|Volume 21 Number 7 July 2019||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Synonyms for “claptrap” are “nonsense,” “humbug,” “drivel,” “hogwash” and “twaddle.” “Clap” means to strike two things together to produce a percussion noise, such as with one’s hands to applaud or to produce applause. There is neither biblical precedent nor authority for clapping or applause in Christian worship. Clapping or applause in Christian worship is a trap into which even many Christians and congregations become snared in their efforts to be modern and contemporary. Hence, regarding the assembly of the saints, clapping is essentially claptrap, nonsense, humbug, drivel, hogwash and twaddle. Clapping or applause belongs in secular settings whereby an audience commends performers for their performances, rather than in a holy, solemn, religious assembly for worship. Likewise, applauding baptisms adds secularity to the most important decision that any soul can make, hardly fitting for the occasion.
It is regrettable that some have introduced clapping into our Bible classes and assembled hour of worship. Such removes the dignity and solemnity of the occasion. Such is surely not pleasing to God or to the serious worshipper. Paul discusses conduct when the whole church is assembled (1 Cor. 14:23ff). “Let all things be done decently and in order” caps the discussion (v. 40). (Taylor 22)
Handclapping is often associated with other innovations into the assemblies of the churches of Christ, including children’s church, house churches, contemporary services, praise teams, testimonials, instrumental music, multiple simultaneous worship activities, dimming lights, lifting hands, solos, choirs, claims that all of life is worship, women assuming public worship roles, hand-holding, men-women prayer chains, icons (e.g., crosses), drama plays, biblically inaccurate song lyrics, praying to Jesus, singing to Jesus, observing religious holidays, dedicating babies, camp-type songs, refreshments in worship, swaying, open fellowship with denominations from whom these innovations were borrowed, etc. There is a well-traveled pathway leading to apostasy that historically has been a trail blazed with many of these innovations. These types of things come forth not from New Testament Scripture but cross over charismatic thresholds from denominationalism often via colleges associated with members of the Lord’s church and youth ministries. The sober and devout atmosphere traditionally characteristic of New Testament worship is exchanged for a county fair-like setting.
Change agents in the church are introducing two forms of hand clapping into some worship assemblies: as a display of approval and as a rhythmical accompaniment to singing. …Defenders will allude to Psalm 47:1-2; 98:8, and other Old Testament references as authority for the practice. If the book of Psalms authorizes clapping in New Testament worship, then by the same hermeneutical principle we have authority for shouting, dancing, animal sacrifice and instrumental music in worship. …We would not add drums to the worship, but that is essentially what people do when they clap their hands in rhythmical accompaniment to singing, as some are doing. …It may be the case that on some occasions some express “appreciation” by applause, but it is more often the case that when we applaud something or someone we are saying, “I have been entertained.” Our current culture has conditioned us to be entertained. That, in a nutshell, explains the growing interest in the hand clapping phenomenon among us. (Gulledge 17)
Is Clapping Equal to Saying Amen?
“Do we desire to express our agreement of what the speaker says in our worship assemblies? Let us say, ‘Amen!’ This is the Bible way (Matthew 6:13; 1 Corinthians 14:16; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Revelation 1:18; 5:14; 19:4; 22:20). Worship is NOT entertainment; applause is out of place in worship” (Farley 2). The word “Amen” is “used to express solemn ratification (as of an expression of faith) or hearty approval (as of an assertion)” (“Amen” emphasis added).
Occasionally one will be heard to say that hand clapping is no different from saying, “Amen.” But there is one slight difference: saying, “Amen,” is authorized in scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:16, “Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?” Where is the verse which mentions clapping hands in worship? (Duncan 3)
Clapping and Amen are hardly synonyms for each other. Clapping is as much out of place in worship as a substitute for “Amen” as saying “Amen” at a concert or a ballgame would be oddly out of place, ineffective and less than gratifying. “Applause is given for performance. To include such as that in our worship assemblies is to drift away from worship and become an audience for a performer” (Lanier 73, 80). Clapping is relative to entertainment, whereas the attendees’ entertainment is not the purpose of New Testament worship. Christian worship is not first to be directed inwardly but outwardly to God. The primary object of Christian worship is to adore and praise God, and only secondarily are Christian worshippers to think themselves the beneficiaries of worship.
