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Faith Related Q and A

» The way King Saul's life ended, do you think he was saved? After all, he was God's anointed even though he turned against God's will.
King Saul certainly was “the Lord’s anointed…the anointed of the Lord” (1 Samuel 24:6), as David recognized. Unfortunately, Saul failed to live up to that designation. The account of Saul’s death paints a dismal picture of his fate: “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). When people die without saving faith in their hearts, they face an eternity in hell. The account of Saul’s death has the language of someone who died in unbelief.

» Our WELS church is in the beginning stages of considering calling a second pastor. Are there any general guidelines as to when such an event is advisable: such as size of the congregation or some other criteria?
It is certainly a blessing from God to be in a position of considering calling a second pastor to serve your congregation. If it turns out that you will indeed extend a call for a second pastor, you will be consulting with your district president. You would do well to seek his counsel at this point in time. Another resource you could utilize is WELS Congregational Counseling. They offer numerous resources online. This link will take you to their portion of WELS’ website. God bless your planning—and your congregation’s ministries!

» I have been discussing religion with one of my coworkers a lot lately. He is the son of a Baptist pastor and is very knowledgeable. Today we got on the topic of what is different with our religions and there were a lot more than I originally thought. The four I really noticed were Baptism, the Lord's Supper, forgiveness, and fellowship. What are verses that I can use to show that Baptism creates faith, gives us forgiveness and salvation, and more importantly is not something that we do for God, but something God does for us? Also the same with the Lord's Supper: we get forgiveness of sins and salvation from it, but I believe the issue with this would be tied to the fact that we believe that the wine is both wine and blood and the bread is both bread and Jesus' body. What are some passages for this as well? He also said that only God can forgive. I don't know how to even address this topic with him, but I know it will come up. And the final one is where do we find the OK to have the rules we have about fellowship without looking like we are better than other Christians? I just would like to be prepared for my discussion with my coworker and I'm glad to do it. I just need some extra help. Thank you very much for your help!
We will not find a passage in the Bible that states specifically and succinctly: “Baptism creates faith.” We know that baptism is a faith-working act on God’s part by looking at several Bible passages and seeing how they relate to baptism. The Bible explains that people enjoy the forgiveness of sins and eternal life by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ his Son (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3:28). The Bible states that baptism gives people those very blessings of life and forgiveness (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5-7; 1 Peter 3:21). Baptism gives those blessings because of the powerful word of God that is attached to the water. Since the Bible teaches that we enjoy salvation only through faith in Christ, and since the Bible teaches that baptism saves us and washes away our sins, we can rightfully say that baptism creates the faith that connects us to Jesus and brings into our lives all the blessings he won by his holy life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 10:16 and 1 Corinthians 11:27 teach clearly that the reception of the Lord’s Supper involves bread and wine, and the Lord’s body and blood. Matthew 18:15-20 and John 20:21-23 teach that God has given his Church the right and authority to forgive sins. Individually, we forgive others (Matthew 6:12; Colossians 3:13). When our pastors announce forgiveness in a worship service, they exercise the Keys on behalf of the congregation which has called them to do exactly that. When it comes to what the Bible teaches about fellowship principles, let me refer you to an appropriate section of This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body. I’m taking this approach to your last question because the subject of fellowship involves an understanding of the holy Christian church and visible churches. That section of This We Believe will give you appropriate Bible passages and accurate explanations on the subjects. God bless your witnessing efforts!

» I have been a WELS member my whole life. I am having issues with my church at the moment. If I have a problem, I am supposed to talk to that person, according to Mathew 18. Hard as it is, I would like to talk to my pastor, but he and the church council are involved in the problem. Who do I seek counsel with? I am lost. I don't know what to do. I believe they have lied and been sneaky to do things their way. I don't even know if I can talk to my pastor in a calm manner. I am truly saddened. I type these words with a heavy heart. What do I do?
You have noted correctly that you need to talk to the person involved: your pastor. If you believe he has done something wrong, then Matthew 18:15 instructs you to speak to him. While it could be a difficult conversation, as you suggest, it is the right conversation to have. Speaking to your congregation’s board of elders would be your next course of action. If those conversations do not yield positive and appropriate results, you could contact your circuit pastor. He serves as a representative of your district president to help at times like these. Disunity in a congregation is definitely disconcerting. It runs contrary to God’s design for the communal life of his children. When sin disrupts unity, sin needs to be addressed. That applies to everyone in the church. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). Christian unity is a gift and blessing from God. Do what you can to restore and maintain that unity in your congregation. Pray for your pastor and your church leaders. I will do the same. God bless you.

» I am wondering what position the Lutheran church has on the use of incense in worship services, as I know is done during Catholic services. Did the Lutheran church ever use this and, if it was discontinued, why? Thank you.
We do not have a formal position on the use of incense in worship services. The practice is in the category of those things that God neither commands nor forbids. I would say the use of incense has been a rare practice in the Lutheran church in general and an even rarer practice in our church body because of its association with the forms of worship of Roman Catholic churches and Orthodox churches. In our church body the practice has been utilized in special worship services and in conjunction with the Evening Prayer canticle, “Let my prayer rise before you as incense” (Psalm 141:2).

