“Old Way Isn’t The Only Way”

The words above are the title of an article recently written in The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, Tennessee (Sunday January 31, 2010). It discussed a number of things related to doctrinal practices among churches of Christ. The writer said, “Since the late 1800’s, Churches of Christ, one of Tennessee’s largest faith groups, have believed their approach to church – singing without instruments in worship, interpreting the Bible literally, taking Communion weekly and banning women from church leadership – was God’s way.” It was further stated, “In recent years, congregations like Otter Creek have adopted a more progressive view of their faith. They’ve added instruments to church services on Sunday nights and during the week.” The use of instrumental music in worship service was the main point discussed in this story.

The real issue is does one have Bible authority for the use of instrumental music in worship service unto the Lord? We can’t serve God just anyway we desire and still please Him. In the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman in John 4, He said, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (vv. 23 & 24). Our worship must be from the heart and according to the truth. If it lacks either of these elements, it would not be acceptable to Him.

There are three ways to establish and apply Bible authority; by a statement or a direct command, an approved apostolic example, or by something being implied from the text. Please carefully consider this controversy (instrumental music) to see if the use of such in our worship service is authorized by God. Can we establish from the New Testament that the early church was sanctioned to use such?

Can we find a statement or a command for the use of a piano, organ, or even a five piece band (which some are using today)? If it is there, I have never read it. That was one thing conspicuously absent from this article in The Tennessean, no Scripture cited for the use of such. I find a number of verses that command us to sing. Look at Ephesians 5:19, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Here is a list of other New Testament verses that mention singing, Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts16:25; Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:13; Revelation 5:9; 14:3; and 15:3.

Is there an example of a New Testament church that ever used an instrument as they worshipped God in song? Not that I have read about! The church at Colosse was instructed to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). They were told what to sing, psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; admonished how to sing, with grace in their hearts. Not only was their song service to be directed toward the Lord, it was also to teach and encourage one another.

When examining the New Testament, is there a passage that would imply the instrument is authorized? Where would it be? Some contend the word “melody” (Greek – Psallo) used in Ephesians 5:19 implies the use of the instrument. W. E. Vine defines this word as, “primarily to twitch, twang, then, to play a stringed instrument with the fingers, and hence in the Septuagint, to sing with a harp, sing psalms, denotes in the New Testament, to sing a hymn, sing praise; in Ephesians 5:19, “making melody”” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 740). Thayer, in his Lexicon, gives a very similar definition to this word. Those at Ephesus were told what to pluck or twang; it was the heart strings as they sung those psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to the Lord. In the New Testament it simply meant to sing, not to play.

Adam Clark, a Methodist preacher and writer of Clark’s Commentary, said, “Music, as a science, I esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor” (Clark’s Commentary Vol. IV, p. 684). Charles Spurgeon, a famous Baptist preacher, was quoted as saying, “I would as soon attempt to pray to God with machinery as to sing to Him with machinery.” You can see from these quotes that even those among some of the largest denominations in our nation, in days gone by, rejected the use of instrumental music in worship service. Why? Do you think they recognized there was no Biblical authority for such? I believe so!

The use of instruments in our worship, is it progressive or digressive? It might be progressive in the eyes of men, but it is digressive in the eyes of God. We better be concerned about pleasing God, not others. Paul said, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

By Jimmy R. Mickells

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