This series of 26 lessons was developed for classroom presentation from the book by David Miller that should be required reading for every preacher, elder, and Bible school teacher in the Lord’s church: “Piloting The Strait”. This book is available from a variety of bookstores, Sain Publications at www.sainpublicans.com as well as from David Miller at www.apologeticspress.org.
CHANGES IN THE CHURCH
SPECIFICS OF CHANGE - LIFTING UP HANDS,
HANDCLAPPING, DRAMA AND DRAMATIC
Colossians 3:17 “AND WHATSOEVER YE DO IN WORD OR DEED, do ALL IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS, GIVING THANKS TO GOD AND THE FATHER BY HIM.”
have convinced themselves that whatever they may choose to do in the “NAME OF
THE LORD JESUS” is their choice; that they have final authority in the
matter. However, that application of Colossians is
incorrect. To do something “IN THE NAME
OF THE LORD JESUS” is to do something by His authority, by His direction, or by
the direction of the inspired recorders of God’s Word. As part of the closing section of this study
we will examine the application of God’s authority in much closer detail; but
suffice to say at this point that God directs how he is to be worshipped, and
his silence on certain matters speaks as loudly as his direct commands in
others. Isaiah was brutally direct in
his condemnation of the remnant of
Isaiah 30:8-11 “NOW GO, WRITE IT BEFORE THEM IN A TABLE, AND NOTE IT IN A BOOK, THAT IT MAY BE FOR THE TIME TO COME FOR EVER AND EVER: THAT THIS is A REBELLIOUS PEOPLE, LYING CHILDREN, CHILDREN that WILL NOT HEAR THE LAW OF THE LORD: WHICH SAY TO THE SEERS, SEE NOT; AND TO THE PROPHETS, PROPHESY NOT UNTO US RIGHT THINGS, SPEAK UNTO US SMOOTH THINGS, PROPHESY DECEITS: GET YOU OUT OF THE WAY, TURN ASIDE OUT OF THE PATH, CAUSE THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL TO CEASE FROM BEFORE US.”
Lifting up Hands
One of the latest fads making the rounds in some churches of Christ is the practice of holding up one’s arms in the worship assembly. More specifically holding up the hands and arms and swinging and swaying to the music during the song service. We saw a lot of that at a Gaither concert that we attended. This is part of the push among some brethren to brand previous religious practices as “tradition” in order to be able to fashion religious practice after their own wants and “felt needs.” Now for many years it wasn’t unusual to see men take a different posture when praying, some kneel, I remember one old elder that sat in the “high seat”. This was a row of pews that were raised on the right side of the podium and turned half facing the preacher and half facing the congregation. When prayer was lead he would rise from his seat and with the creaking of old bones that could be heard all over the congregation painfully kneel during the opening or main prayer. As a child I was impressed with his devotion; as an adult, knowing him much better I became aware that this was at least partly for show. Oh yes, I knew the man very well as his was my grandfather. Suffice to say that prayer should be given from a posture of both mind and body that reflects to God all of the humility and homage that He should receive from us as the Supreme Ruler of the universe.
We find in our pattern book, the Word of God; that men prayed from a variety of postures or positions:
Head Bowed: Genesis 24:26, 28 Nehemiah 8:6 Luke
Eyes Uplifted: Luke 18:11
Arms Raised: I Kings Nehemiah 8:6
Doesn’t Say: I Samuel Matthew 6:5 Mark
Head Bowed: Psalms 95:6
Eyes Uplifted: None
Arms Raised: I Kings II Chronicles Ezra 9:5
Prostrate: Matthew 26:39 I Kings
Doesn’t Say: Daniel Luke Acts 7:60
Acts Acts Acts 21:5
Head Bowed: Exodus Genesis 24:52 Exodus 34:8
II Chronicles 29:30
Eyes Uplifted: John 17:1 John 11:41
Arms Raised: Exodus ,33 Psalms 28:2 Psalms 63:4
Psalms 134:2 Psalms 141:2 Others
Prostrate: Joshua 7:6, 10 Numbers Ezra 10:1
Though the Bible depicts “lifting up hands” as one authorized prayer posture, the growing tendency to do so among churches of Christ is clearly not the result of careful study of the Bible nor a desire to implement Bible teaching. The overwhelming emphasis should clearly be the attitude of the one worshipping and the appropriateness of the thought of the worship itself.
