Roger D. Campbell
As the apostle Paul was heading toward
Jerusalem near the end of his third recorded preaching journey, he
and those with him stopped on the island of Miletus (Acts 20:16).
From there he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of
the church (20:17). When those elders came to Paul
(20:18), he reminded them of his past activities with them.
After that, Paul turned those
elders attention to a pressing matter: their responsibility as
shepherds/leaders of the church. In Acts 20:28-35, among other
things, we read that the inspired apostle told them,
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all
the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you
overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath
purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that
after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in
among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own
selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to
draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and
remember, that by the space of three years I ceased
not to warn every one night and day with tears. And
now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word
of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to
give you an inheritance among all them which are
sanctified. ... I have shewed you all things, how
that so labouring ye ought to support the weak and to
remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It
is more blessed to give than to receive.
These words offered to the overseers of the
church in Ephesus served as a charge, exhortation, and warning to
them. Members of the Lords body need to be aware of what God
desires and expects from the shepherds of a local church. In
particular, every elder of every congregation should give special
attention to the above-quoted words that Paul spoke to those
brothers in the Christ that had the responsibility of shepherding
the flock of God nearly 2,000 years ago.
Acts 20:31 shows that God charges all
elders to watch. The word watch is from the
Greek word gregoreo. Metaphorically, it means to
watch, i.e., give strict attention to, be cautious, active
[Thayers Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.122,
word no. 1127]. That same Greek word is translated as be
vigilant in I Peter 5:8, where it is written, Be
sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring
lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.
Whatever all Christians are supposed to do in their dealings with
Satan be vigilant, that is exactly what all elders
are to do in their work of overseeing Gods church
be vigilant, watch. It is serious business,
indeed, for it is the difference between spiritual life and death!
In the context of Pauls charge to
the Ephesian elders, what are those things and people for which the
elders must watch? Let us consider three answers from the text.
1) Elders, Watch Yourselves!
We see this idea in the very first words of verse 28:
Take heed therefore unto yourselves.... For those
elders that sincerely desire to be able to lead others effectively,
the first step is for them to set forth in their own lives the kind
of example that other members of the church can respect and
imitate. Every overseer is to be of good behavior (I Tim.
3:2). Yes, as I Peter 5:3 indicates, elders are to be examples
to the flock. They are, of course, to be good examples!
Every child of God is commanded,
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own
selves (II Cor. 13:5). We are also told to take heed
lest we fall (I Cor. 10:12). Such instructions surely apply to all
elders. Being appointed as the spiritual leaders over a local flock
of God may cause some to be lifted up with pride. Elders, beware!
Serving as elders may cause some to feel that they are above
the law of God and no longer subject to it. Elders, beware!
Being appointed to oversee the work of a congregation may cause
some brothers to want to become Diotrephes-styled dictators,
lording it over the flock (III John 9,10; I Peter 5:3). Elders,
Elders, watch yourselves. You can be
sure that other members of the church, as well as those outside the
body of the Christ, will be closely observing your walk and talk.
It just comes with the territory. Elders, we need you
brothers in the Lord to help show us the way by the pattern of life
you set before us. But that is not all.
2) Elders, Watch the Flock! The
charge of Acts 20:28 is not simply for elders to watch themselves,
but also to take heed to all the flock. The flock is
the church of God (Acts 20:28). It is called the
flock of God (I Peter 5:2). It is not just a flock. It is
Gods flock! And some brothers in the Lord are responsible for
watching after His flock. Who might that be? Those the Bible calls
elders (Acts 20:17) or overseers (Acts 20:28).
There is no greater responsibility in all the world than the
responsibility that rests on the shoulders of elders.
What does God want elders to do? Take
heed to all the flock. That involves acting as its overseers (Acts
20:28). The word overseer is from the Greek word
episkopos which is defined as an overseer, a man charged
with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done
rightly, any curator, guardian, or superintendent
[Thayers, p.243, word no. 1985]. So, these men are not just
given the title overseers, but rather really taking
charge and act as those that have the duty of making sure that only
the right things are done, and that the right things are done in
the right way by the right people. The Bibles teaching is
clear: God has given the oversight of a local church to those
brothers that serve as elders (I Peter 5:1,2). It is one thing to
have brothers names listed on the church bulletin or
letterhead as elders. It is another thing entirely for
them to step up, step out, and really do the work of organizing,
planning, and leading a congregation in carrying out the Lords
What else do we learn from Acts 20:28
about the elders watch of the flock? They are to see to the
flocks spiritual needs by feeding it. The NKJV says that the
elders are to shepherd the church. The same thought is
noted in I Peter 5:1,2, where elders are charged, Feed,
tend, shepherd the flock of God which is among
you. In both verses (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:2), the verb
feed/shepherd/tend is from the Greek word poimaino
which means to feed, to tend a flock, keep sheep ... to
rule, govern ... to furnish pasturage of food; to nourish
[Thayers, p.527, word no. 4165]. Vines states that the
Greek word for feed means to act as a shepherd (from
poimen, a shepherd). Here is a significant point:
according to Acts 20:28, who (which people) are to shepherd the
church? Answer: its overseers who are called elders
(20:17). But the word shepherds is also translated as
pastors in Ephesians 4:11. Thus, biblically speaking, in
Gods plan, true shepherds or pastors are the same as elders.
