Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 28, 1963
NUMBER 46, PAGE 1,12a

Not So Funny

James W. Adams

Wholesome humor is the spice of life.... the frosting on the cake of human relationships. Some things that pass for humor, however, are not so funny and leave us cold. It would appear that some regard a "cute" remark that will elicit a guffaw from an audience as argument and exegesis. Mr. Disraeli once remarked in a political controversy with Mr. Gladstone that his opponent was "inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity." It seems at times that some are literally satiated with the success of their own superficialities in the realm of Bible truth. The uninformed often have difficulty in distinguishing between ridicule and reason.

For some time now there has been an outbreak of rash criticisms of certain practices of brethren and churches. It is alleged that they emanate from "independent thinking." We have heard them rejected with such an air of profundity, such a ring of authority, and such an expression of scorn for that which they attack as to imply illiteracy or imbecility of any who would dare think differently. Many of these criticisms which are viewed by "the independent thinkers" as original are but ancient errors and quibbles often raised in the past and as often discarded.

An example of what we are talking about is the ridicule of the practice of brethren raising a hand toward heaven when baptizing a penitent believer who has "confessed with his mouth the Lord Jesus." By way of impressing audiences with their wit as well as their wisdom, these teachers facetiously ask concerning the practice, "What are they doing? waving at the audience?"

To us, the act of baptizing a scriptural candidate "into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" is one of the most sacred and solemn acts that can be performed upon this sin-cursed earth. We believe, therefore, that the occasion of the performance of this act is worthy of all the dignity, reverence, and solemnity of which we are capable. An act or attitude that will enhance the sacredness and solemnity of the occasion is to us, not only proper, but eminently desirable.

We have been seeing people baptized all our lives. We have seen some of the best Bible students, the most consecrated Christians, and the most able gospel preachers of our time baptized. As best we can recall, each raised his hand to heaven in connection with the performance of the act. Somehow or other, it never occurred to us that these men were making themselves ridiculous or performing a ludicrous act. To our unsophisticated mind it seemed then, and does now, a most appropriate and deeply reverential action. The comic aspects of the situation evade us. Ah! how much of the mirth of life is lost to him whose mind is not tuned-in on the high frequency of the "independent thinker."

The fact of the matter is that the practice of raising the hand or hands toward heaven in connection with the performance of acts of great solemnity and reverence has Bible sanction both in the Old and New Testaments. It seems asinine to us, therefore, that it should be held up to ridicule by a mere twentieth century "independent thinker." Abram lifted up his hand in connection with the making of a solemn oath to God. (Gen. 14:22) Aaron lifted up his hand in pronouncing a divine blessing upon the people in connection with the offering of sacrifices to God. (Lev. 9:22) David lifted up his hand toward God when he prayed: "Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle." (Ps. 28:2) He blessed God in connection with the lifting up of his hands. (Ps. 83:4) Servants of the Lord are urged to "Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord." (Ps. 134:2) Jeremiah urged the apostate Jews of his day to lift up their hands toward God in connection with a petition to spare their young children from the calamities that were to come upon the nation. (Lam. 2:19) In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul says, "I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." (1 Tim. 2:8) We recognize that Paul is enjoining holiness upon those who would worship God, but his manner of expressing his thought is taken from the practice of lifting up hands in prayer. Dr. R. C. Lenski in his well known commentary says regarding this verse: "Lifting up holy hands, etc., is only an incidental addition regarding the proper outer and inner attitudes of the men who lead the congregations in prayer....One stands in the presence of superiors; one stretches out the hands when pleading, and since God is always above us, the hands are lifted up....'

It seems to us that there are enough aberrations from the Divine order in our day of digression to occupy all of the energy and time of us all without manufacturing spurious criticisms. The fecund thought process of "independent minds" are spawning progeny that are being nurtured into maturity by the uninformed and unstable and the full grown offsprings and monstrous agitators of strife and confusion and every evil work. Brethren, "independence" is one thing; unbridled license is another.

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