Faith Related Q and A

» How do I talk to a Muslim about Jesus?
Your brief, important question requires a lengthy response—and probably lengthier than appropriate for this forum. Probably the best help I can provide is directing you to a very useful book by the title of “Speaking the Truth in Love to Muslims.” There may be a copy in your church library. If not, the book and a DVD Bible study are available from Northwestern Publishing House. Chapter 10 of the book will be helpful for you. It is titled: “Witnessing to Muslims.” God bless your witnessing efforts!

» Why did God choose Judas to betray Jesus?
Jesus’ foreknowledge that Judas would betray him (for example, Matthew 26:21-25) does not mean that Judas was chosen or forced to betray Jesus. There is a difference between foreknowledge and foreordaining. While the Lord knew what was going to happen, and while he was going to use that event for his plans, he did not force the event to take place. I have these notes written down from a seminary class from years ago: “The foreknowledge of God does not bring necessity to the event. It only means God knows what is going to happen. As our memory of past events does not necessitate an event, so God’s knowledge of future events does not necessitate an event. Our knowledge of when the next lunar eclipse is going to take place does not make it happen. The foreknowledge depends on the event; the event does not depend on the foreknowledge.” Finally, it is helpful to keep in mind how Jesus addressed Judas at the time of the betrayal:  “Friend” (Matthew 26:50).

» Help me clearly explain a Christian Baptism versus Jewish tevilah.
The difference is that one is a one-time, faith-working act on God’s part (Baptism), while the other speaks of ritualistic, ceremonial purifications that people perform (Jewish tevilah). Baptism joins people to Jesus in faith and gives them the blessings he won by his holy life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27). In Baptism God offers and gives people the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Jewish ritual washings did not have those purposes; they were ceremonial washings only.

» I have a friend who is encouraging her brother to "marry" his "partner." It's really weighing on me spiritually. How do I convince her that this is not the right path?
You may not be able to convince your friend, but God certainly can. He can do that through his word. What you want to do, then, is put your friend in touch with God’s word and let the Holy Spirit take over. What you want your friend to understand first is that God’s word is truthful in whatever it says (John 17:17). Again, that is a conviction of the heart that only God can bring about. You can pray that God will convince your friend of the truth as she comes into contact with his word. As far as resources are concerned, you might be interested in reading our church body’s statement on homosexuality. This link will take you to that statement. It contains Bible passages that could be shared with your friend. Additionally, this link will take you to an article titled “Defending Traditional Marriage Is an Act of Love.” The article is from Christian Life Resources, an agency within WELS. You will find other resources on this topic at their web site as well. God bless your witnessing efforts!

» Where in the Bible can I find out about ashes on Ash Wednesday?
While you will find references to “ashes” in the Bible, you will of course not find any mention of Ash Wednesday. Christians have, in God-given freedom, established a church calendar, including Ash Wednesday. As a church custom, the imposition of ashes (as it is called) is an adiaphoron. God has not commanded it nor forbidden it. In Christian freedom, we may utilize the practice or forego it. The custom of putting ashes on the foreheads of Christians on Ash Wednesday has been in use for centuries. While it is a practice that many still associate only with Roman Catholicism, it has grown in popularity with Protestant churches in recent years. The purpose of imposing ashes on the foreheads of worshipers on Ash Wednesday is to have a visual reminder that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and death means our bodies return to dust from which Adam was made (Genesis 3:19). As ashes are biblical pictures of repentance (Job 42:6; Matthew 11:21), the use of ashes eventually became associated with Lent, a penitential season of the church year. When the ashes form the shape of a cross on the foreheads of worshipers, there is also a visible reminder for others about the precious cross of Christ. If practical, this year’s palm fronds from Palm Sunday worship services are burned to become ashes for next year’s Ash Wednesday observance.

» Should a Christian support the death penalty?
God has given his representatives in government the right to exercise the death penalty if they so choose (Romans 13:4). Christians who live in a state or country where the government carries out capital punishment will want to recognize that their government has authority from God to punish criminals that way. Christians who live in a state or country where the government punishes by incarceration instead of the death penalty will want to recognize that their government has authority from God to punish criminals that way. While God allows for governments to punish criminals by means of the death penalty, he does not command that they do so. Governmental leaders can decide by law how, and to what degree, they will punish criminals. Christians will abide by the laws of their state or country, unless such laws contradict God’s word (Acts 5:29).