Pastors are elders, and elders are pastors. The different Bible
terms have reference to the same people.
How are the elders to feed or shepherd
the flock? In part, by providing for it the spiritual nutrition
that it needs. How does that come about? By giving it the proper
teaching the word of God that causes the sheep to grow and
continue to be strong (I Peter 2:2). The elders are responsible for
all teaching that is done in a congregation. That does not mean
that the elders personally have to teach every class or preach
every sermon. But, since they must give account for the souls of
those whom they oversee (Heb. 13:17), they ultimately are
responsible for every handout or booklet used in a class, every
bulletin published, and every sermon preached. If any errors are
propagated in any of these forums, then the elders are responsible
for taking the proper action to correct such errors. Why? Because
they are to make sure that the sheep under their shepherdship
dont get any poisonous food!
Note that the message of Acts 20:28 is
for elders to take heed to all the flock which they
oversee. Not one sheep is to be left out. Later Paul went on to
tell the Ephesian elders to support the weak (Acts
20:35). Every sheep in the flock, including the weak ones, is
deserving of the shepherds concern, care, and if needed,
correction. Jesus said that the good shepherd gives his life for
the sheep (John 10:11). Which ones? Which ever sheep need the
protection. Remember Jesus parable of the lost sheep? A
shepherd with one hundred sheep loses one sheep. If the shepherd
really cares for the sheep, what does he do? He goes after that
which is lost until he finds it (Luke 15:4). Elders need to take
heed to the spiritual needs of the entire flock. That sounds like
a job that carries a lot of responsibility, that requires a lot of
work, that surely would have to be supported by constant prayer by
the shepherds, and that could make the difference in some of the
sheep ultimately being lost or being saved. Right on every point:
being shepherds that really watch for the flock is not a task for
boys or those that are unwilling to carry out their God-given duty.
3) Elders, Watch the Wolves!
Paul warned the elders from Ephesus about wolves: For I
know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in
among you, not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29). Elders
are charged with keeping the wolves out of and away from Gods
flock. Brethren, it is not wise, and it is not loving, to ignore
spiritual wolves. Wolves draw away disciples after them
(Acts 20:30). Spiritual wolves destroy Gods sheep!
False prophets are wolves (Matt. 7:15).
Those that are trying to convince the church to fellowship
denominations are wolves. Those that encourage our young people to
disregard the New Testaments pattern for worship are wolves.
Those that advocate that people can marry and divorce as often as
they want, for any reason they want, and still be in good standing
with God, are wolves. Elders, beware!
The church of Christ suffers greatly at
the hands of wolves. Some of the damage could be limited if elders
would be more aware of and forearmed against spiritual wolves.
Elders need to take time to read and learn about the wolves of our
day, their teaching, their practices and their manners. You see,
the wolves that are today in our midst just down the road, in the
next county, or next state, may try to get into our flock tomorrow.
If we are concerned about and watch approaching bad weather or
physical diseases, then surely it is a whole lot more important to
beware of and track spiritual wolves.
Elders, watch! Watch yourselves, watch
the flock, and watch the wolves. God commands you to, and those of
us under your care and oversight need you to.
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Table of Contents
PREPARING OUR FUTURE ELDERS
Paul began his letter to Titus with two
specific instructions for his work with the congregations of Crete.
Titus should, set in order the things that are wanting,
and ordain elders in every city (Titus 1:5). Before all
other words of admonition and edification, Paul reminded Titus that
the individual flocks of the Lords heritage must have their
needs met and qualified men placed over them as shepherds and
Today, two millennia removed from Titus,
the message from the Holy Spirit has not changed. Congregations
throughout the brotherhood need to set themselves in order and
appoint elders to oversee the church. Because the former depends
solely on the uniqueness of each congregation, only a case-by-case
discussion could determine what each congregation lacks. Yet, even
a cursory survey of the church today clearly reveals an area of
want scripturally qualified elders.
