Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 1, No. 10 Page 15 October 1999

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles
By Louis Rushmore

Lifting Up Holy Hands

“Please explain 1 Tim 2:8 re: lifting up holy hands.” Pete Tucker, Edgewood Church of Christ, Columbus, GA
“Lifting up holy hands” in the context of 1 Timothy 2:8 refers to a posture of prayer by the male member articulating a public prayer.  The verse reads, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”  The Greek word for “men” here refers to the masculine gender rather than being inclusive of women as in “mankind.”  The brother audibly making the prayer here raises his hands.  The phrase “lifting up holy hands” does not refer to any of the non-verbal participants in that prayer, men or women.  Further, the “lifting up holy hands” is not comparable to the audience raising their hands and swaying, etc.

Various postures were employed in biblical times, as now, for prayer.  No particular posture is especially superior to any other posture in prayer.  Prayerful postures include, kneeling (1 Kings 8:54; 2 Chronicles 6:13; Psalms 95:6; Luke 22:41; Acts 9:40), bowing one’s head (Genesis 24:26; Exodus 4:31; 12:27), lying face down (Matthew 26:39), standing or kneeling and raising one’s hands (1 Kings 8:22, 54; Psalms 28:2; 63:4; 88:9), standing (1 Samuel 1:26; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11, 13).

As to the lifting up of the hands, the following can be stated: Vincent says that among the orientals, the lifting up of the hands accompanied the taking of an oath, blessing, and prayer. The custom passed over into the primitive church, as may be seen from the mural paintings in the catacombs.  [Wuest, Kenneth S., Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 1997.]
The emphasis on “holy hands” refers to the posture of one’s internal disposition.  “The point here is that only men should lead in public prayer who can lift up ‘clean hands’” (morally and spiritually clean).  [Robertson, Archibald Thomas, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Nashville, Tennessee, USA: Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention) 1998, c1933.]

Paul Keeps The Law

Acts 21 seems to say Paul kept parts of the law.  The apostles wrote a letter to the gentiles “Not to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things”  Acts 15: 28-29 and also Acts 21.  Why did Paul keep the law?  I know alot of people who say Jews must keep parts of the law and gentiles don’t. ~ D. Peery
The ministry of the apostle Paul was especially to the Gentiles (Acts 26:16-18; Romans 15:15-16).  He, though, was a Jew who identified with the sect of the Pharisees (Philippians 3:4-8).  Other Pharisees who became Christians were particularly vocal and insistent that Gentiles who became Christians ought to practice Judaism before they could practice Christianity (Acts  15:1-5).  That was the message they brought to the predominantly Gentile church in Antioch of Syria, purportedly from the apostles and elders in the Jerusalem church.

The only matter under consideration in Acts 15:6-31 was whether Gentiles were obligated to proselyte to Judaism before they could become Christians.  The apostles and elders in Jerusalem concluded that no such instruction had been received from the Holy Spirit regarding the Gentiles.  They, therefore, sent a letter and preachers to convey that conclusion to the church in Antioch to counter the misinformation that Pharisee Christians had presented there.  The apostles and elders added exhortations about Christian living that addressed the temptations to sin to which Gentiles were especially susceptible.

Further, the apostle Paul adamantly taught on several occasions that both Jews and Gentiles were not to rely on the Old Law (Judaism) for redemption.  To rely upon the Law frustrates the grace of God (Galatians 2:21).  As many as trust in the works of merit of the Law are cursed (Galatians 3:10-13).  Neither Jews nor Gentiles are under the law (Galatians 3:25).  The Old Law has been “abolished” (Ephesians 2:15), “done away” (2 Corinthians 3:11) and all are “delivered” from it (Romans 7:6).  That first covenant (Judaism) has been superseded by the second covenant (Christianity) (Hebrews 8:6-13).  Relying on any part of the Old Law results in one’s forfeiture of the blessings afforded in Christianity (the Gospel).

