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Question & Answer
Faith Related Q and A

» What does the white stone in Revelation 2:17 mean?
It is a picturesque way of speaking of “justification.” To justify means “to declare ‘not guilty.’” Jurors in biblical days voted by putting a black stone (for guilty) or a white stone (for innocent/not guilty) in a receptacle. Revelation 2:17 puts in memorable style what the Bible says elsewhere, that God, the righteous Judge, has declared us not guilty of sin for Jesus’ sake (Romans 4:25).

» Do FAQs on the wels.net site reflect the official teachings of the Wisconsin Synod? They are sometimes used by our detractors on social media sites, but should they be cited in defense as "official teachings"? On such issues as (salvation and suicide), isn't there diversity of opinion and teaching within the WELS pastorate?
Below the area where people submit questions on this website, there is this information: “The answers provided through this Q&A service are not to be construed as the official opinions, statements, or representations of WELS. Answers provided through this Q&A service are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to replace consultation with your parent, pastor, Christian counselor, financial advisor, or other similar person.” You will not find diversity of opinion among our pastors regarding salvation. There is unanimity regarding this passage that speaks of 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). Might there be differences of opinion on whether or not to officiate at the funeral of a person who committed suicide, because of the circumstances and nature of the death? Yes, but there we are dealing with judgment calls regarding human behavior and not clear-cut biblical doctrines like salvation.

» Is skiing an acceptable hobby for a Christian? I heard someone say it is too dangerous for a Christian.
Unless we are talking about skiing blindfolded or taking other risks that might tempt God (Matthew 4:5-7), snow skiing or water skiing can be acceptable and enjoyable hobbies for a child of God. Certainly, for the novice, either sport can present dangers.

» I stumbled across a discussion online where someone claimed that the Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls contain a much shorter version of the story of David and Goliath, where Goliath is about three feet shorter and many details are omitted. Is this true, and if so, why?
Where the details differ is in the height of the giant. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) lists Goliath’s height as four and one-half cubits instead of six and one-half cubits. So you have a difference between a translation and a canonical writing. Height details aside, the biblical account is all about the Lord giving David, who on his own was no match for Goliath, victory over Israel’s enemy.

» My children were brought up WELS. They have met the one they would like to marry, but that one is of another faith. My children are considering a non-denominational church, so as to not choose their Lutheran faith, or faith of the one they want to marry. Of course I am not happy with that. We brought our kids up going to church every Sunday, Sunday school, daily devotions. It scares me that they now can consider anything other than our WELS Lutheran faith. What is something loving and caring that I can say to them, to make them think harder about it, and hopefully make the right decision? I have said to them all I can think of. I pray about this daily. I don't want to give up hope.
Since I do not know what you have talked about with your children, please excuse any suggestions that you have already pursued. I can suggest that your children invite their significant other to events that can expose them more to what our churches teach: worship services and Bible classes. They pass along reading material like Forward in Christ and Meditations. They can read articles on the synod’s website. They can speak with your pastor. They can consider attending a no-strings-attached Bible Information Class. You can lovingly explain to your children that membership in a visible church is a tangible way of doing what Jesus said: “acknowledging him before others” (Matthew 10:32). You can explain to your children that when people join a church, their membership is an indication that they believe what the church teaches. It is inconsistent and misleading when people join a church and reject the doctrines of that church. You can ask your children, lovingly, if they could in good conscience join a church which teaches doctrines they do not believe. Could they in good conscience join a church that denies the sacraments, for example? Jesus’ statement of loving him more than parents or children (Matthew 10:37) applies also to our spouses. Your children are having the kinds of conversations that need to take place before marriage. I would especially encourage the participation of your pastor in those conversations. Continue to pray for your children, and tell them you are doing that. God bless you and your family.

» What is the WELS stance on women's role in society, i.e., should women supervise men in the workplace and what is the stance on gambling, i.e., lottery tickets?
Your first question requires a much longer response than is appropriate for this forum, so let me steer you to a couple of resources that can offer a thorough response and detailed explanation. This link will take you to a free resource titled “The God-Given Roles of Man and Woman in the Christian’s Everyday Life.” In addition, I can recommend a couple of resources from Northwestern Publishing House: Man and Woman in God’s World and A Bible Study on Man and Woman in God’s World. There was a very recent question and answer on the subject of gambling. This link will review that information for you.

» Would it be proper for a concerned friend or relative to privately baptize a child whose parents, though raised in the Lutheran faith, have been negligent in doing so?
Our normal practice is not to baptize children without the consent of their parents, unless the child’s death is imminent. That practice recognizes that parents have primary responsibility for the spiritual care and upbringing of their children (Ephesians 6:4). I would encourage a conversation with the parents. If they were raised “in the Lutheran faith” and presumably baptized as infants themselves, ask them how their thinking and beliefs have changed since then. Their answers and responses will tell you how to proceed. I also wonder if it is possible for one of our pastors to visit them and speak with them about Baptism. Your question about Baptism underscores the importance of that sacrament, and yet we need to keep it in perspective. While the Holy Spirit can plant saving faith in hearts through Baptism, that faith needs to be nurtured through regular use of God’s word. That calls for even more parental involvement in the lives of their children. Do what you can to encourage these parents to carry out their parental responsibilities in having their child baptized. It goes without saying that this includes praying for them. God bless your efforts.