Clapping with Singing
Clapping does appear in the Old Testament, but not in the New Testament. The New Testament, though, rather than the Old Testament is the law of God in effect today. Therefore, references to clapping in the Old Testament cannot authorize clapping in New Testament worship. In addition, note the following regarding clapping in the Old Testament.
There are nine instances of clapping in the King James translation of the Bible (II Kings 11:12; Job 27:23; 34:37; Psm. 47:1; 98:8; Isa. 55:12; Lam. 2:15; Ezek. 25:6; Nahum 3:19). All of them are in the Old Testament. None of them is done during worship to God. Most occurrences show God’s enemies clapping. Two symbolically show floods and trees clapping. David encouraged Israel to clap their hands while they shouted to God in their excitements over military triumph (Psm. 47:1). (Colley 594-596)
“There is the same authority for clapping in Christian worship as there is for playing a piano or organ. It is doing something for which there is no divine authority. …Who is being applauded when there is hand clapping in worship? Are those who clap their hands doing so to honor God? If so, they are seeking to honor God in some way He has not authorized instead of how He has directed” (Duncan 3). Of course, there is no authorization in the New Testament, to which everyone now living is amenable, for adding to our singing instrumental music (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Not only is singing specifically named in New Testament passages as the form of worshipful music God desires, the Old Testament to which one may want to resort in an effort to validate instrumental music has been replaced with the New Testament (Romans 7:6-7; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 2:14). There is much one can learn from the Old Testament even today (Romans 15:4), but it is not the law of God under which we now live or by which we will be judged.
…Jesus said there is law of worship—both positive and negative. Positively, worship must be “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Negatively, worship is “vain” when based on “the commandments of men” (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:9). The doctrines and commandments of men “indeed have an appearance of wisdom, in self-made worship,” but “are of no value” (Col. 2:23). What God authorized in the Old Testament in worship is now off limits, having been nailed “to the cross” (Col. 2:14). Abrogated at Calvary would be the sacrificing of bulls (Psa. 51:19), burning of incense (Ex. 30:1), playing instruments of music (Psa. 33:2; 71:22), dancing (Psa. 149:3), shouting (Psa. 5:11), and clapping hands in worship of God (Psa. 47:1). Instead of listening to Moses or Elijah or Simon Peter, God spoke forcibly from a mountaintop about Jesus, “This is my beloved son, in whim I am well pleased. Hear him” (Matt. 17:5). …Hand-clapping in worship is just one of many man-made additions to the Lord’s plan. (McCord 7-8)
“We learned a long time ago observing Cain’s worship that God expects us to do in worship what He has authorized. Paul wrote in 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. To worship in His name is to worship by His authority’” (Colley 594-596).
Statement, a command, an approved example, or a necessary inference. This is the only proper way to establish the authority of a given subject. There are many innovations that are being introduced into the Lord’s church without any authority. The devil will never tire of introducing them. We are seeing congregations singing during the Lord’s Supper, women leading in prayer where men are present, hand clapping, mechanical instruments of music in worship, the view that everything we do in life is worship, etc. But where do we find the authority for such? It is only found in the “I like it” realm! We do not need a “new hermeneutic”; we need to go back to a “thus saith the Lord. (Smith 603)
Clapping is no more appropriate for Christian worship than are instruments of music. Proposals, for instance, to make allowances for handclapping would subsequently allow in also a number of additional sounds that neither correspond to singing words nor have the capacity to teach and to admonish (Colossians 3:16) or to speak to one another (Ephesians 5:19).
