We believe that instrumental music in worship is sinful and unscriptural, and that one may be lost for so sinning.
Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16, 17; Matt. 15:9; 1 Thess. 5:21
A Cappella singing is probably one of the most well known and distinctive marks of the New Testament church of Christ. Many times when we talk to people about the church they will respond, “Oh, yea. Y’all are the ones that don’t use instruments.” The reason it stands out to visitors and those familiar with the church is that the use of mechanical instruments is almost universal in the denominational world, and nearly the entire religious world. It is unheard of that some would “think” that the use of mechanical instruments in worship would be wrong and actually constitute a sin. Sadly, this thinking has caused many in the church to shy away from taking a stand in this very important issue. Where, in years past, debates on the use of mechanical instruments in worship were common among brethren, now it is almost more common to hear a well-meaning member of the church refer to a cappella congregational singing as a matter of tradition or preference and not really a matter of doctrine. Just recently, in talking with a principle of a so-called “Church of Christ School” I asked about their use of mechanical instruments in chapel and/or music classes where religious songs were taught. His reply was that they had to cater to their denominational students and it was really just a matter of tradition anyway. How sad!
At the Bawcomville church of Christ, we stand for the truth of God’s word. We will do whatever we are authorized to do by the word of God and we will oppose whatever is not authorized by the word of God. With the firm conviction that we must “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21), we will turn to the word of God to answer every question regarding our work and worship as Christians.
We cannot begin to cover all of the relevant issues involved with this question in a short bulletin article. But, we can demonstrate, without doubt, that there is no biblical authority for the use of mechanical instruments in worship to God. Actually, we can do that in one single sentence. Here it is. There are zero verses in the New Testament that refer to the New Testament church; either in explicit statement, necessary inference, or approved example; worshiping God with the use of mechanical instruments of music. That is really all that should need to be said on the issue. “Oh, its not in the Bible. OK, then we can’t do it.” Unfortunately, people love to have their way and to have those things that appeal to them. So, we must say more on the issue.
In regards to the above statement about there being no reference in the Bible showing the New Testament church using mechanical instruments, some my respond, “so what?” In the religious world at large, there is a nearly complete lack of understanding of the need for biblical authority in our actions. So, they don’t understand why it makes any difference whether it is in the Bible or not. We must humbly direct them to such passages as Hebrews 7:12-14. “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the alter. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.” Notice that the Hebrews writer is making his case based on what the Bible doesn’t say. This shows that there is prohibitive authority in the silence of the Scriptures. That is, if the Bible doesn’t say that we can do something then that thing is prohibited. The number one reason we do not use mechanical music in worship is because the Bible doesn’t tell us that we can.
I have people say things like, “well it doesn’t say that we can’t,” all the time. Hebrews 7:12-14 shows beyond any doubt that the Bible doesn’t have to say that we can’t, it has to say that we can. Other verses that show the same thing about the prohibitive authority of silence are 1 Thess. 5:21 and 2 Tim. 3:16, 17. We are supposed to prove, or test, all things and hold fast what is good (1 Thess. 5:21). But by what are we supposed to do the testing and determine whether something is good or not? “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). It is the Scriptures, the word of God, that furnishes us unto every good work! If we cannot find authority for it in the word of God then it is not a good work. Colossians 3:17 also tells us to do all things (“in word or deed”) in the name of (i.e. by the authority of) the Lord Jesus. So, there can be no question that we need the authority of Scripture for whatever we do; and, we simply do not have scriptural authority to use mechanical instruments of music in worship.
If the Bible doesn’t tell us that we can, and it doesn’t, then the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship must be the doctrine of men. There are only two options. Something is either biblical doctrine or it is not. Since we cannot find one single verse showing the use of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the New Testament church, it must, by definition, be the doctrine of men. Jesus said, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9). What made their worship vain? “Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Another reason we do not use mechanical instruments of music in our worship is that we don’t want to offer God vain worship.
Two of the most common verses we use to show that the New Testament church offered their praise to God in a cappella singing are Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. In these passages, the phrase “Speaking to yourselves” and “one another” literally mean “each one speaking to each other one.” It is a term referring to congregational singing. One of my favorite passages regarding the worship of the New Testament church is Hebrews 2:12. “Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” This passages refers to Jesus, our Lord, worshipping God with us when we sing praises to Him. What a wonderful thing to know about our worship! And, what a striking contrast to worship offered up contrary to the word of God. The one is done in fellowship with God where the other is an exercise in futility (i.e. vain, Matt. 15:9). We do not use mechanical instruments in worship to God because we do not want to loose our fellowship with Christ.