“For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:3-6).
However, doing something that was a part of the Old Law for a non-religious reason (e.g., circumcision for health benefits) did not relinquish God’s grace under Christianity.  The apostle Paul refused to circumcise Titus (who was Greek) as a religious rite (Galatians 2:3).  The apostle Paul, though, did circumcise Timothy (whose mother was Jewish) as a matter of expediency prefatory to attempting to evangelize among Jews (Acts 16:1-3).

Yet, from the context of Acts 21 it is apparent that in the apostle Paul’s day, there was a distinction between Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians regarding their respective relationships to the Old Law (Judaism).

 “And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them” (Acts 21:18-26).
The apostle Paul was reputed to have taught Jewish Christians that they were to disavow their life-long and present practice of Jewish rites (21).  Contrariwise, Jewish Christians were apparently continuing to practice Jewish rites with the approval of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem (20).  The clear indication from what was said in that content (24) and performed by the apostle Paul and four Jewish Christians (23, 26) is that Jewish Christians were practicing Jewish rites yet.  All of this by Jewish Christians was done in distinction from what was expected then of Gentile Christians (25).

Some have assumed that the apostle Paul erred in this matter found in Acts 21.  They who so suppose are too presumptuous.  Not only Paul, but the other twelve apostles, the elders in Jerusalem, other inspired Christians throughout Judaea and Luke (who penned Acts) either explicitly or implicitly concurred with the Jewish conduct described in Acts 21.  Further, no inspired rebuke appears in the text to suggest that anyone erred regarding his perceived distinction between Gentile Christian and Jewish Christian relationship to the Old Law.  One can only conclude that God either required or permitted Jewish Christians then to continue practicing Jewish rites.

However, what God may have required or tolerated of Jewish Christians regarding their exercise of Jewish rites then does not necessarily mean the same holds true today.  The apostle Paul and his contemporaries who became Christians found themselves in circumstances that cannot be duplicated today.  They were in a covenant relationship with God under Judaism when Christianity was inaugurated and they entered the latter by their obedience to the Gospel.  No one living today has ever been amenable to Judaism (or Patriarchy).  Every accountable soul now or in the future has and will always be amenable exclusively to the Gospel of Christ and Christianity.

It may be that some of Paul and his contemporaries’ Jewish practices, in a sense,  were admitted through a grandfather clause when they became Christians.  The term “grandfather clause” means “a clause creating an exemption based on circumstances previously existing.”  It may be that Paul and his contemporaries engaged some Jewish rites, such as vows (23), that were initiated under Judaism but not concluded yet when they became Christians.  At least, Paul and other Jewish Christians were not forbidden by inspiration nor rebuked for that activity.

A little over one generation after the beginning of the church in Jerusalem (A.D. 33), in A.D. 70, God caused the Romans to completely destroy the city of Jerusalem.  This fulfilled the prophecy of Jesus (Matthew 24:1-35).  After the destruction of Jerusalem, it was not possible for the Jews to practice Judaism faithfully, or even officially verify their lineage.  All of the physical vestiges of Judaism were thereby completely removed from possible confusion with Christianity.  Spiritually, Judaism concluded at the cross of Christ.  Whatever allowance God permitted Jewish Christians then, physically concluded with finality at the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem.

Hence, in early Christianity: (1) Gentile Christians became children of God by their obedience to the Gospel of Christ and were not amenable to the Old Law before or after their conversion.  (2) Jewish Christians became children of God by their obedience to the Gospel of Christ and were before the establishment of the church amenable to Judaism.  (3) Between A.D. 33 and A.D. 70, Jewish Christians either were required or permitted to perform Jewish rites.  (4) After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70, it was not possible for either Jewish Christians or Jewish non-Christians to faithfully practice Judaism or any of its rites.  Therefore, all accountable souls today, irrespective of their Jewish or Gentile (everyone not Jewish) ancestry are obligated solely to the practice pure Christianity.

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