WELS Q&A
Faith Related Q and A

» How old is the earth? I've heard a few numbers.
No precise number is available. Biblical chronologies—and they are incomplete—suggest that God created the world within the past 6,000 to 10,000 years. Of course, God created a fully mature world, so objects had age at the very beginning of time.

» I recently received a letter of peaceful release and termination of membership. Are there any guidelines for letters to submit for their release? A proper procedure in handling this matter is what I guess I am in need of.
As I am not entirely sure what information you are seeking, I’ll try to cover both sides of such a letter: the sender and the receiver. If individuals wish to leave one of our congregations and join a church outside our fellowship, membership cannot be transferred. Membership transfers take place only among congregations of our fellowship. In a situation where individuals of our congregations wished to join a church outside our fellowship, the WELS congregation would release the individuals from membership. Because circumstances vary, there is no template or form letter for such letters of peaceful release. (Nor is there a template or form letter for individuals to request a peaceful release of membership.) The individuals who were released from the WELS congregation could use that letter of release to inform their new church where they last had membership. I hope this is the kind of information you were seeking.

» Thank you for your Q&A site. It is a valuable resource for understanding the truth of God’s word. A recent posting (“Election and salvation”) indicated that God’s desire that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) and God’s election to salvation (Ephesians 1:3-14) when taken together constitute a mystery that human minds cannot comprehend. But a general desire by God for the salvation of all need not be in conflict with God’s specific actions on election, even to a human mind. For example, they might be reconciled as follows: 1. God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) by living perfect and holy lives (Matthew 5:48), but unfortunately none do (Romans 3:23). 2. So God sent His Son Jesus into the world to so that people could be saved by believing in Him (John 3:16; Romans 3:24). 3. God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) by believing in Jesus of their own free will (Matthew 23:37a), but unfortunately none do (Matthew 23:37b; 1 Corinthians 2:14). 4. So God sends His Spirit into the world to build faith in the hearts of those he elects (1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 1:3-14) in order to build His church on earth. Do you see a problem with this interpretation? Thanks again.
Thank you for your kind words. I have no problem with people having a better grasp of the Bible’s mysteries than I do. We can always grow in our knowledge of the Bible and our Christian faith (2 Peter 3:18). You certainly are correct in noting that people fail to live holy lives that God demands, that God provides forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ redeeming work and that the Holy Spirit is responsible for bringing people to saving faith. (With regard to your third statement, people do not have free will to believe in Jesus. All people can do by nature is reject Jesus as their Savior.) What I wonder about is the intended meaning of your fourth statement. The wording (“So…”) can lead to the understanding that God’s election was in response to people’s actions of some kind. Election took place in eternity, before God ever said, “Let there be…” Election took place before sin entered the world and before Jesus carried out his redeeming work. Your fourth statement seems to put election “in time” rather than in eternity. The previous question that you referenced laid out the two biblical statements, “God wants all to be saved” and “God has elected some,” to show how the Bible’s doctrine of salvation and doctrine of election present challenges to our understanding. What is clear to minds that have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit is that God’s word remains true even if we cannot fully grasp its meaning. Christian faith does not mean that I understand perfectly what God has said in his word; it means that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, I believe what God says in his word (Hebrews 11:1). May that faith always be ours!

» Please explain the meaning of the words in the Lord's Prayer that say "Thy kingdom come" so younger children will have an understanding of it. Thank you!
Allow me to pass along this meaning from The Simplified Catechism. “Your kingdom come. This Means God’s kingdom is all the people who believe that Jesus died to save them. God puts people in his kingdom even when we don’t pray. God wants us to pray that we will always believe in Jesus and that many other people will believe in Jesus. How does God’s kingdom come? God uses his Word, the Bible, to give us his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit puts faith in our hearts to believe God’s Word and do what it says.” The Simplified Catechism is available from Northwestern Publishing House. If you want another version, it could go something like this: “Lord, you made me a part of your kingdom and family even when I did not ask for that. You brought me into your family through the work of the Holy Spirit. He opened my eyes to see and believe that Jesus lived and died in my place. Through the word of God, keep me in your kingdom, help me live for you, and bring many more people into your kingdom.”

» My question is about tithing. I'm running across people who seem to think that if you tithe that God will bless you generously in a financial way. They cite Malachi 3. I've read it, and it appears to say what they say it says. What does WELS say?
Tithing, in general, was the subject of the question asked and answered in the June 2017 “Light for our path” column in Forward in Christ. This link will take you to that column. Regarding your specific question, God’s people had not been giving back to him as he had instructed them. Were the people thinking that they would have more possessions if they gave less than God commanded? That’s how human math can work. In Malachi 3 God instructed his people to give what he commanded and then see if he didn’t take care of them—and then some. Elsewhere in the Bible we can find additional promises from God to bless faithful management of his possessions. Consider these verses from the book of Proverbs—3:9-10; 11:24; and, 22:9. See also what Jesus said in Luke 6:38. An important point to keep in mind is the motivation behind the gifts that we give back to God. We do not give to get additional blessings from God. We give because we are thankful for God’s many gifts to us—chief among them is the gift of his Son, our Savior. Hopefully you can see that it is not a matter of what WELS says about this but what Scripture says.