Unlike many of our other needs, if a
congregation lacks elders, filling this void cannot occur
overnight. Like a strong oak tree, men require time and experience
before they can grasp the shepherds staff and feed the flock
of God which is among them. Because the Lord, through his wisdom,
saw it proper for congregations to possess a plurality of elders,
those congregations lacking elders must patiently wait for two or
more men to rise up to the work of an elder. A lack of such
patience has led to many unwise and hasty appointments of men
unprepared or unqualified for such a task.
The process of preparing our future
elders starts neither with the middle-aged nor those early in their
marriage. We need to start grooming our young men if our drought of
elders will end. Our young men must constantly hear the importance
of doctrinal purity, seeking the old paths, and spreading the
Gospel. At the same time, we ought to also encourage these same men
to be like Ezra because he, prepared his heart to seek
the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes
and judgments (Ezra 7:10).
Some young men, through various means,
will rise like cream to the top and naturally assume roles of
leadership. Like Timothy, whom Paul found at Lystra well reported
of the brethren and obviously ready for spiritual work, these young
men demand our attention. Elders and evangelists of their home
congregations ought to take hold of these brethren and direct them
as their lives progress directing them towards the path of
elders. Perhaps we too hastily encourage men to leave the
nest and become evangelists when we see them increase in
wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. The church needs
elders just as badly as it needs evangelists, perhaps even more so.
Local congregations must diligently prod
the growing saints to prepare for future eldership roles. We must
instill in our young men a sense of duty to meet the needs of the
church, if capable. Looking to Isaiah, we see the spirit of duty
exemplified. When the Lord asks, Whom shall I send,
Isaiah stepped forward and answered, Here am I,
send me (Isaiah 6:8). Moses, Jeremiah, Jonah and Amos,
all saw themselves unfit to serve the Lord; yet, God encouraged and
groomed these men into leaders so they could fulfill his purposes.
A young man must understand the sense of duty to serve God as an
elder or a deacon or an evangelist trumps personal inhibitions.
In either circumstance, it behooves the
local congregation to seek and prepare young men to fill in the
future leadership needs in the kingdom of God.
We ought to remind our young men of the
perils of life which may disqualify them as future shepherds. Young
men need to realize the folly of sowing wild oats can set
down the framework for an unqualified life. Instead, the seeds of
a saintly character must reach the young mans heart. Habits in
the youth will produce men vigilant, sober, of good behavior,
peaceable, patient, and the like. Righting the ship of man comes
much easier in the pliable youth than in the firm and stubborn old
Certain qualifications might require
more emphasis on our part due to the prevalent lack of these
qualities among brethren of appointable age. The church
must not repeat the mistakes of the present and continue in this
drought of spiritual leadership.
We must emphasize the importance of a
strong, godly marriage. All across the brotherhood our young men
have entered into foolish and spiritually disastrous unions. A poor
decision in a wife, or a destructive affair in his youth, may
inhibit a man from being an elder if his past includes a shameful
divorce. The husband of one wife would not be such a
contentious qualification if our young men married right the first
Like Judah in the days of Jeremiah,
covetousness thrives in American society and the youth often heed
its deceptive Siren Song. We must teach, and exemplify, the
beautiful words of Hebrews 13:5-6. Let your conversation
be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye
have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not
fear what man shall do unto me. Seeds of covetousness
find the soft soil of a young mans heart and cause him to
become the forbidden lover of money. A man who never
learned to depend on the Lord in temporal affairs can hardly learn
to depend on the Lord when overseeing the church.
More subtle, but extremely detrimental
to the church, is an inability to teach and exhort. Entire
generations of men have gone their entire lives away from teaching
and instruction. When congregations look to them to pick up the
shepherds staff, their shortcomings in being apt to
teach and able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to
convince the gainsayers becomes glaringly obvious. Gods
presbytery must be not only educated in the Word, but also
experienced at instruction.
Being apt to teach implies
these men have shown themselves already capable teachers. We cannot
expect men of appointable age to suddenly become teachers
of the Word if never allowed or encouraged to do so in their
younger years. Paul rebuked the Hebrews for failing to develop
themselves as teachers. Unlike the babe who is unskillful in
the word of righteousness, teachers, in this case elders, are
those, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to
discern both good and evil (Heb. 5:13,14).
