Ask the Pastor Answers

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    Roman Catholic Church Allowing Bible Reading
  • I have received different answers on one question and was hoping you could clear it up for me. I am trying to find out what year did the Roman Catholic Church officially allow the common man to read the Bible. I am familiar with the dates of various translations, but I am unclear what date did the Roman Catholic Church finally relent and say not only can the clergy read it, but the average person can too with the RCC's blessing. If you have any helpful links to pass along that explains background on this topic, that would be even better.

    Thank you for your question.  I am unaware of any announcement by the Roman Catholic church that said that common people were not allowed to read the Bible.  Certainly there were times in the church’s history when many common people were illiterate (still today this is true in many countries), and therefore were unable to read the Bible.  And hundreds of years ago, when the translation and printing of Bibles by non-Catholic churches was beginning, there were announcements by Roman Catholic leaders that condemned the printing and distribution of Bibles that were not authorized by the Roman church.  And it is also true that the Pope has reserved to himself the right to interpret the Bible, and to those to whom he delegates this right that he claims for himself, so that common Roman Catholics sometimes are afraid to read the Bible themselves, for fear that they will interpret it and so disobey the head of their church.  But I personally have never heard of any Roman Catholic decision that did not allow common people to read the Bible.
     
    Since I don’t know of anything that substantiates the premise of your question, it is impossible to give you any links that you could read that answer your question for you.  I wonder if you are referring to more recent declarations by the Roman Catholic church (over the last hundred years or so) that offer indulgences for Bible reading.
    Saving Faith
  • In the New Testament. we learn of Jesus and His life-saving sacrifice for our sins, and how our faith in Him and His sacrifice is vital for our salvation. The Old Testament believers believed in the God of Israel and needed to follow His instructions (obeying His commandments, sacrificing - as a symbol of the coming Messiah's sacrifice, etc.) to gain their hope of Heaven. So, the Jews of the Old Testament were saved in this way. They were looking for the promised Messiah that was to come to be the Savior from their sins. They didn't (or wouldn't) recognize Jesus as that Savior, for the Old Testament didn't name Him  specifically. When Jesus came - many of them didn't accept Him as their Messiah, so their faith in this God of their ancestors was not enough. And they staunchly clung to the faith they had been raised with. I don't understand this. The Jews have a strong faith in their God, their Father, but this strong faith of their ancestors is no longer a saving faith. So these Jews will go to Hell. I guess I wonder why our Loving God didn't make it clearer to His chosen people. 

    Thank you for your question.  We believe that saving faith is the same for people in the Old Testament and for people in the New Testament.  People in the Old Testament were given promises by God about a coming Savior, about the Messiah.  The first promise about a Savior was given to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15), after their first sin.  As time went on, God added more details about the coming Savior.  Again and again throughout the Old Testament, his prophets focused people’s attention on the Savior who was to come.  People in the Old Testament may not have known as many details about how Jesus would save them as we do in the New Testament.  But they were called by God to believe in the same Savior you and I believe in.  Even the sacrifices that the Israelites offered to God were supposed to remind them of the great sacrifice that the future Messiah would offer for sin.  The only difference between the faith of Old Testament believers and New Testament believers is this:  Old Testament believers looked forward to the coming Savior, while New Testament believers look back to the Savior who has already come.  But it is and always has been faith in Jesus Christ that saves.
     
    Jesus warned the Jewish people of his day about the consequences of rejecting him as their Savior.  When they claimed that they had the same faith as Abraham, Jesus corrected them and said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day;  he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).  Jesus was telling the Jewish people that Abraham did not reject him as the Savior.  He was making it clear to the Jewish people that Abraham believed in Jesus as the Savior, even hundreds of years before Jesus was even born.  And he was showing them that in order for them to be saved, they needed to have the same faith as Abraham did.
     
    The Jewish faith before Jesus came needed to be in the promised Savior.  Otherwise it was not a saving faith, no matter how strong it was.  Faith today also needs to be in the Savior who fulfilled the promise, Jesus Christ.
     
    Why didn’t God tell people in advance that his name would be Jesus?  The short answer to a lot of questions about why God did or didn’t do something is “we don’t know.”  He doesn’t explain in the Bible why he didn’t do what you suggest.  We believe God knows best about things like this.  We trust him to do what is best.
     
