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Uncommon Things We Believe #8 Instrumental Music Isn’t Authorized In the Worship of the Church Ephesians 5:18-20

20 May

(Ephesians 5:18-20)  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, {19} speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; {20} always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father…”

“WHY DON’T YOU USE MUSIC IN YOUR WORSHIP?”

Heard that before? Here’s at least a beginning answer to that important question, which certainly sets us apart from much of the religious world.

We do use music, but we don’t use musical instruments to accompany our singing.

Early Christianity included two groups of people: Jews with a background of instrumental music and pagan Gentiles who also worshipped with musical instruments. Yet when the church was established in about 33 A.D., those early Christians worshipped without such instruments.
In fact, according to Dr. F.W Mattox, a scholar of early church history, musical instruments weren’t used until the 5th century, and organ music didn’t become part of Christian worship until the 8th century.

So it seems logical, considering our goal of restoring a New Testament type Christian worship, that acappella singing would fit that model. Besides, the only musical instrument God ever created is the human voice; man created all the rest. Perhaps the purest form of musical worship on earth is found in human voices.

First, Some Clarification.

We are not opposed to instrumental music in and of itself. The issue with us has to do with the worship of the church. Many among us are quite gifted in musical abilities and play a number of instruments.

We understand that instrumental music in worship was appropriate in Old Covenant worship. Our convictions deal with the nature of New Testament worship. The Old Testament specifically commands instrumental music in the worship of Israel:

(2 Chronicles 29:25)  He stationed the Levites in the temple of the LORD with cymbals, harps and lyres in the way prescribed by David and Gad the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet; this was commanded by the LORD through his prophets.

We look for New Covenant authority for the worship of the church.

The Surprising Testimony Of History.

  1. The synagogue did not use instruments in the days of Jesus, or for 1,800 years thereafter; instruments were found only in temple worship—as commanded.
  2. There is no reference in the first 1000 years of church history to the acceptability of instrumental music and no example of its actual use.
  3. Greek speaking churches have continued to reject instrumental music in worship—Greek is the language of the New Testament.
  4. Vocal music was promoted in the early church.
  5. Ignatius (early 100’s) praised the harmony provided by joined voices.
  6. Justin Martyr (middle 100”s) spoke of God’s character being such as to deserve our words of praise.
  7. The Christianized Sibylline Oracles (100’s) extolled vocal music.
  8. Eusebius, the great church historian of the 300’s, mentions that it was the sound of Christian voices heard outside of Christian meeting places.
  9. Ambrose (late 300’s) wrote that the only time extraneous noise was absent from assemblies was when all were occupied with singing. He also spoke of how Christians sang songs and pagans played harps—if a Christian went back to such pagan ways he was said to have chosen death.

Instrumental music was rejected in the early church.

  1. Theodoret (400) said that “lifeless instruments” were “excluded from the singing in the churches, and simple singing is left.”
  2. Niceta (400) spoke to the point that the New Testament was the source of Christian worship and that it rejected instruments being used in worship.
  3. Chrysostom (late 300’s) Attributed instruments to dullness and Christian singing to enlightenment.
  4. Isidore (400’s) equated instrumental music to a state of childhood that characterized Old Testament worship.
  5. Pseudo-Clementine Writings (300’s) condemned instrumental music and classified it with drunkenness.
  6. Tertullian (about 200) condemned instrumental music in the worship of the church.
  7. Gregory of Nazianzus (mid 300’s) said, “Let us take up hymns instead of timbrels, psalmody instead of lewd dances, and songs of thankful acclamation instead  of theatrical clapping…”
  8. Arnobius (early 300’s) named virtually all the instruments known to his culture and forcefully stated that they had no place in Christian worship.
  9. The Canons of Basil (mid 300’s) equated instrumental music with the need for one to be excluded from the church.

Later church history.