Congregations need to consider actively,
not passively, encouraging men of all ages to teach. This does not
necessarily imply sponsoring their attendance at a preaching
school. Individual congregations proved adequate sources of
instruction with our first century brethren. Even if these men
assume only the office of a deacon, or no office at all in their
lives, an educated and experienced brotherhood can only strengthen
the Lords body.
Our present universal lack of elders
cannot continue. A congregation with capable elders not only
advances in maturity, but it also places at the door of the
sheepfold, men able to ward off wolves and adequately feed the
Lords heritage entrusted to them. Our hope lies within the
hearts of the young men still capable of fashioning godly qualities
and avoiding errors which will take them out of future
consideration. More importantly, we must fervently pray to the Lord
of Hosts for men to rise up and take hold of this most important
Table of Contents
THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST
A DISTINCTIVE PLEA
Aaron M. M. Purvis
Most of the Christian world today
is characterized by being either Catholic or
Protestant. For many, consequently, it is seemingly
impossible for one to profess neither of the two, and yet still be
a Christian. People have become so accustomed to thinking
of Christianity in terms of Catholicism and
Protestantism that it has probably never occurred to them
that one can be a Christian without being either of the two.
However, God-fearing folk who comprise the churches of Christ have
for years been endeavoring to manifest a message of distinction
from this and many other common denominational sentiments: viz.,
that not only is it possible to be neither Catholic nor Protestant
and still be a Christian but that there are
actually millions of Christians only in this nation, and
in nations around the world, who belong to no denomination in
religion. Indeed, you can be just a Christian without being a part
of any denomination.
WHO ARE THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST?
Churches of Christ are autonomous
congregations of Christians who are striving simply to restore
Christianity as it is revealed in the New Testament. The term
church of Christ is not used in a sectarian sense, but is
intended to denote our desire to belong to Christ, and be members
of His church, which He said He would build (cf. Matt. 16:18). The
New Testament teaches that the church to which all Christians are
added (Acts 2:47) belongs to Christ. In Ephesians 5:23 we learn
that Christ is the head of the church: and he is the
savior of the body. Paul, in his letter to Christians
worshiping in Rome, said The churches of Christ salute
you (Rom. 16:16). It must be understood that this title
is not used as a proper name, but is instead a descriptive
expression which shows how the church relates to Christ. It is
Christs body, Christs church; and does not belong to, nor
wear the name of any other (man or otherwise) (see also I Cor.
12:27; Heb. 12:23; Acts 4:12). As afore-mentioned, members of the
church of Christ are like the disciples of Christ in the first
century, known as Christians (Acts 11:26), children
of God (Gal. 3:26), or a Christian (Acts 26:28; I
Peter 4:16), nothing more, nothing less (cf. Acts 4:12). Never does
a human name prefix this God-given distinction and, in fact,
abiding by humanly derived designations in religion is condemned by
the Scriptures (cf. I Cor. 1:10-17).
A DISTINCTIVE CREED
Most of the religious world binds upon
their adherents their own respective Creeds or Statements of Faith.
However, the church of Christ has no humanly contrived creed.
Church manuals, Disciplines, and all Articles of Faith created by
uninspired men are rejected, and the sole standard of authority in
religion by which men are to walk is the Word of God (Matt. 4:4).
DISTINCTIVE IN ORGANIZATION
The Bible is the inspired Word of God
(II Peter 1:21; I Cor. 2:13; I Thess. 2:13). It contains all
things that pertain unto life and godliness (II Peter 1:3) and
makes men completely furnished unto all good works (II
Tim. 3:16-17). There is no need to bind anything other than
Gods Word in order to serve God faithfully. The creeds and
catechisms of Protestantism and Catholicism are barriers to unity
rather than bastions for it. If the creed contains anything less
than what the Bible teaches, it contains too little. If it contains
anything more than what the Bible teaches, it contains too much.
And if it contains everything the Bible teaches, it is, in truth,
superfluous, for the Bible alone will suffice.
Following the pattern of organization in
the New Testament, churches of Christ are autonomous. In New
Testament times, each individual congregation, consisting of
elders, deacons, and saints (Phil. 1:1), made their decisions in
matters of faith and practice, according to the apostles
doctrine (Acts 2:42) and by the authority of, or in the
name of the Lord Jesus (Col. 3:17; Matt. 28:18-20). The
jurisdiction of elders did not extend beyond their home
congregation. Today, similarly, churches of Christ do not wait upon
a central headquarters, uninspired councils, conferences, or synods
to dictate what to believe and do and what not to believe and do.
