|Vol. 15 No. 11 November 2013||
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Times are rapidly changing! There was a time in most churches of Christ when the services were focused upon worship that exalted God, and the preaching consisted of reverent instruction from the Scriptures. Thankfully, in some places, it is still that way. On the other hand, drastic changes are underway in hundreds of congregations across this land. Some are becoming “us-focused” in worship instead of “God-focused.” One of the manifestations of “us-focused” worship is the addition of handclapping. As near as I can discern, there are two “reasons” why some are involved in handclapping.
Firstly, there is handclapping as percussion. Some advocate and practice handclapping as an accompaniment to the singing. Before we begin to seek the Scripture, let’s make some observations. The issue is not whether handclapping sounds good or bad. The issue is not whether someone “likes” it or not. The issue at hand is whether we have any scriptural authority for handclapping during the singing. God was crystal clear on what He expects in New Testament worship: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19; cf. Colossians 3:16). “Speaking” and “singing” both involve the mouth. I like what one author wrote: “We are not instructed to ‘make sounds,’ rather, the command is to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Clapping is not singing. Singing is the expression of thoughts by words through melody. Singing is intended to convey ‘understanding’ (1 Corinthians 14:15). There is no ‘instruction,’ analogous to singing, in a mere sound” (Jackson). Handclapping is an unscriptural addition to the singing God expects. We could no more please God by beating live skin (handclapping) than we could by beating dead skin (drums). When God said to sing, that is what He meant!
Secondly, there is handclapping as praise. Some are incorporating handclapping as a means to praise some person or action in the assembly. For example, some will clap at the end of a sermon as a means to applaud and praise the speaker. However, God is the One that deserves all praise (Hebrews 13:15), not a man! Some argue that handclapping is merely equal to saying “amen.” However, such is not the case. Amen is a scriptural way to say “so be it” and is used throughout the Bible (John 21:25; Romans 1:25; 15:33; et al), but handclapping is not. The difference between handclapping and saying “amen” is this: handclapping is a way to show approval for the man, while amen shows approval for the message. There is a serious difference!
True worship has never been, nor will it ever be, about man. It is always about the Creator of heaven and earth! As was said in the long ago and will stand through eternity, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). Amen and amen!
Jackson, Wayne. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1530-clapping-as-an-accompaniment-to-singing-in-worship.
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Surely one of the greatest statements in the New Testament is the one made by Paul to the churches in Rome, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). What all is contained in the Gospel? In a much “boiled down” simplistic definition, the Gospel revolves around the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). We may say that those three facts are the “core” or “essence” of the Gospel message. However, every precept upon precept, every line upon line is part of the Gospel (Isaiah 28:10, 13; Galatians 3:8). The Gospel involves the entirety of God’s Word—the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20, 27)! Thus, those who are not ashamed of the Gospel are those who are not ashamed of God’s Word! Have we become ashamed of the Gospel?
We have become ashamed of the Gospel in our tolerance. Sin abounds; it has always abounded, and it will always abound. Yet, the real tragedy is seen when the church allows it to abound within her borders. The works of the flesh are manifest (Galatians 5:19-21), but they are never to be named among God’s people (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). Faithful congregations have no choice! It is not up for discussion; nor is it up to the “leaders'” opinion. Sin cannot be tolerated among the people of God! We have become ashamed of the Gospel when we allow adulterers, fornicators, sowers of discord, or any other sin to be named among God’s children, the church!
We have become ashamed of the Gospel in our teaching. How often have we heard the phrases “hard” or “soft” as it relates to preaching? Can someone please show me the difference in Scripture? It is not the message that is hard or soft, but rather the hearts of the hearers are “hard” or “soft.” Is there a member of the Lord’s church so bold and arrogant to disdain the Holy Spirit who recorded Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7? Was his sermon “hard” or “soft”? Neither; it was biblical! What about Peter’s sermons (Acts 2; 3:14ff; 4 et al)? Was Jesus too “hard” when He braided a whip and drove sinners from His Father’s House (John 2:14ff)? The soft preaching and teaching many people are seeking today is not biblical! Why would Paul admonish Timothy to preach the Word “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2)? Because, even among our own fellowship, many will become ashamed of the message of Christ, but yet the inspired directive still remains “preach the word…out of season”! We must remember a sermon that pricks the conscience must have had some good “points”!
We have become ashamed of the Gospel in our testing. We seemingly have become afraid to pick up the Word of God and “try the spirits to see whether they are of God, or not” (1 John 4:1). A congregation once in fellowship may not always remain in fellowship (cf. Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, et al). Individuals once in fellowship may not always remain in fellowship (1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 4:10 et al). How do we ascertain whether a congregation or an individual is in fellowship? Turning a blind eye is not biblical, but trying and proving are biblical approaches (1 John 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:21 et al).
I join with Paul; I am not ashamed of the Gospel, and to prove that statement, I will not tolerate sin; I will teach the whole counsel of God; and I will test congregations and individuals alike to see whether they are in the faith or not. I am not ashamed of the Gospel. What about you?