Ask the Expert

 

AskTheExpert-ShoppingNews.Q&A,2010-2011

“Ask The Expert” is a section of The Shopping News paper circulated throughout the South Wisconsin area, in the format of Question & Answer.  Apostles Lutheran Church in Platteville contributed to this section from about November 2010-2011.

Are all Lutherans the same?

No.  Not all Lutherans are the same for not all Lutherans teach or practice according to what God says in His Holy Word, the Bible.

The three largest Lutheran Church bodies in North America are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA, www.elca.org), the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS, www.lcms.org), and the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod (WELS, www.wels.net).  Visit their respective Question/Answer pages and you will find a great deal of difference between ELCA and the other two.

ELCA fundamentally has a different understanding of the Gospel, Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and the Sacraments than do the others.  If the definitions or explanations given by ELCA sound similar, it is only because they use similar words, but with entirely different meanings (meanings and usage which are foreign to Holy Scripture).  In practice, these differences clearly show themselves (i.e. the ordination of unrepentant homosexuals and of women, contrary to the Lord’s mandate; the toleration and acceptance of behavior contrary to God’s will; fellowship with “Christian” church bodies that teach doctrines contrary to God’s Word [open communion];  worship nonChristians [i.e. Jews, muslims, etc.], and not least of all, preaching which is devoid of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life through faith in Jesus [the preaching that unrepentant (nonbelieving) sinners are saved is ever increasing].

By far, the doctrine and practices of the ELCA are quite distinct from LCMS and WELS.  However, between the latter two, noticeable differences do exist.

LCMS permits women to vote in congregational assemblies.  WELS does not.  LCMS permits its young people (and even encourages in some cases) to join boy/girl scouts.  WELS encourages it young people to participate in a WELS group somewhat similar to the scouts.  LCMS has military chaplains.  WELS has civilian chaplains, but no military chaplains.  Also, LCMS and the WELS have a different teaching of The Office of the Ministry and its relation to the priesthood of all believers (however, in practice, differences are not so readily recognizable due to the fact that the LCMS seminaries and colleges in the Concordia University system of the LCMS do not consistently teach similarly, nor are pastors and laypeople always so clear on the distinctives).

LCMS and WELS both accept the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) to be God’s Word (and without error) and the only “rule and norm for faith and life.”  Both also subscribe unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions.  The ELCA does not accept either the Bible or the Lutherans Confessions as the LCMS and WELS do (if the ELCA does in word, then certainly not in practice).

Both LCMS and WELS also clearly teach Christ and Him crucified as the only means of salvation (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 4:5).  The ELCA is not clear on the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ and fails to distinguish between what is sin before God and what is not.

There will be exceptions to the above comparisons.  ELCA pastors and congregations who seek to be more faithful to the Bible than their church body as a whole do exist.  In the same way, LCMS and WELS pastors and congregations exist who do not teach and practice according Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions (i.e. using worship practices and innovations that are foreign to biblical doctrine).

Simply because someone says that they are a member of an ELCA, LCMS, WELS, or other Lutheran Congregation does not immediately mean that they are genuinely Lutheran.  Nor does the word Lutheran attached to the name of a church body immediately indicate that the church body is genuinely Lutheran.  Only by discerning according to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions is one able to make such a judgment.

What do Lutherans believe about the Lord’s Supper?

The Lord’s Supper, a sacrament, is Christ’s very body and blood, “under the bread and wine,” given and shed for the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:26-28; Mk. 14:22-24; Lk. 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:23-26).  It is a “means of grace,” through which God gives “forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.”

Though it is a gift, it can be take to one’s judgment (1 Cor. 11:27-29).  Out of love for the Lord and His Word and concern and for those who partake of the Lord’s Supper, Lutheran’s practice close(d) communion, communing only with those who hold the same confession of faith, for the Lord’s Supper is also an expression of the unity in doctrine (faith) confessed at the altar.

What do Lutherans believe about Holy Baptism?

Holy Baptism is a washing of water and the Word of God, a “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5), a “being born again” (John 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:23).  Through the water applied with the Word of God, “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), God gives new life and even salvation (1 Peter 3:21).  Just as no one “chooses” or “decides” to be born into this world, so in baptism, one does not “choose” or “decide” to be born again.  The new birth is the free gift of God, not of man (John 1:12-13; 1 John 5:1).  And that means that it is certain and sure, as is the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation through faith in Christ!

What does the Bible teach about love and tolerance?

The Bible teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son” (1 John 4:10; see also John 3:16; Romans 4:7-8; 5:8).  God’s love extends to everyone, yet God’s love is not to be equated with tolerance as popularly defined today (i.e. acceptance of idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, false doctrine, etc.)  God does indeed condemn all sin, but there is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 1:3-5), for Jesus came to save sinners by means of His death on the cross.    Sinners who love the Lord seek to please God and not the world (Galatians 1:10; Colossians 3:22; 1 John 2:15; see John 14:21-24).

Do all religions lead to heaven?

Speaking of Jesus Christ, Peter the apostle says that there is salvation in no other, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Jesus Himself says, “Truly truly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).  All religions do not lead to heaven because they do not all rightly teach Christ, through whom is the only way to heaven (John 14:6).  Only Christianity teaches that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  All others base salvation in some way on what we do.  Only the Christian religion points to Christ, and therefore, to heaven.  All others, not rightly preaching Christ, lead to hell.

“I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill” (Psalm 3:4).

Thursday, May 5, is/was the National Day of Prayer.

Truly does our Lord hear the prayers of His people. So does He command us to pray, and He promises to hear our prayer, answering them according to His good and gracious will (Matthew 7:7-8). And there is much to pray for!

Therefore, into His blessed hands we commend ourselves, our bodies and souls and all things, entrusting ourselves into His keeping and His help, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

WhatAboutTheLord’sPrayer

NatlDayPrayer2011 2

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