Modern ecclesiastical machinery finds no support in the New
Testament and rests upon the doctrines and precepts of men, which
Christ describes as being vain religion (Matt. 15:1-9).
DISTINCTIVE IN WORSHIP
Members of the church of Christ today
worship the Lord in the same manner in which it did in the
Apostolic Era or first century. Hence, by merely
looking to the writings of the Apostles and prophets of the first
century (i.e. the Bible), one will discover the nature of pristine
Christian worship as employed by sound churches of Christ today.
Investigating the Scriptures, one will find that the worship of the
church consisted of singing (Col. 3:16-17), prayers
(Acts 2:42), teaching (Acts 2:42; 20:7), the
Lords Supper (Acts 20:7), and the contributions
of individual Christians on the first day of the week (I Cor.
16:1-2). Nothing more than this has been Divinely authorized, and
thus to innovate and add unto any of these is essentially to walk
by your own authority and to presumptuously sin (Gal. 1:6-9; Mark
7:6-8). Such sins lead to spiritual death (cf. Prov. 16:25; Rom.
A FINAL DISTINCTIVE PLEA
In a divided religious world, our
distinctive plea is based upon the religious unity for which Christ
prayed in John 17 by submitting to Gods Word. We entreat all
people to abandon all of the dark ages of corruption, discarding
humanly instituted names, creeds, and practices, and to forsake all
obstacles that divide men, and to be members of the Lords
church. Why is such important? Because the Lord has always called
for a restoration to His old paths (Jer. 6:16)
when digression occurs. He warns us not to go beyond what is
written (II John 9; I Cor. 4:6), nor to pervert the gospel of
Christ lest we be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9). Indeed, God
does not tolerate human innovations in religion for it is
not in man that walketh to direct his steps (Jer.
We therefore encourage all to allow the
Scriptures alone to be their guide in religion to accept the
evidence which confirms that the God of the Bible exists, that
Jesus Christ is His Divine Son, that the Bible is His perfect
law of liberty (James 1:25), being both absolute and
comprehensible in nature, and to be added to Christs church
(Acts 2:47) by submitting to heavens terms of salvation (cf.
Heb. 11:6; Luke 13:3; Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 2:38). We request your
solemn contemplation upon this plea.
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Table of Contents
THE MOST INCLUSIVE CHURCH
IN THE WORLD
Well, please tell me what church you are speaking about.
It is the church that was in the mind of God from the foundation of
the world (Eph. 3:10-11). It is the church that the Old Testament
prophets foresaw (Isa. 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-2). It is the church that
the Son of God promised he would build and the one he did build
(Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:1-47; Eph. 2:19-22). It is the church that is
built upon the bedrock truth expressed by the Apostle Peter that
Jesus is the Son of the Living God (Matt. 16:16). It is the church
that was purchased with the blood of the Lamb of God (Acts 20:28).
It is the church that was opposed by Satan and his
followers from its beginning (Job 1:7; Matt. 13:33-43; John
8:44). It is the church that was opposed and persecuted by powerful
religious leaders and by the chief of sinners (Matt. 23:1-39;
15:13; I Tim. 1:15). It is the church that has been despised and
ridiculed from its inception (Acts 8:1-3). It is the church
that has been scorned by the blind leaders of the blind (Matt.
But it is the church, the kingdom, the prophets saw
being established during the time of the Roman kingdom in Jerusalem
(Daniel 2:44). They said that it would spread throughout the world
and it did (Acts 1:8; 8:4). The founder of that church sent His
Ambassadors throughout the world to establish congregations and
they did so in their lifetime (Col. 1:23). It is the church that
invites one and all to come and be one in Christ (Mark 16:15-16;
Matt. 11:28-30). It is the church where no one is required to
submit to the doctrines of men (Matt. 15:8-9; I Tim. 1:3). It is
the church that is the bride of Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:2,9). It is
the church that is faithful to the bridegroom and to none other
(John 10:27). It is the only church authorized and approved by the
Creator (Eph. 4:4; 1:22-23; 5:23).
It is the church that worships God in spirit and in
truth (John 4:24). The church that honors his instructions and not
the will of man (Matt. 7:21-23; Heb. 5:8-8). It is the church that
adds nothing or takes away anything from Gods word (Rev.
22:18-19). It is the church that pleads for the unity of all
professed believers by following the instructions of its head
(I Cor. 1:10; John 17:20-21). It is the church that one may read
about in the Last will and testament of the Son of God (especially
the book of Acts). It is the church that no one will be excluded
from unless they exclude themselves (Acts 10:34-35).
