Faith Related Q and A

» Since God says we are to respect our elders and leaders and parents, if an elder, leader, or parent doesn't follow God and tells us to do something against God, who do we listen to?
If we find ourselves in situations in which we receive conflicting instructions from people and God, the biblical principle is that we honor and obey God (Acts 5:29).

» I was speaking with a Catholic friend of mine a while back about how Catholics view their priorities in life, and it made me think of several questions for WELS. This Catholic friend explained that Catholics believe that in a person's list of priorities, God is first, family is second, and the church is third. Additionally, this friend explained that God, family, and the church are intertwined, even with this list of priorities. I think it brings up several questions for us in the WELS. Should we consider WELS churches to take priority over our families? Or do our families take priority over our WELS churches? I think most people would say that their immediately family takes priority over a WELS church, which is essentially a collection of other people with common beliefs worshiping God. But I do think there are some in WELS who would argue that WELS takes priority over the family. How would you answer these questions?
I can reduce the tension that exists in trying to prioritize life’s events by recognizing that I serve God when I serve my family and others. Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-40) illustrates that service to others is service to him. The apostle Paul explained that love for others includes love for God (Galatians 5:14). The apostle John described how love for others and love for God go hand in hand (1 John 4:20-21). I recognize that there are “two tables” of the law, but when I arbitrarily draw a line that separates service to others from service to God, I lose sight of the unity of my Christian life of service. Might I still have scheduling conflicts among events involving my personal life, family life and congregational life? Certainly. When those conflicts arise, I will attempt to make the best decision for the use of my time. I know I cannot be perfect in the use of my time, abilities and resources, so I ask God to forgive my shortcomings and empower me through his gospel for future, faithful Christian service.

» If Baptists can go to heaven without repenting of Baptist beliefs that are sinful, why can't someone who commits murder or homosexual sins and doesn't repent and say they still are believers also go to heaven?
What you want to do is differentiate between saving faith that is weak, and impenitence. Impenitence over sin bars people from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Certainly, rejection of any part of God’s word is serious (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Revelation 22:18-19) and potentially faith destroying. Lutheran dogmaticians have acknowledged the possibility of a “happy inconsistency” when there might be saving faith in a person’s heart along with doctrinal error because of ignorance or weakness of faith, but we cannot identify this with accuracy, so we leave it in God’s hands. Your question underscores the importance of regarding all of Scripture as truth (John 17:17) and living life in accordance with God’s will (2 Corinthians 5:15).

» Why do the pastors turn their backs on the congregation when they pray during service?
The altar in a church reminds us of how all the Old Testament sacrifices on an altar pointed ahead to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and “that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). For New Testament worshipers, the altar in a church also represents the presence of God through Word and sacraments. For this reason, a pastor will face the altar when he speaks to God with worshipers or for worshipers. A pastor will face the congregation when he speaks for God, as in announcing the forgiveness of sins. God has not commanded that pastors conduct the liturgy in this manner. These are practices that the Christian Church has developed in Christian freedom, but these practices are meaningful when we understand what is behind them.

» I recently learned that some vaccines are made from aborted baby tissue. Should we opt out of receiving these shots for our child?
Christian Life Resources, an organization within WELS, provides valuable information on many life issues. Vaccinations is one of the topics that organization covers. This link will take you to an area of their website where you can find resources on the subject of vaccinations. Should you desire further information, you will find a “Contact Us” tab on their website.

» What does it mean to be saved? What does it mean to be born again? How does a person in the WELS church know if they have the gift of eternal life/salvation? Is Baptism essential to salvation/going to heaven? What exactly do you believe happens when an infant is baptized related to faith and salvation? Thank you for your time!
To be saved means to enjoy in faith the blessings Jesus Christ won for all people by his perfect life and innocent death: forgiveness of sins, peace with God and eternal life in heaven. Being born again (John 3:5-8; 1 Peter 1:23) describes the converting work of the Holy Spirit. The assurance of salvation comes from God himself. His gospel message declares people forgiven through the work of Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 10:27-28; Matthew 26:28; 1 John 1:7; 2:2). The salvation won by Jesus is enjoyed through God-given faith in him (Mark 16:16; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9). We speak of Baptism being necessary in the sense that the Lord commands us to administer Baptism. However, Baptism not absolutely necessary for salvation because the Holy Spirit can bring people to saving faith in Jesus through the gospel in Word alone. In situations like that, people will still want to be baptized—to do what Jesus says and to receive, in addition to the message of the Bible, another guarantee of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ. We believe that the Holy Spirit can work through Baptism to create the faith in infants and children that connects them to Jesus. We baptize children because they have a need for baptism by their sinfulness (Psalm 51:5), they can believe (Psalm 8:2; Luke 18:15-17) and they are part of the object of the great commission – “all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

