WELS Q&A
Faith Related Q and A

» I was wondering if you can help me explain to my son why the Christian God is beyond human comprehension. He can't understand why we can't understand God. I cannot seem to find in my Bible where it says that sinful human beings are natural enemies of God. Thanks!
This is the way I approach the idea of not being able to understand God completely: if I could understand everything about God, he would not be much of a God; he would be too much like me. I want a God I cannot understand completely, because that tells me he is so much greater than I am. That being said, I am thankful that God does reveal himself in the Bible and make himself more understandable to people like me. In the Bible, God makes it clear that there is a vast difference between him and the crown of his creation: “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Rather than being a source of frustration, recognizing God’s greatness is a reason for Christians to praise God: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?’ For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36) A section of the Bible that states that sinful human beings are natural enemies of God is Romans 8:6-7 – “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” God bless your conversations with your son, as you carry out the words of Psalm 78:1-8.

» Is polygamy wrong, from a religious standpoint?
Yes. God’s design and will for marriage is that it be a lifelong union between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19:4-6).

» Recently a family member came to me and said the real number of man is 616 not 666. Not only do I not understand where that came from, but can you explain to me how I would talk with them about that? I don't appear to understand if it is a literal number or figurative. Thank you.
Your family member was referencing Revelation 13:18: “This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.” Revelation 13:11-18 describes a beast from the earth who is allied with Satan. Among the descriptions of that beast is a number: 666. As 7 is a number in Revelation that involves God, 6 describes the beast as falling short of God. Revelation uses numbers in a figurative sense. Be aware that the original manuscripts of the books of the Bible are no longer extant. Instead, we have copies and copies of the original manuscripts. The accuracy of the copyists was great, but variants do exist. Revelation 13:18 is one of those places. Most manuscripts favor 666. There are a few manuscripts that have 616. The People’s Bible commentary on Revelation would offer a more complete explanation of this and many more end-time topics. It is available from Northwestern Publishing House. Your church library may also have a copy.

» How do you reconcile John 10:27-29 with Luke 8:11-15?
In John 10:27-29, Jesus comforts his followers by assuring them that they are safe and secure in his hands. In Luke 8:11-15, Jesus explains that people can fall from faith (v. 13). The sections of Scripture you cited illustrate how God’s law warns (Luke 8:13) and God’s gospel comforts (John 10:27-29). Because Christians have a sinful nature and a new self, there is reason to hear and pay attention to both messages. If we become complacent in our spiritual lives, there is reason to listen to God’s warning about falling from faith. If we are fearful about the future, there is reason to listen to God’s comforting message of his powerful love. As far as “reconciling” the message of the law and gospel, Scripture teaches that these doctrines are different but not contradictory. Above all, the law shows our need for a Savior, and the gospel shows us the Savior we have in Jesus Christ.

» Why would God allow Eve to be tempted when he knew what the outcome would be? Would you allow your own child be in a situation where you knew the outcome would be terrible? I would never have my child come to harm if I could have prevented it. Why would God do that?
Your questions are ones that people have asked frequently over the years. Because sin entered God’s perfect world, some people have questioned God’s power, as if he had no ability to prevent sin from entering the world. God is all-powerful (Job 42:2; Psalm 115:3; Matthew 19:26). He could have prevented sin from entering this world. Because sin entered God’s perfect world, other people have questioned God’s love: “Why would a loving God do that?” God is love (1 John 4:8). In his love and wisdom (Romans 16:27), God allowed sin to enter his perfect world. In the Bible, God does not explain why he did not prevent sin from ruining his creation—nor is God obligated to provide an explanation. Questions about God and why he did or did not do something about the origin of evil need to be addressed in light of passages like these: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). God always acts wisely, and his wisdom far surpasses our understanding. God’s ways may be mysterious to us, but his ways are always right. Your question and statement about earthly parents and children remind me what God, in love, did to solve the problems sin created: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). When sin threatened our eternities, God stepped into action, sending his one and only Son, to be our perfect Savior in life and in death. God did what no earthly parent could have done. For that, we are eternally grateful.

» Is it O.K. to play "Dungeons & Dragons"?
I can pass along a previous response to a similar question. “We cannot say role playing games are wrong in and of themselves. They would fall into the area of what is called adiaphora, that is, things that Scripture does not command nor forbid. “However, when it comes to Dungeons and Dragons, there are some issues that Christians would want to consider. In her book, The Truth About Dungeons and Dragons, Joan Hake Robie points out that besides promoting sex and violence, the game also dabbles with spirits and promotes the occult. “Another book, Angels and Demons: Have Wings Will Travel, describes how the game works: ‘The key person is the Dungeon Master, who creates a dungeon. The goal of other players is to work their way through an elaborate maze filled with monsters and creatures in order to seize hidden treasure. To accomplish this, the players must resort to many different tactics, including murder, rape, and casting evil spells. Even though these actions are only imaginary, the players become acquainted with occult rituals and creatures’ (pp. 67, 68). “Although some of these same elements may be found in other games, including some video games, the Christian will want to consider whether this is a best use of his or her leisure time. In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul tells us, ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.’ “Another issue is that Dungeons and Dragons is sometimes the first step toward being involved in the occult. In the book, The Edge of Evil, Jerry Johnson warns, ‘Those who have come out of the occult tell us that Dungeons and Dragons is one of the most comprehensive and effective training manuals used to prepare young people for entrance into the occult (p. 106). “As we use our Christian discretion in areas of entertainment, the wise thing is that we exercise good Christian judgment. This will serve us much better than compiling a list of acceptable or not acceptable games.”