…some argue that clapping the hands is not instrumental music and thus is not an addition to singing. God commands His people to sing. Some brethren attempt to say that since clapping involves not a mechanical instrument but rather human instruments (the physical hands), therefore it is not an addition and is therefore not forbidden. The same argument would in worship wrongfully permit whistling, shouting, yodeling, foot stomping, etc. (Cates 1-3)
Clapping for Baptisms
“There isn’t any passage of Scripture in the New Testament that authorizes handclapping in response to a baptism” (Stevens 89). “Baptism takes us back to the very cross of Christ (Romans 6:3-11). This is a very humbling experience. It would be profane for me to applaud such a spiritually significant event, even though in my heart I rejoice even as the one being baptized (Acts 8:39)” (Gulledge 17).
Clapping Unnecessarily Divisive
“Those really interested in the peace and harmony of the church will not insist on clapping in worship. They themselves will agree that clapping is not necessary in order to have scriptural worship” (Duncan 3).
“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” (Lockwood 9-10). Furthermore, “[c]lapping hands as a part of a worship service is sinful because it is unauthorized” (Deaver 19-20). Besides that, clapping in worship is a poor substitute for having one’s heart prepared to worship God in His own appointed way. “If spirituality is not enhanced by doing what God says, no amount of hand holding, light dimming, or hand clapping and lifting will help. The problem has nothing to do with the externals. The problem is in the heart” (Jackson 493).
Clapping for any reason in New Testament worship does not arise from following a biblical hermeneutic of command, approved example or divine implication. Instead, clapping in worship is of human origin and was introduced into Christian worship long after the close of the first century.
We want it to be observed here that the applause did not originate in the church, but was moved from the theatre into the church…The word “applause,” the notion of “clapping the hands” nor any similar idea is to be found in the New Testament record. Nothing of that kind occurs in connection with the church until the later part of the third century when the heretic and apostate bishop of Antioch, Paul of Samosata raised his ugly head. (Mayo)
Embracing the counsel of Eddie Helms would go a long way to addressing not only handclapping in worship but also other doctrinal ills assailing and adversely affecting the body of Christ.
God’s people need to let their Bibles take them to worship. They need to read and obey the Bible to be in right relationships to God in order to worship Him acceptably (Prov. 28:9; Psm. 145:18-19). They need to let their Bibles authorize their actions in worship (Col. 3:17; John 4:24). If they did, there would not be any mechanical instruments of music, humming, clapping, or bodily gyrations in accompaniment to spiritual songs (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19). There would be no women seeking to usurp authority in mixed assemblies (I Tim. 2:8-12). God’s people would be praising God properly if they took their Bibles to worship! (278-279 emphasis added)
“The only aspects of worship we can be sure are pleasing to God are those revealed in the word of truth (John 4:24). …All of us should include in our worship those things God has revealed He wants in worship to Him. If we do otherwise, we are not worshipping in spirit and truth (John 4:24)” (Olbricht 9). “Such things [clapping and other innovations] do not come from scriptural convictions, but from conformity to the world” (Pharr 20). Several congregations of the churches of Christ are like barges adrift at the mercy of a senseless but predictable current. Leaving their moorings (in the Word of God), there is no limit to the extent of their ongoing drift from biblical truth.
There is a sacredness of worship that must not be sacrificed on altars of superficial spirituality, fads of the day, emotion-rousing hand-clapping, and entertainment-oriented quartets and choirs. The profound dignity of worship should not be sacrificed to shallow sensational displays of drama. Don’t be surprised by anything you hear that brethren are doing in worship. Once brethren get on board the old ship of subjectivity, there is no shoreline. (Holland 34)
The purpose of introducing clapping into Christian worship has always been to elicit an uninhibited response from the attendees. “Some Pentecostal groups find the clapping of their hands a very effective and potent device in creating volatile and emotional situations in their services” (Woods 279). The object of handclapping in our congregations is to accomplish the same thing as it produced in the denominations from which the practice was obtained. Again, handclapping is a poor substitute for conviction, conversion and wholeheartedly surrendering oneself to Almighty God (Matthew 22:37), from which our devout worship ought to derive its meaningfulness.