  1. In 1250 Thomas Aquinas wrote that the church did not use instruments in worship.
  2. Zwingli rejected instruments in worship.
  3. Calvin spoke strongly against instrumental worship.
  4. Luther called the organ “an ensign of Baal.”
  5. Wesley said they were fine as long as they were “neither heard nor seen.”
  6. Spurgeon allowed no instruments where he preached.
  7. The term A cappella means “as done in the church.”

The Greek New Testament.

  1. In the first-century world, the Greek word psallo, the key word associated with music, had long sense come to mean “vocal music only.” This is a well documented reversal from Classical Greek. The first 400 years of church writings demonstrate this meaning without any doubt.
  2. In the Greek New Testament, when the worship of the church is associated with music, only singing is mentioned.
  3. The seven verses are (Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9; I Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Jas. 5:13; Heb. 13:15).

(Acts 16:25)  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

(Romans 15:9)  so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.”

(1 Corinthians 14:15)  So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

(Ephesians 5:19)  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

(Colossians 3:16)  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

(Hebrews 13:15)  Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.

(James 5:13)  Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.

  1. There are three New Testament verses that use Old Testament imagery when speaking of heaven and mention instruments (Rev. 5:8-9; 14:1-3; 15:2-3).

(Revelation 5:8-9)  And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. {9} And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

(Revelation 14:1-3)  Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. {2} And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. {3} And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

(Revelation 15:2-3)  And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God {3} and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.

  1. A metaphoric use is obvious in Revelation 14:1-3.

(Revelation 14:1-3)  Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. {2} And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. {3} And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

  1. A symbolic character is evident in Revelation 5:8-9; 15:2-3.

(Revelation 5:8-9)  And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. {9} And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

(Revelation 15:2-3)  And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God {3} and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.

Theological Considerations.

  1. The nature of Christian worship (Rom. 12:1-2; I Pet. 2:5; Jn. 4:24).

(John 4:24)  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

(Romans 12:1-2)  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. {2} Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

(1 Peter 2:5)  you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

  1. Rational service over mere emotions or feelings.
  2. Spiritual sacrifices as opposed to the carnal methods of the Old Covenant.
  3. God determines the nature of acceptable worship, not man.
  4. We must come to God on His terms (Matt. 5:4; Jn. 4:19-24).

(Matthew 5:4)  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

(John 4:19-24)  “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. {20} Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” {21} Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. {22} You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. {23} Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. {24} God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

  1. Consider Cain and Able (Gen. 4:4-8; Heb. 11:4; Rom. 10:17).

(Genesis 4:4-8)  But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, {5} but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. {6} Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? {7} If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” {8} Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

(Romans 10:17)  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

(Hebrews 11:4)  By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

  1. This is not on oversimplification—this is the heart of the issue.

ARGUMENTS FAVORING NON-USE OF INSTRUMENTS OF MUSIC IN WORSHIP

  1. AN ARUGMENT FROM HISTORY

Most feel that instrumental music has always been a part of worship because it has been around as long as they can remember. Rather like television, young people can not imagine a time without TV.

“Historical evidence shows that instrumental music was introduced into Christian worship centuries after the beginning of the church and must be rejected because it is a human innovation into N.T. Christianity” (Worship In Song, p.93, Jimmy Jividen).

Historical evidence affirms that instrumental music was not used in the early church.

  1. Was gradually introduced by the Roman Catholic Church.
  2. First used when Pope Vitalian introduced the instrument in churches in Western Europe about 660-670 A.D.
  3. Instruments were resisted at that time and was not widely used as late as 1250 A.D. during the time of Thomas Aquinas: “Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize.”

M.C. Kurfees in his book “Instrumental Music In The Worship” quotes dozens of historians which witness to the fact that the early church sang only in their worship services.

The basic opposition to instrumental music in worship is not grounded in historical evidence of human conduct.