» Can a Christian desire to be rich?
Wealth, in and of itself, is not evil. It is the value that people place on wealth that can make it evil. It is a first commandment issue when wealth becomes more important than God (Exodus 23:3; Matthew 6:24). Considering what the Bible says about “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), a desire to be rich—however that is defined—is a risky desire. A man by the name of Agur understood life well when he wrote, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread” (Proverbs 30:8). Contentment “in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12) is our goal.

» Growing up in WELS churches, I have been told many times that we are saved by Christ alone and not by our own works. I have also been taught that we should live lives of thanksgiving and love to God in everything that we do. I have heard about spiritual apathy, not truly being sorry for our sins, receiving Communion unworthily, and not truly desiring forgiveness. These teachings have caused me much stress and confusion because they seem to be opposite things. How can I balance serving God in all I do with not being self-righteous? Ephesians 2:8-9 comfortingly shows us that our salvation is not at all in our hands. However, Matthew 7:21 states that only the one who does the will of God the Father will go to heaven. How do I balance not being work righteous with not becoming sinful with spiritual apathy? Also, I have heard that we need to confess our sins and repent to be saved. Is this true? Isn’t confessing sins and repenting a work? Many times in my life I have tried to confess my sins, but I just don’t feel truly sorry. What happens then? Why don’t I feel sorry? Do we need to repent after every time we notice that we have sinned, or should we just have faith that the sin is forgiven? How often do we need to repent? Thank you so much for all your time spent on this. I have been struggling with this problem for a very long time, and it is driving me crazy. I will appreciate any help that you can give me.
You have been taught well that God alone is responsible for your salvation and that your grateful response, moved by the Holy Spirit, is a life lived to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 5:15). I will try to respond to your questions as you listed them. When you wonder about serving God and not being self-righteous, you are illustrating what Christians are like. Our new self desires to use life God’s way (Ephesians 4:24), while our old self—our sinful nature—seeks to use life selfishly and sinfully. As the apostle Paul demonstrated (Romans 7:15-25), there is reason for a constant struggle in a Christian’s life between humbly serving God and being self-righteous—in the context of your question. When it comes to not being work-righteous or spiritually apathetic, the key is the motivation behind what we do in life. As Christians, we try to keep God’s law. Our motive is not to earn anything from God. Salvation is a gift. Our motive is to thank and praise God for his gift of salvation. We strive to carry out Galatians 6:10 (“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”), but the motive is gratitude not work righteousness. Confession and absolution are very important. 1 John 1:8-10 contrasts confession and impenitence. Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 teach that impenitence bars people from the kingdom of God. Confessing sins is a work, yes, but it is God’s work in us. God uses his holy law to lead us to confess our sins (Psalm 19:2; Romans 3:19-20; James 2:10). Confessing our sins is an ongoing activity for Christians. Think of what Martin Luther wrote in his Small Catechism: “Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer.” Recall the very first of Luther’s 95 Theses: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ [Matthew 4:17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Your concern about motivation for godly living, sin and confession is good. I would encourage you to focus more on Jesus, your Savior. Take the focus off yourself, wondering if your actions are pleasing to God or your confession of sins is genuine and sufficient. Look to Jesus. He has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). He deals gently with us (Matthew 12:20) and seeks to deepen our faith and trust in him through the gospel. I hope this has given you some help. Do follow up with your pastor as needed. God bless you.

» What did Adam & Eve look like?
We have no way of knowing what Adam and Eve looked like outwardly. We know that God created them in his image (Genesis 1:27), but that speaks of Adam and Eve’s holiness, their knowledge of God’s will and the fact that their wills were entirely aligned with God’s will. One day we will see Adam and Eve, and then we will have the answer to this question!

» Should you pray to the Holy Spirit?
We do pray to the Holy Spirit when we pray to God. A prayer to the Triune God is a prayer to the Holy Spirit. Can we address a prayer specifically to the Holy Spirit? Certainly. For example, we do that in our churches on Pentecost Sunday. This is the Prayer of the Day for that festival: “Holy Spirit, God and Lord, come to us this joyful day with your sevenfold gift of grace. Rekindle in our hearts the holy fire of your love that in a true and living faith we may tell abroad the glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Father, one God, now and forever. Amen.” Romans 8:26-27 teaches that the Holy Spirit is very much involved in our prayer life. Along with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit hears and answers our prayers in wisdom and love.

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