It is the church that was foreshadowed by Noah and the
ark. God instructed Noah to build but one ark and it was to have
but one door. All who would be saved must enter that one ark by the
one door or perish. There may have been other ships built by the
people of the antediluvian world that they thought would save them
but they could not survive the chaos. Jesus said; I am
the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall
go in and out, and find pasture (John 10:9). Again Jesus
said; I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man
cometh unto the Father but by me (John 14:6). The Lord
and His church would include every person on earth, but sadly, men
exclude themselves. How about you?
And wouldnt you know that Satan and his agents
have deceived multitudes into falsely believing that the Lords
church is too exclusive. Just the opposite of the truth. But Jesus
said, You shall know the truth and the truth will make
you free (John 8:32). Did not our Lord in fact invite
all to come to Him? And, isnt it true that both the bride
(which is the Lords church) and the Spirit say,
Come? And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever
will, let him take of the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17).
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Table of Contents
CLAPPING OF HANDS
Is the clapping of hands ever acceptable in
a spiritual setting, or in response to spiritual things? In order
to deal with the various facets of this question, we must first
define what we mean by clapping the hands. Then we can deal with
if and when the practice would ever be acceptable in
connection with spiritual things.
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY CLAPPING?
There are two different things that both come under the
heading of clapping. 1) We can clap our hands in rhythm or to the
beat of music. 2) We can clap our hands in applause.
CLAPPING AS MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT
Clapping as an element of music, done to the beat or
rhythm of a song is not acceptable to God when it accompanies a
spiritual song. It is never appropriate in private or in public
worship, formal or informal assemblies, to sing praises to God
accompanied by the clapping of hands, because it is not authorized
CLAPPING AS APPLAUSE
Why? For the same reasons that instrumental music
is not an acceptable accompaniment for spiritual songs. Clapping is
instrumental music. The instrument is the hands. Since God only
authorizes vocal music, singing words that can teach and edify
(Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19), no other instruments are acceptable to him
(see also Leviticus 10:1-3).
Applause is an ambiguous thing. It does not have the
same meaning in every setting. Clapping had various meanings in
Spitefulness and derision. In Job 27:23; 34:37; Lamentations
2:15; Ezekiel 25:6; and Nahum 3:19, clapping hands has the
meaning of spite and derision toward a defeated enemy or
toward someone who has been cast down.
Joy. In Psalm 98:8 and Isaiah 55:12 applause was an
expression of joy, but without the emphasis on spitefulness
toward a defeated enemy. Note: in these two passages, it
is not man doing the clapping, but the personification of
floods and trees. II Kings 11:2 was also a time of
clapping. It accompanied the setting up of Joash as king,
and seemed to be a time of rejoicing.
Psalm 47:1 may be a combination of both of these ideas.
Clapping here is an expression of joy. But it is joy over a
fallen enemy, and therefore may also express spite toward
that fallen enemy.
Clapping also has various meaning in our society.
APPLAUSE and AUTHORIZATION
Applause is done to harass and distract. This is done often
at sporting events when the opposing team is about to
attempt a free throw or a field goal.
Applause is praise to a performer. Whether it is an athlete
for some physical feat, a singer, an actor/actress, or even
someone making a presentation or speech.
Applause is respect to a person. People applaud our
President. Even those on the other side of the aisle feel a
need to give respectful applause during the State of the
Similarly, applause can also express agreement or
endorsement of what someone has said during a speech or what
he has done. We may applaud a candidate who promises to
lower taxes, or we may applaud a man who wins a prize or
saves a child from a burning building.
Applause represents celebration and joy. At the end of a
wedding or at a wedding reception when the bride and groom
are introduced, people often celebrate and express their joy
We need to remember that the question of right and
wrong hinges on authority. It is not a matter of whether or not we
think applause is appropriate; the real question is whether or not
God has authorized applause. Colossians 3:17 demands that we
approach this question in this way.
APPLAUSE IN WORSHIP ASSEMBLIES
There is no authority to use applause in our worship
assemblies. Look at the list above: 1) Applause to harass or
distract would certainly not be appropriate. 2) Applause as praise
to a performer cannot be correct in worship because our worship is
to be praise to God, not to men. John 4:24 should remind us that
God is the audience in worship; worship is not done to entertain
us. 3) For this same reason we would not applaud in respect to a
person in our worship.
WHAT ABOUT APPLAUSE AT A BAPTISM?
