Faith Related Q and A

» During this COVID-19 period of isolation/shelter-in-place, could you please take us back to our Catechism instruction days and refresh us on (1) why for good order we ask our pastors to distribute Holy Communion as well as (2) who may do so in good conscience, especially in special circumstances like quarantine. I think it would be a timely topic for those craving the blessings of Lord's Supper while our churches cannot physically meet. Thank you.
This brief Catechism review will use the edition of Luther’s Catechism produced by Northwestern Publishing House in 2017. “Why do Christians gather together in congregations? Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:42; 2 Peter 3:18.” “How does God guide Christian congregations as they use the keys publicly? Matthew 18:20; Ephesians 4:11-12; Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 5:17; Matthew 16:19. God provides Christian congregations with leaders who are to faithfully guide the affairs of the congregation. Preaching and teaching God’s Word is one of the most important ways that they lead their congregations.” “What are some ways in which a pastor serves the congregation that has called him? 1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2-3; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; 2 Timothy 4:5; Isaiah 52:7; James 5:14; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. The pastor serves the congregation by leading the members in public worship, preaching and teaching God’s law and gospel, and counseling and encouraging the members with God’s Word. 1 Corinthians 14:40; Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. The pastor serves the congregation by administering the sacraments in an orderly way. Ephesians 4:11-12. The pastor serves the members of the congregation by training them with the Word of God, equipping them to serve their Savior.” The Pastor Call Form used in our synod highlights these truths, as it charges pastors: “To preach the gospel of our Lord among us in its truth and purity, to administer the sacraments in accordance with the inspired Word of God and the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as incorporated in the Book of Concord of 1580, and to establish and maintain sound Lutheran practice at all times.” Concerning special situations like quarantine, the latest Together newsletter provided this information: “Since restrictions on gatherings vary from place to place, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper will in some places need to be modified, depending on government restrictions and medical guidelines. Some congregations, if allowed by state and local authorities, are gathering in small groups and taking great care to practice good hygiene and recommended ‘social distancing.’ “In other places, even small gatherings are not allowed. There have been questions about how we should proceed when it comes to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper when members cannot gather at church. “Regardless of the specific situation in which your congregation finds itself, here are a couple of things to remember. First, while Christians desire to be strengthened and comforted by the Lord’s Supper, we also recognize that there are times when the normal celebration of Communion is not possible. For Christians serving in a war zone, for church members who are in a medically induced coma, for believers who are home-bound because of sickness or infirmity, the normal celebration of the Lord’s Supper with other believers may not be an option. But in those cases we take comfort in knowing that we have the means of grace in two forms—Word and sacrament. The forgiveness conveyed and assured by the written or spoken Word of God is no less powerful and effective than the sacrament. In some cases, private Communion may certainly be available. “Second, we also recognize that there is no scriptural definition or requirement for how frequently Christians should celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Jesus simply encourages us to receive the Lord’s Supper regularly and often. There may be times such as this that, temporarily, the Lord’s Supper may not be available as often as we would like or desire. For that reason, the Conference of Presidents is urging patience with the following advice: “’We encourage our congregations at this time to reserve the distribution of the Lord’s Supper for its regular and normal use within the gathering of the body of believers (realizing that some changes in procedure may be made) or distributed privately by the pastor to individuals in need, as is the customary practice. We urge congregations to refrain from initiating novel approaches for celebration of the sacrament.’”

» How do Lutherans view the Virgin Mary compared to Catholics? Do they still honor her and love her?
We view Mary as the woman God graciously chose to give birth to Jesus Christ. Mary received that honor and privilege only because of God’s grace to her (Luke 1:26-38). Roman Catholic Church teaching is that Mary entered this world as a baby without a sinful nature. The Bible does not teach that. The Bible teaches that all people born from a human father and a human mother are conceived and born in sin (John 3:6). Like all such people, Mary was in need of a Savior to forgive her sins. She recognized her sinfulness and need for a Savior (Luke 1:47). Roman Catholic Church teaching is that Mary did not commit actual sins. The Bible teaches that all people born from a human father and a human mother are guilty of sin (Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:23). Roman Catholic Church teaching is that Mary remained a virgin after she gave birth to Jesus by not having sexual relations with Joseph. The Bible does not teach that. Roman Catholic Church teaching is that Mary’s body and soul went to heaven at the end of her earthly life. The Bible does not teach that. Roman Catholic Church teaching is that Mary is in a position to receive and answer prayers that are directed to her. The Bible teaches that any acts of worship, including prayer, are to be directed to God alone (Matthew 4:10; Revelation 22:9). Roman Catholic Church teaching speaks of a “saving office” of Mary. The Bible does not teach that. There is only one Savior and mediator between God and people: Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5-6). When we hold to what the Bible teaches, we will understand that Mary was a person who received a great blessing from God in being the woman to give birth to the promised Savior. From the Bible, we will see that the Savior, Jesus Christ, came to save people from their sins, including Mary.