  1. Historical evidence might not always give the complete picture.
  2. If we could establish that not one instrument was used from the 1st to the 21st centuries, that alone would not make it right or wrong.
  3. However, historical evidence argues strongly against the use of instruments of music in worship.
  4. This evidence serves to substantiate the biblical evidence that instruments were not used in worship.
  1. BECAUSE THAT IS THE WAY WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE IT, TRADITION!
  1. Because Churches of Christ have not used it makes it neither right or wrong.
  2. Tradition must not be the religious standards we look to in pleasing God.
  3. Neither do we reject something just because it is traditionally done, if it is the will of God.
  4. Both those who use and don’t use instruments do so because of tradition.
  5. Each has been reared in a fellowship that follows a certain practice.
  6. Each makes a personal decision about the right or wrong of it based on the practice of the fellowship of which they are a part.
  7. Therefore, human tradition is not a valid reason for accepting or rejecting instrumental music in worship.
  8. This is seeking truth from the wrong source.
  9. Many in the Lord’s Church can give no other reason for not using instruments than ” we just have always done it that way.”
  10. If what our fore fathers did is according to scriptures, we should do the same thing.
  11. Not because they did it, but because it is biblical.
  12. Traditions of men are neutral.
  13. Justification for religious practice can only come from Christ as revealed in Scripture.
  14. A major motivating principle of men in the Restoration Movement in the United States was rejection of human traditions.
  15. Their cry was “Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible in silent.”
  16. Our faith must rest upon the word of God, not the traditions of our fathers.
  1. A CAPELLA IS THE BEST MUSIC!

Some say, “the best argument against instrumental music is good singing.” If one means by this that pleasing God is the best practice, this would be true.

However, this is not usually the point being made. Many try to justify instruments because of poor quality of singing.

Instruments cannot make up for improper singing as they constitute different actions. God is not interested in the quality of singing, but the quality of the heart producing the singing.

This line of reasoning could be carried on to the Lord’s Supper. Adding fried chicken would make the Lord’s Supper more enjoyable. Chicken is more attractive to outsiders than grape juice and unleavened bread.

An appeal to experience or taste is never a valid authority for religious practice. The criterion for good singing is not whether it pleases men or not, but does it please God?

  1. APOSTOLIC EXAMPLE!
  1. No question but apostolic example was singing without instruments in Christian worship.
  2. But, first must decide what is apostolic example and how apostolic example teaches.
  3. An example is an “action” taken by individuals or churches which has been recorded in the N.T.
  1. Not all examples recorded in the N.T. have Divine approval.
  2. There are bad examples such as Herod putting Peter in prison, Ananias & Sapphira lying to God and Peter refusing to eat with the Gentiles.
  3. There are neutral examples like Christians meeting on third floor of a building, preaching until midnight, going to the temple to pray, etc.
  4. There are examples which do not have the force of a command, but show reasonable and sensible ways churches and individuals functioned.
  5. Church at Antioch fasted, prayed and laid hands on Barnabas and Saul as they sent them out to preach the gospel (Acts 13:1ff).
  6. A special prayer meeting was held for Peter while he was in jail (Acts 12:12).
  1. The mere presence of an example does not mean that it is required nor the absence of an example mean that it is forbidden.
  1. If an action is recorded in the N.T. with obvious approval, it shows that such is right in such a circumstance.
  1. An approved apostolic example means that an action has apostolic sanction.
  1. It must be something that was witnessed with approval by an inspired apostolic person.
  1. As is true with the other three arguments against the use of instrumental music in worship, apostolic example alone does not prove the point one way or the other.
  1. The Christian concerned with doing the will of God and edifying his brethren should be concerned with two things:
  1. There is full and sufficient authority for worship in song, such is plain in the N.T. and this should be what we teach and practice.
  2. There is no N.T. authority for instrumental music in Christian worship.
  3. Such cannot be found by commands, examples or necessary inference.
  4. The question is not “Where does the Bible condemn it?”, but rather “Where does the Bible authorize it?”