Activities practiced in society can easily find their way into the church. …The same principle applies to children in worship. If they stomp their feet, clap their hands, swing their arms, march, and do other things, why would they not want to do the same when they become adults? If they do these things as children, what reasoning would tell them that doing so as adults is wrong? We must admit that they enter into such physical activities with more zest and excitement than when engaged in simple worship activities. Have we helped them if all they find in physical actions is emotional excitement devoid of spiritual worship? (Olbricht 9)
We have wounded ourselves sometimes by the very approach we typically employ in our vacation Bible schools and other congregational youth activities. What is the sense in teaching children ways to interact in assemblies regarding the typical songs taught them along with accompanying body movements (i.e., clapping, stomping, being boisterous, etc.)? We, then, must unteach them those very things and teach them afterward of how God desires to be worshipped. Apparently, we have done a better job of teaching what we ought not have allowed than we have in preparing them for solemn and devout worship as adults. Shame on us!
Finally, it is not the place of the worshipper to clap. “Let God clap if He so desires, the worship is toward Him. One passage of scripture sums up the guidelines for Christian worship. Jesus said, ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (Jn. 4:24). …The ‘in truth’ element concerns doing what God has authorized in His inspired word (Jn. 17:17)” (Oliver 44-45).
“Amen.” Merriam-Webster. 29 Jun 2019. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amen>.
Cates, Curtis A. “Hand-Clapping in Worship (II).” Yokefellow. 38.10. October 2011, 1-3.
Colley, Glenn. “Clapping, Shouting, Dancing in Worship.” God Hath Spoken, Affirming Truth and Reproving Error. Curtis A. Cates, ed. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 1999, 589-598.
Deaver, Mac. “Shall We Applaud?” Biblical Notes Quarterly. 4.1. January-March 2000, 19-20.
Duncan, Bobby. “Let God Do the Clapping.” Power. March 2002, 3.
Farley, Albert E. “Handclapping in Christian Worship?” West Virginia Christian. 3.11. November 1996, 2.
Gulledge, Dennis. “Shall We Applaud in Worship?” The World Evangelist. 28.9. April 2000, 17.
Helms, Eddie. “Ethiopian Nobleman, Who Was Sincerely Religious Yet Lost.” Great Lessons from New Testament Characters. Curtis Cates, ed. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 273-282.
Holland, Tom. “Can Worship Be Vibrant and Meaningful without Becoming Fadish and Unscriptural?” Spiritual Sword. 24.2. January 1993, 32-34.
Jackson, Roger. “Misconceptions: Lifting Up of Hands; Calling Upon the Name of the Lord.” Living in Trust. Curtis A. Cates, ed. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 1993, 489-499.
Lanier, Roy H., Jr. “You Must Have Been Baptized in Pickle Juice.” Therefore Stand. 16.10. October 2000, 73, 80.
Lockwood, Bill. “Is Applause Appropriate in Worship?” Matters of the Faith. 3.1. April-June 1997, 9-10.
Mayo, L.W. “Just Another Way of Saying ‘Amen’?” Wagoner: L.W. Mayo, n.d.
McCord, Hugo. “Hand Clapping in Worship.” Firm Foundation. 113.11. November 1998, 7-8.
Olbricht, Owen D. “To Clap or Not to Clap.” Gospel Gleaner. 14.4. 9, 19.
Oliver, Robert. “The Truth about Worship.” What Is Truth. West Jefferson: West Jefferson Church of Christ, 2004, 41-56.
Pharr, David R. “Be Not Conformed.” Spiritual Sword. 30.1. October 1998, 17-20.
Smith, Toney. “Some Popular Misconceptions about the Lord’s Church.” The Lord’s Church: Past, Present, Future. Southaven: Southaven Church of Christ, 1999, 592-607.
Stevens, David P. “Innovations.” Therefore Stand. 15.12. December 1999, 89.