There are several verses we could use to show that the New Testament church praises God in congregational singing. However, there is not one single verse in the Bible referring to the New Testament church using mechanical instruments of music in worship to God. Please do not believe that this is simply a matter of tradition, choice or preference. We do not simply “think” that it is wrong. It is a matter of doctrine! To do contrary to that which we find in Scripture is to sin against God (1 Jn. 3:4). It is not something that we can compromise on simply to appease those who disagree. The most loving thing we could do for those who are not worshipping God Scripturally, or who think it is just a matter of tradition, is to tell them the danger of eternal condemnation that they are in because of their error.
I'm sorry about the 2 posts that were made with nothing (my hand slipped on the keyboard). Anyway, I am having a hard time telling the difference between when musical instruments are o.k. and when they are not. I went to Gainesville,Fl and was going to attend a Church of Christ,however,I looked on their website and noticed how the youth attended a Casting Crowns concert and they also participated in Halloween and scary costumes (I know not relevent to question). I did email them asking why this was o.k very sincerely and received no response. Then yesterday I was on youtube and found where a Church of Christ did a video to a Casting Crowns song. Am I missing something??? I am trying to teach my children right, but if this is o.k. then I'm wrong. Your input would be helpful.
Thanks for your questions and I really appreciate your sincere desire to follow the doctrine of Christ. When you are struggling with questions like this the most fundamental way to answer them is to question them from the Bible. We know that biblical authority comes from explicit statement, approved example and/or necessary inference. For more on how to determine whether something has biblical authority or not, I would encourage you to read my article "Ascertaining Biblical Authority," on BibleQnA.com, and "Prove All Things" on this web site. When you come across those things that don't seem to fit with the doctrine of Christ, just ask the question – "Can I find any passages authorizing this by explicit statement, necessary inference or approved example?" If the answer is "no" then it does not have biblical authority.
Sadly, not all congregations claiming to be the church of Christ are the church of Christ. While the designations we apply to the church are important, what is equally important is that the activities of the congregation exemplify that designation. For example, if a congregation is going to use the designation of "Church of Christ" and present themselves to be the church of Christ then their activities should back that up. If they are truly the church the Christ then they will have biblical authority for what they do. The simple fact is, they could not show biblical authority for using psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) as a form of entertainment. Their is no example, explicit statement or necessary inference giving biblical authority to that kind of activity. To the contrary, taking those things that are meant to be a part of our worship to God and using them in a common manner is contrary to the doctrines of holiness and sanctification. There are some things that are supposed to be separate (i.e. sanctified) and held as holy to the Lord (Rom. 12:1, 2; 1 Pet. 2:5), that we are not to make common.
It is good that you are willing to check things out for yourself and ask questions when you see things that don't seem right according to the word of God. I pray that you will continue to study and to stand for the pure and undefiled religion of Jesus Christ (Js. 1:27). When you come across those congregation that are "Church of Christ" in name only, you do well to question them and exhort them to "prove all things" (1 Thess. 5:21).
Thanks for the great article. It is always good to hear people taking worship seriously, especially in today’s all-too-casual climate.
Upfront, and bypassing some of the many logical issues with what you have written, I disagree with you that Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 specify that we are to sing as opposed to singing with instruments. Aside from this issues of bad logic it is an egregious example of reading into a text a specificity that is plainly not there. Certainly there is NO evidence among the early church writings of using these versus (despite the many arguments against aping the Jews and Pagans) as authorizing singing-only!
While you do give many good reasons for eschewing instruments (e.g. entertainment) you have offered no rational argument for their prohibition. The harsh all-or-nothing thinking regarding authority for elements of worship is sadly predicated on an equally harsh church/secular split. For only such a split would allow us freedom for all non-church areas of life while giving a sense of control during our church service. But is such a split biblical? Did the early church reason this way?
I'm wondering if you read the article above or if you are responding to arguments you have heard from others. Where did I attempt to make my case from the standpoint of specificity? I personally believe that making arguments from the standpoint of specificity is not the right way to approach this discussion. My major point in the article above is the prohibitive authority of silence in the Scriptures. Are you saying that is a fallacious proposition? Are you saying that where the Bible is silent on any matter then it is permissive? I would really love to get your response to that question. Or, in other words, is the statement – "The Bible doesn't say not to" – a valid point in defending ones activities. That is, "The New Testament doesn't say not to use mechanical instruments," so that would make it alright?
Please let me know where my points in the article above are "bad logic."
"The number one reason we do not use mechanical music in worship is because the Bible doesn’t tell us that we can."
