Common Question that LCMS Pastors Get
I was recently asked by the editor of, “The Lutheran Witness” (LW) https://witness.lcms.org/ to submit 10 or so common questions I have received over my years in ministry. My understanding is that he has asked several LCMS pastors to do the same and will be doing a segment on this in the August edition. I was asked to choose 1 of the 100 or so questions and write a 500-word answer.
Below you will find the questions I submitted, though not all made the cut. I have also included the question I chose and my answer. However, this is the unedited version—I’m guessing my article will be edited prior to running in the LW, if they use it at all.
A few other comments: The 11 questions I submitted span over my entire ministry so don’t think all of these questions have come from you, especially any that offend you, just assume it was someone somewhere else And, if the questions don’t make sense, perhaps I can answer them all over time in the newsletter…perhaps. My final comment is that the question I chose is really unanswerable and to try to do so in 500 words is a tough ask.
1. Why do some hear the Gospel and believe and others don’t? (This is by far my most common question in various forms.)
2. How often and to what degree should I bring up Christianity to my adult children who have left the faith?
3. Should I secretly baptize my grandchildren since my children refuse to have them baptized?
4. Why don’t we sing the good old ‘Lutheran’ hymns anymore?
5. Why isn’t there [more] synodical discipline on the congregations and pastors that practice open communion?
6. What happens to babies who die without baptism?
7. Why do many LCMS churches sing non-Lutheran praise songs and/or omit the name Lutheran in their name and/or online presence?
8. I’ve been LCMS my whole life; why is this the first time I’ve seen Individual Confession and Absolution offered?
9. Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?
10. Why don’t all LCMS congregations offer Holy Communion every week?
11. Can my visiting relative take communion today?
Why do some hear the Gospel and believe and others don’t?
My best answer is, “I don’t know” (Romans 11:33). “Why some and not others” falls under God’s hidden will, which we do well not to investigate. Therefore, we go to His revealed will—Holy Scripture. While we don’t know the ultimate answer to this question, here is what we do know from Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions, which teach the doctrine of Scripture alone.
We know that all are dead-in-their-trespasses sinners and deserve hell; no one is righteous (Romans 3). We also know that God loved all and sent His Son to suffer hell on the cross and die for the sin of the world (John 3). We know that God desires all to hear and believe this Good News and have everlasting life (I Timothy 2 & 2 Peter 3). We know that God elects to heaven, but doesn’t predestine anyone to hell (Romans 8:30).
Why do some hear and believe and others don’t? Again, ultimately, God hasn’t revealed this to us. We know all are equally by nature deaf to the Gospel in need of the miracle of having our ears opened. We know the miracle of faith unto salvation is God’s work (Ephesians 2:8), and rejecting the Holy Spirit’s call by the Gospel is sinful man’s fault. God gets credit for salvation; man gets credit for damnation (Acts 7:51; Matthew 13 & 22).
Our Augsburg Confession states that we are justified by faith alone and not by works of the law (Article 4; Romans 3 & 4). Article five teaches how we obtain this faith, “That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.” As Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (ESV). We know the means of grace that our Lord uses to create and sustain faith—Word and Sacraments ministry. The Holy Spirit creates faith through the vehicle of the Word. Again, we know that God gets all of the credit for our believing by grace alone, as we say in our Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith…”
“Why some believe and others don’t” really isn’t a question for us to ponder. The question Jesus asks is, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). We do better to concern ourselves with our hearing the Gospel and receiving the Sacraments often so that He Who began a good work in us will carry it to completion (Philippians 1:6).
Home Devotions Resources: Reminder that there are resources on the table in the Narthex. The “Lesson for Lambs” and “Lambs at Pasture” are great resources to use in the home during the week. There is even an answer guide. Also, additional resources are on our website. Home Devotional Resources: https://www.mlchouston.org/about-us/memorial-moments & http://steadfastlutherans.org/2017/02/lambs-at-pasture-daily-devotions-for-the-family/
To God be the Glory!