Tag Archives: Hugh Fulford

“We Have Re-Studied The Issue” — Hugh Fulford

From the very beginning of the effort to restore original New Testament Christianity, churches of Christ have stood opposed to the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship.  This is the case because the churches of Christ in New Testament times did not use instrumental music in their worship.  There is no passage in the New Testament that authorizes the use of instruments in worship, and there is no example of instrumental music being used by the early congregations. The music of the church for the first several centuries after its establishment was strictly a cappella (vocal only).  (See Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 13:15; et al).

It is generally recognized that Pope Vitalian (657-672) was the first to introduce the use of instrumental music in worship in about 670. However, many church historians now think that it was not until the tenth century that instrumental music began to be used.  Either date puts it well this side of the New Testament.

When the Protestant Reformation was launched, several of the reformers opposed the use of instruments in worship.  When the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist denominations began, they all opposed the use of instrumental music in worship, and did so for several years after their beginning. (For example, Charles H. Spurgeon, arguably the greatest Baptist preacher to ever live, and who preached to thousands every Sunday at the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle in London for thirty-eight years, never permitted a mechanical instrument to be used in his services.)  We see therefore that churches of Christ have not always been alone in their opposition to instrumental music in worship!

Thus, it comes as a shock to read of some churches of Christ beginning to adopt the use of instrumental music in some of their worship assemblies.  The elders of these churches, in collaboration with their minister (and often at his instigation), have allegedly “re-studied” the issue and have decided that instrumental music is permissible.  It is interesting to note that so far, to the best of my knowledge, no congregation that has “re-studied” the matter has reached the conclusion that the congregation had been right all along in not using the instrument!  Rather, because of a clamor from the younger members to adopt the instrument and because of the delusion that its adoption would enable them to hold on to their young people and reach others, the conclusion of the “re-study” seems to have been reached before the re-study was ever done!  The decision had already been made before the “re-study” was ever done: “We plan to begin using the instrument in some of our worship assemblies.” How is that for intellectual honesty?

The study and re-study of Bible subjects is always in order.  We are to “study to show [ourselves] approved unto God” (2 Ti. 2:15, KJV).  The word “study” in this context does not refer so much to reading, analyzing, and determining the meaning of a text, as it means to give thought to, to be diligent, and to make an earnest effort to be approved of God (see NKJV, ASV, NASB, et al).  However, no one can be approved of God who does not study God’s word and does not come to an understanding of His will.  Like the Bereans, we are to search/examine the Scriptures daily to determine the things that are so (Ac. 17:11), because not everything taught, believed, and practiced in the realm of religion is “so” (cf. 1 Th. 5:21; 1 Jn. 4:1).  We are to “not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ep. 5:17).  We are to be ready always to give an answer/defense to everyone who asks us for a reason for the hope within us (I Pe. 3:15). In other words, we are to know (based on the Scriptures) WHAT we believe and WHY we believe it!

But God’s word does not change and truth does not change.  The New Testament still says what it has always said about worship that is acceptable to God (Jn. 4:24; 17:17; Ac. 2:42; 20:7; Ep. 5:19; 1 Co. 16:1-2).  It needs to be duly noted that not all worship is pleasing and acceptable to God.  There is such a thing as “vain worship” (Mt. 15:8-9), “ignorant worship” (Ac. 17:23), and “will worship” (Co. 2:23[KJV, ASV]).  Those who have “re-studied” the question of instrumental music in worship have not produced a passage from the New Testament that authorizes the instrument in the worship of the church.  They have not produced an example from the New Testament of any congregation in apostolic times that used instrumental music in its worship.

Along with a re-study of the matter of the kind of music that is acceptable to God in the Christian age, I would urge elders, preachers, and all members of the body of Christ to re-study what the Bible says about the necessity of having Bible authority for all that we do in religion.  I would urge them to re-study how the Scriptures authorize a thing as being pleasing and acceptable to God.  The authority in religion is not what I like or do not like, what I agree with or do not agree with, what I see or do not see anything wrong with, what my parents or grandparents believed about a matter, what “my church” has always taught about a matter, or what some creed, catechism, or church manual says about a matter.