Another reason we do not use mechanical instruments of music in our worship is that we don’t want to offer God vain worship."
"We do not use mechanical instruments in worship to God because we do not want to loose our fellowship with Christ."
I gave Scriptural references for every one of those points in the article. Would you mind showing where I have misused any of those verses?
Again, I didn't even use Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 from the standpoint of specificity. I simply showed from those verses where the scriptural pattern for singing in worship is congregational singing. I do think someone would have a very hard time explaining how the activity described in these verses could be accomplished with the inclusion of mechanical instruments. But that is not the same thing as appealing to specificity. My appeal was to silence. Again, it all comes down to one very simple question: Can you show me one single verse in the New Testament giving an explicit statement, approved example or necessary inference of mechanical instruments of music being used in the worship of the New Testament church? If you cannot then the simple fact of the matter is that there is no authority from Christ, the Head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23), to do it. And, if there is no authority from Christ then it cannot be the doctrine of Christ. Which means it is, by definition, the doctrine of men. Now, if that is fallacious logic please point out where I have gone astray.
Norm, thanks for the response. Yes–you did not use the word 'specificity', I inferred it in order to make sense of your argument. Without specificity an argument to sing-only is groundless.
The argument from silence is a difficult argument to sustain. The writer of Hebrews is not arguing from what is not said, since much WAS said about who could be priests and who could not. This is a rhetorical element, not an example of how a lack of a verse against something is equivalent to there being one.
Silence doesn't say anything. For instance, what if I was looking for the authority to 'not use mechanical instruments in worship'–well, since the bible is silent, then I should be prohibited from 'not using mechanical instruments in worship'. But this too is obviously not how authority works!!
The question of whether silence if prohibitive or permissive is a false dichotomy, used on both sides of the spectrum to control the interpretation. Some think that if the bible doesn’t say 'not to', then we can do whatever we want–likewise, some want the mindless rigidity and control of saying that unless it says we must then we can't. Proper exegesis on practical matters, though, requires a little more nuance than either of these options.
If it is true that silence is always prohibitive, then a good portion of the bible itself is on shaky ground. Where then is the authority for David to build the temple (II Sam. 7:7)? Where is the authority for the feast of Purim (Esther 9)? Where is the authority for the synagogues? I could go on…who authorized the Feast of Dedication (John 10:23)? Where is the authority to worship Jesus with Palm branches?
Is it true that 'all silence is permissive'? NO! But good logic would then state that the opposite of this proposition is not that 'all silence is not permissive', but that 'some silence is not permissive'. This is basic logic.
On your other two points regarding vain worship and losing fellowship, instruments does not necessarily imply vain worship–for one could offer vain worship by singing-only. To suggest that instruments necessarily entails vain worship is to beg the original question. Also regarding losing fellowship, again to answer this begs the original question.
My position is that if we truly care about the bible–that God has spoken to us–and that if we want to really hear what God has said, then we need to avoid the extremes on both sides, of saying that either anything goes or that we can only copy lockstep the account of the early church given in the New Testament. While it is good to be biblical and to have a book chapter and verse for everything we do, we must also make sure that we are asking the bible the right questions!
Can you answer the question? Are there any verses in the New Testament authorizing the use of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the New Testament church? If so, please give them. If not, by whose authority is it done?
How is the "sing-only," as you put it, "groundless," when all I'm asking for is that someone please show where the New Testament authority is found for its use? We both agree that the "specificity" argument has some problems. But I don't use, nor do I need to use and/or rely upon, the specificity arguments. Mechanical instruments of music is not prohibited in New Testament worship because the text says "sing," they are prohibited because the text doesn't say "play," either by explicit statement, necessary inference or approved example. If there is another way that Scripture gives authority please let me know.
I think that fact that you can give references to things from Holy Spirit inspired Scripture is pretty good indication that Scripture is not silent on those things. Don't you? Silence of the Scriptures means that there is nothing said about it. Passages like Col. 3:17; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 1 Thess. 5:21, et. al., show the necessity to have expressed biblical authority for what we do. Likewise, the absence of such expressed biblical authority would be prohibitive. Otherwise, how could you demonstrate that what you are doing is according to the doctrine of Christ? (cf. Jn. 15:1-8, esp. 7).
In your previous comment you made a reference to the separation between secular and spiritual activity in such a way as to indicate that my position is that Scripture authorizes our spiritual activities, i.e. worship, but not our secular activities. However, that is not true. Col. 3:17, among others, shows that it is whatever we do in word or deed that must have the authority of Christ. Of course, there is the necessity to be able to discern generic authority also. Someone would say, not you of course ;-), but some might say "where is the authority to mow your lawn." Of course there are no biblical passages stating that we should keep our lawn well groomed. However, by generic authority we apply the principles of good stewardship and good influence, among others, and the principles involved in those doctrines guide us in a generic way in living our Christian lives.
