Tag Archives: instrumental music in worship

“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

 

 

Don’t Take Down The Fence – David R. Pharr

An illustration from one of the old-time preachers was, “You don’t have to take down the whole fence to let the cows out!”  The point is that breaking down the fence in one place would allow the cattle to escape, even though it might be assumed that the rest of the fence was still standing.  The application is that if we surrender one fundamental principle of the Scriptures, we have opened a way to surrender many more.

I am persuaded that many of our people do not understand what is actually our objection to instrumental music in worship.  It is not an issue of culture, musical tastes, tradition, or whether we can afford a piano.  There is a principle involved.  It is a fundamental principle.  The principle, stated positively, is that worship that is “in spirit and truth” is worship that is according to scriptural instructions.  Stated negatively, the principle is that nothing should be allowed in worship which is not authorized by the word of God.

In our worship every Christian should find spiritual satisfaction in knowing that what is being done is according to the Bible.  When I sing, or pray, or commune, I delight in the knowledge that I am participating in a congregation that embraces the apostolic faith and practice.  Those who attack us for not accepting instrumental music should admit to themselves that what they resent is people trying to be loyal to the Scriptures.  A capella music is not likely to be questioned since it is so clearly what is taught.  Those who are not pleased with it are not pleased with something that pleases the Lord.  If instruments are added, it is not longer a capella – and no longer what the Bible enjoins.

Why do we object to instrumental music in worship?  Because it is not authorized.  Yes, we know the numerous apologies favoring instruments.  They argue it’s in the Greek, in the Old Testament, in Revelation, helps the singing, etc.  But when “the dust has settle,” nothing has ever been brought forward which authorizes instrumental music.  It can be affirmed with absolute certainty that the only music authorized for Christian worship is singing and making melody in the heart.

The principle that must be honored is that what is not authorized is not acceptable.  Unauthorized innovations are additions to God’s instructions (cf. Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18).  They violate the mandate given to the apostles (Matt. 18:18).  They go beyond the things that are written (1 Cor. 4:6).  They alter and add to the covenant (cf. Gal. 3:15).  They are not “in truth” because they can’t be found in the truth (John 4:24).  They are after the doctrine and commandments of men, and therefore, vain worship (Matt. 15:9).  By imposing the traditions of men, they make void the word of God (Mark 7:13).  Since they originate in the will of men, they are “will worship” (Col. 3:23).

Now, back to the illustration that opened this article.  If the principle of authority can be disregarded on the issue of scriptural music, there is no logical objection that can prohibit any other unscriptural invention.  God has set boundaries (a fence) around our faith and practice.  When the fence is broken over the music issue, by what principle can objections be made to infant baptism, sprinkling, additions to the Lord’s Table, burning incense, etc.?

In a conversation with a preacher who defends instrumental music, I asked where is the authority for it.  Eventually, his argument was reduced to his saying, “The Bible does not specifically condemn it.”  I agreed, but urged that he consider that some things must be determined by biblical principles, not by specific prohibitions.  To press the point, I asked him if he would object if someone in his congregation wanted to add jelly to the bread for the Lord’s Supper.  I told him that there is no text that specifically forbids the jelly.  Therefore, to object he would have to decide the question by a biblical principle, rather than by a specific prohibition.  I asked, “What would be that principle?”  (The only possible principle would be as stated above:  what is not authorized is not acceptable.)

What was his answer?  He said that he did not know of anyone who wanted to add jelly, so there was no need to answer my question.  I pressed the point, but he continued to refuse to answer.  I told him that it seemed to me that he was refusing to answer because he knew that the principle which would forbid the jelly is the same principle that forbids the instrument.

A faithful brother told me of visiting a building belonging to an instrumental church.  He asked if he could have one of the tracts on display.  The front of the tract raised the question:  “Where Does The Bible Authorize Infant Baptism?”  When the tract was opened, there was not anything printed on the inside.  On the back was the explanation that nothing was printed inside because there is no text that authorizes infant baptism.  The conclusion was that infant baptism is unacceptable because there is nothing in the Scriptures that authorizes it.  The brother then explained to his host that the title could be changed to:  “Where Does The Bible Authorize Instrumental Music?” and the application would be exactly the same.

Some Leave The Church, Leave The Lord – David R. Pharr

They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would not doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.  (1 John 2:19)

The words of John are blunt.  There were certain ones who had once participated in the fellowship of the saints who had left the church.  The apostle’s explanation was that “they were not of us.”  He does not mean that they were not physically and personally associated with the brethren, but rather that they were of a different mind set, of different convictions.  This had become “manifest” (evident) in their actions as “they went out.”  There had been a time when they appeared they were “of us,” but their apostasy had demonstrated otherwise.

Comparable observations can be made in regard to modern departures.  The Holy Spirit warned that “some shall depart from the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1).  Some leave the church to pursue a worldly lifestyle.  Some leave seeking acceptance by the world.  Some leave to affiliate with denominations.  Some abandon faith altogether.  Some leave because they want a broader, more liberal and more compromising fellowship.  And some leave because they have drawn their circle of approval so small that they have no room for most of the brotherhood.