Some have tried to introduce applause into our
worship assemblies under numbers 4) and/or 5) above the idea
that applause can be endorsement or agreement, or that it can be
done simply as a joyful response of celebration. The problem with
this is that our worship must be as God dictates. If we are going
to worship in truth (John 4:24), we do not have the right to
introduce things that seem appropriate to us. We are taught exactly
how to express endorsement or agreement in the formal setting of
worship. First Corinthians 14:16 talks about saying Amen
at the giving of thanks. Where is the New Testament verse that
talks about applauding?
Also, the two are not exactly parallel. Yes, there
are times when we use applause in our society to express something
similar to Amen. However, we can see there is a slight
difference. If someone preaches that it is a just thing for God to
punish those who persecute the church (II Thess. 1:6), I can say
Amen. But applause would just as clearly be out of place
as a response to the idea of Gods vengeance.
Yes, worship can at times be occasions of joy and
celebration. But it is a formal setting (see I Cor. 14), and it is
not suitable to turn it into a sporting event or pep rally
atmosphere. There is much to be joyful for in worship, but remember
that all of it has been purchased by the blood of Jesus. It is not
a light thing to be celebrated by a party atmosphere or
raucousness. We are to do all things decently and in order, for
this is a formal and serious setting. High fives are no
more appropriate in worship to God than cartwheels are.
There is never a time when applause is appropriate
in a worship setting. It is not authorized, and it is not suitable
for what worship is about.
Baptism is not worship. It is obedience and service,
but it is not worship. When someone requests baptism during our
worship assembly, in the spirit of the same day (Acts
2:41) or the same hour of the night (Acts 16:33) we may
end, or temporarily suspend our worship to take care of this
important matter. But baptism is not worship.
Does this mean that applause is appropriate in
response to a baptism? Can we use applause to celebrate or to
express our joy at the salvation of the soul? Certainly there is
great joy involved (Acts 8:39). Let me suggest some concerns about
clapping in response to a baptism:
Applause is ambiguous. Are we praising the person who is
doing the baptizing? Are we praising the person who is being
baptized? What exactly does our applause mean?
Baptism is a re-enactment of the death, burial, and
resurrection of Jesus, and it represents our own death to
sin (Rom. 6:1-6). While it is a joyful thing, it is also
very sobering, dealing not only with salvation, but with
somber matters. Is it appropriate to applaud at such things?
Does this lend itself to a proper appreciation of what is
going on, or does it distract from it?
In a society where people are selling out Bible practices
and Bible authorization for what feels good, excites the
senses, and pleasures us, with little to no regard for what
pleases God, shouldnt we be careful about doing
anything that appears to fall into this category?
Where is the Bible authorization for applause at this
serious moment? Worship is appropriate. Singing to express
our joy (James 5:13) is authorized. But where is any verse
of the New Testament that suggests that Christians can
respond to baptism as if it were a sporting event, a
political rally, or even a wedding? If applause is
appropriate, how about pompoms, cartwheels or fireworks?
Before we blindly say that applause in response to
a baptism is ok because baptism is not a formal worship assembly,
remember that it is a spiritual setting a setting that is
appropriate for worship a setting that is not appropriate to
simply give in to hype and sensationalism for the pleasing and
exciting of the senses.
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Brethren, I am in contact with a small church in Chillicothe,
Texas, that is in need of a preacher. However, they are unable to
support a man with a family. They are seeking a man who is on
social security. They have a building which was built in 1980 and
provide a good house for the preacher. I still appreciate the work
you do with STOP. You can contact me for more information
...Jerry Brewer, email@example.com, Elk City, OK. The
Weaver church of Christ, which is a SOUND congregation of about 55
Christians in the friendly small town of Weaver (near Anniston,
Alabama) is looking for a minister. If interested, please call
Ralph Hammett at 256-435-4884 for more information; and send
resumes to: Weaver church of Christ, c/o Ralph Hammett, P.O. Box
191, Jacksonville, AL 36265 ...Ralph Hammett,
Jacksonville, AL. Here are some interesting facts that
proponents of abortion need to consider. The immune system of the
mother detects foreign tissue in the body and immediately
sets up a defence against it. In 1998, researchers at the Medical
College of Georgia, Augusta, USA, found that the embryo produces a
special enzyme, called indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase, or IDO. This
suppresses the mothers T-cell reaction and allows pregnancy to
proceed. Follow up research has shown that the IDO is produced on
the embryo side of the placental membrane and not on the
mothers side. IDO peaks during the formation of the placenta
the most crucial time for establishing the link between
mother and child. Only by suppressing the mothers T-cells can
the infant begin to grow. It is interesting that IDO production
kicks in on day 6 of the infants growth. Why day 6? This is
because on day 7 the baby will attach itself to the mothers
womb so it can begin getting nourishment from the mother. The
mothers body will not reject the baby but accept it. This
interaction proves that the baby is not a part of the mother but a
separate entity that protects itself. Such an arrangement could not
have evolved. It had to be in place from the beginning. Psalm
139:13, tells us that God did knit me together in my mothers
womb. (Creation, September/November, 2005, p.19-20)
...Mark McWhorter, Pell City, AL. May the Lord bless you
in the work you do for His church. Im grateful I have been
blessed with the means to support you in the wok of Seek The
Old Paths ...Ron Shandor, Death Valley, CA. May
God bless you in your continued endeavor to keep the Lords
church aware of the false teachers and doctrines that continues to
threaten the people of the Lords church. It is great how you
continue to stand firm for the teachings and scriptural doctrine of
the Lords church. May God bless you each one and bless the
work you do in His name ...Karen Plew, Mt. Morris, MI.