Taylor, Irene C. “Do Not Clap for Me!” Firm Foundation. 113.1. January 1998, 22.
Woods, Guy N. “Is It Scriptural for a Congregation to Hum While Partaking of the Lord’s Supper?” Questions and Answers. Henderson: Freed-Hardeman U., 1976, 279.
Brown, T. Pierce. “Is Clapping of Hands Appropriate in Worship?” First Century Christian. 24.4. July-August 2002, 8-9.
Miller, Dave. “Changes in Worship.” Spiritual Sword. 28.1. October 1996, 25-28.
Roberts, Jason. “Jesus Answers His Enemies.” Studies in Luke. Dub McClish, ed., Schertz: Gospel Journal, 2003, 300-313.
In the Lord’s Army
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
The church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not for the faint of heart. Religion, especially in today’s world, is viewed as a passive way of life. However, God’s Book, the Bible, paints a far different picture of what Christians are to be. One of my favorite analogies that God uses for His people is the parallel to a soldier. Throughout the New Testament Scriptures, God placed serious emphasis on the militancy of His church. Someone has correctly said that the only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing. Surely, that is why God placed such emphasis on His people to be militant and not passive. Therefore, each Christian is enrolled in the Lord’s army and, as such, has certain responsibilities. Let us scripturally consider some of the responsibilities that each Christian has in the Lord’s army.
Firstly, the Lord’s Army is a choice. Nearing the end of his life, Joshua spoke of the individual choice in serving God, “…choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Jesus closed the Revelation with emphasizing this choice, “…And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17b). In the Lord’s army, there is no “drafting.” There are no soldiers in the Lord’s army that are there by accident! It is a personal, conscious choice to enlist in the Lord’s army. While God would prefer all men to enlist, each person has a choice!
Secondly, the Lord’s Army has a captain. Sadly, some enlist in the Lord’s army and believe that they still have some control. In the Lord’s army, Jesus Christ is the only captain! He directs and the soldiers follow (Matthew 16:24). The writer of Hebrews made it quite clear who is in charge (Hebrews 2:10; cf. 2 Chronicles 13:12). As the Captain, Jesus is the only Lord and King (1 Timothy 6:15) and the only Head (Colossians 1:18). Soldiers in the Lord’s army faithfully and willingly submit to Him (James 4:7).
Thirdly, the Lord’s Army follows commands. In the same way that a physical army must follow commands, the spiritual army of God has commands to obey as well. Those commands are clearly outlined in the soldier’s handbook (2 Timothy 3:15-17). When a soldier fails to obey the commands of the Captain, he is in serious trouble! Soldiers in the Lord’s army do not seek wisdom and commands from anyone other than their Captain by His authority (Matthew 28:18-20). “I think so’s,” “my opinions” and “if I were the captain” do not have any place in the Lord’s army. We must faithfully and willingly trust, obey and serve the commands we have been given!
Lastly, the Lord’s Army does not consort with the enemy. We are in a serious battle! There is a real enemy who is working daily to win this war (1 Peter 5:8). As such, there is no room for compromise. We must stand firm and not consort or fraternize with the enemy in any way (2 John 9-11). While there are other soldiers who have deserted the ranks (2 Thessalonians 3:6), we must not follow in their desertion! The battle belongs to those who do not conform to this ungodly world (Romans 12:1-2).
Dear Friends, the battle rages on. Each person who has enlisted in the Lord’s army has the responsibility to continue in the fight. If necessary, we must be willing to die for this wonderful cause (Revelation 2:10). As soldiers, while we are engaged in this battle upon the earth, we never get a leave of absence (Acts 2:42). However, to those who make the right choice to serve the one true Captain, daily following His commands and determined not to consort with the enemy, there is a great, eternal victory prepared (John 14:1-4). Little wonder why Paul was so confident at the end of his enlistment to write, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give to me in that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Therefore, the inspired admonition sounds forth today as loud as ever, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Thank God!