» What does the Bible say about disease? Did God create the coronavirus or does he allow it to happen for His own purposes?
At the end of the sixth day of creation, God pronounced everything he had made as being “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The entrance of sin into the world brought sickness and death and untold problems into life (Genesis 3). The Bible makes it clear that God is not responsible for the existence of sin and its effects (Psalm 5:4; James 1:13-15). God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). When it comes to bad things in life, God can keep them out of Christians’ lives (Psalm 91:9-10) or he can allow them to enter our lives for good purposes (Romans 8:28). In the latter case, you and I sometimes might have difficulty understanding the good purposes that God has in mind. That is because God’s ways and thoughts are—thankfully—different from ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). The confidence we can have at a time like this is that God is very much in control of his world (Psalm 46; 104; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). While we know that God will use every circumstance in life for our eventual and eternal good, we also look forward to a life that is free from sin and its effects (Revelation 7:15-17; 21:4). Little wonder that the Church thinks of Jesus’ visible return on the Last Day and prays, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

» What does God's word say about getting married at another location that is not inside the church?
The Bible does not provide instructions or directives on the location where a marriage is legally established. This is yet another area in life where there is Christian freedom. Certainly, a God-pleasing course of action that many Christians choose is having a marriage service take place in church. The house of the Lord is where God’s people gather regularly to hear his word and offer him their prayers and praises. The house of the Lord is a fitting place where marriage, one of God’s gifts, can be “consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:5). Ultimately, the venue of a wedding is not the most important matter. What is all-important is understanding what the Bible says about marriage. It is the lifelong union between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6).

» For those of us who are not tech savvy, how are we supposed to participate in worship? Many older people do not know how to access live streaming.
This is a question that you really want to address to your pastor, and your pastor needs to be aware of a question like this. In these extraordinary days, congregations are working to develop ways of ministering to their members apart from corporate worship services and face-to-face Bible classes. While there are many resources available, some of them—as you indicated—may involve technology that is challenging for some people. That is why you want to make your pastor aware of your situation, so that other resources can be developed and offered. While it is not a substitute for worshiping with fellow Christians, this resource can provide ideas for supplementing your devotional life. This resource has additional suggestions. “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1). This temporary absence from the Lord’s house helps us realize what a blessing we have long enjoyed in being able to assemble in his house for worship. God speed the day when we can meet each other there again!

» What does the Bible have to say about hypnotism?
The Bible does not specifically address hypnotism. Its applications range from entertainment to treatment of addictions. Because the Bible does not address hypnotism, Christians will want to apply other biblical principles to the subject. Those principles can include being personally responsible for our actions (Ezekiel 18:20), being in control of our actions (2 Timothy 3:3; 2 Peter 1:6), seeking help from the Lord (Psalm 50:15; 121:1-2) and subjecting our thoughts to Jesus Christ and his gospel (2 Corinthians 10:5).

» If the government tells us we cannot meet in God's House (church) because of social distancing or any other reason, must we not follow God rather than man? I have searched the website and see nothing about the current situation.
Within a few hours of submitting your question, the WELS Conference of Presidents released the following question and answer. How will congregations handle government restrictions on public gatherings? Various governmental bodies have either advised or mandated that no public meetings with more than 50 people be held. Additional restrictions may be imposed in the future. Some may be asking the question, “Is this a time when we should obey God rather than men?” A couple things should be remembered. 1. The Fourth and Fifth Commandments apply in a situation like this. We are to obey and respect the governing authorities as they carry out their God-given responsibilities, and we are to do all we can to protect our neighbors and keep them from harm. 2. At the same time God certainly desires that Christian gather together regularly for worship. 3. In limiting the size of worship gatherings, the government is not attempting to deny our freedom of religion. Rather, government authorities have issued mandates that they believe will protect citizens from harm. 4. Since all of these biblical principles are valid, it is legitimate for our congregations to strive to comply with governmental regulations on the one hand and, on the other, to find alternate means to enable God’s people to be fed with Word and sacrament. 5. Recognize that this is an extraordinary opportunity to let our light shine as congregations and their members look for ways to serve the people in their communities in Christian love.