    But your suggestion seems to imply that if the Jewish people would have had more evidence, then they would have been more likely to accept Jesus.  The truth is that more evidence for the Jewish people wouldn’t have been more powerful than the evidence that God did give.  Jesus did miracles, real miracles that no one else could do, that no one has ever repeated since.  He did so many miracles, and they all proved that what he was saying was true, that he was the Son of God.  The most powerful miracle he did was his own resurrection, which he had predicted would happen.  And the Jewish religious leaders knew that it did happen, that Jesus became alive again after he was dead, and that wasn’t even enough for them to believe in him.
     
    When you get down to the bottom line, only God can convert someone to believe in him, he is the only one powerful enough to do it.  And since he does not force people to convert, people are going to reject him no matter what kind of evidence he gives them.
     
    When we look at the promises made about the future Savior in the Old Testament and compare them with Jesus’ life, it really is crystal clear to us that Jesus is the Savior.  And there is only one reason that it is crystal clear to us, because the Holy Spirit has converted our hearts and given us the ability to see just how crystal clear it all is.  And the real reason that it is not crystal clear to others is because they have blinders on.  Sin makes people blind to things that should be crystal clear.
    Baptism
  • My Question is if Lutherans believe that salvation is by Faith in Jesus Christ alone, but, believe in Baptismal Regeneration, how does that fit in with being saved by faith alone through Christ alone? I am confused. Here is what my friend wrote to me, All lutherans believe that you are lost as an infant before you are baptized in the Lutheran Church. Through baptism you get saved and become a Christian and a member of the church. And Forgiveness of sins is not through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone, but can be received through the sacrament of "Holy Communion and "Confession."

    You ask a very good question.  Your friend is correct that Lutherans teach that all people are born in sin and without saving faith.  We get this teaching from Bible passages like Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:1, and 1 Corinthians 12:3, among many others.
     
    And your friend is correct that through baptism you get saved.  We believe that baptism saves people.  We get this teaching from Bible passages like Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:21.  The baptism doesn’t have to happen in the Lutheran church.  Any valid baptism saves people.
     
    It is very true what you say, that we are saved by faith alone through Christ alone.  Baptism doesn’t save people without faith or without Christ.  Baptism washes away sins (Acts 22:16) because the Holy Spirit comes to people in baptism (John 3:5;  Acts 2:38-39;  Titus 3:5-6) to give faith and to strengthen faith in Christ.  This is why Paul calls it a washing of regeneration in Titus 3:5, and this is why what happens in baptism is sometimes called baptismal regeneration.
     
    Would an illustration help?  Say you are about to die of thirst and you see a drinking fountain.  You take a drink and your thirst is quenched, you are saved.  You could say that the person who made the drinking fountain saved you, or you could say that the drinking fountain saved you, or you could say that the water in the drinking fountain saved you.  No matter which way you would say it, it would be the same salvation.  The Bible teaches that we are saved by Christ Jesus.  It teaches us that we are saved by faith.  And it teaches that our baptism saves us too.  But it is all the same salvation.
     
    It seems like this is what your friend meant by saying that “forgiveness of sins is not through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone, but can be received through the sacrament of holy communion and confession.”  That wording is not very clear and would confuse me too.  There is a difference between the accomplishment of forgiveness and the conveying of that same forgiveness to people.  It is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone that has accomplished forgiveness.  After Jesus died on the cross, the earning of all forgiveness was all complete, and nothing more needs to be done by anyone.  But no one benefits from that forgiveness unless they believe in it.  Baptism gives and strengthens faith in the forgiveness earned by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone.  Holy communion strengthens faith, too, in the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross.  And the announcement of forgiveness that is made when people confess their sins does it too. 
     
    I hope this clears up the confusion.  A study of the Bible passages that discuss baptism would be helpful too.
    Forgiveness
  • My question is..in order to forgive someone correctly can you just forgive them in your heart or do you have to let that person whom you want to forgive that you forgive them as we'll? 

    Thank you for your question.  You are right to notice a difference between forgiving someone in the heart and telling them they are forgiven.  The Lord makes it clear in the Bible that in our hearts we are to forgive everyone for all the wrongs they have done us.  Jesus showed that ability to forgive when he was on the cross.  There he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  But telling people we have forgiven them is something different.  We need to think about whether telling them is going to be helpful or hurtful to them.  Here are some questions you might consider as you make your decision:
     
    Will telling them about their forgiveness help them to learn about Jesus or to come closer to Jesus?  Or will it just lead them to think that they don’t need Jesus (because they aren’t sorry for what they have done to you)?
     