The major problem today is the inability to correctly discern biblical authority and apply it in a practical manner to our daily Christian living.
Now, with that said, can you show me the New Testament passage authorizing mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the New Testament church? When you can do that then I will be the first one advocating the bandstand in the auditorium.
You seem to be asking two things at the same time. You seem to be asking me, 'do the inspired scriptures specify that instruments are permissible in worship?'. But this question presupposes another: 'do the inspired New Testament scriptures specify to this level at all?'
You are right that we are to do everything in the name of Jesus (Col 3:17), but this does not imply that we must find proof-texts for everything we do. We can and must draw biblical principles and use our God given reason. Whether it be a blessing or a curse, God has chosen NOT to specify New Testament worship in the manner he did in the Old Testament.
Perhaps this would make more sense if we take this issue further in the direction of being more specific. For some hold fast to the tradition of singing only psalms contained in the bible. For them, they see all other music as of human origins and without authority. Certainly polyphonic music, with our modes and harmonies is an addition since the times of the early church, so where is the authority to make this change?
People will usually retort back that the verses in the NT referencing to sing allow generic authority for our contemporary hymns, but this is an assumption on our part. We need to discern the level of specificity in these verses. It still remains to be shown how even one of the biblical exhortation to sing implies the exclusion of other accidental things like instruments.
Certainly I appreciate the worry of vain worship. I, too, am very distressed over entertainment and overly sentimental, insipid worship. However, if you think that God condemns worship solely on the grounds of there being an instrument present, then you are the one who has added to scripture and are in danger of judgment!
Once again, Ryan replies without satisfying my request for a verse showing the use of mechanical instruments in the worship of the New Testament church.
Ryan, just tell the readers whether you have found a verse in the New Testament that you could point to and say "here is New Testament authority for the use of mechanical instruments in the worship of the New Testament church."
You seem to be really hung up on arguing against a proposition that I have not made. I have several articles and videos, both here on "Norm's Notes" and on "Bible Q-n-A" addressing the subject of biblical authority and I have not made the proposition of prohibitive specificity in any of them. The only time you find me referring to specificity at all is in the context of levels of biblical authority, i.e. specific and generic. I could just as easily call it direct authority and indirect authority. I do not believe you will find in any of my writing or preaching where I appeal to specificity as prohibitive authority. If you do then I will correct it.
Yes, I am asking you to show me where the Scriptures give direct authority for the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship. If you cannot then there is no indirect authority for any kind of mechanical instruments being used in worship at all. Without direct authority there is no indirect authority. For example, the use of song leaders, song books, lyrics on a screen, etc., is authorized indirectly by the direct authority to sing words of instruction and admonishment in our praise of God congregationally (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12). There is nothing about the use of those things that alters or adds to what is directly authorized. Church building and pews are indirectly authorized by the direct authority to assemble (Heb. 10:25; Acts 20:7). PA systems, projectors, web sites, radio broadcasts, TV broadcasts are indirectly authorized by the direct authority to go and teach (Matt. 28:19, 20). These things that have indirect authority rely upon and are subservient to direct authority. Without direct authority there can be no indirect authority. So, again, where is the direct authority to use mechanical instruments of music? It cannot be the direct authority to sing because singing and playing are two completely different things and are independent of one another. That is, singing doesn't facilitate playing and playing doesn't facilitate singing. They are two completely different activities that are not reliant upon one another at all. The use of a song book doesn't alter or add to the act of singing but the use of a piano does – it is then singing and playing. So, if it is singing and playing, there must be direct authority for both of those independent activities. I can show you direct authority for singing but you can't show me direct authority for playing. Again, and again and again and again, playing is not prohibited because the Scriptures say to sing, playing is prohibited because the Scriptures don't say to play. If you can't find one single passage in the New Testament that gives direct authority to the addition of playing mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the New Testament church, how could you possibly say that it is being done by the authority of Jesus Christ? All it would take is one word! Just show where that one word is and you will have won the day.
