Questions on Relationships

My boyfriend grew up Reformed Baptist and I grew up WELS and attended Luther Preparatory School and graduated from there, but did not continue on to MLC, because I feel I can serve God in a different way. My question is what are the major differences between Reformed Baptist and WELS? There are big ones that he and I have discussed, but a more defined answer would be very beneficial.

Reformed Baptist churches in the United States, regardless of which association they belong to, usually subscribe to the London Baptist Confession of 1644 or 1689.  Reformed Baptist doctrines that differ from your faith include, among others:

Double predestination—the false teaching that in eternity God chose some people to be saved and others to be damned.  Scripture teaches that there is an election to salvation only (Ephesians 1:3-6; 1 Timothy 2:4).

Limited atonement—the false teaching that Jesus died only for those who believe in him.  Scripture teaches that Jesus came into the world to live and die for all people (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).

Irresistible grace—the false teaching that the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted when he comes to convert people.  Scripture teaches that grace is resistible (Matthew 23:37; Acts 7:51).

Perseverance of the saints—the false teaching that believers can never fall from faith.  Scripture teaches that Christians can abandon the faith (Luke 8:13; 1 Timothy 1:19).

In addition, Reformed Baptist churches teach that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are “ordinances,” acts that they carry out because of the Lord’s command to do so.  Lutherans call baptism and the Lord’s Supper “sacraments” because the emphasis is on the Lord graciously working through those acts to instill faith or nurture faith.  Reformed Baptist churches maintain that only adults are to be baptized and that baptism is to be done by immersion.  Lutherans recognize that baptism is intended for all, even children, and that Scripture does not specify how water is to be applied (Matthew 18:6; 28:19; Mark 10:14; Acts 3:38-39).

It is good that you and your boyfriend are discussing matters of faith.  Have more discussions on these subjects.   If you haven’t done so already, invite your boyfriend to come to church and Bible class with you.  Finally, you can ask your pastor to address specific questions you and your boyfriend might have.  God blessings to you.

Why is marriage a better option than living together?

Marriage, like love and procreation, is a life enhancement created by our heavenly Father. He made Eve to complete the creation of man, brought her to Adam, and joined them as husband and wife. The unconditional union of a man and a woman in marriage for as long as they both live is his design (Genesis 2:24). It has his approval and blessing (Genesis 1:27-31).

Among the blessings that our loving Father intends for married couples are companionship, sexual happiness, chastity, and children (Proverbs 18:22, Hebrews 13:4, Psalm 127:3).

In addition, he protects and cares for marriage in a variety of ways—not only by treating it as a lifelong union, but by forbidding sexual activity outside of this bond and by clarifying the role relationships of a husband and his wife.

His design for marriage is that a husband love his wife and sacrifice himself for her, motivated by the love that Christ has shown for both of them (Ephesians 5:25-28, 1 Peter 3:7). His plan also is that a wife love and respect her husband in the same way that she shows her love for Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24, also see Ephesians 5:33). If a marriage relationship is blessed with children, he intends that fathers take a leading role in bringing up their children as Christians (Ephesians 6:4).

Our present marriage laws recognize public, present consent, not cohabitation, as that which establishes marriage. This reflects what Scripture says also. Most cohabitating couples in the United States do not regard or refer to each other as husband and wife and are not legally married no matter how long they live together.

Even though our unbelieving society embraces living together outside of marriage as an acceptable lifestyle, it is still a sinful arrangement. A pastor or congregation will deal patiently with cohabitating people who are seeking spiritual guidance or if they are new Christians who are just beginning to grow in their Christian life of sanctification. This is done by firmly yet gently confronting them with their sin, comforting them with the joy of forgiveness and eternal life through Christ, and then guiding them to change their behavior to show their love for Christ.

What scriptural passages might show that a marriage is superior to a parent child relationship?

I do not know the context of the question, so I will not attempt to place one blessing of God above another.

Marriage is certainly a blessing from God.  He instituted it, and through it he wants to bless people’s lives.  Through the lifelong union of a man and woman God provides intimate friendship, companionship and the proper place for sexual activity.  The Bible describes the close relationship between spouses as “two becoming one” (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6). According to his goodness and will, God enables spouses to become parents, as he blesses them with the gift of children.  If, in his wisdom, spouses are not able to have children, they still enjoy the blessing of their relationship with one another.