Re-studied the matter?  Indeed, I hope so . . . not just the matter of what is pleasing to God in worship, but what the Scriptures teach on a whole host of subjects.  One just might discover that the Bible does not teach what one has always been told or what one has always believed or what one has always thought or how one has always “felt” about any number of matters.

huford@comcast.net

 

 

The Name of the Church — Hugh Fulford

On one occasion, Leonard Johnson, one of the founders of what is now Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama, was preaching in a gospel meeting in a small Alabama town.  One night he preached a sermon on the church.  In the midst of his sermon brother Johnson said, “Now within the next four to five minutes I am going to tell you everything the New Testament says about the name of the church.”  For the next four to five minutes brother Johnson was completely silent.  He did not utter a word.  Then he said, “There you have it – everything the New Testament says about the name of the church!”

Brother Johnson was absolutely right—the church, the body of people redeemed to God by the blood of Christ, does not have a proper, formal, exclusive, and patented name!  It was not and is not a denomination and does not wear a denominational designation.  Instead, the New Testament gives numerous descriptors for the church.  The church (the aggregate of all who have been saved by obedience to the gospel) is the spiritual body of Christ, of which there is but one (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4).  It is the spiritual temple of God, being composed of living stones (Eph. 2:19-22; I Pet. 2:4-5).  It is the house (household, family) of God, with every child of God a member of it (I Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:5-6).  It is the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13; cf. Acts 2:47).  Christ, in promising to build it, called in “my church” (Matt. 16:18).  A plurality of local congregations are designated as “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16).  At the same time, they also are described as “churches of God” (I Cor. 11:26), and the universal body of redeemed people is called the “church of God” (v. 22).  Geographically, the people of God are spoken of as the church at Jerusalem, the church of God which is at Corinth, the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the churches of Judea, the churches of Galatia, the seven churches of Asia, etc.  Modern Catholic and Protestant names are noticeably absent from the New Testament, and came to be applied to religious groups arising this side of the New Testament!

Churches of Christ today strive to be churches of the New Testament order.  We do not profess to be a denomination.  The use of the biblical descriptor “church of Christ” is not intended as our “official, exclusive, denominational name.” Any biblical descriptor is acceptable.  However, in our sadly divided religious world, it is practical to use rather consistently a descriptor that sets forth in a scriptural way those who are pleading for a return to the undenominational church of the New Testament and who are contending for “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Clearly, it is possible to use a biblical designation for the church in a sectarian and denominational sense and, sadly, many are doing that with the descriptor “church of Christ.”  At the same time, to use this scriptural designation does not make those using it a denomination.

Many years ago, the late Cled Wallace made some insightful observations about the “name” of the church that we would do well to consider today. He wrote: “Now I am somewhat of a stickler for calling the church anything and everything it is called in the New Testament and have said so over and over again in these and other columns . . . I am certain that the expression ‘church of Christ’ has been used in a sectarian sense, but not when it is applied to the right thing, however often it may be used.  It is misused only when it is employed to cover too little or too much or applied to something that is not it at all . . . Brethren keep me more uneasy sometimes by what they mean by it than they do by how often they say it” (Bible Banner, Volume IV, Number II, September 1941).

Let me say again: I am not Church of Christ (viewed as a denomination) in my religious affiliation.  I am not a Church of Christ (viewed as a denomination) preacher – no more so than I am a Church of God (viewed as a denomination) preacher, or a body of Christ preacher, of a kingdom of God’s dear Son preacher, or a temple of God preacher, or any of the other biblical descriptors for the people of God that may be corrupted into a denominational name or employed in a sectarian sense.  At the same time, I am a member of Christ’s church, the Lord’s church, the body of Christ, the household of God.  I can be such without being a member of any denomination.  So can anyone else.  Local churches can be churches of Christ without being a denomination.  There are many of us who are Christians only without denominational affiliation, members only of what the New Testament most frequently designates simply as “the church.”

huford@comcast.net