Raising Hands

Raising Hands

One frequently sees people raise one or both hands while singing, listening to preaching/teaching, etc., in denominations today.  Could this practice be related to “raising holy hands” in the Bible?

No, for several reasons.

First, “lifting up holy hands” was said specifically to be done while praying, not while singing or while listening to preaching, etc., and only by males, not by both men and women as is seen in denominations (1 Tim. 2:8).

Hands lifted

Is your practice authorized in the Bible?

Secondly, “lifting up holy hands” is likely an expression Paul got from the Old Testament practice of raising one’s hands while praying (1 Kings 8:22; Ps. 28:2; Is. 1:15).  Yet, the Bible also records people praying while standing (1 Sam. 1:26), kneeling (1 Kings 8:54), prostrate (1 Kings 18:42), with bowed head (Gen. 24:26), and with uplifted eyes (John 17:1).  Thus, it’s clear that a particular posture in prayer is not a binding pattern.

Thirdly, literally speaking there are no such things as “holy hands.”  “Lifting up holy hands” is a figure of speech known as the synedoche (the part put for the whole.)  “Holy hands” stands for a holy person, just as “haughty eyes” refers to a haughty person and “lying lips” refers to a liar.

Fourthly, and related to the last point, those in denominations cannot truly lift up holy hands because they are not truly holy people.  Only Christians are holy (sanctified, set apart), and people in denominations are not Christians according to the New Testament definition (John 17:17, 20-23; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4-5; 2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The point being made in 1 Timothy 2:8 is that men who lead in worship must be holy men.  Wayne Jackson points out that while there is nothing inherently wrong with men raising their hands when they pray in the public assembly, one should still be cautious about the practice for several reasons, namely the possibility of leaving the impression that one is inclined either towards the emotional, charismatic worship of the Pentecostals and others like them or the more emotionalistic, less reverential worship found in more liberal congregations, and also the possibility that doing so might create a distraction for others as they are trying to worship.  While these are all judgment factors, a wise Christian might want to reflect upon them.

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