Instruments of music in the worship service violate the law of faith. You remember in II Corinthians 5:7, the apostle Paul said “We walk by faith, not by sight.” When you have instruments of music in the worship, is this by faith or is it by sight? If anyone seeks to justify this practice, they will not turn to a Scripture telling them to use instruments of music, authorizing them to use it or even permitting them to use it.
“But sanctity the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give
an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with
meekness and fear: Having a good conscience, that, whereas they speak evil of
you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation
in Christ” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
This is a question that is often asked by visitors. As a matter of fact, I suppose this would be the most striking difference in a worship service at a church of Christ and a worship service conducted by another religious group.
This difference is deliberate, not simply for the reason of being different, but because of certain basic and fundamental principles involved. Why do members of the church of Christ not use instrumental music in worship? Let's approach this calmly, sanely, and scripturally. I would like for everyone to agree in his own heart to think very carefully with us concerning this issue. It isn't something we can just say, “Oh, that doesn't matter.” It isn't something that is insignificant. It is a major point. It is a matter of faith. The worship of God should be with vocal music. We would like to share a number of reasons with you why this is true.
First, let us notice the music in the early apostolic church. Instrumental music is such a common thing in worship services today that many people are surprised to learn they did not use instruments of music in the worship of the first century. There are many people today who are not aware of the fact that the addition of instruments of music in the worship came hundreds years after the last apostle had died. This was not for the reason that instruments of music did not exist -- for instruments of music existed years before Christ was born and instruments of music were found in the old Jewish worship. But, when we come to the first century and the establishment of the church, even though the church was being established right in the midst of Jewish worship where instruments of music were used, these instruments were not brought into the worship services of the New Testament church. It was not until hundreds of years later that someone had the idea of bringing the instrument into the worship of the church.
Churches of Christ today are making a deliberate effort to be like the church was in the first century. We make no claim of perfection in this. We make no claim of having superior intelligence above other people. We simply make the claim that it is our plea that we go back to the first century and find that they did not have instruments of music in their worship. If we are going to be like they were, we will not have instruments of music in our worship either. It is just as simple as that. If there were no other reasons other than that we sincerely wanted to restore Christianity to its first century purity, then we would not have instruments of music today.
But there are many people today who honestly believe it is all right to have instruments of music in the worship even though it was not found in the early church. They think it was not used then for any one of a number of reasons, but they have instruments of music today. They feel it is perfectly all right.
But, why do we not have instruments of music in worship? Well, what kind of music is authorized in the Bible? Did you ever stop to answer that question? What kind of music is authorized in the Bible? I ask the question because there are different kinds of music. There is vocal music and there is instrumental music. Does the Bible authorize simply music or does the Bible authorize a particular kind of music? The Bible authorizes a particular kind of music. What kind of music is mentioned and commanded in the Bible? I am going to list Scriptures giving you the book, chapter, and verse having to do with music in worship and I want all to listen to see if we can determine what kind of music is mentioned or commanded.
First of all, Matthew 26:30 where Jesus had just instituted the Lord's supper, we read, “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.” Here we have the apostles and Jesus together and it is said “they...sung an hymn.” This particular passage would not be too relevant to our topic here because one could easily say, “Well, they just didn't have any instrument in the room where Jesus instituted the Lord's supper. That may be true, but it is significant that a particular kind of music is here mentioned.
Next, we notice Acts 16:25. This is the case of Paul and Silas being in prison at Philippi. I point out to you that we are merely mentioning those passages that have to do with music in worshipping God and we are wanting to identify the kind of music which is mentioned and the kind of music which is authorized. “...And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” Again, you might say, “Well, of course, they didn't use instrumental music in the worship there because they were in prison and had no instrument available.” I will grant it may be true that they would not have had an instrument of music, but the fact remains that a kind of music is mentioned here, and that is our purpose.
Now, let us notice Romans 15:8-9. “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.” Now we do not have a statement of something that someone did, but a prophecy as to what would be done, so we cannot say here that the instrument was not available; therefore, vocal music only was mentioned, because it could have been said, “I will make music, or will play upon an instrument and sing,” but the fact remains that it does say, I will “sing unto thy name.”
In I Corinthians 14:15 the apostle Paul is speaking. “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the understanding also.” The apostle Paul was not telling something he had done in prison. He is telling something he would do. He did not say, “I will make music with the understanding also,” but he named a particular kind of music, “I will sing with the understanding also.”
Ephesians 5:19 states, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our heart to the Lord.” What kind of music is here identified? Would it not have been possible for Paul to say that these people were to make music with all their hearts? Rather, what he said was that they were to speak to themselves “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Someone might raise the question here, “Does it not say that you are to make melody, that you are to sing and make melody?” They would suggest that is all they are doing in the use of a mechanical instrument of music -- that they are singing and making melody on an instrument. But, I point out to you that this Scripture does say that they were to make melody, but it identifies where the melody is to be made. It does not say to make melody on an instrument, but to make melody in the heart, or to make melody with the heart. They were to sing and the melody was to be in their heart. Here a particular kind of music is mentioned. They are commanded what to do and the command is to sing.
Is the practice of instrumental music in the worship a teaching of God or a teaching of men? If it is a teaching of God, then you will have to be able to find somewhere in the New Testament where God has authorized it. There is not a single passage in all the New Testament mentioning instruments of music in the worship of God, let alone commanding that we use it in worship.