Luke 18:1 “AND HE SPAKE A PARABLE UNTO THEM to this end, THAT MEN OUGHT ALWAYS TO PRAY, AND NOT TO FAINT;”
Read - Matthew 6:1-15
Those who are pressing for change in posture during prayer or worship should honestly ask themselves the simple, soul-searching question: “why?” This sudden need to instigate variation is not rooted in Scripture. The genuine motivation cannot be to cause worship to be more “spiritual,” since physical posture and external environment do not determine spirituality or spiritual authenticity.
Renewal, genuineness, sincerity and zest for worship must come from within. Reverence and a worshipful attitude arise from knowledge of God and of what He has done for us:
Psalms 95:6-7 “O COME, LET US WORSHIP AND BOW DOWN: LET US KNEEL BEFORE THE LORD OUR MAKER. FOR HE is OUR GOD; AND WE are THE PEOPLE OF HIS PASTURE, AND THE SHEEP OF HIS HAND. TO DAY IF YE WILL HEAR HIS VOICE,”
I Corinthians “FOR YE ARE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE: THEREFORE GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BODY, AND IN YOUR SPIRIT, WHICH ARE GOD’S”
Revelation 14:7 “SAYING WITH A LOUD VOICE, FEAR (awe) GOD, AND GIVE GLORY TO
If awareness of the omnipotent, living, loving Lord of the universe does not cause us to feel genuine, heartfelt, energized, sincere worship – then artificial stimuli like holding up arms and turning down the lights or prerehearsed musical performances won’t either. They are just cheap substitutes.
I Timothy 2:8 “I WILL THEREFORE THAT MEN PRAY EVERY WHERE, LIFTING UP HOLY HANDS, WITHOUT WRATH AND DOUBTING.”
scripture give us direction regarding the posture in which we should pray? No, this passage and word usage is a figure
of speech that is known as a metonymy. In this scripture the posture of prayer is
mentioned in place of prayer itself. The
verse is not speaking of literally of holding up one’s arms. A comparable situation is seen with regard to
the “holy kiss.” Paul is not enjoining
the act of kissing as a greeting but rather regulating the custom of the
day. Neither kissing (Romans ) nor holding up hands
(I Timothy 2:8) are being promoted
in the New Testament. The respective
passages are merely advocating holy behavior.
Cultural greetings are to be kept pure and holy; prayers are to rise from
holy hearts and lives.
Another change which has made its way into worship assemblies is the act of handclapping. Handclapping is occurring in two forms: as applause and as a rhythmical accompaniment to singing. The latter practice is clearly unacceptable on the scriptural grounds that clapping hands is parallel to the use of any other body part or mechanical device that might be used to supplement vocal, verbal music. Our worship in music, according to God’s direction, is to be verbal, articulate and congregational (more about that in a later lesson) anything more or less is going beyond God’s instruction and carries with it the God imposed penalties for doing so.
Handclapping has also been introduced into worship assemblies in the form of applause. The congregation is drawn into applause following baptisms, sermons, and other worship activities.
What is the significance of handclapping in American culture? Its primary function is to indicate personal approval. It is also used to show recognition, express excitement and manifest courtesy (at the reading of an academic paper, or at the Presidents address to congress).
How does handclapping in American culture correlate with scriptural worship activity? We need to answer two basic questions (1) is handclapping a legitimate replacement of or alternative to saying “amen”? and (2) regardless of whether handclapping appears to be parallel to “amen,” does God approve of the use of handclapping in worship?
Our English word “amen” is a transliteration of a Hebrew word which means “firm.” The root stem meant “to show oneself firm and dependable; to know oneself to be secure, have faith.” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and a “Manuel Grammer”.) Thus the word means “certain” or “true” It was a custom of the Israelites to say “amen” in order to confirm or identify themselves with a particular verbal declaration. “Amen” served to affirm a statement as certain, valid and binding. Jepsen summarizes the use of the term in the Old Testament when he describes the word as “an acknowledgment that the divine word is an active force; May it happen in just this way. The Septuagint often translates the Hebrew word for “amen” as “genoito” (“may it be” or as I was taught “let it be so”) In other words, we have over the years, used this expression in the very same fashion as the Jew or first century Christian and that is perfectly acceptable.