CONCLUSION

  1. These four arguments are commonly used to reject instrumental music in Christian worship.
  2. Rejecting instruments in worship does not solely rest on these arguments.
  3. True, the cumulative evidence of these arguments would make its use highly questionable.
  4. We must go to the word of God for the real answer

What About Instruments in the Old Testament?

by Wes McAdams

As most people already know, I take the presently unpopular position that mechanical instruments have no place in Christian worship. However, every time I write on this subject someone inevitably asks, “What about the instruments in the Old Testament?” That is a great question. As the argument goes: If God authorized instruments under the Old Law, then without some kind of New Testament prohibition against them, why would anyone teach they are not allowed today? I believe if the average person understood the context in which instruments were authorized in the Old Testament, they would understand why they have no place in the church.

There are a few isolated instances of instrument playing about which we are not told if God approved (ex. 2 Samuel 6:5-8). But there are some who claim God only tolerated – and never authorized – instruments in the temple worship. They claim David alone was responsible for their introduction. Yes, the instruments of the temple were often called “the instruments of David,” but it is specifically stated that David had God’s authorization to implement the instruments in the temple worship:

“And [Hezekiah] stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet, for the commandment was from the Lord through his prophets” (2 Chronicles 29:25).

As you can see, it is made pretty clear that “the commandment was from the Lord.”

We often make blanket statements like, “God approved of instruments in the Old Testament.” It would actually be more accurate to say God approved of certaininstruments in the Old Testament. The commandment “from the Lord through his prophets” was that specific instruments be played in the temple worship. Whenever reformers, like King Hezekiah, restored temple worship to its intended state, they would go back to the “commandment” God gave David through the prophets.

Undoubtedly, there were other instruments in existence that could have been added to the worship, but they did not presume to add to the Lord’s command. To bring in an instrument that had not been commanded would have been sinful. It would have been like the “unauthorized fire” offered by Nadab and Abihu, for which they “died before the Lord” (Numbers 3:4).

Again, when people speak of Old Testament worship with instruments they seem to imply that anyone could have played an instrument to the Lord in worship. However, the truth is that only the Levites were authorized to be stationed in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, lyre, and trumpets.

People from other tribes – regardless of their musical ability or desire – were not authorized to play with the Levitical musicians. For someone else to have been so presumptuous would have been similar to King Uzziah’s burning of incense in the temple, for which he was struck with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-23).

Amos, the shepherd turned prophet, was sent to the Northern Kingdom of Israel to rebuke and admonish them. Israel, in order to keep people from traveling to Jerusalem in Judah, built their own temples in Israel. These temples were not authorized places of worship and their priests were not Levites. Their lives and their worship were extremely paganistic. And although they still attempted to worship Jehovah God, they did so in an unauthorized fashion.

Amos was sent to tell them God was not pleased:

“Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen” (Amos 5:22-23).

“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music” (Amos 6:4-5).

As we’ve already seen, David had been authorized to appoint Levites to play harps. However, Israel was not authorized to do what they were doing. As the New Living Translation puts it, these musicians of Israel “fancied themselves” to be like David. They were presumptuous enough to believe they could do whatever they wanted in worship and God would be pleased.

As you can see, God authorized only the Levites to worship with certain instruments and only in the temple worship. And surely we know that the temple and its worship were “a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). In Christ, we are the temple (1 Corinthians 3:16), we are all priests (1 Peter 2:5), and we offer up – not the sound of clanging symbols or lifeless strings but – “a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15). Our hearts are the instruments we play (Ephesians 5:19).

God does not have to specifically prohibit the use of instruments in the church today anymore than He has to prohibit the burning of incense, the priestly robes, or any of the other parts of the temple worship. We understand that these things have passed away. A great number of notable theologians over the centuries have understood this and have opposed the use of mechanical instruments.

I believe John Calvin said it well,

Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists therefore, have foolishly borrowed, this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing to him” (John Calvin, Commentary on Psalm 33). 

  1. God Replaced the Physical with the Spiritual
  2. God Rebuked Unauthorized Music
  3. God Authorized Specific Musicians
  4. God Authorized Specific Instruments
  5. God Authorized Instruments
 
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Posted by on May 20, 2021 in Church, Doctrine

 

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