    Will telling them about their forgiveness help you to have peace in your own conscience?  Will it help you to be sure that you really have forgiven them in your heart?  Sometimes when we don’t want to tell people they are forgiven, it’s because we are trying to punish them and make them feel some pain (because we haven’t totally forgiven them in our heart).  Are you sure about your heart’s forgiveness?  Is your conscience clear and at peace already about what has been said and not said?
     
    Will telling them about their forgiveness help you to live at peace with the person who sinned against you?  Or will it just reopen old wounds that are better forgotten about?
     
    When someone sins against us, Jesus teaches us to forgive them in our heart and go and talk to them about their sin.  When they are sorry, then we tell them they are forgiven too.  Love, a real Christian love for those who have sinned against us, helps us decide how this is best done.
    1 John 5:16-17
  • I am participating in the WELS Through Your Bible In # Years class and came across a passage that I am curious about. 1 John 5 : 16-17 says "There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that." Is this speaking about rejecting God?

    We thank you for your question and want to take the opportunity to encourage you in your Bible reading.  There is no better habit for anyone to have than to regularly read the Bible.  It will fill you with God’s own strength during your journey to your home in heaven.
     
    And we commend you too for thinking about what you are reading and trying to understand it correctly and apply it to your life.  We hope that many people will follow your example.  Some parts of the Bible are more difficult to understand than others, and the part you have asked about is one of them.
     
    The Bible makes the point again and again that all sin really leads to earthly death.  Everyone dies because everyone sins.  So John must be talking about a different kind of death in these verses.  He must be talking about sin that leads to eternal death, about sin that is committed in a hardened, unrepentant spirit.  Or as you have put it, sin committed by someone who is stubbornly rejecting God.  John is making a distinction between sins that Christians commit out of weakness, which are sins that Christians repent of and fight against, and sins committed from a rebellious attitude toward God.  And John is encouraging Christians to pray for each other, so that sin will not gain a foothold in our lives or in our congregations.
    Evolution/Earth's Age
  •  Does Lutheran Church have official opinion about evolution? Do lutherans believe that world is 6000-10000 years old?
     
    Unfortunately the Lutheran Church has become divided since the time when the Lutheran Confessions were adopted by all Lutherans.  Our Lutheran Confessions do not offer an official opinion about evolution, because evolutionary theory had not been taught yet in the 16th century.  The first Lutherans never imagined that a theory like evolution would one day be taught and accepted by so many in the world.
     
    Our Lutheran church body, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, has adopted an official stand about evolution.  Here it is: “7. We reject all theories of evolution as an explanation of the origin of the universe and the human race and all attempts to harmonize the scriptural account of creation with such theories.  8. We reject interpretations that reduce the first chapters of Genesis to a narration of myths or parables or poetic accounts that are not factual history.  9. We reject all theories that blur the distinction between human beings and animals, since only human beings have immortal souls and are accountable to God”  (from This We Believe, a confessional statement of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod).
     
    Our statement of confession, This We Believe, also explains what we believe to be the truth about the world’s origin.  Here is what we confess:  “1. We believe that the universe, the world, and the human race came into existence in the beginning when God created heaven and earth and all creatures (Genesis 1,2). Further testimony to this event is found in other passages of the Old and New Testaments (for example, Exodus 20:11; Hebrews 11:3). The creation happened in the course of six consecutive days of normal length by the power of God's almighty word.  2. We believe that the Bible presents a true, factual, and historical account of creation.  3. We believe that God created Adam and Eve in his own image (Genesis 1:26,27), that is, holy and righteous. Their thoughts, desires, and will were in full harmony with God (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24). They were furthermore given the capacity to "subdue" God's creation (Genesis 1:28) and the responsibility to care for it (Genesis 2:15).  4. We believe that God created a multitude of good angels. Sometime after creation, a number of these angels rebelled against God under the leadership of one of their own who is called Satan or the devil (2 Peter 2:4). Ever since, these evil angels have opposed God and God's people (1 Peter 5:8).”
     
    Perhaps you will notice that our confession does not take a stand on the age of the world.  While I believe that the age that you propose, 6,000 to 10,000 years, would be a generally accepted age for the world in our church body, we have hesitated to make it our official stance because it is not directly stated in the Bible.  Issues about Biblical chronology can become very involved and detailed, and it might be a good idea to discuss them with your pastor if you are interested in them.
    Martin Luther
  • How important for lutherans is opinion of Luther for theologial and life questions? Can Luther be wrong in some questions? Or he is like saints in Orthodox and Catholic church?

