Is applause allowed in the church or outside it?

I received a question about applause in the church:

In our church there was a question that has led to many disagreements and debates with quite convincing arguments from both sides. Unfortunately, we have not reached common ground. The question is if applause is allowed in church and outside it? Thanks in advance.

The guidance of Christians in making decisions in everyday life is the Bible – the Word of God. Therefore, let us see what the Bible has to say on this subject.

The applause is an expression of joy of the righteous

Joash, the son of Ahaziah was hidden for six years in the house of the Lord not to be killed by Athaliah. After this time, the priest Jehoiada anointed him as king before the people and it was thus:

Then he brought the king’s son out and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony; and they made him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!” (2 Kings 11:12)(NASB)

By clapping hands the people and Jehoiada expressed their joy on the occasion of making Joash king and eliminating the tyranny of Athaliah.

Prin aplauze se exprimă bucuria

Job says in one of his speeches about the fall of the evil man:

Men will clap their hands at him and will hiss him from his place. (Job 27:23)(NASB)

And when the prophet Nahum wrote about the fall of Nineveh and Assyria as follows:

There is no relief for your breakdown, your wound is incurable all who hear about you will clap their hands over you,
for on whom has not your evil passed continually? (Nahum 3:19)(NASB)

The prophet Isaiah also uses an interesting personification to show how great would be the joy at the restoration of God’s people and writes:

For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)(NASB)

The wicked also express their joy by clapping hands

When the prophet Jeremiah was crying for Jerusalem after its fall and destruction, he writes that the enemies were expressing their joy for the misfortune of the people of God by clapping hands:

All who pass along the way clap their hands in derision at you; they hiss and shake their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem, “Is this the city of which they said, The perfection of beauty, a joy to all the earth’?” (Lamentations 2:15)(NASB)

The applause – a part of worship to God

A Psalm of the sons of Korah begin as follows:

O clap your hands, all peoples; shout to God with the voice of joy. For the LORD Most High is to be feared, a great King over all the earth. (Psalms 47:1-2)(NASB)

The author of Psalm 98 urges even the creation to worship God in this way and writes:

Let the sea roar and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy before the LORD, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity. (Psalms 98:7-9)(NASB)

From the biblical texts we can not conclude that clapping hands is in itself a sin or a practice forbidden by God. The intent of heart and motivation of clapping hands is crucial to God. We wonder then …

Why have disagreement and debate appeared in churches about clapping?

I think there were some reasons. In the years of communism and atheism formalism and unspeakable hypocrisy reigned. People were constantly forced to applaud the leaders of the party and the applause was rarely sincere. The applause was a form of worship that party leaders were demanding to themselves and to their idols Marx, Lenin and Engels .

It might be an argument of those who oppose the applause the fact that they are not mentioned as part of the first Christians’ worship or that they would have expressed their joy in this way. However, we have no biblical basis and reason to categorize applauses as a sinful practice. Today, applause is an expression of joy and appreciation and if everyone expresses appreciation for someone or something like that and we separate ourselves by not clapping our hands, people communicate through this that we do not rejoice nor appreciate the things that deserve joy and appreciation. God urges us to behave with wisdom in all things and tells us:

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. (Colossians 4:5)(NASB)

Do not create opportunity for friction in the church!

The Bible says there are “doubtful things”, regarding which we have different opinions, but they are not so important and essential to separate us from each other. Here’s what the Apostle Paul writes about this topic:

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:1-4)(NASB)

The applause are not mentioned here, in this list of doubtful opinions, but I consider that they are in this category. Therefore, let us apply the principle left by the Apostle Paul, that says:

Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Romans 14:16-19)(NASB)

God help you overcome these debates and disagreements that you have now in the church, so that you can join your efforts together to build your soul and to preach the Gospel in the city where you are from and wherever God calls you to do.

Translated by Felicia Rotaru