Next, we turn to Colossians 3:16.
“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.” This would have been another wonderful
opportunity for the Lord to have said, “making music with grace in your
hearts to the Lord,” but instead of that he specified the kind of music.
He said, “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
In Hebrews 2:11-12 it is written, “for both he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” The subject of music is considered here. It would have been a wonderful occasion for him to say, “in the midst of the church I will make music and praise thee,” but instead he said, “in the midst of the church I will sing praise unto thee.”
James 5:13 says, “is any among you afflicted let him pray. Is any merry: let him sing psalms.”
Now, my friends, these are the basic scriptures in the New Testament where music is mentioned. What kind of music then would you say is mentioned and authorized in the New Testament? In the first place, we would have to say that vocal music is mentioned. In the second place, we would have to say that vocal music is commanded, for in the passages, which we have read, music was both mentioned and commanded. In every instance, a specific kind of music was mentioned -- vocal music. If we were to ask the question, “what kind of music is authorized by the Lord in His word,” I hardly see that we could say anything but vocal music -- singing praises unto God.
To pursue this point a bit further, you remember that Jesus once said to His apostles, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: He that believeth not shall be condemned.” What I want us to see in this passage from Mark 16:15-16, is the fact that the Lord here specified that these men were to travel and to preach the Gospel. He did not tell them to walk into all the world and preach the Gospel, but he told them to go and preach the Gospel. Since he said that they were to go, specifying travel, but not specifying a kind of travel, we are free today to walk or to ride in a car or a train or a place or any way that we can go to preach the Gospel. If the Lord had said that we are to make music and to praise His name, then we would be free to use any kind of music. We could use either vocal music or instrumental music or both. But for some reason, the Lord did not choose simply to say, “Make music unto me.” He chose rather to specify the “kind of music.” Since He specified the “kind of music,” that excludes all others. If not, why not?
I would indicate to you that Jesus talked to the woman at the well and told her (John 4:24), “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” To worship God in spirit simply means that me are to worship Him from the heart, that we are to be sincere, that we are to go about it knowing what we are doing and purposefully to worship Him. To worship God in truth surely means we are to worship Him according to the truth or we are to worship Him according to what the truth says. Now what is the truth? In John 17:17 Jesus said, “Father, sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” If the word of God is truth and we are to worship according to the truth, then we are to worship according to what the Bible says.
The Bible says we are to worship with singing. It is to be vocal/singing. If we worship God in spirit and in truth, we will sincerely worship Him by doing that which He has told us to do. Matthew 15:9 says, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Here, people are said to have worshipped God in vain. The Lord will make that decision for Himself. I do not set myself up as judge to judge any man, but I do recognize what the Lord is saying here. He is saying that if I worship Him while I am teaching for doctrine the commandments of men, then my worship will be vain. Is the practice of instrumental music in the worship a teaching of God or a teaching of men? If it is a teaching of God, then you will have to be able to find somewhere in the New Testament where God has authorized it. There is not a single passage in all the New Testament mentioning instruments of music in the worship of God, let alone commanding that we use it in worship. Therefore, instruments of music in the public worship is a teaching of the doctrines and commandments of men. “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Instruments of music in the worship service violate the law of faith. You remember in II Corinthians 5:7, the apostle Paul said “We walk by faith, not by sight.” When you have instruments of music in the worship, is this by faith or is it by sight? If anyone seeks to justify this practice, they will not turn to a Scripture telling them to use instruments of music, authorizing them to use it or even permitting them to use it. They will begin to reason that you can sing better with instruments, that it is really not worship, it is an aid, and all of the other reasonable things that they would present. But the Scripture says, “walk by faith, not by sight.” If a person wants to walk by sight, then that is his business. It will be between him and the Lord. But it will be in vain!
We are answering the question, “Why do you not have instruments of music?” We do not use mechanical instruments of music in worship because we seek to walk by faith. But someone says, “Are you not arrogant and conceited when you say that?” No, indeed not. I make no claim of being perfect, but we do humbly say that we are trying to walk by faith and not according to the reason of the human mind.
There is another scripture that ought to go with this, Romans 10:17. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” If we are walking by faith, then we must hear it from the Word of God in order for it to be admissible in our worship and service to the Lord, but you can't read anywhere in the New Testament where instruments of music are to be used in the worship. Therefore, one is walking by sight rather than walking by faith when instruments of music are used. Faith says, “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 unto the Lord,” So it is not arrogance when we say we are walking by faith. It is the simple truth.
Why do you not have instruments of music in your worship? We do not have mechanical instruments of music in our worship because they did not have them in the early church. This is an historical fact. No one questions that. Instruments of music were in existence at that time, but for some reason they were left out of apostolic Christian worship.
Why do you not have instruments of music in the worship service? We do not have mechanical instruments of music in our worship because of the kind of music which is authorized in God's Word. Vocal music is authorized. Instrumental music is not authorized. Since God specified the kind of music, that excludes all other kinds. Why do you not have instruments of music in your worship? Because God said that He is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. According to the truth (if you do that) you will sing and you will have vocal music only.
Why do we not have instrumental music in our worship? Because it violates the law of faith. We walk by faith and not by sight and faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
I hope you have read these points of reason and I hope you will consider from God's Book what worship to God ought to be.
By Dan Goddard
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