» My question is regarding honoring your parents. What do you tell a friend whose parents were verbally and physically (molesting) abusive towards them growing up? Should this friend honor her parents now that she is an adult?
Our Catechism explains that, according to the fourth commandment, “We should fear and love God that we do not dishonor or anger our parents and others in authority, but honor, serve, and obey them, and give them love and respect.” That explanation is based on Scripture passages like Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:3. The fourth commandment teaches that God places representatives over us in the areas of the home, the government and the church. That arrangement is intended to be for our good. It goes without saying that those who represent God in those areas might do well in representing him, or they might fail in representing him accurately. Your question indicates that your friend’s parents failed at representing God faithfully. So what is she to do? While her parents are still in a position of honor and respect because of the fourth commandment, their past actions have done much to destroy trust and greatly reduce respect. I would encourage your friend to call her parents to repentance. Her parents need to hear how they violated God’s law. They need to hear about the appropriate follow-up topics of confession of sins, absolution and the fruits of repentance. I would also encourage your friend not to harbor any personal animosity toward her parents (Ephesians 4:26, 31) and to let go of any other attitudes that are dangerous to her own spiritual life (Matthew 6:14-15). Your friend needs to put her parents’ situation in God’s hands. Finally, I would encourage your friend to seek Christian counseling. Her pastor can help and also direct her to appropriate resources. God bless your service of Christian love to your friend.

» In Ephesians 5:5, what does the word "inheritance" refer to? Does this mean that believers who go to heaven will not receive "treasure in heaven" (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Timothy 6:17-19)? Or does this mean that any person (even a believer) who is "immoral, impure or greedy" will not get into heaven at all?
“Inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” in Ephesians 5:5 refers to eternal life with God in heaven. The warning in that verse is that impenitent sinners are barred from God’s kingdom. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 offers a similar warning. Warnings like those in Scripture explain why God earnestly desires that the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins through Jesus be spread to all people (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 3:19-20).

» Could you explain to me about the different levels in heaven? I was told that the people who do the greatest works on earth will get the upper levels in heaven. I have a hard time with this because it sounds like work righteousness. I believe that Jesus did it all, and that the things we do on this earth do not get us to heaven. So why then would there be a special place in heaven for people who did better works? I am confused. Thank you.
Rather than speaking of different levels of heaven (something which Mormons teach), the Bible describes “degrees of glory” that God’s people will experience throughout eternity. Scripture passages such as Daniel 12:3; Matthew 25:23, 28-29; Luke 19:17, 19; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 9:6; and, Revelation 14:13 are often cited in connection with “degrees of glory.” That expression describes God’s gracious blessing of Christians’ lives of service to him—blessings that are graciously given in proportion to their lives of sanctification. This action on God’s part is due entirely to his gracious love; Christians do not earn or merit any blessings from God. You are correct in noting that “Jesus did it all” when it comes to our salvation. Our works do not contribute in any way to what Jesus did to save us by living perfectly in our place and suffering the punishment our sins deserved. The works associated with the degrees of glory are not connected to the reason for our salvation. Christians do those works in gratitude for the salvation Jesus won for them. However God blesses those works is up to him. Since sin and its effects will not be present for God’s children in eternity, there will be no jealousy or envy in regard to how God blesses people’s earthly lives of sanctification. God’s children will enjoy equally his gift of salvation (Romans 6:23).

» How do I respond to my Catholic friends who insist that the Papacy/Pope Leo X was not responsible for the abuse of indulgence sales in the Middle Ages? Thanks very much.
You can refer your friends to Roman Catholic sources which acknowledge Leo X’s involvement in the abuse of indulgence sales. One such source is The Catholic Encyclopedia. It has the designations of nihil obstat and imprimatur, indicating that the Roman Catholic Church has reviewed the contents and declared the work to be free from doctrinal or moral errors. It is available online. The Catholic Encyclopedia offers a summary of Leo X’s life and pontificate. The following information from the Encyclopedia is pertinent to your question: “The immediate cause [of the Reformation] was bound up with the odious greed for money displayed by the Roman Curia, and shows how far short all efforts at reform had hitherto fallen. Albert of Brandenburg, already Archbishop of Magdeburg, received in addition the Archbishopric of Mainz and the Bishopric of Hallerstadt, but in return was obliged to collect 10,000 ducats, which he was taxed over and above the usual confirmation fees. To indemnify hiim [sic], and to make it possible to discharge these obligations Rome permitted him to have preached in his territory the plenary indulgence promised all those who contributed to the new St. Peter’s; he was allowed to keep one half the returns, a transaction which brought dishonour on all concerned in it. Added to this, abuses occurred during the preaching of the Indulgence. The money contributions, a mere accessory, were frequently the chief object, and the ‘Indulgences for the Dead’ became a vehicle of inadmissible teachings. That Leo X, in the most serious of all the crises which threatened the Church, should fail to prove the proper guide for her, is clear enough from what has been related above. He recognized neither the gravity of the situation nor the underlying causes of the revolt. Vigorous measures of reform might have proved an efficacious antidote, but the pope was deeply entangled in political affairs and allowed the imperial election to overshadow the revolt of Luther; moreover, he gave himself up unrestrainedly to his pleasures and failed to grasp fully the duties of his high office.” Another source—with the Roman Catholic Church’s approval of its contents—that I have in my library is The Question Box. It also acknowledges the abuse of indulgence sales during the Middle Ages: “Catholic historians have frequently mentioned the abuses connected with the preaching of indulgences in the Middle Ages…In the Middle Ages when men wished to build a church or support a worthy charity, the Bishop or the Pope granted an indulgence…While Catholics believe that the building of St. Peter’s in Rome was a matter of interest to the whole Catholic world, they heartily condemn the manner of financing the indulgence, and the exaggerations of the preachers in extolling unduly its effects and privileges” (pages 59-60). Church history may contain embarrassing episodes, but they cannot be denied or ignored.

» Do Lutherans believe married couples can reunite after this life?
If you are asking whether Christian spouses will see each other again in heaven, the answer is “yes” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). If you are asking whether Christian spouses will be married to one another throughout eternity, the answer is “no.” Jesus’ response to the Sadducees’ question makes it very clear that marriage is an institution and gift from God for this life only (Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40).