WELS Q&A
Faith Related Q and A

» Can you simultaneously have fear and faith in the LORD?
Yes, and it comes down to how we understand “fear.” The fear that Christians have for God is “respect, awe and reverence” (Psalm 130:4). We trust in God, and we stand in awe of who he is and what he does.

» I am having a crisis of faith from reading the early church fathers with regard to anointing with oil. The church fathers claim this is just like baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Why don’t Lutherans anoint with oil?
The foundation of our faith is Scripture not church fathers. When the Bible speaks of anointing with oil (James 5:14), it does so in the context of receiving medical help. In the Scripture verse just cited, James used a Greek word that speaks of a medicinal use of oil (as in the case of the wounded traveler in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:34). James did not use the Greek word that speaks of a ceremonial application of oil. Such application is neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture.

» Is it correct to make members feel somehow inadequate or sinful if they do not feel they have abilities to contact other members of the church who are delinquent?
It appears that you have information about a situation which I do not. For that reason, I can respond only in general terms. When it comes to our relationship with fellow believers, we are our “brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9). We have obligations and responsibilities to speak to fellow Christians when they fall into sin (Matthew 18:15-20; James 5:19-20). Love for others (1 John 3:11-24) moves us to action when sin takes a foothold in their lives. Church leaders, including pastors, will want to encourage church members to take these responsibilities seriously and exercise Christian love and concern. Those leaders will certainly want to provide proper, God-pleasing motivation for speaking to fellow members who are not faithful in their use of the means of grace. If, for whatever reason, Christians feel they lack the abilities to speak to straying members of the congregation, the very least—but very important work—they can do is pray for those members. God bless the work of your church in regaining the straying.

» How is it that confessional Lutherans hold to the “inerrancy” of the Bible when Luther himself advocated for the removal of the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the canon? That to me indicates that Luther himself didn’t view the entire canon as “God’s word” and found error in it. I could be wrong, but I’ve also been taught that the Lutheran confessions do not mention inerrancy either. Than you.
Like other Christians, Martin Luther voiced opinions about certain books of the Bible. He spoke for himself. His views do not bind the consciences of others, nor do they constitute the foundation of faith. Scripture alone is the foundation of Christian faith (Ephesians 2:20). Luther included the books of the Bible you mentioned in his German translation of the Bible. (He also included apocryphal books, and inserted the heading that those books were not to be considered canonical but could serve as useful reading.) For the most part, the Lutheran Confessions addressed doctrines over which Lutherans and the Roman Catholic Church disagreed. If there was agreement (as in the case of the inerrancy of Scripture), there was no need for a separate article on the topic. The Lutheran Confessions do place a high value on Scripture. To see that, you could read the introduction to the Formula of Concord, the Large Catechism and the Smalcald Articles.

» What is the difference between divine punishment (or divine wrath as it used to be called) and divine discipline? Several of my relatives claim that the disasters that have befallen our nation are divine judgment for rejecting his message and falling away from its Christian roots. I have been told that God no longer punishes for specific sins and that he instead disciplines his believers, but I'm have trouble understanding the difference. If there is a difference between the two, should I attempt to correct their misconception?
The Bible speaks of Jesus Christ receiving the punishment that a world of sinners deserved (Isaiah 53:4, 8). When people are united to Jesus Christ in faith, they are spared any punishment for their sins (Romans 8:1). What God may do in the lives of Christians is discipline them, not punish them (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:4-12). When it comes to disasters that strike people, we need to be careful that we do not speak for God when he has not spoken. We do not know his ways, nor can we read his mind (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-36). Jesus instructed us not to assign God’s motives to disasters that involve people (Luke 13:1-9). When you and I consider life’s difficulties and troubles in view of our sinfulness, we are led to acknowledge with gratitude about God: “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). Thanks be to God for his gracious treatment of us.

» I grew up in a WELS church but now am at a Missouri Synod church. I am told by the church I grew up in that I cannot sing at my mother's funeral. She was a life-long member. What is the thought process here? I am just being told no - that is the way it is.
May the risen Lord bring you comfort and strength by assuring you that those die in the Lord are forevermore blessed (Revelation 14:13). There is, of course, no Bible passage that addresses your question specifically.  That is, there is no Bible passage that states specifically who can and who cannot sing at a funeral service.  What the Bible does present are broad principles of fellowship that we then need to apply to specific situations like funerals and weddings, and worship services in general. The Bible does encourage us to work together with those who have a common faith, and to work together to promote the truth (3 John 8).  At the same time God, through the Bible, tells us to separate from and not join in fellowship activities like worship with those who are not one in faith with us (Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10; 2 John 10-11). In the situation you describe, the difficulty is that you have membership in a congregation of a synod with which WELS is not in fellowship.  Your prior membership in a WELS congregation or the family connection to the funeral service does not override biblical fellowship principles. When you joined a congregation of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, you became part of a church body that is not in fellowship with WELS.  As your synod and WELS are not in fellowship with one another, it is not possible for you to take a leadership role in a worship service in a WELS congregation. This is not an indictment of your personal faith.  Whenever I answer questions like this, I try to emphasize the difference between visible churches and the invisible church, the Holy Christian Church.  WELS and LCMS congregations are visible churches.  If an LCMS member is not able to sing a song at a funeral or receive Communion in a WELS congregation, in no way are we saying that the LCMS member is not a Christian, nor are we pretending to read what is in the individual’s heart.  We are happy when a person’s sincere confession of Christian faith identifies him/her as a member of the Holy Christian Church, the invisible church.  But only God knows who belongs to that Church; you and I operate in the realm of visible churches.  So, while we may have a common membership in the Holy Christian Church with other Christians, their membership in a visible church outside our fellowship prevents us from doing the things we might like—like singing at a funeral service. You may or may not be aware that representatives of WELS and LCMS, along with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, have had informal discussions in the past several years to clarify where there is and is not doctrinal agreement.  The report closes with these thoughts:  “Perhaps God may guide us to a reestablishment of fellowship at some point in the future, a goal for which we pray and work. But even if we are not able to practice church fellowship, we have found benefit in talking together about church work, in patiently trying to understand the issues better, and in providing a measure of encouragement in our lives of repentance and fidelity to Scripture.”  Again, may Jesus, “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), bring you comfort and strength through his gospel.