As far as the use of handclapping in worship is concerned; the real issue here is; are we free to do what we want in worship to God? From Genesis to Revelation, God insists that all of our actions must be authorized, approved, sanctioned for Him to accept (more about that in a later lesson.) Handclapping in worship for baptisms or remarks made in the sermon is nothing more than a current cultural expression of emotion. Handclapping is our way of saying, “I’m really turned on, excited, by that!”
If we’re free to clap our hands in worship when we get excited, then we are free to scream, squeal, shriek and shout; we are free to turn somersaults down the aisle; we are free to stand on the pews and stomp our feet; and we are free to jump up and slap our hands together and do hi-fives. All such behaviors, though acceptable in a secular, entertainment-oriented context, in religion are unauthorized concoctions originated in the minds of mere men. They fail to respect, honor, and sanctify God as He instructs. They share the same result as we find in:
Leviticus 10:1-3 “AND NADAB AND ABIHU, THE SONS OF AARON, TOOK EITHER OF THEM HIS CENSER, AND PUT FIRE THEREIN, AND PUT INCENSE THEREON, AND OFFERED STRANGE FIRE BEFORE THE LORD, WHICH HE COMMANDED THEM NOT. AND THERE WENT OUT FIRE FROM THE LORD, AND DEVOURED THEM, AND THEY DIED BEFORE THE LORD. THEN MOSES SAID UNTO AARON, THIS is it THAT THE LORD SPAKE, SAYING, I WILL BE SANCFIFIED IN THEM THAT COME NIGH ME, AND BEFORE ALL THE PEOPLE I WILL BE GLORIFIED. AND AARON HELD HIS PEACE.”
Drama and Dramatic Reading
Dramatic reading is simply unheard of in the New Testament and unauthorized by God. Like all manmade inventions in religion, dramatic readings shift the worshiper out of the realm of objective biblical truth into the realm of subjective human experience; from “what does God and the Bible mean” to “what does my religion mean to me?” The shift is from what we should be presenting to God, at his direction; to what we want, desire and enjoy. It changes the purpose and object of our worship from God to our own will. Its will worship.
The use of drama in the church worship assembly is another practice which finds no authority in the New Testament. Drama was unquestionably an available option in the first century, it was definitely “culturally relevant” to the entire Greek and Roman world at the time that the worship practices of the true church “of Christ” were established. It was a prominent mode of communication in the first century world of Jesus and the early church. Is it not logical that if drama had been an appropriate tool for communicating God’s word, Jesus and his apostles would have harnessed it, used it and encouraged us to do so as well?
I Corinthians 1:21 “FOR AFTER THAT IN THE WISDOM OF GOD THE WORLD BY WISDOM KNEW NOT GOD, IT PLEASED GOD BY THE FOOLISHNESS OF PREACHING TO SAVE THEM THAT BELIEVE.”
The Bible everywhere represents God communicating His word through preachers – not actors. God wants His word presented very simply through oral proclamation without the distractions and inventions of man.
I Corinthians 2:1-5 “AND I, BRETHREN, WHEN I CAME TO YOU, CAME NOT WITH EXCELLENCY OF SPEECH OR OF WISDOM, DECLARING UNTO YOU THE TESTIMONY OF GOD. FOR I DETERMINED NOT TO KNOW ANY THING AMONG YOU, SAVE JESUS CHRIST, AND HIM CRUCIFIED. AND I WAS WITH YOU IN WEAKNESS, AND IN FEAR, AND IN MUCH TREMBLING. AND MY SPEECH AND MY PREACHING was NOT WITH ENTICING WORDS OF MAN’S WISDOM, BUT IN DEMONSTRATION OF THE SPIRIT AND OF POWER: THAT YOUR FAITH SHOULD NOT STAND IN THE WISDOM OF MEN, BUT IN THE POWER OF GOD.”
Those pushing for drama in the worship assembly are essentially declaring to God that His way of communicating His will is inadequate, defective and culturally obsolete.
God very clearly stated his position on this matter through the inspired Word as recorded by Paul in II Timothy 4:1-5 (read).