» Where in the Bible does it say that we as believers deserve the punishment of hell? There are certainly many verses in the Bible that say that the punishment of sin is death (e.g. Romans 6:23), but these are all referring to physical death. There are also many verses that say that a lack of faith deserves hell as a punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9), but where does it say that the act of sin is deserving of hell? On WELS documents I have read online (such as in the Sin Questions section), there is constant reference to us deserving hell without any scriptural backing and in church I am repeatedly told that I deserve hell. Our loving God does not say a single word about a believer deserving hell, so why are we telling congregations what God does not? If it is inaccurate that we deserve hell as believers, why give people that awfully false message when instead the message should be rejoicing that our faith ensures us eternal life with God?
As you indicated, the Bible does speak of sin meriting death (Romans 6:23). Ezekiel 18:20 states similar truth: “The one who sins is the one who will die.” When the Bible connects death with sin, it does so in three different ways. The Bible speaks of temporal death (Hebrews 9:27), spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1) and eternal death (Matthew 25:46). The basic idea behind death is separation. When temporal death takes place, the body and the soul are separated. Spiritual death refers to unbelievers whose souls are separated from God in this life because of sin and unbelief. Eternal death is the eternal separation of people in hell from God. In the Garden of Eden, God instructed Adam, a perfect child of God in every way, that “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). Adam’s transgression meant that his body would, from that time on, head toward the grave. But the consequences of his transgression were much more serious than that. Sin had dashed the perfect relationship he had enjoyed with God and with Eve. Sin threatened to separate him from God forever. A loving God stepped in and promised a Savior who would crush sin and Satan and death (Genesis 3:15). The nature of sin is that it separates people from a holy God (Isaiah 59:2). Sin is serious. Disobedience merits God’s punishment (Galatians 3:10). Thankfully, Jesus took on himself the punishment our sins deserved (Galatians 3:13). So, where does this leave us as Christians? We have a sinful nature. That connection to Adam alone convicts us as “guilty” in God’s court of law (Romans 5:12-21). Our sinful nature is thoroughly corrupt (Romans 7:18) and wants nothing to do with God or godliness. Because following the lead of our sinful nature can lead to (more than physical) death (Romans 8:13), we seek to keep our sinful nature under control by saying “no” to sin and by responding to sin in our lives with contrition and repentance. We still sin. Any sin is deserving of God’s punishment (Galatians 3:10). As Christians though, we stand in grace (Romans 5:2). We enjoy forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). Because sin is serious, Jesus instructs us what to do when a Christian sins against us (Matthew 18:15-20). The book of James ends on this note: “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). That is how serious sin—and unrepented sin—is. You can see that part of the answer to your question is that Christians need the message of God’s law and the message of God’s gospel. Because of our sinful nature, we need the message of the law to serve as a mirror and a curb. For our comfort and the strengthening of our new self, we need the message of the gospel. As children of God, the message of the gospel will predominate, but there is definitely a place for the law.

» Are there any WELS congregations in the USA that may still occasionally have worship services entirely in the German language?
A recent survey to WELS congregations asked for information on worship services offered in languages other than English. Of the congregations that responded to the survey, the following indicated that they offer occasional worship services in German. If you are interested in following up with any of the congregations, you will find contact information elsewhere on this website. Christ the King, Palatine, IL Faith, Radcliff, KY Hope, Andover, MN Salem, Loretto, MN Trinity, Winner, SD Sanct Michaelis, Milwaukee, WI Christ, Pewaukee, WI First, Racine, WI Friedens, Kenosha, WI St. Mark, Watertown, WI Trinity, Waukesha, WI

» Hello, I agree with WELS that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, but I have always wondered what the water in the sky above the vault is at the beginning of Genesis. What is your explanation? Thanks so much for your time!
Your question addresses the second day of creation: “And God said, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault ‘sky.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day” (Genesis 1:6-8). In the People’s Bible Commentary on Genesis, Prof. John Jeske offered two possible explanations for the water in the sky above the vault. “There are those who think that ‘the water above the expanse’ consisted of the clouds, the huge quantities of atmospheric water vapor which are held in suspension and are periodically precipitated in the form of rain or snow, only in turn to evaporate and return to the clouds. This is the hydrologic system under which we live today, and there are those who believe this same system was in operation on the second day of creation. “There are many, however, who have difficulty with that view. In Genesis 2:5 we learn that ‘the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth.’ How long did that rainlessness last? Is it possible that the hydrologic system initiated on the second day of creation was completely different from the one under which we live? “Many have found support for this in 2 Peter 3:3-7…Many have seen in St. Peter’s words an indication that the flood brought about a basic change in earth’s hydrologic system. In that case the ‘water above the expanse’ may well have been a vast transparent canopy of water vapor…This huge canopy would have provided a uniformly warm temperate climate and a healthful environment for earth dwellers.” (Pages 15-16) The biblical creation account presents a wise and loving God who made all things in an orderly way by his powerful word. All creation praises him—even the “waters above the skies” (Psalm 148:4).

» What is divine service?
With no context for your question, all I can suggest is that Divine Service is part of the title for two orders of service in Christian Worship: Supplement. There is Divine Service I and Divine Service II. The titles speak of the praise and worship we give to God.

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.

Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Romans 5:1