Holy Hands and Pursuing Peace:
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 1 Timothy 2:8 KJV
The Bible speaks about the lifting up of holy hands. This discussion was a favorite of mine early in ministry and I did much study concerning it to compile a preacings series called "Worship: Our Measured Response." However, I wanted to share a few of my notes with you.
Today, most Christian groups would consider "lifting holy hands" an awkward practice. Some of our seeker sensitive types might think it is definitely "out of order". Ironically, the accepted way of prayer among Jews, even most pagans, and the earliest Christians was using the uplifting of arms and hands. In Old Testament times, prayers were made with the face pointed toward heaven and palms turned upward with the hands outstretched. This conveyed humble requests and a longing for God's blessing or divine intervention. (1) Interestingly enough, these "hands" could not just be casual or unclean, they had to be "clean" before God.
In context of what Timothy may have been experiencing in Ephesus, the outward forms (e.g. lifted holy hands) of prayer needed to be confirmed by the absence of anger or argument. Paul, here, is very concerned with the spiritual life of the Ephesians. It was, much like our's, in the sense that much of the churches "overall effectiveness" was being undermined by ineffective prayers and divisive teaching. If individuals should be from anger and quarreling while praying, how much more should those who are offering the prayer on behalf of others?
Obviously, submission is a crucial element here. It is a submission to God and the Plan of God. Notice these translations of Hebrews 12:14:
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (KJV)
Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord." (NET)
Let it be your ambition to live at peace with all men and to achieve holiness 'without which no man shall see the Lord'." (J.B. Phillips)
"Constantly be eagerly seeking after peace with all, and holiness, without which (holiness) no one shall see the Lord." (Kenneth Wuest)
I can only wish this verse was the "end all" of our current dilemma's but there are always differing views as well as clever "spins" on what some texts of Scripture should say. It is not my intent to point out, in the O'Reilly fashion, who is "spinning" or not but it is simply to point us to three very important things:
1. Peace. As vessels of truth we should strive for peaceable relations with all people, at all times. Easier said than done, but we must always strive to do better. Peace is exactly what is needed when persecution is prevalent or when some are defecting from the faith and when our nerves are not made of steel. That is why the writer of Proverbs speaks,
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1 NKJV)
I think this is something all of us should consider.The KJV rendered : "follow peace". Kenneth Wuest has this insight I thought worth sharing:
"The word “follow” is the translation of dioko, “to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing, to run after, to press on.” It is used of one who in a race runs swiftly to reach the goal (Phil. 3:12 “follow after”). Used in a metaphorical sense it means ”to pursue, to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire.” The word is seen, therefore, to have a sense of urgency about it, of intensity of purpose." (2)
I believe that we have failed to "have a sense of urgency" in peace making. I think too many of us have been so consumed with "piece making" i.e. dividing the Body of Christ into "pieces".
2. Holiness. John MacArthur stated, "Unbelievers will not be drawn to accept Christ if believers’ lives do not demonstrate the qualities God desires, including peace and holiness." (3) Holiness, no matter how you may define it, will always end up as meaning human expressions of Godly qualities. This includes the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) as well.
We should remember the prior statments about "follow" whose same intensity also applies to the pursuit or following of holiness as well. Holiness should be as eagerly sought after as is peace with all men. In our conflict with the world, we must seek peace, but we must not do so at the expense of sacrificing or dispensing with holiness. Holiness here is hagiasmos which is the basic term.
3. Read Hebrews 12:14-5 together. Remember there were no verse numbers originally.
"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: [15 ]looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;" (NKJV)
The NKJV renders this "looking carefully". The Greek word here does not refer only to oversight by a superior but one of taking constant care and looking out for danger. This is what must be done to avoid the "fall short" of God's grace and to not allow bitter roots to crop up and destroy both those falling short and those who are to be watching, and looking carefully. In such times as ours we must be careful that we do not damage those in the Body just as much as we seek to evangelize a lost world. We must pursue peace and holiness.
1. IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)
2. Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English reader (Heb 12:14). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 3. MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Heb 12:14). Nashville: Word Pub."
3. MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson publishers, pg. 1920