When you say that God did not specify New Testament worship in the same way he did Old Testament worship, you are completely wrong. I can, and do, provide New Testament authority for everything I do in worship to God. When I ask someone to show me in the Bible where they have authority to do what they are doing, I am not saying that because one thing is specified another thing is prohibited. I'm saying show me where the New Testament says to do that. It is because it is not there that it is prohibited, not because something else is there. If you ask me why we take the Lord's Supper in our worship, I will show you the verses (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:18, 20, 23f; 16:1, 2). If you ask me why we take a collection in our worship, I will show you the verses (1 Cor. 16:1, 2). If you ask me why we have preaching in our worship, I will show you the verses (Acts 2:42; 20:7). If you ask me why we have prayer in our worship, I will show you the verses (Acts 2:42). If you ask me why we have singing in our worship, I will show you the verses (Heb. 2:12). But, if I ask you why you use mechanical instruments of music in your worship, you will not show me a single verse.
You can say I'm asking two questions at the same time, but the readers only see one question that you, as of yet, have refused to answer – Where is the verse authorizing the use mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the New Testament church?
From this point, my responses to anything you say will be very short. Do you have a verse for it, or not?
It's like being asked: do you still beat your wife? I must answer no, there is no verse in the New testament regarding the use of instruments here before the Eschaton. But if I answer this way, then I fear that you will be satisfied that I've said something which has yet to proved–whether we can worship God with the accompaniment of instruments.
You, on the other hand, have conveniently avoided my two questions: Did the early church read the bible in the manner you present, looking for 'authority'? No they didn’t! And who authorized the various 'additions' that the bible records (listed above)?
You see, I can’t answer your question, "show me where the Scriptures give direct authority for the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship", because I don’t see any exclusive authority in how the NT exhorts us to sing. It's like going to McDonalds–if I ask for a BigMac, then I'm also not asking for everything else on the menu. This should be clear. The problem is that the NT (in contradistinction to the OT) does not provide this list of ways to worship such that the verses calling us to sing exclude the other items on the list.
The difference is in the context of the verses you site. While you do a great job of offering prooftexts, without context they become merely a pretext for your particular tradition of Christianity.
This issue is an old one, and all we have done is retrace many of the old arguments. But in the end this comes down to theology–would do we believe the nature of God. In particular we differ over the differences and similarities between the Old Testament and the New Testament. For I trust that the same God who loved and accepted instruments in the OT has not changed, yet I see a difference between the two testaments in how specific God has been in telling us how we are to worship him–that as we have grown in our knowledge of Him and in closeness to Him that he offers less rules and expects his adopted children to know what he wants and what he doesn’t.
You, on the other hand, seem to take the exact opposite tack–that while God accepted instruments in the past, he changed His mind. And that there is no difference to the way and to the exactness to which God tells us how and by what means we are to worship Him.
The difference then boils down further to your seemingly distant God who metes out arbitrary laws, or a relational God who in light of the revelation of the cross has attenuated the direct rules for corporate worship under the principles of love, intelligibility, and edification.
Ryan, thank you for finally admitting that there is not one verse in the New Testament giving scriptural authority to the use of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the New Testament church on earth prior to the second coming of Christ (i.e. "Eschaton"). It really doesn't matter what you say beyond that admission, you have confessed that there is no New Testament authority for it. Therefore, it cannot be said to be done by the authority of Jesus Christ. Though you continue in your attempt to justify the use of something that you admit has no New Testament authority, the fact is – as you have admitted – that it is the doctrine of men and not the doctrine of Christ. I pray that you will now go the second mile and give up the unscriptural worship that includes what is not authorized by Scripture.
I did answer your questions, whether you accept my answers or not is another matter. I said that the very fact that you could point to those things with a book, chapter and verse next to them shows that the Bible is not silent on those things. In addition to that, you are referring to things from a time when Scripture was not in completion, as it now is (Jude 3). As far as how early Christians read the scriptures, their writings are filled with appeals to the authority of God's word. For example, in Clement's (30-100 AD) letter to Corinth he appeals to the authority of Scriptures repeatedly in exhorting them to faithfulness. He quoted from numerous of the epistles to establish the authority of what he wrote. They may not have used the same terms that we use today but they most definitely appealed to the authority of the Scriptures. Not only that, but the New Testament prophesied a great apostasy (1 Tim 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). I wouldn't expect to find many appealing to the authority of the Scriptures during the development of the Great Apostasy following the death of the apostles. There are so many passages stating the requirement for biblical authority that I know you can't be referring to those who were the first recipients of the letters (Matt. 7:21-23; Jn. 8:31; 15:5-8; 2 Jn. 9-10; 1 Jn. 2:24-25; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 3:17; Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19; 1 Cor. 4:6; et. al.). So, once again, you are simply wrong in your statement. The people of God have always turned to his word to receive his authority for guiding their conduct in every walk of life, including worship. I would also like to point out to the reader the contrast between my comments and yours. I have consistently given book, chapter and verse for the authority of what I am presenting here. Scriptural references for your comments are conspicuously lacking. You can call it prooftexting if you want to but I call it establishing Scriptural authority for what I am saying.
