Faith Related Q and A

» Many Christians believe that Christians should be appalled that they are asked to wear a mask in Jesus' house, church. "Out of all the places you should feel safe and respectful, it is church," is what I hear. How do we explain the need for a mask in church? Thanks for your response!
A Together newsletter from March 2020 addressed your question. “The Fourth Commandment and other words of Scripture remind us not only to show respect and obedience to governmental authorities, but also to remember them in our prayers as they make decisions to safeguard our nation. “According to the Fifth Commandment, we have the responsibility not to do anything to hurt or harm our neighbor (or ourselves, for that matter), but to help our neighbor in times of need.” In addition to information like this in the Together newsletters, WELS Congregational Services offers resources for congregations to carry out their ministries in these challenging times. God speed the day when we can return to the corporate worship life we enjoyed a year ago.

» Why do we celebrate Yeshua's birthday on Christmas? He was not born on December 25th. It seems like the "church" put it on that day which shares pagan worship of false gods. I don't believe in this. Has the "church" changed who the real Jesus was and is? Yeshua did not come to start His own religion but to teach and follow God's word. Sometimes I think we go against what He actually was and is. Seems like false teaching and adding to the Bible has been done by these so-called leaders. Jeremiah 10:2 "Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. Sounds like a Christmas tree? I want to follow the real God. The real Yeshua. I'm confused and scared I'm believing in the wrong way.
We do not know the date of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. The Bible does not list that date. There are no historical records for that momentous event. Numerous ideas have been proposed for the origin of December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth. Those ideas range from early Christians’ belief that Jesus was born on that day to the establishment of a Christian holiday that would counter a heathen festival. The date of Jesus’ birth is not known. What we do know is the reason Jesus became man. Standing before Pontius Pilate, Jesus said, “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.” The truth of the Bible is that all people are sinners in need of a Savior, and Jesus is that Savior. Galatians 4:4-5 states: “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” We can praise God on December 25 and every day of the year for sending a Savior, his Son. The verses from Jeremiah 10 that you cited are not descriptions of Christmas trees. In the verse immediately following the verses you listed, Jeremiah explains what that tree was all about: “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak” (Jeremiah 10:5). Jeremiah was describing the manufacturing of an idol, not a Christmas tree. People were making those idols in Jeremiah’s day—600 years before Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Christians today who use Christmas trees in their celebration of Christmas are worshiping Jesus not a tree. By believing in the Triune God and Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are following the real God (John 5:24). You can rest assured that your faith is not misplaced (1 Peter 2:6). God’s blessings to you.

» I am getting married soon and, as a member of a WELS church, I would like to have it in my home church. However, my mother has brought to my attention that some of the music I want played at my wedding is not allowed in a church setting or service, such as “All of Me” by John Legend. Could you direct me to where in the Bible it specifies which kind of music is allowed in a church? I don’t want to be disrespectful, but my fiancé and I value music highly and would really like to include instrumental versions of other songs, along with the worship songs we choose. If you could provide some clarity, I would greatly appreciate it. God bless.
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage. It is wonderful to hear of your desire to have your wedding in your home church. There are of course no Bible passages that specifically state “which kind of music is allowed in a church.” What we want to do is understand what the Bible says about worshiping the Lord with fellow believers and then make appropriate applications to our lives. To begin with, it goes without saying that God is the focus of our worship services (Psalm 115:1). That is true whether we are thinking of a regular worship service or a special worship service such as a funeral or a wedding. If God is not the focus of those special worship services, then a funeral is filled with eulogies and a wedding is all about the bride and groom, and the music can very well reflect that. On the other hand, when God is the focus of all our worship services, then the music involved will give evidence of that truth. Ephesians 5:19-20 states: “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The music that fills our worship services is directed to God. It is thankfulness to God, especially for the gift of his Son, that forms the main content of our worship and music (Psalm 95:2). Music in a wedding worship service that focuses exclusively on human relationships can easily distract from worship’s main purpose of glorifying God. 1 Corinthians 14:40 adds the thought that all things in a worship service are to be done “in a fitting and orderly way.” We can arrive at appropriate musical selections for a wedding worship service by asking and answering the question: “What is fitting?” Your question is an important one. I am glad you asked it. Your question is one that your pastor will address in pre-marital counseling with you and your fiancé. He will be glad to explain what music is appropriate for the worship service that will be your wedding. God’s blessings to you and your fiancé.

