Know Your Bible

VOL. 6                           January 20, 2008                           NO. 52

Applause & Worship 

    Corruption in worship is nothing new. During Old Testament times we read of Uzziah who met his undoing because of pride. When he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the LORD, valiant men. They opposed Uzziah the king and said to him, "It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the LORD God." (2 Chron. 26:16-18)

    In the next few verses we read of Uzziah's temper getting the best of him. God struck him with leprosy and he spent the rest of his life in disgrace. Uzziah sinned when he flagrantly dis-regarded God's prescribed law on how He was to be worshiped.

    Just in Old Testament times, God has laid out specifics on how He desires to be worshiped by Christians living under the law of Christ. However, the religious world has demonstrated a great desire to tinker around with the worship service. The motive is to make things more relevant for modern generations. Scriptural worship practices are now viewed as a mere "tradition" thus giving an opening for change. The worship service is changed into nothing more than a performance to stimulate emotions and to seek the observer's gratification through entertainment. Some are driven by a religion that is better felt than told.

    One notable change that has come about is hand-clapping during worship. Most often this occurs as applause following baptisms, sermons, and singing. Is this a modern form of saying "Amen" as some claim? Does God approve of applause in a worship service?

    One bible dictionary defines "Amen" as a word used "to affirm and confirm a statement." "It is often used to confirm the words of another and adds for the wish for success to another's vow or prediction." (New Unger's Bible Dictionary) We usually say "Amen" after a prayer. Others have been known to say it during the middle of a sermon, indicating their wholehearted agreement with the message preached. Note that the use of "Amen" in the bible focuses upon the message rather than the person presenting the message.

    Applause is most often directed toward the person. Hand-clapping during worship takes the focus off the message and places it on the person! There is danger when moving the focus from the message to the messenger. Those who would approve of applause during worship must answer: Would persons applaud when the content is not appealing? Would they applaud when the speaker struggles to relate Biblical truth in the most elegant way? I like Bill Lockwood's comments where he writes, "People have no real reason for clapping in worship other than that they are being pushed around by cultural currents which turns worship into performance-oriented acting instead of bowing before God's throne." (Is Applause Appropriate in Worship?)

    When getting down to the basics, this matter should be determined on the basis of biblical authority. Yes, there are a few Old Testament passages which mention clapping (Psa. 47:1,2; 98:4-9) but one can justify the practice from these passages as much as he can justify instrumental music in worship. For those who wish to justify the practice using these scriptures, they must also look to Job 27:23; 34:37; Lam. 2:15; Ezek. 25:6; and Nahum 3:19. Observe that hand-clapping in all these references point to it being used to demonstrate hostility or contempt. Dave Miller rightly asks, "Will the advocates of hand-clapping in the worship assembly urge this use of hand-clapping, along with boos, hisses, and catcalls?" (Piloting the Strait p. 240)

    The New Testament is silent on the matter. There is no example, direct command, or inference found concerning applause. Therefore today's Christian should refrain from using it in the worship service. Remember, worship is all about God and pleasing Him. "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:23,24)

---Matthew Allen

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Can We Always Know Right And Wrong?

    A friend that we've been studying with has written the following:

        "I believe that God gives us minds and reasoning to figure things out for ourselves, based on the Bible.

        We may have different interpretations that lead us to different conclusions. This does not mean that there is always a     right and wrong way; just different ways."

    Our friend has done a masterful job of expressing one of the most commonly held religious views in the world today. This "I'm OK, you're OK" philosophy has deceived multitudes. It is patently false.

    If the view our friend has espoused is true, consider the ramifications:

  • God Himself would be the originator of all the confusing and contradictory religious doctrines being taught in the world today. But, this is not so! 1 Corinthians 14:33 says He is "not the author of confusion, but of peace".
  • Our Father would also be guilty of giving us a Bible that cannot be understood alike by reasonable men using their God-given intellectual talents. This is false, too. Paul says all we need to do is read and we will be able to understand (Ephesians. 3:2-4).
  • And, how can we know when varied interpretations are allowed and when they are not? For instance, am I allowed to have my own interpretation about murder, adultery, lying, or stealing? If not, why not?

    We are forced to the conclusion that the Bible is, in fact, what it claims to be: a complete and perfect guide "unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16,17). If it is not, then it is meaningless and useless.

---Greg Gwin

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