    Martin Luther wrote a lot and had many opinions about many things.  His opinions about theological and life questions are definitely important to Lutherans who try to hold firmly to the Lord God’s teachings in the Bible.  But they are not important because they came from Luther.  They are important because they agree with what God says in the Bible.
     
    Luther was a teacher in the church of his day.  He had his own personality, and his personality had flaws just like the personality of any sinful man has flaws.  He also was a product of his culture, and his culture had flaws just like the culture of any group of sinful people has flaws.  Luther was not inspired by God in what he wrote, and he was not infallible in what he wrote either.  Luther can be wrong, and he was wrong on occasion.  But the teachings that Luther took from the Bible were organized into several documents that have collectively become the Lutheran confessions.  We believe that the Lutheran confessions are correct in presenting the teachings of the Bible, and we have subscribed to the Lutheran confessions, which do not include everything that Luther wrote, because they correctly present God’s teachings in the Bible.
     
    We believe that Luther was a saint.  But not for the same reason that people are regarded as saints in the Orthodox or Catholic churches.  We believe that saints are holy people.  And that there is only one way for any sinful person to become holy, this way:  to believe that Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death earned forgiveness for all sin.  We teach that everyone who believes that Jesus is their Savior is already a saint, whether they are alive now on earth or in heaven.  And we believe that becoming a saint has nothing to do with the good things that someone does on earth.  Luther is a saint the same way every Christian is a saint, because God makes it clear in the Bible that everyone who believes in Jesus is a saint.
     
    We honor Luther in our church most of all because he taught so clearly what the Lord God teaches in his Word, the Bible.  We honor him for his example of a Christian life.  We honor him for the courage he showed and for his willingness to lose his life rather than recant his teachings from the Bible.  But the honor we give him in the Lutheran church is minuscule compared to the honor we give our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Christ Jesus be the honor and glory forever and ever!
    Fear of Dying
  • I have always had a fear of dying because I was afraid of the outcome, I believe in Jesus and know there is a spot in Heaven for me, but the thought of living forever after death is overwhelming and a bit scary to me. I have prayed to God and asked for help and he has been helping but even though I hear how luxurious it is I am still scared. I guess I am just afraid of how the afterlife will be and I need help to understand what it is like. 

    My children like school.  I didn’t force that on them.  It just happened.  Even though they like school now, I can still remember their first day of school.  They were scared!  They were scared because they had never gone to school before.  Even though I told them how much fun they’d have playing with their friends they were still scared because they had never experienced school before. 

    It’s easy for us to see why children might have fear over the first day of school, and it’s not too hard to see why Christians might have some fear about going to heaven.   We’ve never experienced it before!  Even though our pastors tell us that it’s going to be a place of perfection, peace and joy, we have never experienced anything like that before. 

    There is another reason we might be anxious about going to heaven: we have a sinful flesh. Believers trust that God is telling the truth. There is a part of every believer that rejoices at the thought of being in the bliss of heaven with Jesus.  However, all believers on earth still struggle with sin.  Sin clouds our thinking and it makes our trust in God’s promises and goodness less than perfect.   When our trust waivers, fear and doubt begin to creep in: What if heaven isn’t as wonderful as it’s supposed to be?  What if I don’t like it?  It is even possible for Christians to be attacked with so much doubt that one could even ask, “Will I really go to heaven?” 

    When a Christian is in that dark place struggling with that doubt, the light of Jesus brings hope and joy. The apostle John wrote letters to people who were struggling with doubt so that they could be certain that they would have eternal life in heaven through faith in Jesus (1 John 5:13).  If getting to heaven depended on something we had to do- even in the smallest degree- then we’d have every reason to be afraid.  But our salvation doesn’t depend on us or anything we do.  It was all accomplished by Jesus.  Jesus lived perfectly for the times we have sinned.  Jesus died with our sins on cross.  He rose again to prove that he has power over sin and death.  And now Jesus, who has eternal life, promises to give it to everyone who believes in him as their Savior.  No doubts about it! We have eternal life and a home waiting for us in heaven.  Even though we haven’t experienced it yet, it is certain! 

    So if you find yourself struggling with fear and doubt, read the promises of forgiveness and eternal life God gave us in the Bible.  Ask Jesus to forgive you for your doubts and strengthen you to trust him and his promises.  Also, be sure to thank him for a family that loves the Lord and you enough to encourage you with the truth.  Jesus delights to hear such prayers and promises that he’ll work in your heart through his Holy Word. 
    Anger Towards God
  • Hi, I am new to the area, I am looking to see if you have someone I could talk to.  I am 43 years old and within the last few years I have been though a lot in my personal life however instead of coming closer to God I have a lot of anger towards him. I would like to get back into going back to church but don’t know how to get past my anger.