» What resources does WELS provide or suggest for a parent of a child struggling with homosexual tendencies?
I can provide you with links to three different kinds of resources. This first link is to a number of articles from Christian Life Resources, an agency within WELS. The articles range from news pieces to scriptural commentaries. This second link is to an area of this web site where a couple of parents write of their experiences in explaining same-sex relationships to their children. The third link is to pertinent books that are available from Northwestern Publishing House. Finally, don’t overlook the resources of your pastor. In addition to materials he might have, he can listen to you and offer scriptural responses. God’s blessings to you and your family.

» How does Genesis 2:7 prove immortality of the soul? It clearly says the man became a living soul; not that he had a living soul. All people, all living souls, sin. Ezekiel 18:4 says the soul that sins dies. Thanks.
Genesis 2:7 speaks of God giving life to Adam, just as God had given life to animals and birds (Genesis 1:30). Where Adam and Eve differed from the animal life around them, of course, was that they consisted of body and soul. Scripture passages like Ecclesiastes 12:7; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 16:26; 2 Corinthians 5:6-9; Revelation 6:9 and Revelation 20:4 speak clearly of the soul that exists beyond the death of the body. Ezekiel 18:4 does speak of sin’s consequence: death. With the basic idea of “separation” in mind, the Bible speaks of three different kinds of death: physical, spiritual and eternal. Physical death means that the body and soul which were together during life on earth are separated. Spiritual death describes the unbeliever who is physically alive on earth right now but who is separated from the forgiveness of sins. Eternal death is the fate of an unbeliever whose life on earth comes to an end: the person is in hell, forever separated from God and his love. Ezekiel 18:4 uses the word “soul” to describe a person. The 2011 NIV reflects that with this translation: “The one who sins is the one who will die.” We can use similar language when we speak of congregational membership totaling “850 souls.” Physical death is not the end of a person. When physical death takes place, the body and soul are separated. There is immediate judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Souls are in heaven or hell, based on faith or unbelief in the heart. On the last day the Lord will raise the bodies of all who have died, reunite bodies with souls, and people—with body and soul—will be in God’s presence or be shut of his presence forever (John 5:28-29). This is why our Lord tells us to take care of the needs of our soul first and foremost (Matthew 16:26).

» Is it OK to look at half-naked people on television, in pictures, and in videos?
I would ask, “How do those images affect you?” Visuals affect our hearts and minds. The kind of images in your question are going to appeal to our sinful nature. That explains why Jesus said in the sermon on the mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Philippians 4:8 explains what we want to put into our hearts and minds: “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.” It is often true that the best button on the TV remote is labeled “Off.”

» I have a nephew wrapped up with "Psalm 119 Ministries," which is a cult, following the Torah and observing the Sabbath on Saturday and "obeying" other practices and commands of Moses. They don't observe Christmas or Easter because they are "pagan" celebrations. Also the "Trinity" is out the window! All church denominations are "wrong" because they worship "doctrines of men." Being in strict "obedience" to the Torah is paramount! They acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and Redeemer, but that is always in the background. I have used St. Paul's epistles, especially Galatians, but he always says it is so easy to twist Paul's words. Is there anything you could encourage me with that I might not have tried?
The organization you referenced does speak of the Trinity, but they promote significant errors in their Statement of Faith. They speak of multiple judgments before God and a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth. I found no mention of the sacraments in their Statement of Faith. Their misunderstanding of Old Testament ceremonial laws is evident in this statement: “All Scripture (Word) is still true and nothing has been abolished.” The ceremonial laws have been abolished. The tearing of the temple curtain on Good Friday illustrated that (Matthew 27:51). The book of Galatians was a good part of the Bible to share with your nephew. Nothing is being twisted when you point to clear words like these: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you” (4:8-11). Christian freedom is one of the great themes of Galatians. The book of Colossians also highlights that theme of Christian freedom (cf. especially 2:16-17). What can you do for your nephew? First, recognize that only God can change a person’s heart and mind. He does that through his word, so keep sharing appropriate Scripture passages with your nephew. The WELS web site has numerous devotions available. Perhaps you could share ones that are especially appropriate to his circumstances. In addition, keep praying that God leads your nephew to see and confess the truths of his word. Prayer is powerful and effective (James 5:16). Also, as you engage your nephew in conversation about his faith, ask questions. You are not looking to back him into a corner; you are seeking to understand more what he believes and where he thinks he has scriptural support for his beliefs. His answers can help determine direction for your witnessing—either at that time or in the future. God bless your efforts to testify to the truths of his word!

» How do I explain to my 8-year-old child why her Grandmother's body is still here if she is in heaven? How can I comfort her when she sees her Grandmother's body in the casket at the funeral and the thought of her being buried?
First, may you and your family find peace and strength in the victory over death which Jesus secured by his resurrection and which he shares with those joined to him in faith. You could explain to your daughter that each person consists of two parts: one part that we can see (the body) and one part that we cannot see (the soul). When a person dies, the part that we can see remains on earth, while the part we cannot see goes to God’s presence in heaven (in the case of a Christian). The part that we can see does not have any life in it, but the part we cannot see is very much alive in the presence of God. One day, on the last day, God will join that person’s body and soul together, and life will continue that way forever. For the Christian that life will be perfect and glorious. I hope this gives you some ideas. 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.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! ~ Luke 24:5-6