» A friend told me Jesus will come back three times. I know Jesus will only come back on judgement day only one time. Where in the Bible can I find the verses that say Jesus will return?
It sounds like your friend is reflecting views that are associated with the false teaching of premillennial dispensationalism. By misunderstanding and misinterpreting different parts of Scripture, some people wrongly look for Jesus to return to this world secretly to resurrect or rapture Christians, to return another time to bind Satan and begin the millennium, and to rule visibly over an earthly kingdom for a 1,000-year period. Scripture speaks of a single return of the Lord to this world (Matthew 24:36, 42; 25:13; Acts 2:20; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10). That return will be visible not secret (Acts 1:11).

» How does one receive the Holy Spirit? If Christian faith is God's gift to people, why do we have so many people without the gift? Thank you.
The Holy Spirit comes to people through the gospel in word alone or the word of God attached to earthly elements in the sacraments (Romans 10:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). So, we received the Holy Spirit when he worked in our hearts when we were baptized. The Holy Spirit continues to work in our hearts when we come into contact with the Bible and when we receive Holy Communion. Christian faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). People do not produce Christian faith on their own. Christian faith is a gift from God the Holy Spirit. God certainly desires the salvation of all people (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Through the efforts of Christians, God brings his gospel into the lives of people so that the Holy Spirit can change their hearts. What we have to recognize is that people are by nature spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), spiritually blind (Acts 26:17-18) and enemies of God (Romans 8:6-7). People naturally reject the good gifts God wants them to enjoy through Jesus his Son (Hosea 13:9; Matthew 23:37). When people believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is only because of the Holy Spirit’s working in their hearts (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5-6). That means that we want to continue spreading God’s word to more and more people, so that the Holy Spirit can work through it to change hearts and fill them with Christian faith. You and I cannot control what happens after we share God’s word with someone; we can’t change anyone’s heart. We can simply share the word of God with others. The results are out of our hands.

» My mother is an alcoholic. She has always been emotionally unstable but now her physical health is failing her. We don’t have much to do with each other. She feels like we have a meaningful relationship but I don’t feel the same way. I feel hurt by what she has done to our family. I have recently asked her to abstain from drinking around myself, my husband and my children. I explained to her that I love her but I don’t want to witness her do this to herself anymore. She was upset with this so we haven’t spoken in months. I am afraid she will die not knowing how much I love her. I want to be in her life and I want her in mine. I pray frequently about this issue. Should I just back off and leave it alone or should I be more persistent in trying explain my feelings about the situation to her?
There are important pieces of information I am lacking as I try to respond to your question. I do not know if your mother has sought and is receiving help for her alcohol abuse and failing health. I do not know if your mother is under the spiritual care of a pastor who knows of her condition. If your mother is not receiving physical or spiritual care, do what you can to encourage her to receive the help she needs. If your mother’s health is failing, your time to speak to her may be limited. She knows of your love and concern from past conversations but reminding her of your ongoing love and concern is important. By all means, tell your mother of your love for her. Reassure her that your love for her leads you to speak openly and frankly with her. Continue to speak the truth in love to her (Ephesians 4:15). Of utmost importance is your mother’s soul; her relationship with God is vitally important. That is why a pastor’s ministry to her at this time is significant. Don’t overlook the resources your own pastor may have to help you and your family. Keep praying for your mother. We know from the Bible that prayer is powerful (James 5:16). Prayer is powerful because the One who hears and answers our prayers is powerful. Do share scriptural truths with your mother. Remind her of God’s love for her (John 3:16). Recall for her the importance of confession and absolution (1 John 1:9 – 2 John 2:2). Point her to God as her refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1). God bless you and your family!

WELS Q&A are topics that are submitted to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod website.  The articles here are an automatic feed from the wels.net Q&A website.  Even though we may not have generated this contect, we are in fellowship with the WELS and generally subscribe to the beliefs of the breatheryn in the synod generating these answers.

...yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ... ~ Galatians 2:16