Now that you have admitted that you can't find New Testament authority for what you do in worship in the New Testament dispensation, you are going to attempt to use Old Testament authority for what you are doing. The claim that God doesn't change and, therefore, still accepts the same elements of worship that he always accepted is indeed a very old argument. It is not only old, it is feeble too. Old and tired and feeble! When Malachi 3:6 says, "For I am the Lord, I do not change," it is clearly not talking about worship! It is his righteous character that does not change. But if you are going to say that because he accepted mechanical instruments in Old Testament worship then that means he still accepts it, why not go ahead and bring in the feast days also? If God doesn't change in what he requires in worship then we need to be planning our next trip to Jerusalem. Or, are you just going to pick out instrumental music as the one aspect of Old Testament worship where God has not changed? What about the animal sacrifices? What about the living in booths? What about the Temple? What about the sabbaths? What you will do is show the New Testament anti-type to all those things, but you won't do the same for mechanical instruments of music.
Of course you see a difference between the two testaments in "how specific God has been in telling us how we are to worship him." Because you are doing something for which you have no New Testament authority whatsoever, by your own admission, and you are not willing to give it up. So, since you can't justify the practice by pointing to a book, chapter and verse, you are going to say, "Well, the New Testament isn't so specific." How absurd! Would you have my readers to believe that God has given us his word to guide us in every aspect of our lives (Ps. 119:105), except worship! Ridiculous!
It is because I want to "draw near to God" (James 4:8) that I will do what he has said in his word and not try to argue my way around doing whatever I want, even when I have no word from him that he wants it (1 Jn. 5:3). Your arguments are not at all based in Scripture. They are entirely based in self-willed desires and a refusal to humbly submit to God's revealed will. Usually, when people get to the point you are at in your arguments defending what is not there to defend, they will say, "well, what difference does it make whether we use instruments or not?" The difference it makes is evidencing whether or not a person is truly living in subjection to God or if they are faking it (1 Jn. 2:3-5). How can a person say that they are living according to the will of God when they can't show where what they are doing is according to God's will?
Feel free to respond if you like. But, I don't really see what more you can say.
I am shocked at your assumption that I worship with instruments, I do not. I simply see no biblical justification for condemning its use—there is no biblical authority to make such a claim.
Regarding your comment that the early church ‘writings are filled with appeals to the authority of God’s word’—I absolutely agree, but they do not use scripture the way you use it—and specifically they NEVER use it to argue against instruments!
Your comment suggesting that if any practice carried over from the Old Testament then everything would have to carry over is another egregious fallacy. If you follow the narrative plot from Testament to Testament then no one in their right mind could think that we still have temple worship (John 4) or require animal sacrifices (Hebrews 10)! But, unless you’re a Marcionite, it does not follow that everything in the Old Testament is, eo ipso, thrown out.
God certainly does direct us in worship—again this debate is over the level of specificity in the practice of offering praise. We both agree we must sing, we are simply caught in an aporia over whether or not one can embroider that with instruments.
I find you an interesting person to talk to, you appear unable to see around your exaggerated and ill-conceived version of a Calvinist ‘regulative principle of worship’. At least the Calvinists understand the difference between essential and accidental forms of worship…
You say (somewhere else) that if you were doing something in church that is not found in the New Testament scripture that you would stop—well I see no evidence of the early church making sure that every practice was done by book, chapter, and verse (even after the cannon was established). There is no first century Christian who would understand your method of command, example, and necessary inference (which is rarely if ever based on a necessary premises). (II Tim. 3:16 is of course referencing the Old Testament.)
Frankly, you’ve not recovered ‘New Testament Christianity’ any more than a civil war reenactment has reproduced the civil war!
Thanks for the exchange!
Here is the answer for Norm's question regarding whether NT scripture says that the church 'can' use instruments. Every verse Norm quoted using the phrase 'sing praises' is justification that it is acceptable because the very definition of the greek word used (psalmoi) means "sing to a harp". Additionally, since ALL scripture is approved for instruction, and the NT tells us that the Psalms (OT) are to be a part of the worship practice of NT Believers (Eph. 5:19, Col 3:16) we have to reference the examples of those praises, which often used all types of instruments. According to the NT definition for the word psalms, and according NT regarding the use of OT Psalms, God is pleased with worship that comes from the HEART, with or without instruments.