» What Psalms are sung on Thanksgiving Day? What Bible passages are read in the church on Thanksgiving day?
You will find “lectionaries” on pages 163-166 in Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal. Those lectionaries contain Scripture readings, including Psalms, for worship services. Pastors might use those Scripture readings for Thanksgiving Day worship services, or they might use other sections of Scripture. We enjoy this kind of Christian freedom in planning and carrying out our worship services.

» What should we understand as "a baptism of repentance" for the remission of sins? Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3. Is repentance worked by baptism? People came "confessing their sins" and then were baptized. Did John's baptism convey the remission of sins? the gift of the Spirit (in light of Acts 19:1-7) Please expound. Thank you.
Through John the Baptist’s preaching, God changed the hearts of people. Sinners were led to confess their sins and acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God (John 1:29). The Baptism John performed sealed God’s forgiveness to people. The Baptism John performed provided the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit could produce and strengthen faith, and also repentance in people’s hearts. The Holy Spirit changes hearts through the gospel in word and sacrament. John’s Baptism was essentially the same as Christian Baptism. In Acts 19:1-7, the punctuation in our English Bibles has led to some questions over the years. Keep in mind that the biblical writers did not use quotation marks or other grammatical devices that are in our translations. With that in mind, translations like the NIV bring Paul’s words in verse four to a close before the beginning of verse five. They then have Paul re-baptizing the disciples in Ephesus. If Paul’s words in verse four extend to the end of verse five, then Paul was speaking of John the Baptist baptizing people, and Paul simply laid his hands on the disciples. Some translations and most Lutheran commentators understand Paul’s words and actions in that manner.

» Hi, I have some questions: In your site, it is said that the law isn't a means of grace. But I read some Reformed say it is, in the sense that the law is part of the word, and that the law shows us our need of Christ. In that sense, would the Synod agree that the law is a means of grace? Also, I am struggling with a lack of faith. What should I do? Hear and read the word until faith is created in me? And I have to try to keep the law as best as I can meanwhile? Also: the confessional Lutherans say that good works do not contribute to salvation (it's evidence, a consequence of salvation) but, at the same time, say that deliberate sin extinguishes faith. But, since the demands of the law are so hard, isn't not doing good works all the time a sin? Because if I am not helping my neighbor, but doing something for myself, I am not keeping the law intentionally. Thanks.
The law of God points out our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. It is through the gospel that God offers and gives us his grace, the forgiveness of sins. The means of grace is the gospel in Word and sacraments (Romans 1:16). God creates saving faith through the means of grace, and God strengthens saving faith through the means of grace (Romans 10:17). To grow in your faith, you will want to be faithful in using God’s word and in receiving the Lord’s Supper. You are correct in noting that our good works do not contribute to our salvation. That is very clear from Titus 3:4-7. Jesus alone is Savior. When it comes to our sins, we confess this in the Common Service: “Holy and merciful Father, I confess that I am by nature sinful and that I have disobeyed you in my thoughts, words, and actions. I have done what is evil and failed to do what is good. For this I deserve your punishment both now and in eternity. But I am truly sorry for my sins, and trusting in my Savior Jesus Christ, I pray: Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” We confess our natural sinful condition, and we confess our sins of commission and sins of omission. There are sins of weakness, and there are willful, deliberate sins. You are correct in observing that willful, deliberate sins can cause a person to fall from faith. Recognizing who we are by nature and what we do every day explains why there is a need for contrition and repentance each day of our lives. At the same time, there is also reason to look in faith to Jesus and his salvation each day of life.

» Can you point to any literature or guidance for fellowship issues with a spouse of a different denomination? I'm specifically concerned with the practical aspects like giving thanks for a meal, or praying together as a family.
You could benefit from reading Church Fellowship: Working Together for the Truth. There is a short section on the application of scriptural fellowship principles to “Family and friends.” It is possible your pastor or church library has a copy of the book that you can borrow. If not, the book is available from Northwestern Publishing House. Your pastor may have other resources at his disposal. Do contact him as well.

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