My reason in writing this is in reference to a letter by
C. J. Rimmer in which he states that if we would stop whipping
a dead horse and spend more time praying for individuals who
have strayed from the pure gospel, perhaps we could bring
them back to the fold. I could not agree with him more as we are
instructed to try to win back those who have lost their way.
However, as it states in I Corinthians, there comes a time when
those who refuse to return need to be cut off as a brother. Many
brothers have attempted to talk to individuals like Rubel Shelly,
Jeff Walling and Max Lucado (among others in the movement seeking
to modify the New Testament), all to no avail. Rubel has declined
numerous offers to debate/defend his position publicly. I have
contacted the elders at Mr. Lucados congregation (the
church of Max as we like to call it here) myself but they kept
sending me to their Missions Statement on their website.
I responded with efforts to question many of their revisions to
the church but they chose to ignore my emails after that.
This has gone on with many who have tried to win all of these
individuals back. Maybe (and hopefully) someday they will return.
Maybe someday they will finally realize the error they are
preaching; but for now, after many attempts that have fallen on
deaf ears, we are to acknowledge them as false teachers like the
New Testament so fervently instructs ...Texas. I
would like to thank you for holding to the form of sound words. May
God bless all your endeavors to expand the borders of our
Lords kingdom. Would you please add me to your mailing
list ...Bill Tester, Mountain City, TN. The West
Jefferson church of Christ in North Carolina is pleased to announce
that we have secured the services of Doug Frazier to fill the
position of preacher here. Doug is originally from South Carolina
and is a 2004 graduate of the Central Carolina School of Preaching.
He has previously served as the Associate Minister at the
Warners Chapel church in Clemmons, NC. Doug is 25 years old.
We ask that you keep Doug and the work here in your prayers. Please
help us welcome him to our area ...Mark Miller, West
Jefferson, NC. Could you please send a bundle of 10 to
Tatum church of Christ. I think there are many here who would like
to read it. Thank you very much ...Charles Ivie, Tatum,
NM. I recently found your web-site and have been
listening to WSOJ-LP every chance I get. It is great to put faces
and voices with some of the material that I have been reading for
years. It is greatly appreciated and needed today. Is it possible
to get an audio copy of the lesson by Leroy Brownlow
Preserving The Truth? I have some that would love to hear
it but have no access to a computer. Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks again ...Stan Owens. [NOTE: Anyone can hear these
lessons at www.wsoj.net. We have more than 3,500 lessons available.
You can search for a certain speaker or subject.] Thought
I would let you know we have moved to Michigan and working with the
Flat Rock Church of Christ, (734) 782-2886, Box 12, 24745 E. Huron
River Drive, Flat Rock, MI 48134, firstname.lastname@example.org
...Douglas & Linda Hoff, Flat Rock, MI. May God be with
and bless you as you work for the church there. Its really
great to receive STOP. Thank you very much ...Ronald &
Ruth Shandor, Death Valley, CA. We are writing in regards
to your STOP publication. We would like to get on your mailing
list. We pick up the publication each time we go up to Gatlinburg,
TN. Brother Mack receives it there at the church of Christ. We
enjoy the articles very much ...M/M Lofton Mayes,
Nashville, TN. Its always a pleasure to receive the
STOP paper. Im very encouraged by all the articles. Thank you
for not compromising. Wish I could send a large contribution for
all of your great work in the name of our Lord and Savior, but I
hope that this small amount will at least help some with the
postage ...Sue McDaniel, Eddy, TX.
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