BY ELDER DAVID COLEMAN
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
The Scriptures are replete with references to worship. Mankind is exhorted and commanded to worship God, the heavenly host worships Him, and nature itself bows to His majesty. He alone is to be worshiped and no one arrogating that worship to oneself or another will escape His judgment. Sincerity and obedience are necessary elements of true worship for God abhors feigned honor.
Biblical worship is also manifested in various ways (shouting, clapping, dancing, etc.) which some consider unjustified by New Testament (NT) standards. It is the intent of this article to address
some of those concerns and to more closely examine the Biblical justification for what is commonly known as “Pentecostal”.
The premise underlying the objection that certain forms of worship are not warranted by the NT is that any form of justified worship must be explicitly delineated by the Scriptures if it is to be
accepted by the Church today. Underlying that premise is the assertion that any church-related activity not specifically practiced by NT believers is to be rejected. In addition, such behavior must be endorsed by our Lord and the Apostles in order for us to legitimately lay claim to being Apostolic.
While this approach may have intuitive appeal, it is an insufficient guide for determining Biblical doctrine.
The NT contains many general statements which require its readers to “rightly divide” its contents in order to obtain understanding of the text. Notice I Timothy 1: 9-10: “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;” (bold emphasis added), and “Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” (Gal. 5:21) In other words, there are sins not cited that would violate the principle being taught
in these passages. The fact that many sins are not listed does not imply God’s approval of those activities. Identifying a principle requires an interpretation that goes beyond local specific words
prohibiting or advancing a particular practice (e.g., direct references to marijuana). It is not enough to fall legally within the lines; one must be faithful to the precepts as well. I am not attempting to engage in a full-blown discussion of hermeneutics; it suffices to note that only following that which is explicitly stated is not a Biblical teaching.
To further illustrate: There are many sinful conventions not specifically prohibited in the Bible, e.g., watching television, taking hallucinogenic drugs, using pornography, smoking cigarettes and listening to rock music. Consistency would dictate allowing these things in our assemblies if we espouse standard logical analysis of the Scriptures. One could argue that if the Bible doesn’t specifically ban smoking, one is not entitled to preach against it; if the Bible doesn’t specifically ban ballroom dancing, it is illegitimate to preach against it. Such an approach actually fosters hypocrisy and worldliness because it encourages souls to adhere to the lines while breaking the principles. Imagine a man who will not wear gold or pearls (I Tim. 2:9; I Pet. 3:3) but will wear all the silver, diamonds and rubies he can put on his body because the NT doesn’t explicitly ban them. Like King Saul, he will insist he is keeping the commandments of the Lord while actually breaking them.
To cite another example: Tithing is not explicitly taught by the Apostles as a doctrine. Jesus mentioned tithing while the Old Covenant was still in effect and the writer of Hebrews referred to giving tithes while discussing Melchizedek. To be certain, giving tithes is implied in these passages and others such as-II Cor. 9:7-14. But implication is not explication. The teaching that all church members must tithe is based on Old Testament (OT) passages used in conjunction with verses in the NT which imply the continuation of that practice. Is such an approach warranted? Of course. But this approach cannot be consistently employed while one is arguing that OT verses are irrelevent to NT teaching and that church doctrine must be explicitly stated in the NT before we can advance it. The references implying the giving of tithes and the principle established by OT passages justifies calling tithing a NT doctrine. In short, one must abandon many Scriptural teachings if
one abandons interpretive methods that identify principles which establish spiritual guidelines for godly living.
With these considerations in mind, we now move to a direct analysis of NT passages (and, as we shall see, OT references which are directly relevant to this subject) which describe the form of worship in the first century.
“And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. And as He went, they spread their clothes in the way. And when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him, Master, Rebuke thy disciples. And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:35-40) Contrary to the objection of the Pharisees, the Lord
did not rebuke His disciples from worshiping in such a manner. In fact, if they hadn’t worshiped as they did, the stones would have begun to cry out (shriek, scream).
We read in Luke 10:21, “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.” The word translated “rejoiced” in this passage literally means to “jump for joy.” In fact, the same word is used in I Peter 1:X, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Notice again, “And Mary arose in those days, and went to the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth had heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with Holy Ghost.” (Luke 1:39-41) The desire to worship our Creator is so powerful that even an unborn baby would leap for joy in his mother’s womb due to the presence of God.
From the book of Acts we read: “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” (Acts 3:6-8) If physical healing can produce such exuberant joy, why is it farfetched for spiritual healing to produce the same kind of joy? Which is better: To be healed of a physical infirmity or to have ones name written in heaven? (Luke 10:20)
So far, we have observed that praising God with a loud voice and jumping for joy are valid NT practices. Reasonable questions to ask are: Where did these practices originate? Did man “invent” this style of worship or does God desire us to worship Him in that manner? Let’s look at Rev. 19:1-6: “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are His judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshiped God that set on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it
were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Verse one of this passage reveals this event takes place in heaven. We see from verse six that the praise is so loud, John compares it to the voice of many waters and as the voice of mighty thunderings!
True worship and praise transcend dispensations and earthly covenants. The worship we see manifested in Apostolic churches is characteristic of worship in heaven. Before man was created, the sons of God shouted for joy. (Job 38:7) Isaiah described his vision of angelic worship thus: “And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him who cried, and the house was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6: 3,4) The numerous OT passages describing the demonstrative aspect of praise, therefore, is not to be taken as a “type” to be fulfilled by the New Covenant. It simply coincides with heavenly worship. Instead of a cessation, we rather see a continuation of the same manner of worship in the NT church.
References to clapping, shouting, dancing, singing and playing musical instruments are found in the OT-especially Psalms. To argue that we should refrain from doing the same is without Scriptural justification. Demonstrative worship is found in the NT and we are informed in both testaments that such worship takes place in heaven. Although clapping and dancing are not specifically mentioned in the NT, demonstrative worship is. Asserting that such a specific reference must be found, as argued above, actually encourages the sinful activity some claim to oppose. It is therefore illegitimate to aver that God intended such worship to be restricted to OT Israelites.
The subject addressed in this article is vast and I have only scratched the surface. It is acknowledged that many, many churches abuse worship and some in the Apostolic ranks place so much emphasis on “crowd reaction” that they neglect to address areas of vital need. Carnal people do NOT need to shout, they need to repent. However, abuse comes in all forms and if “abuse” is the standard by which we throw out worship, we might as well throw out preaching for that is probably the most abused activity in the Church. Of course, the appropriate reaction is to eliminate the abuse without eliminating the precious gifts that God has given us including “old time” Pentecostal praise.
Elder David Coleman pastors Christ Temple Apostolic Church in Puyallup, Washington
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY APOSTOLIC STANDARD, SEPTEMBER 1999, VOLUME 32, NUMBER 9, PAGES 3, 4. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.