» How does the Holy Spirit dwell in us?
The Holy Spirit dwells in Christians through the saving faith he created in their hearts by the gospel. When God brings people to faith, he does so through his Holy Spirit, “whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:6). Twice in his first letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul asked a question that reminds Christians that the Holy Spirit lives in them. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19) The same apostle reminds us that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit signifies God’s ownership of us: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14). Here are a few other passages that speak of the Holy Spirit dwelling in Christians: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6). “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24).

» Does the WELS church accept LGBT individuals as members? Are they able to take Communion?
As your question has been asked more than once, allow me to pass along a previous response: “It depends on what the question implies. Could a church member experience homosexual feelings or temptation? The answer is yes. Our society loves to debate whether an inclination toward homosexuality is due to hereditary or environmental factors, but this is utterly beside the point. The devil, the world, and our inherited sinful nature assault each one of us in different ways. One believer struggles with gambling, another with alcohol, another with a quick temper, another with indifference toward those in need, etc. The fact that a person experiences temptation in one form and not in another does not put him or her out of the kingdom of God. “Is it possible for a church member to stumble and fall into the sin of homosexuality? The answer again is yes. Scripture does not classify sinful actions into ‘sins that believers commit’ and ‘sins that only unbelievers commit.’ The fact that someone sinned sexually with a person of the same gender does not, all by itself, mean that the person isn’t a believer, any more than would an act of heterosexual immorality, drunkenness, reckless driving, or cheating on one’s taxes. “Can a person remain a practicing homosexual in defiance of God’s Word and also be a believing member of the church? The answer is no. Believers agree that what God calls ‘sin’ is sin. They turn from their sin, receive God’s forgiveness, and battle against the sin in their lives with the help of God’s Holy Spirit. “1 Corinthians 6:9,10 are perhaps the key passages on this subject in Scripture. First, note that it includes homosexuality in a catalogue of other sins, with no indication that it is any worse (or any less bad) than greed, slander, or cheating someone. Then, speaking to Christians, Paul says, ‘That is what some of you were’ (1 Corinthians 6:11). The past tense is significant.” You might also be interested in reading this statement on homosexuality.

» I've done some research on why we include the "long ending" to the Lord's Prayer. I'm writing an article about this and want to make sure I state things as "WELS accurate." :) Specifically, why don't Catholics include it and others do? I read one response that said at the time of the Reformation it was added so the Catholic church, not wanting to identify with Luther et al, made the decision to not include it when said during mass.
We find the Lord speaking the prayer that bears his name twice: in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:9-13) and on the occasion of his disciples asking for guidance on how to pray (Luke 11:2-4). The reality we face is that the original manuscripts of Matthew’s gospel and Luke’s gospel are not extant. That is the case with all original manuscripts of Bible books. We have copies and copies of the original manuscripts. The copies of Luke’s gospel do not contain a doxology. Some copies of Matthew’s gospel contain a doxology, other copies do not. Consequently, we cannot say with certainty whether or not Jesus spoke the doxology. In that regard, then, it is not a matter of right or wrong to speak or omit the doxology. Churches have freedom in which “version” they use. If Jesus did not speak the doxology, those words that are reminiscent of 1 Chronicles 29:10-11 could very well have been a liturgical addition by the early Christian church. Our Holy Communion liturgy from the 1941 hymnal reflected that when the pastor spoke the address and petitions of the Lord’s Prayer and the congregation sang the Doxology. It is interesting to note that the Small and Large Catechisms that Martin Luther wrote contained the Lord’s Prayer without the Doxology. The Doxology was added to the Catechisms after Luther’s death. Also, when Luther revised the Mass, he included an instruction that “After the sermon shall follow a public paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer.” That paraphrase did not include a Doxology. God’s blessings on your writing!

» Why should I be a Christian? Does Christianity provide answers to life? Would another religion provide answers to life? Is there any purpose to Christianity besides avoiding hellfire?
Why be a Christian? In spite of the false messages that permeate our world (that all religions lead to that same wonderful place, or that a loving God would never punish people eternally in hell), only Christianity provides a Savior from sin. Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). There is only one Savior and it is Jesus Christ. If we need more incentive than the assurance of eternal life to follow Jesus Christ in faith, then we can keep in mind that: only Christians can go through life with God’s assurance that they are at peace with him through the forgiveness of sins (Romans 5:1-2); only Christians have God’s assurance that they enjoy his powerful love now and in eternity (Romans 8:28-39); only Christians have God’s assurance that they are members of his family (1 John 3:1-2); only Christians have God’s assurance that he will hear and answer their prayers (1 Kings 18:16-40; Psalm 34:15-16; Proverbs 15:29). The list of blessings could continue. Perhaps you would find value in reading a Light for our Path column that addressed a similar question. God bless your study of his word.

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