    I am sorry to hear about the struggles that have caused you so much pain and confusion. Life on this side of heaven has many disappointments and hardships. That is because of sin. When God first created the world, it was perfect. There were no tears and no problems. Wouldn’t that be nice? But when God created people he didn’t create robots. He created people who had a mind and a will. They could love him and obey him, or they could disobey. Through the Devil’s trickery our first parents Adam and Eve disobeyed and sin came into the world. That sin destroyed the perfect world God created. Since then, pain, disease, sadness, anger, and many other difficulties have made our lives difficult at times.
     
    Although you didn’t tell me exactly what the struggles were, you did tell me that they are negatively impacting your view and worship of God. Sometimes the troubles we face make us angry at God because we don’t understand them. We think, “Why is God punishing me? Why would a loving God allow this to happen to me? Why don’t you make it stop, God?” Sometimes the troubles we face make us feel like God is against us. They tempt us to stop trusting God. 
     
    However, when we feel negatively about God, we need to listen to Scripture and not our feelings. The Bible tells us that God loves you! He isn’t mad at you. He isn’t looking just to crush you. He loves you so much that he sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to take away your sins-not only your sins, but the sins of the whole world. It doesn’t matter if you have struggled to trust God, or if you have done terrible things, or if terrible things have been done to you, you can always flee from sin and find forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And since God was willing to give you his own son, he wouldn’t then keep much lesser blessings from you, would he? God’s Word says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
     
    I suppose the question still remains, “If God forgives me and loves me, then why did he let those bad things happen?” I wish I knew the secret thoughts of God. It would make life some much easier sometimes! However, God has given us his Word. And God’s Word tells us that sometimes God allows troubles to come into our life to test our faith so that we might cling to him. He wants the bad things that happen to us to drive us to Jesus and so that we ask for his mercy and help. God wants us to put our faith into practice during troubling times. Faith trusts God, not only when it’s sunny, but also in the middle of the storm! In this way God uses hardships for our good. He also promises that in Bible. Read Hebrews 12:7-12.
     
    The book of Job is also a great example of this. God allowed Job to suffer terrible things. Yet Job’s faith remained strong for a long time. Eventually though, Job began to question God. (It sounds like you have been through a similar situation.) In the end, however, God spoke to Job. God reminded Job of all the amazing things he had done, and asked Job if you could answer how He did any of those things. Of course Job couldn’t. And that was his point. We are incapable of always understanding why God allows things to happen to us, but we remember the good things he has done-especially sending Jesus to forgive us. Those good things lead us to trust God even during the bad times. 
     
    So I encourage you, come back to God. Don’t be afraid of him. If you are struggling with anger, tell God. He knows already. Tell him and ask him to take it away. It will also be important to surround yourself with the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness because that message will inspire your heart to love and trust God more and more! 
     
    May God bless you with the ability to see the many blessings of his hand and the peace of forgiveness as you struggle during this dark time in your life. Thanks for writing to us. 
    Sitting Alone in Church
  • What do I do if I don't want to attend church because I do not want to sit alone at church?

    Thank you for your question. It makes a pastor’s heart glad that someone is thinking seriously about their relationship with God. I’m sure you know that many people would never even think about asking such a question. They would just stop coming to church, and that would be it. I would like to encourage you to keep asking such questions your whole life before just cutting off your relationship with the Lord.

    It is not easy to answer your question, because your question gives me a whole bunch of questions. Why do you have to sit alone in church? Isn’t there a friend or family member who would go to church with you? Isn’t there someone that you know at church that would be happy to sit with you? Why does it make you feel bad to have to sit alone?

    I guess the best advice I could give you is to talk to your pastor about this. Your pastor is responsible for taking care of your soul. But he can’t carry out his responsibility if he doesn’t know that you are struggling with this question. If you don’t have a pastor, we certainly would be willing to discuss this problem with you in more detail. You could email us privately at our church’s e-mail address, and we will keep your information confidential.

    The most important thing for you to know in answer to your question is this: In a certain sense, you can never sit alone in church. Here is what Jesus said: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). If you need to sit in church alone, please remember that Jesus is right there with you. No, you can’t see him, but you can see the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, and remember that his body and blood are there. No, you can’t hear him talking to you, but when your pastor reads from the Bible and preaches a sermon that agrees with the Bible, Jesus himself is speaking to you. No, you can’t whisper in Jesus’ ear, but you can pray to him and he will hear you as surely as if you were whispering in his ear. Jesus has promised to be with you in church, and he will keep his promise.

