There is more to some discussions than what originally meets the eye. This
is very true for the current discussion on the use of instrumental music during
The real issue, the authority of God, is much broader in scope, under which this controversy happens to fall. No sensible person opposes instrumental music just to be different or controversial. Such a position of opposition is only pertinent so long as it adheres to the authority of the New Testament.
It is this authors fondest hope that the material about to be presented will help define the controversy, and provide some answers. May the Lord bless all of us as we seek to please Him.
THE AUTHORITY OF GOD
Let's suppose you decide its time to buy a new car. You custom order the upholstery,
stereo system, and special wire wheels.
The dealer calls you, and says your car is in. Excitedly, you pull into the lot. He hands you the bill: $215,000! Wait a minute. The car you ordered was only $18,500.00. Why $215,000?
The dealer explains that they grinded a solid ruby key, solid gold trim, and sterling silver cylinders!
You respond: "I didn't order all of that!" But the dealer says: "That's right, but you didn't tell us not to add it on." How long would a car dealer like this stay in business?
We all understand that when we order something, we eliminate everything else. McDonald's does not add everything else on the menu when you order a cheeseburger and fries. They will only bring what you have authorized to the counter! This is the authority principle.
The same thing is true in the Bible. When God orders something, he eliminates everything else. Paul said: "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Col. 3:17).
In the Old Testament, we are taught that priests could only come from the tribe of Levi (Num. 1:49, 50). However, the New Testament teaches that Jesus would be the High Priest, but that He would come from the tribe of Judah (Matt. 2:1; Heb. 7:27, 28). Since he could not have been a High Priest under the Law of Moses, a change in the Law was necessitated (Heb. 8:1-7).
Commenting on this situation, Paul said: "For it is evident that our Lord hath sprung out of Judah; as to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests" (Heb. 7:14). In other words, to eliminate Judah from having priests, the inspired writers did not have to say "thou shalt not be from Judah, thou shalt not be from Benjamin, thou shalt not be from Naphtali..."
When the Lord authorized the tribe of Levi, He eliminated all the other tribes, for of Judah "...Moses spake nothing concerning priests." The Lord, therefore, need not tell us what he doesn't want, but merely what He does want!
This authority principle is vital when we examine the question of instrumental music in worship. Is such authorized? Let's see!
THE NEW TESTAMENT
Jesus is the author of a new covenant (Heb. 9:14-17; Jer. 31:31-34). He has
removed the old covenant with its laws and regulations (Col. 2:14-16), and replaced
it with His new covenant (Matt. 26:26-28; Heb. 8:6, 7).
Jesus imparted His will to the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13, 14) who in turn, breathed it into the writers of the New Testament (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). Jesus is our King (Matt. 21:4, 5), Lord (2 Cor. 4:5), and Master (Matt. 23:6-9). Therefore, He has all authority (Matt. 28:20).
Whatever we do must be by the authority of Jesus. Paul said: "And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:17).
Remember the authority principle? When the Lord tells us what He wants, He eliminates everything else! For example, on the Lord's Day, we are told to remember our Lord's death through the memorial supper (I Cor. 11:23-29; Acts 20:7).
In its observance, our Lord has authorized only the bread and the fruit of the vine (Lk. 22:14-23). Where does the Bible tell us not to use chocolate milk? Where does the Bible tell us not to use hot fudge cake?
When the Lord said fruit of the vine and the bread, that eliminated everything else, just as it did with priests coming only from the tribe of Levi under the Old Covenant (Num. 1:49, 50; Heb. 7:14). Again, no where do you read: "not from Simeon, not from Ephraim..."
NEW TESTAMENT SINGING
In reference to the New Testament church, the following are passages which
relate to its singing: Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; I Corinthians 14:15; Hebrews
13:15; Romans 15:9; James 5:13; Hebrews 2:12; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16.
In these passages of scripture, singing is authorized, and that is all that is authorized. Not one word is mentioned about the use of any mechanical instrument of music. As a matter of fact, we are told that the singing should:
1. be with the spirit (I Cor. 14:15).
2. be with the understanding (I Cor. 14:15).
3. speak (Eph. 5:19).
4. teach (Col. 3:16).
5. admonish (Col. 3:16).
All the Lord wants of singing is accomplished by vocal praise. Nothing He wants is accomplished by instrumental music.
Authorized action includes matters that are subordinate in nature to the command,
and that does not hinder the command. A co-ordinate to that which is authorized
is by definition a different matter, and not subordinate to the original command.
For example, we are commanded to preach the gospel (Mk. 16:15). This would include anything subordinate to the command: pulpit, radio, television, Open Bible Study, etc.
However, the same command would exclude all the co-ordinates: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, etc. The command to preach the gospel excludes all co-ordinates (2 Tim. 4:2).
Using this same principle, examine the authorized action of singing. Under the authority to sing, all the subordinates are authorized: the words, the chanting of these words, antiphonal singing of those words, one group to another, one person to another, four part harmony, etc. Anything subordinate to the command to sing is authorized.
However, any co-ordinate is excluded by the authorization to sing. Therefore, activities such as piano playing, organ music, plucking harps, etc., co-ordinates with singing, are excluded by the command to sing.
A common response is: "well, nowhere does the text says not to play an instrument." By the same reasoning, nowhere are we told not to preach from the Koran! We know that such is excluded by the command to preach the gospel. We also know that instrumental music is excluded by the command to sing.
The Greek word psallo only authorizes vocal praise. The better Greek lexicons
are in general agreement of this fact.
Dr. Constantine Carvarnos, in a letter dated February 19, 1976 says the following about the use of psalmos and psallo in the New Testament: "In our judgment, these words denote purely vocal praise. Nowhere in the New Testament is there any mention of the use of musical instruments, or suggestion of their use."
Dr. Cavarnos, at the time of this letter, was working with the Institute For Byzantine And Modern Greek Studies in Belmont, Massachusetts. Who would know Greek better than a Greek, and a scholar of Greek?
Finally, the early church did not use instrumental music for some 300 years! The first introduction of instrumental music into the worship of the church was around the time of Constantine, about 325 A.D.
Historically, linguistically, and hermeneutically, instrumental music is not authorized in the worship of our Father by the church of Jesus Christ! Since it is not authorized, we should not use it (Deut. 4:2)!
By Steve Hale
Return to the Question/Answer Index page
Return to the General Articles page
Home / Bible studies / Bible Survey / Special Studies / General Articles / Non-Bible Articles / Sermons / Sermon Outlines / Links / Questions and Answers / What Saith The Scriptures /Daily Devotional / Correspondence Courses / What is the Church of Christ / Book: Christian Growth / Website Policy / E-mail / About Me /