» Regarding a question about who you would endorse for U.S. president, you gave the following response: "WELS does not endorse any candidate for political office. Doing so would be a violation of the Internal Revenue Code and jeopardize the synod’s tax-exempt status." Would it not be highly improper to let government benefits affect what the synod or its congregations would endorse or not endorse? I feel like the only thing guiding the preaching and official statements of a church body should be the Word of God. If the church, as a consequence of that, would lose various economic benefits, that's a price we as Christians should be ready to pay (Rev. 13:17).
In This We Believe, we make this profession: “2. We believe that God has given the church and the state their own distinct responsibilities. To the church the Lord has assigned the responsibility of calling sinners to repentance, of proclaiming forgiveness through the cross of Christ, and of encouraging believers in their Christian living. The purpose is to lead the elect of God to eternal salvation through faith in Christ. To the state the Lord has assigned the duty of keeping good order and peace, of punishing the wrongdoer, and of arranging all civil matters in society (Romans 13:3,4). The purpose is ‘that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’ (1 Timothy 2:2). “3. We believe that the only means God has given to the church to carry out its assigned purpose are the Word and sacraments (Matthew 28:19,20). People are converted by the Holy Spirit only through the message of law and gospel, sin and grace, the wrath of God against sin and the mercy of God in Christ. We believe that the means given to the state to fulfill its assignment is civil law with its punishments and rewards, set up and used according to the light of reason (Romans 13:4). The light of reason includes the natural knowledge of God, the natural knowledge of the law, and conscience. “4. We believe the proper relation is preserved between the church and the state only when each remains within its divinely assigned sphere and uses its divinely entrusted means. The church should not exercise civil authority nor interfere with the state as the state carries out its responsibilities. The state should not become a messenger of the gospel nor interfere with the church in its preaching mission. The church should not attempt to use the civil law and force to lead people to Christ. The state should not seek to govern by means of the gospel. On the other hand, the church and the state may cooperate in an endeavor as long as each remains within its assigned place and uses its entrusted means.” Endorsing political candidates is not a function of the church. Jeopardizing tax-exempt status by doing so would be irresponsible and a mismanagement of God’s gifts. What the church does is teach and encourage responsible citizenship.  That includes exercising the right to vote. The “mark” or seal in Revelation 13:16-17 is a symbolic way of denoting ownership: those people belong to the beast. Just as God’s people are symbolically marked or sealed (Revelation 7:4), so those who belong to Satan are also symbolically marked or sealed.

» Recently I've been struggling with sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). I've read the verses pointed to as evidence, but I'm having a hard time connecting them as evidence for sola Scriptura. In their context, they don't seem like proof. How should the dots be connected between these verses?
God makes it very clear that people are not to add to or subtract from his word (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18-19). The context shows that God is responsible for the content of his word and he considers any tampering of it to be a serious offense. Ephesians 2:20 teaches that God’s word, written through the prophets and apostles, is the foundation of the Christian Church, and Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone. The context illustrates that there is a single foundation to the “building” (Ephesians 2:21), and the Church rests on the foundation of God’s word. Luke 16:29 teaches that people are not to look anywhere else for saving truth. The context concerns the rich fool in hell who wanted his brothers on earth to avoid hell and enjoy salvation by means of a special revelation instead of the clear words of Scripture. Matthew 15:7-9 is the record of Jesus’ words of condemnation of those who tried to supplement the word of God. The context addresses the practice of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law in adding to what Scripture says. Hebrews 1:1-2 teaches that God spoke through his inspired writers and provided the “last word” through his Son, Jesus Christ. The context shows that we are not to look to any other supposed revelations about God. Key Bible passages, understood in their context, clearly teach sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). I hope this is helpful for you.

