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Question & Answer
Faith Related Q and A

» In the Nicene Creed what does "He will come again to judge the living and the dead" refer to? Since we are judged at the moment of death, I take this to mean: when Jesus returns, those that are still alive in a worldly sense will be judged on that day. The living and the dead is referring to the souls of those people. The living is one that is living in faith as a Christian, and the dead is one that is dead to sin.
In all three ecumenical creeds (Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian) Christians confess what Scripture teaches: “…Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead…” (2 Timothy 4:1). As you noted, when people die, judgment takes place (Hebrews 9:27). When Jesus returns visibly on the Last Day, he will make public what those judgments at death were, and he will pronounce judgment on those who are alive on the earth on that day (Matthew 25:31-46). With reference to whether people died before Jesus’ visible return on the Last Day or if they are alive on that day, Jesus will “judge the living and the dead.”

» Can Christians eat blood? I know the Old Testament ceremonial laws no longer need to be followed because Jesus came and fulfilled the law, and several places in the New Testament confirm that. But Acts 15:29 says we should abstain from eating blood. Given the context, this sounds like a command still applicable to post-resurrection Christians. But it doesn't seem to fit Christian freedom. Is it wrong to eat blood? (For example, coagulated blood is in some Chinese cuisine.) If so, why? Why does that apply when other rules about what we can eat were abolished?
The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) addressed the question of whether or not Gentile converts needed to observe any Old Testament ceremonial laws to become members of the Christian Church. The Council affirmed that faith in Jesus Christ alone saves. At the same time the Council directed Gentile converts to abstain from items (“from blood” – Acts 15:29) that would have been offensive to Jewish Christians who were transitioning from Old Testament obligations to New Testament freedoms. It is clear from the immediate context of Acts 15 that the directive had limited application and is not binding on all Christians of all time. The wider context of Scripture—sections like Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8 and Colossians 2—speaks of the freedom Christians enjoy when it comes to diet. The Bible makes it clear that there are no New Testament ceremonial laws.

» My newborn granddaughter will be being baptized soon in a WELS church. The baby's father is WELS, but the rest of his family (parents and siblings) are Disciples of Christ. Will his family be welcome at the baptism? They are leery of coming, for fear of being ostracized.
They would most certainly be welcome! All are welcome to attend our worship services. While our closed communion practice addresses the matter of who can receive the sacrament, all people are welcome to hear the proclamation of God’s word by their attendance in our worship services. Congratulations to your family on the gift of life and new life from God.

» What is the significance of transferring my membership? I was baptized and confirmed WELS and have always attended a WELS church. I just move for my job quite a bit and have always left my membership at the church my parents still attend to this day. The WELS church I have been going to is trying to get me to transfer to their WELS church, but I don't see what the big deal is.
One of the blessings of a synod is that members can worship and commune in other churches of its fellowship. It sounds like you have been and are enjoying that blessing. Belonging to an individual congregation affords “all the rights and privileges” of membership, as you sometimes hear during the rite of Confirmation. Membership in a specific congregation presupposes that people will be utilizing those rights and privileges by primarily worshiping and communing in that congregation. In addition, when people join a specific congregation, they place themselves under the governance of that church and the spiritual oversight of the pastor. It can be challenging for a pastor to provide direct spiritual oversight, which also includes the possibility of church discipline, if people are not able to utilize their membership because of distance. For these reasons like these, pastors will often encourage members to align their church membership with their current location.

» What does it mean to use God's name in vain, and can you give an example? Thank you.
God’s second commandment forbids “taking his name in vain” or “misusing his name.” Bible translations use both those phrases. “Misusing God’s name” might be easier for us to understand the intent of the commandment. In the Bible, God has revealed his name for good purposes: that we might know him in faith, pray to him and share him with others. What God does not want us to do with his name is use it needlessly, without purpose, or wrongly. So, a wrong use of God’s name is uttering it as an interjection when we are surprised or upset about something: “Oh, my God!” That is a common needless use of God’s name. Martin Luther’s explanation of the second commandment in his Catechism informs us that other misuses of God’s name involve cursing, swearing, lying, deceiving and witchcraft. Luther reminds us from Scripture that God gave us his name to “call upon [it] in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”

» Is the RFID chip I'm hearing about people getting in their hand the mark of the beast?
No. The “mark” or seal in Revelation 13:16 is a symbolic way of denoting ownership: those people belong to the beast. By way of contrast, consider how Revelation 7:4 describes God putting a seal or mark on his people. That symbolic sealing identified them as belonging to God. Those verses illustrate the truth of Jesus’ words: “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). There is no middle ground when it comes to Jesus Christ.