How special is this relationship between husband and wife?  It is one that the Bible uses throughout to describe the intimate union between Christ and the Christian Church.  Christ is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride (cf. Revelation 19:7; 21:2).

Children are also blessings from God (Psalm 127:3).  They provide parents with joys and responsibilities—chief among them is the responsibility to bring up their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).  The bond of love between parents and their children, their own flesh and blood, or their children by adoption, is one that is strong and enduring.

How special is this relationship between parent and child?  It is one that the Bible uses throughout to describe God’s love for sinners like us (Psalm 103:13; Isaiah 66:13).

Because marriages are sometimes childless, and because children do come into the world outside marriage, I hesitate placing one blessing of God over another.

How far is it acceptable to go, sexually, with a Christian partner? I have been dating my boyfriend several years, and though we are not officially engaged, we plan on getting married. We both believe strongly that sex should be reserved until marriage, but what about more physical acts, if done purely out of love for each other and not just for physical gratification?

Competent pastoral counsel normally requires that the person offering counsel knows personally the people being counseled. In a question like yours, this is especially true. You and your boyfriend should be speaking with your pastor. Here I can only share general information that should be of some help to you, but cannot take the place of face-to-face pastoral counseling.

Attitude is everything, as they say, and aside from your shared reliance on Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord (the highest attitude), you do yourselves a favor by pondering passages like these very seriously and discussing them very straightforwardly: Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:5,6; Hebrews 13:4,5; and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5. God has high standards for his dearly loved people, quite different from the standards of our culture.

Here are additional observations to consider:

The Bible does not explicitly answer your “How far is it acceptable to go?” kind of question largely because our culture’s style of courtship was not prevalent in Bible times. Back then, the normal marriage age, parental involvement in spouse selection, more consistent mores in society, and more firm civil penalties helped to safeguard young people from inappropriate external behavior to a greater degree than the customs that prevail today. So don’t expect the Bible to give you an explicit answer in so many words.

There are so many dividends to premarital chastity. These include (1) maintaining a clear conscience before God, (2) fostering a mutual respect with each other, (3) developing a stronger relationship, and (4) avoiding or minimizing potential spiritual offense to others. All of these inevitably point to being content and seeing the wisdom of less sexual activity rather than more. A Christian conscience should be actively testifying to this as well.

To maintain an appropriate level of ethical premarital activity, the following points may be useful:

  • Consciously and openly discuss and express the degree of commitment/propriety.
  • Communicate and maintain agreed on limits that reflect a high view of love, respect, and responsibility.
  • Seek out and plan situations and company to prevent undue difficulties and temptations (Remember the “flee” word in 1 Corinthians 6:18 and 2 Timothy 2:22).
  • “Foreplay” is just that, so don’t do it. Recall the principle of diminishing returns.
  • Upon engagement, set a realistic wedding date. Avoid what will soon be regretted.
  • Do not forget the enduring gifts of grace: repentance and forgiveness, prayer and new resolve to a life of holiness, perseverance and character through trials.
  • If a moral lapse occurs, repentance and forgiveness remain as divine gifts. Do not assume that marriage must follow for this reason. Do not let the sin fester for years; it will.

What is the Bible's stance on asexuality, the lack of sexual attraction to anyone, or low or absent interest in sexual activity or may it be considered the lack of a sexual orientation? Is it a sin? Is it not right?

There is nothing sinful about “the lack of sexual attraction.”  Because one of the purposes of marriage is to avoid sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7:2, 9), those who lack sexual desires can find the single life to be good for them.  The apostle Paul recognized that he had been “gifted” (1 Corinthians 7:7) to lead a celibate life, and he considered that to be advantageous for his ministry.

Our Catechism’s explanation of the Sixth Commandment is that “We should fear and love God that we lead a pure and decent life in words and actions, and that husband and wife love and honor each other.”  Those who lack sexual desires might also, like the apostle, think of their situation as a gift, since they would likely not struggle as much with the temptation to break this commandment as others do.

What is the synod's stance on asexuality (someone with no sexual attraction)?