I understand Norm's argument that if NT doesn't say TO use them, therefore he should prohibit their use–but the reason that is insufficient logic is because he doesn't prohibit the use of electric lights in a worship service, or chairs, pews, or benches. There is not a single verse in the NT that instructs Believers to sit during worship. They only used oil lamps because electricity had not been discovered. Nor is there instruction to use a pulpit. Or even a building for that matter. Yet we have them.
I agree with Ryan's posit that it is not the use or non-use of instrumental accompaniment during congregational singing that is at issue, but the sole count of casting judging on those who DO use instrumentation during worship as being SIN that is at issue.
Sin is disobedience. We are DISOBEDIENT only if we do what we are instructed NOT to do, or do NOT do what we are instructed to do. Other matters are individual matters open for interpretation by believers. Acts 15:10 says "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" Just as the NT church argued over legalistic matters such as circumcision, you have made this a matter of legalism.
Yes, we are to 'test everything'-but be very careful that you do not misinterpet or lift meaning from scripture that does not exist. That phrase is specific to testing the teaching and prophecies against the scriptures (OT and NT), which IMHO you have not done properly in your assertions that using an instrument is a sin.
According to your definition of psalmoi every individual would have to be playing a harp in order for their worship to be acceptable. Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 both say that each individual is supposed to be engaged in this activity. That is, "one another" in Col. 3:16 is a reflexive term literally meaning "each one to each other one." It is where we get the doctrinal requirement for congregational singing (cf. Heb. 2:12). Also, in Eph. 5:19, the term "one another" is the same. The only way for the music described here to be "admonishing one another" and "speaking to one another" would be for every single member to be doing it. So, if psalmoi means "playing on the harp," as you say, then every single member would be required to be playing on the harp, or stringed instruments as it is more correctly interpreted.
Not only that, but according to your interpretation of psalmoi to mean "playing on a stringed instrument" you suppose to show New Testament authority for playing mechanical instruments. However, is the music you are attempting to defend only offered on stringed instruments? No, it is not. You will use the same argument to defend playing drums, horns, etc. But, according to you, only stringed instruments are approved by psalmoi.
Of course, the truth of the matter is that neither stringed or percussion, nor wind, instruments are approved by the word psalmoi, in this context. While it is true that psalmoi can refer to playing a stringed instrument, that is not its only meaning. Notice, you get psalmoi from "melody" in Eph. 5:19 but in Col. 3:16 (the parallel passage to Eph. 5:19) it doesn't say "psalmoi" it says "grace." They are both "in your hearts to the Lord." One says "melody in hearts to the Lord," the other says "grace in your hearts to the Lord." Does "grace" mean "to play on the harp"? Of course it doesn't. It is referring to praising God from the heart. Where is the "melody," or psalmoi? In the heart to the Lord! Not on a physical, mechanical, instrument of music!
The word psalmoi can also mean, "to sing songs of praise" (Louw & Nida). According to you, the word required the use of stringed instruments, or authorizes them anyway. However, this word only requires an instrument where one is specified in the context. Otherwise, it is simply referring to "singing praise." If you were to identify an instrument where the word is used the only thing you would come up with is the human heart, the instrument that God made.
According to you, the use of the psalmoi means that they used stringed instruments in their worship. However, history disagrees. Mechanical instruments of music were not introduced into "Christian" worship until the mid seventh century, when it was mostly rejected. It was reintroduced many years later and was more universally accepted. But, even then, people knew it was not according to the historical pattern of Christian worship. Even among the founders and prominent teachers of several modern denominations, mechanical instruments of music were rejected. Notice, in his lesson on the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship, Mark Copeland provides the following quotes:
So, though you say the word psalmoi shows they did use it, serious historians all agree that they did not. Even the word that means "to sing without instrumental accompaniment" – i.e. a cappella – is from Latin and originally meant "as the church does" or "in chapel style." Now, I have the lexicons on my side, I have history on my side and I even have etymology on my side. But, most importantly, I have Scripture on my side. The only thing you have on your side of the argument is your twisting of the text. That is certainly not a position I would want to find myself in on the day of Judgment!
As to the use of lights and pews and buildings, etc., etc., etc. I have answered that tired old, really tired old and feeble, argument far too many times to repeat it here. I would encourage you to read what I have written on that subject under the category of "Authority" here and on BibleQnA.org.
I don’t think the discussion of whether or not musical instruments should be used in worship is really the focal point of your teaching. I believe the real issue at stake here is what is or is not doctrine and whether or not this topic falls into any category that could be considered a doctrine.
