|Volume 18 Number 2 February 2016
What about Lifting Hands in Worship?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
I just want to ask what you would think of one who would make an argument and say that, if one allows the lifting of hands in connection with their worship, then why can’t he allow handclapping (and possibly even mechanical instruments of music) in connection with worship (thinking that they all have the same principle of being an addition to the worship, yet thinking that if one is lawful [i.e. the lifting of hands], then so should the others).
It would be a misguided and false argument that lifting hands in worship is an addition to what is authorized in Scripture, and therefore, in the same category of adding instrumental music to worship. While it is true that adding instrumental music to Christian worship is an unauthorized addition, the same is not true regarding lifting hands in Christian worship.
Notice that in 1 Timothy 2:8 the apostle Paul recommended the lifting hands in worship by men in their public prayers. “I desire therefore that the men [males] pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8 NKJV). Men, not women, were instructed to lift their hands during prayers in public worship. First Timothy 2:8 in its context appears in distinction and contrast to the God-given role of women (1 Timothy 2:9-15).
Why, then, do men today typically not lift their hands while uttering public prayers in worship? The answer lies in one’s understanding of why Christians do not typically practice the “holy kiss” of Romans 16:16. Most people in the Christian world no longer use the kiss as a form of greeting, but instead have exchanged it for a handshake according to present-day culture and customs. Men do not usually lift hands while praying in Christian assemblies because that practice is not part of our current culture and customs.
Those today who lift their hands in a worship assembly most often do so for reasons completely different from biblical times when men would lead public prayers with outstretched arms. Today, often emotional and ecstatic feelings prompt lifting of hands by men and women during worship, which may be a precursor to or a demonstration of charismatic or Pentecostal religious error. Women are not authorized by Scripture to lift their hands in Christian worship, and men would only be authorized to lift their hands in Christian worship during prayer – if it were consistent with present-day culture and custom, which it is not.
Therefore, lifting of hands in Christian worship by either males or females would be distracting at best as well as sinful were it done by women or even done by men as a charismatic display. Adding instrumental music to Christian worship is not authorized (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Women lifting hands in worship was not and is not authorized in Scripture (1 Timothy 2:8-15). Men lifting hands for public prayers was authorized in Scripture, but it is not consistent today with current cultural practices, and it is no more appropriate under the best of circumstances than practicing the “holy kiss,” which also is not consistent today with current cultural practices.
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Please sir, kindly explain 1 Corinthians 14:34. Can a sister read the Bible or ask questions during Sunday school period on Sunday? Can a sister be appointed in to the committee of the church? Again, should a brother who marries outside the faith be disfellowshipped even when the brother has not forsaken the assembly of God’s people.
Question #1. The restriction in 1 Corinthians 14:34 respecting women pertains to the assembly of the church together for the purpose of worship. It does not prohibit women from speaking in the presence of men, whether one or two or several outside of the worship assembly, such as in a Bible class. Another verse of Scripture, though, prohibits women from religious teaching in an authoritative way over men irrespective of the setting (1 Timothy 2:11-12). A woman is neither allowed to teach a class in which men are present nor is she permitted from the audience to wrest the class from the teacher; men would be prohibited as well from taking over a class from the audience (1 Corinthians 14:29-31). See the following URLs of articles for a more thorough answer to this question.
Question #2. A committee is two or more persons working together to accomplish an assignment or a common goal. Whether designated as a “committee” or not, persons, some of whom happen to be women, often work together to accomplish a common goal. Yes, a woman can work with other men or other women or a combination of men and women to accomplish something (e.g., help deacons facilitate benevolence, gather information for decision-makers, etc.). Yet, a committee, irrespective of whether it is comprised of men or women is no substitute for the male leadership that God mandates for the church (e.g., elders or faithful adult members in the absence of an eldership). Women are permitted and even expected by God to practice Christian service, within their divinely-given roles (Romans 16:1).
Question #3. The only New Testament verse that specifically may prohibit a child of God from marrying a non-Christian is 1 Corinthians 7:39, and that verse pertains to the widow and does not specify a widower. Often, people surmise that 2 Corinthians 6:14 prohibits marriage between Christians and non-Christians, but such a position is an overstatement of what the verse actually teaches. See the following article URLs concerning 2 Corinthians 6:14 for a fuller treatment.
Regarding 1 Corinthians 7:39, Christian brethren view the teaching therein from two different perspectives: (1) The verse prohibits a Christian widow from marrying a non-Christian man, or (2) The verse prohibits a Christian widow from marrying a man non-Christian or unfaithful Christian influence (cf., Ephesians 6:1 “only in the Lord”) only if doing so would harm the widow’s practice of Christianity (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14). That God recognizes marriages between Christians and non-Christians is clearly understood from 1 Corinthians 7:12-13.
In any case, the context of 1 Corinthians 7:39 does not mention a procedure to follow even if (1) the correct interpretation were that a widow (not a widower) must not marry a non-Christian. (2) I am not aware of any congregations that though they may believe 1 Corinthians 7:39 prohibits a widow from marrying a non-Christian that have also come to the conclusion that the church must withdraw fellowship from the widow who marries a non-Christian. Evidently, even churches that believe 1 Corinthians 7:39 prohibits a widow from marrying a non-Christian don’t believe it very much or to any degree of consequence.
I am not convinced that 1 Corinthians 7:39 prohibits a Christian widow from marrying a non-Christian. It may well be that 1 Corinthians 7:39 is comparable to 2 Corinthians 6:14 and Ephesians 6:1 wherein Christians are cautioned to guard against placing themselves into circumstances that predictably will lead to the compromise of one’s Christian faith. I would be very hesitant to withdraw especially from a brother who married a non-Christian woman who otherwise was a fit biblical candidate for marriage. The only reason that I can imagine why 1 Corinthians 7:39 would pertain to a widow more than to a widower, irrespective of the correct interpretation, is to protect the heritage of the deceased Christian husband in that of his wife.