Because one of the purposes of marriage is to avoid sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7:2, 9), those who lack sexual desires can find the single life to be good and appropriate for them.  The apostle Paul recognized that he had been “gifted” (1 Corinthians 7:7) to lead a celibate life, and he considered that to be advantageous for his ministry.
Our Catechism’s explanation of the Sixth Commandment is that “We should fear and love God that we lead a pure and decent life in words and actions, and that husband and wife love and honor each other.”  Those who lack sexual desires might also, like the apostle, think of their situation as a gift, since they would likely not struggle as much with the temptation to break this commandment as others might.

How do you as a Christian react to people who irritate and want to use you for their own goodness? I know we should be loving at all times, but sometimes it's tough to deal with certain situations. Any spiritual advice would help.Thanks.

Certainly we want to “be loving at all times,” and sometimes that love will show itself by rebuking people for their sins (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1; James 5:20). I do not have the context of your situation, but if you are encountering sinful words, attitudes or actions from people, you can serve them best by pointing out their sin. No one is benefited when sin is ignored.

Romans 12:17-21 can provide direction for your life. That section of Scripture speaks of not repaying “evil for evil” but overcoming “evil with good.” Our sinful nature of course would like to get even with those who sin against us and to harbor grudges against them. Our new self wants nothing to do with those sinful thoughts, but instead desires to show love even to those who do not love us.

Certainly, keep bringing this situation to God in prayer. Keep praying that God will change hearts and lives. Keep praying that God will strengthen you to deal with the unloving attitudes and actions of others. Remembering that God provides strength for Christian living through his gospel in word and sacrament, keep using his gospel faithfully.

Beyond that, I would have to know more about your situation to offer any specific advice. I wish you well and pray that God guides and blesses your course of action.

How you know if God approves of a romantic relationship? I like this person that I work with.

It would be nice if God gave you some kind of sign (cf. Judges 6:36-40), wouldn’t it? What God does though is give you freedom in this area of life. People have freedom to marry or not marry (1 Corinthians 7:1-7). And they have freedom in the relationships they might enter into before marriage.

What you can do of course is seek feedback from your circle of Christian friends and family—especially your parents. You can talk to Christians whose judgment you respect and solicit their thoughts on your relationship with your co-worker.

What you can also do is look at your relationship in light of what Scripture says about the way in which spouses are to treat one another (Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7). You can ask yourself to what degree you find those attitudes and actions in your friend.

While God does not prohibit a Christian from marrying a non-Christian (1 Peter 3:1-2), there are so many more blessings when husband and wife are united in the faith (Joshua 24:15; Ecclesiastes 4:12).

You may find it valuable to do some reading on this subject. If that is the case, Northwestern Publishing House offers books on dating. This link will take you to that area of their web site. God’s blessings!

Hi, I have a question that I've been ashamed to ask a pastor in person. I've been living with guilt for the past few years, and it's gotten to a point where it's controlling my life and my emotions. Reason being: I've been dating someone for eight years, but in the beginning of my relationship I cheated on him. I know he would never do that to me. I also know I would now never do that to him. I have not yet accepted Christ into my heart, but I'm working on it. Once and if God forgives me, will he be able to wipe off my guilt? Also, is "adultery" in the Bible only referred to as cheating in a marriage? Or also a relationship? I'm afraid of the consequences, even though I have proven to God that I've changed through repentance, and actions. Lastly, I have not told my boyfriend because I know he will not forgive me, and I don't want to lose him. Please do not make me consider this option because I will not do it. I don't want to lose him for something I did in the past, knowing I am a completely different person now. What should I do? Best regards.

To begin with, the Bible teaches that we cannot accept Christ into our hearts. By nature, all people are enemies of God because of sin and unbelief (Romans 8:7), spiritually blind to the truths of God’s word (Acts 26:17-18) and spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). People naturally lack the power and desire to approach God in faith. Conversion to the Christian faith is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).

God’s forgiveness, including the guilt of our sin (Psalm 32:5), is enjoyed through Spirit-worked Christian faith. God’s forgiveness is complete.

God’s will is that people avoid sexuality immorality (Exodus 20:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). That command covers single and married people.

When we do the wrong that God forbids and fail to do the good that he commands, we confess those things to him, knowing and trusting that we have full and free forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:9).