We will borrow John’s language to name some reasons why some “went out from us.”

They went out from us because they had doubts about the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Bible.  This means that the Scriptures cannot be trusted 100%.  Such is the thinking in worldly theological circles and some who have their degrees from denominational schools show that they have swallowed this kind of infidelity.  One who does not have full confidence in the reliability of God’s Word will never be comfortable where there is sound Bible preaching.

They went out from us because they were not of us with respect for the pattern authority of Scripture.  We believe the New Testament provides a pattern for our faith and practice and that it is by compliance with the pattern that the church of Christ is identified.  Those who pride themselves in their rejection of “pattern authority” logically must embrace an unscriptural paradigm.  The only alternative, according to 2 John 9, is either to abide in the doctrine of Christ or to leave the Lord by leaving the doctrine.

They went out from us because they were not with us as regards the hermeneutic of command, example, and necessary inference.  This has sometimes been incompletely described “as the ONLY way the Bible teaches.”  Obviously there is much more in the Bible (history, facts, poetry, etc.)  The point about command, example, and necessary inference is that this is the only basis by which to establish religious authority.  The place of commandments is obvious (Matt. 28:19ff).  The examples in view are those which are demonstrations of how commands are to be obeyed (1 Cor. 11:2; Phil. 3:17).  Necessary inferences are conclusions so logically necessary as that two plus two equals four.  Those who leave the church over contempt for this hermeneutic have nothing to offer in its place.

They went out from us because they found the simplicity of New Testament worship to be dull and meaningless.  Religious entertainment has a greater appeal.  After all, how can bread and grape juice compare to dramatic performances?  And how can singing scriptural hymns compare to “Christian rock”?  Such measure church by how it makes them feel, not by what is authorized in God’s Word.  We make no defense for worship assemblies that are half-hearted.  “In spirit” is as essential as “in truth” (John 4:24).  But those who go out from us in order to have a more satisfying church experience either never knew or have forgotten that worship is to praise God, not to satisfy fleshly emotions.

They went out from us because they resented preaching that upholds truth and exposes error.  With some audiences there is no longer room for sermons showing biblical proof for our distinctive positions regarding worship, the oneness of the church, scriptural baptism, the sinfulness of divorce, etc.  It’s the same story as described by Isaiah, people who do not want to hear “the law of the Lord” are demanding “smooth” preaching that pleases the multitudes (Is. 8:19ff).

They went out from us because of an inordinate emphasis on grace and faith to the exclusion of obedience.  We know and preach that salvation is by grace, unearned and never merited, and that God’s offer of pardon must be accepted by faith (Eph. 2:8-9).  However, any preaching of grace and faith which minimizes or excludes the necessity of obedience is unacceptable (Heb. 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 1:22).

They went out from us trusting an inflated view of grace.  Our only hope is in the grace of God and his grace is sufficient to cover all our sins.  It is an invention of men, however, to assume that there is (as some have called it) “an umbrella of grace” that makes the rejection of God’s instructions acceptable.  Yet it is more comfortable for some to ignore the demands of truth and to justify continuance of sin and error by saying “grace will take care of it.”  Some who have gone out from us realize they have affiliated with unscriptural organizations, which teach unscriptural doctrines, and which worship unscripturally, but feel satisfied because they think grace will make it right.

They were not with us with regard to the restrictions implied by the silence of the Scriptures.  We have long endured the mockery of those who ridicule our convictions regarding instrumental music in worship.  Our position has been explicit – such is not the music for worship authorized in the New Testament – and this position has never been refuted.  In many places there has not been sufficient teaching on the principles involved, but whatever the fault, some are going “out from us” because they don’t realize that what is NOT authorized is NOT authorized!

They were not with us in recognizing the principle of GENERIC and SPECIFIC authority.  Some biblical instructions are generic, leaving the specifics of how to follow the instructions to our judgment as to what is expedient.  For example, the instructions for our meeting together on the Lord’s Day are generic as regards to time of day and the place.  Any practice which fits within the framework of that generic command is acceptable.  But there are also commands that are specific, which can only be obeyed in the specific way authorized.  The elements for the Lord’s Supper are specified and to omit these elements, or to substitute other elements, or to add to these elements is in violation of specific authority.  Liberalism tries to make the specific generic, to allow more than is authorized.  Radicals try to make the generics specific, binding what God has not bound (Matt. 18:18).

They went out from us because they lacked love and loyalty for the church, which is the body of Christ.  It is easy enough to point out the failures in the human side of the church.  But such does not justify contempt for the church.  Some of the meanest, most unfair, and false things that are said against Christ’s church are said by those who were once among us.  We suspect that this is their psychological compensation for their own sense of guilt that they have deserted the cause they once loved and served.

It is not a new thing that some are deserting the church.  John saw it happening and placed the blame on the ones who were leaving, not on the faithful.  Paul was saddened by the defection of Demas, but he knew the fault was in Demas (2 Tim. 4:10).  When someone leaves the church it is in order for us to examine how we might have better helped and encouraged them.  We realize our human side of the church has many shortcomings and we want to do our best in helping all who are weak and struggling.  But the faithful must also realize that some are going to depart because “they were not of us.”