» My friend is a recent WELS convert from Judaism. She is very concerned about her mother who passed as a Jew. What comfort can I give her regarding judgement day and her loved ones?
The truth of Scripture is that “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). “Believing” and “not believing” in that passage center around Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Scripture says about Jesus, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). If we are convinced that someone has died in unbelief, the only comfort we can give is that which concerns the Christian survivors. We can remind Christians whose lives have been affected by the death of loved ones that Jesus promised: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We can remind Christians mourning the death of family members of God’s promise to them: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). We can remind Christians whose lives have been shaken by the death of loved ones that God is their “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Death is a reminder of the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). One of the petitions in a prayer that was often offered in churches upon the announcement of a member’s death was this: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Whenever a death takes place, there is a call for the survivors to use their time of grace wisely (2 Corinthians 6:2). True wisdom is knowing Jesus Christ in faith as Lord and Savior (Psalm 111:10; Colossians 2:3). God bless the conversations you have with your friend, as you direct her to the truths and promises of God’s word.

» What is the right way to light the Advent candles?
Since the Bible is silent on a matter like this, “right” or “wrong” becomes very subjective. What I can point you to are long-standing customs and traditions that have developed over the years. What you will notice is that there is variety among those customs. The first candle is known as the prophecy candle or hope candle or expectation candle. The second candle is called the Bethlehem candle or the peace candle or the preparation candle. The third candle has acquired the titles of the shepherds’ candle or the joy candle. The fourth candle has become known as the angel candle or the love candle. Three of the four candles are usually blue or purple, and one is pink or rose. Traditionally, since the pink/rose candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, the blue/purple candle opposite it is lit on the first Sunday of Advent. Use of a white Christ candle in the center of the wreath varies by local custom. With all this variety available, it is helpful for churches to offer to worshipers an explanation of their particular usage of an Advent wreath and candles.

» Is it okay to drink coffee? A Mormon is telling me that it is a grave sin to drink coffee. Is wine a gift from God? Psalm 104:15 seems to suggest that it is.
There are no New Testament ceremonial laws. The Bible speaks of our Christian freedom in these areas: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” (Colossians 2:16). It is not a sin to drink coffee. The apostle Paul made it clear what God’s kingdom is all about: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 14:17) Psalm 104:15 does speak of wine as one of God’s gifts. It is the abuse of that gift (or any other gift, for that matter) that constitutes sin.

» Is lying always sinful?
The Bible does contain narratives of people’s actions without commenting on the appropriateness or sinfulness of their actions. Below are a couple of examples. In Exodus 1:17-19, the king of Egypt issued a decree of killing baby boys that directly opposed God’s moral law that forbids murder. The Egyptian midwives disobeyed Pharaoh’s command and were not honest with him. Christians know that if they encounter conflicting commands from people and God, they have every reason to side with God (Acts 5:29). On the basis of Joshua 2, children of God may sometimes wrestle with the possibility that their truthful statements will be used for harmful and ungodly purposes. While not necessarily commenting on Rahab’s particular course of action in Joshua 2:4, the inspired writer to the Hebrews provides this description of her interaction with the spies: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient” (Hebrews 11:31). While Scripture alone is the source of our faith, explanations of our faith by fellow Christians can be helpful. So, in that way and within the context of your question, Martin Luther understood lying as withholding the truth from people who are entitled to it. We have to ask: were the kings of Egypt and Jericho entitled to the truth, since they were going to use the truth to oppose God’s will and plans? Christians might answer that question in different ways, but one of those answers is “no.” In regard to Rahab’s actions, the People’s Bible Commentary for the book of Joshua lists (pages 35-36) some helpful truths to keep in mind about her: 1) Her purpose and motive were in line with God’s revealed will. 2) All forms of deception are not necessarily immoral. (Cf. Exodus 1:17-19; 2:1-10) 3) The New Testament commends her faith and refers to her actions as fruits of faith. (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25) 4) She was new to the faith and needed to determine a godly course of action quickly. 5) The cultural practices of her day meant looking out for guests. 6) We could always do something better with the benefit of hindsight. If our course of action is wrong, we rejoice that we have a Savior who was perfect in our place and has paid the debt of our sin and guilt.