I can understand your reluctance to speak to your boyfriend about the information you have shared with me. On the other hand, you might want to consider what impact there could be on your relationship if your boyfriend were to learn of that information from other sources than from you. Confession and absolution can be powerful dynamics in a relationship. If you choose not to speak to your boyfriend about the information you have shared with me, trust in God’s declaration of forgiveness and do not let the memories of past sins rob you of Christian joy and peace.

I have a nephew wrapped up with "Psalm 119 Ministries," which is a cult, following the Torah and observing the Sabbath on Saturday and "obeying" other practices and commands of Moses. They don't observe Christmas or Easter because they are "pagan" celebrations. Also the "Trinity" is out the window! All church denominations are "wrong" because they worship "doctrines of men." Being in strict "obedience" to the Torah is paramount! They acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and Redeemer, but that is always in the background. I have used St. Paul's epistles, especially Galatians, but he always says it is so easy to twist Paul's words. Is there anything you could encourage me with that I might not have tried?

The organization you referenced does speak of the Trinity, but they promote significant errors in their Statement of Faith. They speak of multiple judgments before God and a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth. I found no mention of the sacraments in their Statement of Faith. Their misunderstanding of Old Testament ceremonial laws is evident in this statement: “All Scripture (Word) is still true and nothing has been abolished.” The ceremonial laws have been abolished. The tearing of the temple curtain on Good Friday illustrated that (Matthew 27:51).

The book of Galatians was a good part of the Bible to share with your nephew. Nothing is being twisted when you point to clear words like these: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you” (4:8-11).

Christian freedom is one of the great themes of Galatians. The book of Colossians also highlights that theme of Christian freedom (cf. especially 2:16-17).

What can you do for your nephew? First, recognize that only God can change a person’s heart and mind. He does that through his word, so keep sharing appropriate Scripture passages with your nephew. The WELS web site has numerous devotions available. Perhaps you could share ones that are especially appropriate to his circumstances.

In addition, keep praying that God leads your nephew to see and confess the truths of his word. Prayer is powerful and effective (James 5:16).

Also, as you engage your nephew in conversation about his faith, ask questions. You are not looking to back him into a corner; you are seeking to understand more what he believes and where he thinks he has scriptural support for his beliefs. His answers can help determine direction for your witnessing—either at that time or in the future. God bless your efforts to testify to the truths of his word!

What is personal forgiveness? I do not want to hold any grudges, but how do I know if I've forgiven? Online I see sites titled with "5 steps to forgive" or "Have you personally forgiven someone?" I will not look at those sites. This is not a work of oneself but the Holy Spirit. I do pray that others, different people, come to the Lord to trust Him and be forgiven in Christ. This "forgiveness question" has bothered me for quite a while and I do not know why. I have prayed earnestly about this. I'm not even sure sometimes what my question is! I know that the Lord will settle me.

If a fellow Christian has sinned against us and confesses that sin to us, we are to forgive (Luke 17:3-4). Forgiving other people in general is what God looks for us to do (Matthew 6:12; 18:21-35). Jesus warns against withholding forgiveness (Matthew 6:15).

What if someone who has sinned against us does not confess that sin to us and remains impenitent? In that and every situation the Bible instructs us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…” (Ephesians 4:31). We may or may not have the opportunity to say to such a person: “Even though you have sinned against me and have not confessed your sin to me, I forgive you and do not harbor any animosity toward you. I do not like what you did, but I forgive you because my God tells me to do that. Your sin is between you and God. I pray that you confess your sin to him so you can enjoy his forgiveness” (1 John 1:8-10)  If we do not have opportunity to have that conversation, those ideas at least reflect what is in our hearts as God’s children.

I hope thoughts like these address your situation.

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.

My question is more of a concern, I guess. In the last six years or so a lot of things have happened in my marriage as well as losing a parent I helped care for. I have fallen away from church. I used to feel a draw to God, but lately I don't feel a whole lot. My husband is handicapped and real negative about things. My Mom and the rest of my family fell apart when Dad died. It was like he was the glue that kept everything together. My question is: I am scared that maybe God has given up on me because of the negative path I have been following. I get angry so easily and just don't want to do much anymore. I am seeing a doctor for depression. But I am more concerned with my relationship with God. I want to make him happy and live my life for him, but life just seems to keep getting in the way of that. Help me if you can. Thanks.