    The Lord’s richest blessings to you as you find his answer to your question.

    Community Fraud
  • I am watching as a local family in the community is being thrown into the limelight due to a fraudulant situation. It is tearing me in two. First off, I feel jealousy because suddenly they have all these wonderful possessions. Secondly, I feel bad as they are missing an integral part of their family. Yet, it is tough watching the scam continue. How do I come to terms with my feelings about this family...I am truly angry and resentful that they stole and continue to take advantage of the community to get ahead. I have a real bad taste in my mouth as I get dressed and go to work every day knowing I will never be able to get above poverty level and never own a home.

    We thank you for your question. But this forum is not the best one to answer questions of such a personal nature. Perhaps the best advice we can give you is to talk to your pastor in person about this situation. Your pastor should be able to help you sort out your feelings and guide you to a proper course of action.

    There are so many questions we
    would like to ask you to better help you. What kind of evidence do you have that fraud and stealing are happening? Have you talked to the local family in question to address your concerns? Instead of being angry and resentful, do you need to think of the victims of the scam and report the illegal behavior to the proper authorities? Another question would be: Why do you feel you will never get above poverty level or own a home? It is nearly impossible to help you sort out your feelings without talking to you. It can be very tempting to be jealous of people rich with ill-gotten gains. But such jealousy does not take into account that God knows what is going on and threatens to punish all those who get their money dishonestly. “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” Jesus asked. There is quite a threat implied in that question. God addresses our attitude toward money many times in the Bible. For instance, he says,“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” With God in your life and heart, you really have nothing to be afraid of. He has promised to provide all that we need for our bodies and life.

    Hope this helps – God’s blessings to you.

    Biblical Logic
  • At Hebrews 9:15-22 it helps us to see that unless blood is poured out, obviously meaning death, there is no forgiveness of sins. And we know that Jesus died for our sins. Now some believe that God is Jesus, yet we know Jesus died. But the Bible says that God is indefinite, and obviously can't die. (Psalm 90:2) I have the utmost confidence in God's word and that it sets all things straight (2 Tim 3:16) and does not contradict itself. So if God is Jesus, in the flesh, and God could never die, how can they be the same? Therefore if the Trinity doctrine holds true, Jesus did not really die for our sins, then there is no forgiveness of sins according to that theory. As you can probably tell, I believe that they are completely separate. I am not looking for a fight of words or intelligence. (2 Tim 2:14)  I am just curious what your thoughts are?

    Thank you for your questions. We believe and teach that Jesus and God are the same (or to be more precise, Jesus and the Son of God are the same after the incarnation). The reason we confess this is because the Bible teaches it in so many places, and as you have said, the Bible is God’s Word and we can have the utmost confidence in it. We too, like you, are not looking for a fight about this. We simply believe and confess it to anyone who will listen.

    Here are some Bible passages, for example, that teach that Jesus is God: 1 John 5:20, Romans 9:5, Matthew 1:23, Luke 2:11, 2 Peter 1:17, John 3:16, John 20:28, and Matthew 16:16.  I cannot argue with your logic, nor would I attempt to do so. But I can say some things about human logic. Logic is an amazing gift of God, but logic also has its limits, especially when we think about God and the truths he gives us in the Bible.

    For example, the very book you are studying makes it clear over and over again that Jesus is God, in the flesh. It is the main point of the first chapter of Hebrews. And the book of Hebrews also makes the point over and over again that Jesus died. I agree with you that God cannot die – otherwise how could he be the everlasting God? These are all Biblical truths, but then our human logic steps in and makes this very logical deduction --that all this means that Jesus cannot be God. That deduction may be very logical, but it is also very false.

    Here is the truth: God cannot die, but God did die on the cross. How those two truths can both be true, my logic will never be able to figure out. But the Bible makes both truths very clear, and so I must put my logic to the side and simply believe them because God says so. Yes, you can take the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity and “prove” logically that there is no forgiveness of sins. But why use logic in that way? Why not believe the doctrine of the Trinity because the Bible teaches it, and also believe God’s teaching about forgiveness of sins, too, because the Bible teaches it, and leave human logic out of it? Don’t take teachings of the Bible and use them to logically contradict other teachings of the Bible. When they seem to contradict, throw your logic out the window at that moment and have the faith of a little child. Believe what the Bible says because God said it, whether you understand how it can be true or not; believe it because he has proven faithful in everything he says by keeping every promise he makes and by giving you your Savior.