» Did Adam go to heaven?
The Bible does not state specifically that Adam and Eve went to heaven. Still, there is good reason to believe that. Adam and Eve were the first recipients of the gospel message (Genesis 3:15). At the births of Cain (Genesis 4:1) and Seth (Genesis 4:25), Eve expressed faith in the God who promised a Savior to crush Satan. The fact that Adam and Eve’s descendants—early on—began to “call on the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26) points to their own lives of faith and their faithfulness in teaching the faith to their family members.

» Do you offer a People's Bible commentary leader's guide?
I am not aware of a resource like that. Individual pastors may have created such a guide for their congregational Bible studies, but I do not see anything like that on the website of Northwestern Publishing House.

» Matthew 5:28 says that if you look at a woman lustfully, you commit adultery with her in your heart. But what about when it comes to your spouse? Can you look at or think about your spouse lustfully without sinning? Would it not be considered adultery because you are married to that person? Is it somehow apart the unity of marriage (two becoming one flesh)?
God designed sexual relations for the marriage bond (Hebrews 13:4). The verse that you cited from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount speaks of sinful thoughts toward a person who is not part of the marriage bond. With your questions in mind, it could happen that a person’s thoughts of his or her spouse could distort God’s design for marriage, in that the person views his or her spouse simply as a sex object. 1 Corinthians 7 teaches how husbands and wives are to view each other and themselves when it comes to their sexual lives. As in other areas of married life, selflessness is the key: we put others first in life.

» In Exodus 13:11-15 the Bible speaks of the firstborn of every womb and to redeem the firstborn among your sons. Did this mean they sacrificed firstborn sons or that they dedicated their firstborn to serve the Lord? What does it mean to redeem each firstborn son?
During the tenth plague, the Lord killed all the firstborn males and the firstborn animals of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:29). In the first Passover, the Lord spared the Israelites; that included the firstborn males and the firstborn animals. After the first Passover, the Lord instructed Moses to tell the people of Israel that, because he had spared the firstborn of men and animals, they belonged to him. Firstborn animals were to be sacrificed to the Lord. That was not the case with firstborn sons; God never commanded or desired human sacrifices (Deuteronomy 12: 31; 18:10). What God did command was the consecrating of firstborn males to him. When God established the priesthood with the tribe of Levi, he also made it possible for Israelites from other tribes to redeem their firstborn males from special service to him (Numbers 3:39-51; 18:15-16). That redemption was an ongoing reminder of God’s grace in sparing the people of Israel from the destruction of the tenth plague.

» Hi, My wife and I were discussing infant Baptism, more specifically infant and unborn babies being able to believe and be saved who have not been baptized and come from parents who do not believe. My feeling was that a baby has to be able to hear the Gospel in order to be saved. In more detail, the Holy Spirit works through that message, and that babies that do not hear the Gospel cannot be saved. My wife's thought is that the Holy Spirit cannot be limited by people, and we do not know how he can work and what his power is. What are your thoughts? Thanks!
The Bible teaches that all people are sinners from conception and in need of God’s forgiveness (Psalm 51:5). The Bible also teaches that the Holy Spirit works saving faith in people’s hearts through the gospel (Romans 10:17). Can God bring people to saving faith apart from the means of grace, the gospel in word and sacraments? Certainly. God can do anything. When we limit ourselves to what the Bible teaches, then we acknowledge that Scripture does not inform us of any other way of God working saving faith in people than through the gospel in word and sacraments. Possessing that information, the Christian Church seeks to reach all nations with Baptism and the word of God (Matthew 28:19-20), recognizing that faith in Jesus saves, while unbelief condemns (Mark 16:16).

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...yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ... ~ Galatians 2:16