pace of the liturgy does not allow for enumeration of our sins. You and I also recognize that we cannot list all our sins before God. We may not even be aware of some of the wrong things we do and the good things we fail to do (Psalm 19:12). Certainly, you can use the quiet time before the worship service begins to confess specific sins to God. There are helpful resources in our hymnal to assist you with that. The wonderful news about the confession of sins is the promise that God gives in his word: “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Remember that, and keep in mind that we stand in grace before God (Romans 5:2).
» How does the Wisconsin Synod view the importance of Lent?
Along with many other Christians throughout the world, we consider the season of Lent to be important because it provides the opportunity—often through special, midweek worship services—to focus attention on the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. Jesus saved us by being our perfect substitute in life (Romans 5:19) and our innocent substitute in death (2 Corinthians 5:21). Lent furnishes opportunities to marvel at the forgiving, sacrificial love of God (Isaiah 53). The emphasis of Lent is not what we might give up for God. The emphasis is on what God gave up for us: his only begotten Son (John 3:16). We do recognize that the Christian Church developed the church calendar, including the season of Lent, in Christian freedom. That means that there is no command of God to celebrate Lent, but there are many good reasons to observe that season. In Christian freedom we use the forty days of Lent as a special time of repentance and a time to prepare our hearts to observe the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23