    God cannot contradict himself. Nor can his Word, the Bible, contradict itself. You are right about this. But God’s logic can contradict human logic and does in fact contradict human logic many, many times. This is a serious subject you bring up. If Jesus is just a man and not God, his death on the cross cannot pay for any of your sins or my sins. It is just because Jesus is God that he can take away the sins of the world. Human logic, if it is not held in check, can prevent and destroy Christian faith.

    May the Lord God work in us his truth.

    General WELS Questions
  • I was raised and confirmed in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. My husband was raised in the Catholic Church, but is now confirmed as a Lutheran as well. We are currently looking to find a new church home, as we both felt church politics were overwhelming at our last church, and the desire that the Missouri Synod seems to have to do contemporary services rather than the traditional. My husband and I both beleive that we are to fit ourselves to God, not Him to us, and I have been charged with finding us a new church home. I have always been under the imprassion that the WELS churches kept to traditional services and follow the Bible to it's word, without twisting verses. I suppose my question then is: What is your order os service on a typical Sunday morning? What is expected attire of congregants, and are children welcomed or preffered to be in the nursery? My children are 3, 4, and 11, what sort of opportunities are offered for them?  Finally, how do I transfer into the WELS church family? Would my husband and I have to take confirmation again? Thank you for your time.

    We pray for the Lord’s blessings on your search for a church home, and we wish to commend you for taking your church membership so seriously. We hope that your question and your concern to have a church that teaches and follows God’s Word purely will be an example to all who read this.

    You are certainly right that we are to fit ourselves to God and not him to us. We are the ones that are sinful, the Lord God is completely holy and without sin. What an amazing message God has for us in his Word, that he has cleansed us of our sin through the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ! Jesus has “fit” us to God, for he has earned forgiveness for all our sin.

    We can’t comment on church politics at your former church, since we know no details about the situation there. We can say that church should not be a power struggle between factions and that church should be about sharing the truths of God’s Word and his Sacraments and about thanking the Lord with our time and praise and offerings. The Lord God wants unity and love to be the primary forces in his church. It is a very sad result of the work of our own sin and Satan himself when disunity and quarrelling occur. 

    It is also hard for us to comment on the “worship wars” that have been raging through many Christian churches during the last twenty years or so, i.e., traditional vs. contemporary worship, again because we don’t know the details in your specific situation. As far as the WELS is concerned, I believe you would find both traditional and contemporary services if you looked around enough (although what people define as “traditional” and “contemporary” varies to a great degree, so I suppose it would be possible that someone could disagree). For anyone who is having doubts about what constitutes a God-pleasing worship service, our advice would be to study the principles of worship that the Lord gives to us in his holy Word.

    In general we do follow a liturgy here at Faith in Sussex. Usually we follow “the Service of the Word” or “the Service of Word and Sacrament” in our hymnal, although we have tried to incorporate variety within these liturgies, and at times our pastors write up their own “liturgies” for special occasions, and occasionally we use the liturgies in our hymnal called “Morning Praise” and “Evening Vespers,” too. I have a feeling from what you write that you would find our worship services much more traditional than you have experienced at your former church, but the way to find out for yourself would be to come and see if you would like to (Thursday, 7:00 pm, Saturday, 5:30 pm, Sunday, 8:00 or 10:30 am). We also on occasion have had a “contemporary” worship service here at Faith, contemporary in the sense that a more modern musical style and instruments were used, but those services were still liturgical, at least in the sense that the main elements of Christian worship were still all a part of the service.

    We are glad to hear that the WELS has earned a good reputation with you as far as teaching and following God’s Word purely, without twisting his words in the Bible. We do believe and teach that this is what God demands of us and all people, that we guard his pure Word, that we teach no more and no less than what he says, that no one has the right to twist or distort his words in the Bible, and that when we share his Word with others, we do so without compromise. It remains our prayer that the Lord bless our efforts to be faithful with the great treasure he has given us in the teachings of the Bible.

    As far as clothing is concerned at our worship services, we have not made any rules about it at our church. At the same time, we have had very little problem with it. In general our members have noticed that clothing styles have become much less formal over the last 50 years. The only principle the New Testament gives to us about clothing in the worship service is that it be modest, decent, and proper (1 Timothy 2:9). If you visit our worship service, I think you would see a great variety of clothing styles, and that each age group has its own idea of what is proper for a worship service. The Lord is much more concerned about the hearts of his people than about the style of clothing we wear when we come to him.