» What teachings of the Assemblies of God churches do not agree with our teachings?
An answer to a previous, similar question pointed out these differences: 1) The Assemblies of God churches teach that faith is a condition of salvation rather than teaching that faith is the way God has chosen for us to receive salvation. The implication is that an unconverted, sinful human being must “decide” for Christ. WELS teaches that people by nature are dead in their transgressions and sin and therefore have no ability to decide for Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 5). We do not choose Christ, rather he chose us (John 15:16). 2) The Assemblies of God churches teach that Baptism and Holy Communion are ordinances whereby Christians declare to the world that they have died with Christ and share in the divine nature. They do not believe that the sacraments are means of grace through which the Holy Spirit works to create or strengthen faith. They deny the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper. They insist that the only legitimate way to perform baptism is by immersion. WELS teaches that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are means of grace through which the Holy Spirit works to create or strengthen faith (Titus 3:4-7, John 3:5-6, 1 Peter 3:21, Matthew 26:26-28). We believe that Christ’s true body and blood are truly present in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29). The Bible does not mandate the mode of applying the water of baptism. 3) The Assemblies of God churches teach premillennialism. They believe that Christ will return and reign physically, visibly, and politically for 1,000 years on earth. WELS rejects the teaching that Jesus will return to establish a political reign here on earth (John 19:36, Romans 14:17, Colossians 1:13-14). 4) The Assemblies of God churches are a perfectionist church body. According to the official website of the Assemblies of God, they believe that “by the power of the Holy Ghost we are able to obey the command: ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy.’” Holiness/perfectionist church bodies often seem to make rules where God hasn’t and to call things sinful which God has not forbidden. WELS teaches that, although we will strive for Christian perfection, we will not attain it in this life (Romans 7:14-25, Philippians 3:12). We are careful not to call things sinful which God has not called sinful (1 Corinthians 10:23-33, Romans 14:1-23). 5) The Assemblies of God churches believe that every believer is entitled to “baptism in the Holy Spirit” (an experience separate from water baptism) with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. They also practice faith healing. They teach that such “divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.” WELS does not teach a “baptism in the Holy Spirit” separate from and subsequent to water baptism. We do not see speaking in tongues and faith healing as normative for Christians today. For more detail to your question, you might benefit from A Lutheran Looks at the Assemblies of God. It is available from Northwestern Publishing House.

» In today's current climate, is it appropriate for a pastor and congregational leaders to be vocal supporters of the NRA, host trainings for current/potential gun owners on church property, and post signs stating that the church property is protected by armed security? Should we be portraying our church to our community as a "Pro-Gun Church" and isolating members/visitors that disagree politically? How can this be addressed without hurting anyone's feelings? Thanks!
These are matters that are best addressed at the congregational level. Your congregation might be in a rural setting where there is a long-established culture of hunting; it might be in an urban setting where there is a high crime rate. As churches and schools react to the shootings that have taken place across our country recently, they are interested in the safety of their constituents. How to keep people safe and vigilant is where discussions and plans can vary. All I can say in general about your questions is that congregations will want to apply their regular decision-making policies and procedures to this matter. They will want to see if any proposed action aligns with the mission of their congregation (their mission statement). They will seek input from congregational members—especially those who are not part of the decision-making process. They will be interested in listening to and addressing the concerns of those individuals whose opinions did not prevail. They will want to know if any proposed actions could benefit from legal review. These are some thoughts that congregations regularly keep in mind as they attend to their business matters and which can be applied to your situation.

» Why is sin being viewed differently at churches, even in WELS churches, in today's world? It is accepted. God plainly states sin is sin and he hates it. The whole idea of adiophora has become for many pastors and religious leaders an excuse to sin. The Bible may not say anything about gambling being wrong, but it is an abuse of God's money, given as a gift and God wants that money to be managed properly. To say it is okay to gamble for whatever reason is to say that God doesn't care how we use his gifts.
When it comes to adiaphora (those things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden), people might reach different, conscientious decisions on concluding whether something is right or wrong. The early Christians in Rome (diet and special days, Romans 14) and Corinth (meat sacrificed to idols, I Corinthians 8) illustrate that. The Bible does not specifically address gambling, but does speak of greed and covetousness that can easily and often be associated with gambling. In addition, the Bible instructs us not to squander the resources that God has entrusted to us, but rather use them to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8), to pay taxes (Romans 13:6-7), to give back to the Lord and his church (1 Corinthians 16:2) and to help those who have needs (1 John 3:17). “Gambling for whatever reason” is not a course of action we advocate.