You are definitely facing some challenges, and I am glad to read that you are seeking and receiving medical care. I am also happy to see that you recognize what is most important in life: your relationship with God.

When it comes to your thoughts of wanting to make God happy, I can understand that. The apostle Paul wrote: “So we make it our goal to please him [God]” (2 Corinthians 5:9). As redeemed children of God, we strive to live lives that reflect our gratitude to God for his forgiving love. We try to please him, instead of pleasing our sinful nature or Satan.

That being said, let me remind you to keep that goal of pleasing God in perspective. As Christian, God is already pleased with you. As a baptized child of God, the Lord looks at you and says, “You are my child. You are precious in my sight.” You are important to God because he made you and redeemed you. If you ever doubt that, think of the meaning of your baptism.

When you think of “God giving up on you,” keep in mind what God says to you in his word: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). If you have distanced yourself from God by not worshiping him in church or reading your Bible at home, confess those sins to him. God will not ignore that confession (John 6:37; 1 John 1:9). Through his gospel in word and sacrament he will give you the good news of his love and forgiveness.

You would benefit from speaking to one of our pastors. Don’t hesitate contacting them, even with your admission of “having fallen away from church.” They would be glad to help you reconnect. God bless you and your family.

My best friend's sister recently ended a long-term relationship and, against our better judgement, we started dating. After realizing that we had rushed into things (based upon a mixture of how fast the relationship seemed to move and my fear that she was transferring lingering feelings and expectations for her ex onto me), we agreed to "take a break" and try again later. During these few weeks I have begun to feel that despite our past friendship and mutual interests, we aren't compatible. The problem I'm having is that she very invested in making our relationship work, I don't want to hurt her, and I told her we would try again. She doesn't have any real friends aside from me and her family doesn't support her in anything she does (except for the relationship with me). I understand that doing the right thing will be painful and I have been praying for answers and the strength to act. Do you have some Scripture to help me or some words of wisdom? Thank you.

If you told your friend that “we would try again” and you do not intend to follow through on that, you want to confess your shortcomings and seek her forgiveness. Your friend deserves an honest explanation.

Are there Scripture passages applicable to your situation? These passages come to mind: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).

I hope these passages are helpful. God bless you.

My daughter is being thrown a baby shower for her second child without being married by the father's mother. What do I do? Do I attend? Just send something to the baby? I don't celebrate this. What does our faith say?

Without knowing more about your family situation, the best I can probably do is pass along some things for you to think about.

Our faith says that we show love to others, especially our family, and that we do not condone sin. So, how can you possibly do both those things?

If you were to attend the shower, it might be wise to speak beforehand—privately—to your daughter and also the father’s mother. You could explain to them the difficulties you have with this event, but that you will be attending to support your daughter. Your concern would be to have your presence at the shower interpreted accurately and not misunderstood.

If you were to not attend the shower, there could be long-term implications on your relationship with your daughter (and her children), closing the door to future conversations and any Christian witnessing on your part.

It seems that your challenge is trying to strike a balance between displaying love and support for your daughter, and testifying to what the Bible says about marriage, sexuality and children. You do want to speak the truth in love to your daughter about her life (Ephesians 4:15).

You could probably receive some guidance that is better tailored to your circumstances by speaking to your pastor. I encourage you to do that. God bless you and your family.

I’m talking to a young lady whom I’m considering to date and be my future wife. I’m non-denomination and she’s WELS Lutheran. She wants her future husband to be WELS Lutheran. Is it wrong for me to convert from non-denomination to WELS Lutheran?

It would be wrong only if you joined your friend’s church simply because of your desire to have a relationship with her. Membership in a congregation and church body implies that a person’s faith matches the confession of that church and church body.

WELS congregations offer Bible Information Classes (or ones with similar titles) that explain biblical teachings. Upon completion of the classes, adult confirmation is available for those who profess that the instruction they have received is what the Bible teaches.  Adult confirmation would then establish membership.

I would encourage you to attend the classes offered by your friend’s congregation. With your background, you will especially be interested in the lessons on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

God bless your study of the Bible!