    Children are certainly welcome in our worship services. We do not have a nursery but encourage parents to bring their children to worship. We believe it is good training for children to worship with their parents and that they often get much more out of the worship service than their parents might imagine. We encourage parents to talk about the worship service with their children after church and help them to learn what was being taught (and you might be surprised, sometimes the children help their parents to learn what was taught, too). We recognize that children whose attention spans are not real long yet may have trouble sitting for an hour in church, and we do have a family room where parents can take their children if they get out of hand, where there is a TV monitor and a speaker that will still bring in the sound from church. But we hope that parents can train their children, with a combination of patience and firmness, to sit in church and worship as a family. We are confident that the Lord’s blessings will come to families through their efforts in this respect.

    In addition to the worship services, we offer Sunday School for children from 9:15 to 10:15 on Sunday mornings (and parents are welcome during that hour to come to adult Bible class). We have a pre-school here at Faith for 3 and 4-year-olds, 9-11:30 am Monday-Friday during the school year (3-year-olds come Tuesday's and Thursday's, and 4-year-olds come Monday's, Wednesday's, and Friday's). You don't have to be a member of our church to enroll kids in our pre-school. Our church shares in the operating costs of St. John’s Lutheran School in Lannon, so that full-time grade school is available to our members’ children as well. We also support two Lutheran high schools, one in Milwaukee and one in Jackson, where many of our teenagers attend.

    To become a member of our church, you would need to ask for a release from your former church (if you haven’t done so already). If you had a good instruction class, we would not require you to take confirmation classes again. But we would want you to know about the differences in doctrine between the WELS and the Missouri Synod, so that you could truly feel at home at our church if you joined here.

    Again, the Lord’s richest blessings to you as you search for a church home. “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

    Heaven
  • What is the belief held by Faith Lutheran regarding the saints being taken up to be with the Lord prior to the tribulation?

    At our church we confess that every person who believes that Jesus is their Savior from sin is a saint. And we also teach that at the moment of a believer’s (saint’s) death, their soul is immediately taken up to be with the Lord in heaven, where the souls of the saints await the resurrection of their bodies on the Last Day.

    We do not believe that this occurs before Christians suffer trials and tribulations. Because of the presence of sin in the world, the life of a believer on earth is going to include trouble and heartache. During this life Christ’s saints take heart during their sufferings in the fact that Jesus has overcome the world by his own suffering and death and resurrection, and has also called us conquerors, yes, more than conquerors, over the many difficulties of life.

    Jesus has promised that the tribulations that his saints experience will grow more intense as his return gets closer. Since no one knows the day of his return, it is difficult for Christians to determine when that period of greater suffering is occurring. It could be happening right now, or it may happen at some point in the future. When it does occur, believers in Jesus who are still alive will need to fix their focus even more on what Jesus has accomplished for them through his innocent suffering and death. When it does occur, Christians need to remember that Jesus is protecting them during their persecution, and that no one will be able to snatch them out of his hand.

    We reject millennial ideas as a threat to Christian faith and as a distortion of many passages of Scripture. We plead with people to focus back in history to Jesus’ perfect life on earth and to his sacrifice on the cross, rather than focusing forward to a future millenium, and to find comfort in all their tribulations in the fact that Jesus has promised eternal life in heaven to all who believe in him.

    Differences between WELS and Missouri Synod
  • What are the primary differences between WELS and Missouri Synod Lutheran?

    For many years there were no differences in teaching between the WELS and the LCMS (Missouri Synod). Very early in our history, the WELS was guilty of questionable fellowship practices, and cleared things up in part because of correction given us by Missouri. To this day the WELS is very thankful for that early help and influence from Missouri. But in the middle of the twentieth century, the opposite problem began to occur. Parts of the Missouri Synod became lax in fellowship practices, and when the WELS began to express concern and correction, our warnings were not heeded by Missouri leaders. Finally, in the early 60’s, the WELS believed we had reached an impasse in our discussions with Missouri, and severed ties over differences in the Biblical doctrine of fellowship.

    Since then the WELS has noticed the beginnings of further compromise in the LCMS, especially in the Bible’s teachings about men’s and women’s roles.  Even though it has been nearly 50 years since the WELS needed to separate from the LCMS, we still pray for a return to Biblical teaching and practice in that church body. It should also be emphasized that there are still many parts of the LCMS that remain faithful in their teaching and practice.