First, let’s take a side trip to your first verse that you believe justifies this position. Heb. 7:12-14. You highlighted the phrase, “of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood,” and argued that this shows there is an authority in the silence of scriptures on any given issue. However, this is not the case. In fact, the author of Hebrews is saying the exact opposite of what you claim. By taking this verse out of context and giving it the authority that you do, you are saying that Jesus can not be our high priest because Moses did not say that a person from Judah could be a priest. We know that this is not the case. The author is saying that despite Moses saying nothing, Jesus is indeed our high priest and goes on to explain why. Even more than that, Moses is known as the “Lawgiver” and he set up the Levitical priesthood, so the beginning of this verse shows that the law (written word) can be overruled or changed. The other verses you use to show the authority of the silence of the word, really don’t do that at all. Which leads us to your second verse, 2 Tim 3:16-17 – “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine (teaching), for reproof (evidence), for correction (rectification), for instruction in righteousness (equity, which in this case means: a passion for justice): That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”.
The words I added in parenthesis are the definitions of these words from the Strong’s concordance. Your following conclusion: “ If we cannot find authority for it in the word of God then it is not a good work,” is a false conclusion. You are, in effect, saying that God’s word is not sufficient enough. This is similar to what Obama says about our constitution. He claims that, “the constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It tells us what the gov’t can’t do, but it doesn’t tell us what the gov’t can do.” My belief is, if the scriptures don’t talk about it then it’s an unimportant issue. The key word is “scriptures” aka, the written word. In this case, the scriptures Paul is talking about are the old testament, the only scriptures that were around at the time. Paul had no idea at the time of his letter writing they would become scripture for future generations. Since we know that musical instruments were part of OT worship, it really makes this issue a moot point because the scriptures to which Paul was referencing were NOT silent on the issue.
The issue I have with banning musical instruments is not with a capella music but your saying that those who use them in worship are sinning. Your conclusion: “If the Bible doesn’t tell us that we can, and it doesn’t, then the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship must be the doctrine of men.” is another false conclusion. The very definition of “doctrines of men” defies your stance. Doctrines of men are those laws, rules and regulations instituted by man that are outside the written word of God and added to the law, which is without a doubt, the case here and in many of your other beliefs.
The word “doctrine” means a teaching. It does not mean a rule, regulation or law. There really are very few hard line doctrines in the bible. I can only think of three. 1. Belief in Jesus as the Son of God. 2. Belief in the fact that His shed blood was done for the atonement and remission of our sins. 3. Belief that He rose from the grave and returned to His Father in heaven. These are the only ones needed to attain salvation. The bible speaks much on what is and isn’t sin. Declaring things not mentioned in the word as sin, as I said earlier, are doctrines of men. People can do the right, things for the wrong reasons and that can make good things, evil. The thing God is most concerned about is not the 613 minutia, the Pharisees cared about and raised to an unreasonable level, but what is our motivation from the heart. For example, say a person gets saved and is scheduled to be baptized next month but dies. The fact of his not getting around to be baptized will not keep him from heaven and eternal life because God doesn’t really care that all the ordinances are properly done or not, he cares about the person’s heart. Christ’s continual breaking of the Pharisaical Sabbath proves that. Let’s take communion. The bread and wine are symbolic of His body and blood and He declares that you can take communion the right way but without the proper heart motivation you can eat and drink damnation unto yourself. To look at it differently, if all you had available was biscuits and gravy and milk and you wanted to have communion with God because of your love for Him, then I believe that God would find that more acceptable than those using the right symbols but are only performing an outer ritual that doesn’t reach the heart.
In most cases, issues of doctrine are not sin issues unless they are directly contrary to the written word of God. The absence of an issue in scripture can not and should not constitute a doctrine in and of itself. Ron
I noticed you said that:
“…debates on the use of mechanical instruments in worship were common among brethren…”
but in the heading of this article you state that:
“We believe that instrumental music in worship is sinful and unscriptural, and that one may be lost for so sinning.”
This seems to be contradictary. If debates were occurring among “brethren” then that would mean that the people on both sides of the debate were saved. The term “brethren” indicates that they are both “brothers in Christ.” I’m sure you wouldn’t say that “debates on whether or not Jesus is Divine were common among ‘brethren’,” Could you please expound upon this and reconcile this contradiction?
Willie McGee says
I would like to thank Norm, for his exegesis of the scriptures, chapter and verse to explain, the mechanical instrument in worship.
Ryan, it doesn’t matter what you say beyond that admission, you have confessed that there is no New Testament authority for it. Therefore, it cannot be said to be done by the authority of Jesus Christ. There are nothing else need to be said.