Ever so slightly one senses tension developing between the older and younger generations of disciples today. The older generation insists that the way we serve God is "biblical" and the upcoming generation contends that we are bound by human "traditions." The tension will only rise unless there is agreement on how to establish Scriptural authority for our work and worship. When one asks of issues "Where is the authority?" and the other asks "What's wrong with it?" the potential for division looms.
A case in point is the new but very limited practice of clapping while singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs in praise of God and edification of one another. I have expressed my doubts about the Scripturalness of this practice and have been asked: "What's wrong with it?" Coming from the older generation, my reaction is: "Where does the New Testament authorize it?" Under what Biblical command, example, or necessary inference is this practice taught in the new covenant? That's the question!
The word "clapping" is used only in the Old Testament and conveys the idea of "rejoicing" -- whether celebrating the demise of an enemy or expressing joy when singing to the Lord. As I understand the younger generation, there is nothing wrong with it today because it expresses one's joy in the Lord. "Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice" is, I assume, from my perspective, the authority that is offered for this practice (Phil. 4:4). It is inherent in the word "rejoice," it is argued. If I understand the point, the next generation is affirming that since "clapping" was joined with "singing" in praising the Lord under the Old Testament, the two by inference can be tied together under the new covenant.
My question, first of all, would be: Does this hold true with the tambourines and dancing that accompanied the singing of Miriam after Israel passed through the Red Sea. Is not dancing and banging on a tambourine off one's leg an expression of "joy" in the Lord? What about stamping one's feet (Ezk. 25:6)? And, was not the use of mechanical instruments of music added to singing as an expression of joy in the Lord? I fearfully ask these questions, knowing that in the hearts of many young disciples they are saying "Yes" to all of them!
Hezekiah and Ezra when they restored the worship of Israel introduced the "instruments of David" -- and rightly so (2 Chron. 29:26; Neh. 12:36)! But when the Messiah came, He offered to His disciples worship "in spirit and truth." Later the apostles taught brethren to "sing" and "make melody" in their hearts to the Lord. We have asked for generations, what in that teaching authorizes the noise of rhythmic clapping or banging of tambourines? What about foot stamping (Ezk. 25:6)? Do these practices teach? Do they edify? Do they utter words of praise to God as the fruit of our lips (Heb. 13:15)?
Worship in spirit denotes "spiritual," heartfelt, soul-filled honor and praise to God. We fail to see any of this in the above methods. We further believe that clapping opens up worship to raucous, fleshly, sensual expressions of joy -- much as a celebration at a sporting event or as the mechanical praise of banjos, guitars, drums, and other such instruments. That could be, brethren, why Jesus and the apostles are silent on these things.
By L.A. Stauffer in Son Rays, Vol. 28, No. 34, Nov. 19, 2006.
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