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Faith Related Q and A
My question is about the object of saving faith. I know it's Jesus, but a lot of Reformed say that it's accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, and accepting as Lord means to submit to Jesus’ commandments, the called Lordship salvation. Maybe I am misinterpreting, but it seems to me that it's not so different to say that salvation is faith plus law keeping, or submit to the Law. I read in Clarke’s commentary on Romans (10:9): “That if thou shalt confess, etc. - Acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Savior. Believe in thy heart that he who died for thy offenses has been raised for thy justification; and depend solely on him for that justification, and thou shalt be saved." Would the confessional Lutherans agree with that definition of the object of faith? If yes, could you give me some biblical proof? Because indeed in Romans 10 Paul says to confess Jesus as Lord.

The Bible teaches that people enjoy forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Good works do not play any part in our salvation (Titus 3:4-5). While it is through faith in Jesus Christ alone that people enjoy salvation, the Bible (especially the book of James) teaches that faith does not exist in a vacuum. Faith is never alone; it displays itself in a life of love. Jesus himself said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). The Lordship salvation controversy that you referenced describes the approach of some who want to quantify saving faith or add to saving faith as the means to enjoying salvation. The book of Galatians addresses that error. Since you mentioned “confessional Lutherans,” allow me to pass along a couple of appropriate sections from the Augsburg Confession that address your question. “Also they [our churches] teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.” [Article IV: Of Justification] “Also they [our churches] teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17, 10. The same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone.” [Article VI: Of New Obedience]

My wife and I are members of an ELCA church. She joined this church in 1998 and I joined in 2004. She was raised Lutheran while I was raised Baptist. Neither one of us understood that there were separate factions within Lutheranism and that certain beliefs were different. We have stayed with our congregation because the majority of them are like us- we believe homosexuality is a sin and that abortion is murder. Recently we have hired a pastor that is very liberal and is pushing his views on the congregation. The two of us have discussed in length that it is past time for us to find a church that is more in line with our views. The research I have done shows that a WELS congregation would most likely be a better fit for us. My question is how welcome would we be in a WELS congregation if we decide to become members? Will the congregation judge us for being members of an ELCA church? This is very important to me because I have not felt God's presence during worship for a long time and am about to stop going to church altogether.

In the last congregation I served as pastor, I can think of members who had been Roman Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, ELCA, Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, non-denominational—just to name a few. There was not any problem for those people to feel welcome in the congregation. There was a recognition on the congregation’s part that people come into a church family at different times of life and from different backgrounds. What was important was the present common faith. I would encourage you and your wife to speak to the pastor of the local WELS congregation. He will be glad to explain to you in more detail the teachings and practices of our church body and how you might join our fellowship. God bless you.