POINTS TO CONSIDER
May 1, 1987 Issue
In this article I would like to address three areas of special interest, all of which are having a direct as well as an indirect influence in the church. They are 1) Holding hands and praying, 2) Public confession of sins by Christians, and 3) Changing the order of the Lords day worship services.
(1) HOLDING HANDS AND PRAYER
Often Christians get together privately, form what is called a prayer circle, and each in turn pray audibly. I am opposed to this for the following reasons:
1) It is a non-spiritual act. Any normal man holding hands with a beautiful girl is going to think about her - or lie. Also, hand holding involves married people not married to one another holding hands for extended lengths of time.
2) It is designed to pressure those who have a conscience against hand holding to either go against their conscience or become the odd person out. It makes those who do not join in look "unspiritual." Those who continue to refuse to participate are different and either eventually join in or quit the session. No one can remain neutral. At a meeting I attended in Zimbabwe at the Sunday School church a few years ago everyone was encouraged to join in a "love circle" after baptism. Those who didn't were considered "unloving." We didn't join in, plus one other man.
3) Women do not pray audibly (should not be encouraged to do so) in the presence of Christian men. We are living in a unisex, women lib, era. Even in a family situation the man always takes charge, say at the table. Women may not pray everywhere (I Tim 2:8), and may not usurp, have dominion, or in any way rule over a man in spiritual matters (I Tim 2:11-12). This dominate role must always be emphasized. See I Cor 11:2-16.
4) Families who hold hands to pray live in a non-sexual environment, but even then hand holding should not be forced or over encouraged.
5) Holding hands has no scriptural precedent. and is a modern day phenomenon based in Pentecostalism. It always has the "flavor" and often leads to it.
In conclusion, I in all sincerity ask why hand holding prayer sessions are held? I also wonder, how long now will it be before we find hand holding prayer sessions being practiced In the public worship services?
(2) PUBLIC CONFESSION OF SINS BY CHRISTIANS
It has been asked, is there scriptural precedent for this practice? I believe there is. First, though, confession of sins is not under consideration. We are well aware of James 5:16, which says: "Confess your faults (sins) one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Then the apostle John plainly states to Christians: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (I John 1:8-10). But the question is, can we tie this matter of confession of sins into a public confession also?
In Acts, chapter 19, we have Paul at Ephesus. The early part of the chapter tells us how the work began. After three months Paul was no longer able to teach in the Jewish synagogue because many 'were hardened, and BELIEVED NOT, but spake evil of that way..." (V. 9). Thus a scriptural division took place. Paul proved the truth of the gospel for two more years by "special miracles." About this time (v. 13), certain traveling Jews, exorcists, decided to use Paul's formula for the expulsion of demons. When they tried it, some of them were badly beaten by a man possessed of an evil spirit (w. 15-16). This proved these Jews were not of God. It also sent a clear signal throughout the Christian community concerning the use of "curious arts", or magic.
Notice carefully now verses 17 and 18: "And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all (remember the case of Ananias and Sapphira in chapter 5), and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And MANY THAT BELIEVED (Christians) (as opposed to those who BELIEVED NOT, v. 9) came, AND CONFESSED, and showed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them BEFORE ALL MEN: and they (the believers) counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver." Confessed here means: "forth from the heart, freely, openly or publicly, openly" (Thayer, p. 224).
The situation having to do with the Jewish exorcists convinced the Christian community that they had better shape up, and to prove their repentance the Christians made a PUBLIC CONFESSION.
The result of this righteous confession was: "So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed" v. 20.
(3) REARRANGING WORSHIP SERVICES
There seems to be a strong desire to change things, in this case the worship services, lest we be tradition bound. Thus, one "tradition" is substituted for another. Others think a change makes the services more spiritual. I disagree with both points. First, a congregation should decide upon a pattern for the worship and stay with it, unless there is a good reason for change. There is real merit in people being fully aware of what is coming next, without having to be bewildered, and in some cases even having to have a program schedule. But the question is, why all the changes? What is the real reason behind it?
I have personally worshiped with about every conceivable combination when it comes to the items of worship, and I have never once suggested a change might be in order. If that is what the church wants, then that is their decision to make. For the years I was in Australia they had the Lords supper before the lesson. I certainly didn't think it my place to begin Americanizing or rearranging things.
But it is becoming popular here in the States to rearrange the worship services, and this is generally done by putting the Lords supper before the teaching. To me, this change does not make the services more spiritual, and it could indeed make them less spiritual. First, it invariably upsets some brethren. For them it is not more spiritual. Second, though, it is not more scriptural, and indeed could be even less so, if one desired to push the point. In both Acts 2:42 and Acts 20:7 the Lords supper came AFTER THE TEACHING.
Even in everyday affairs the most important event is NEVER placed first. Incidentals and less important people come first. Only a few loose ends are tied up after the main event.
Besides the scriptures given above, history teaches the following: "The service of worship in the early churches was plain and simple, consisting of prayer, the reading of the Scriptures, hymns, and preaching. Gradually, how ever, the service was transformed..." (Civilization, past and present, Third edition, Scott and Forseman, p. 232).
Other OPA Article Links:
Order Of Worship;
Confession- of Sin
More 'Points to Consider' by John Fisher
Jerry Cutter 1987 OPA Main Page Home