Tag Archives: instrumental music in worship

“You Think Music’s A Sin!” — Jon Mitchell

I love music. Just ask my little girls. They’d be more than happy to tell you how Daddy loves to pretend the car’s steering wheel is a microphone at his own little concert inside his head while he’s driving and blasting his music. Yes, I love music. I’m very glad music is not inherently sinful in God’s sight.

The charge that we in churches of Christ think music is sinful comes from those who have a misunderstanding of biblical authority in the area of worship. In the denominational world, instrumental musical accompaniment to singing in worship is widely accepted. Some accept it simply because others around them do so, not giving thought to whether God is pleased with the practice. Others assume God is pleased with the practice simply because they themselves approve of it, thus making their worship to Him the “will worship” (KJV) or “self-made religion” (ESV) warned of by Paul in Colossians 2:23. Others seek to find biblical approval for it by appealing the instrumental accompaniment in worship during Old Testament times (1 Chr. 13:8; 15:16; 23:5; 2 Chr. 7:6; 29:25-30; Ps. 150:3-5; etc.), ignoring that the Old Testament laws and practices were taken out of the way at the cross and replaced with Christ’s New Testament (Rom. 7:1-4; Gal. 3:23-25; Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:13-17; Heb. 8:6-13; 9:1-17).

Under the New Testament, our Lord commanded us to “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Since God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), we must worship according to God’s Word., the Scriptures. In the New Testament, the only music commanded of Christians in their worship to God is singing.

Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn on the night He was betrayed (Matt. 26:30; Mk. 14:26). Paul and Silas sang hymns to God while in prison (Acts 16:25). Singing is mentioned throughout the rest of the New Testament: in an Old Testament quote encouraging the Christian to praise God (Rom. 15:9), in the context of giving instruction concerning the worship assemblies (1 Cor. 14:15, 26), instructing Christians to speak to each other (an indication that they were assembled to worship) in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs via singing and making melody with their hearts to the Lord (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), in an Old Testament quote citing how Christ also is singing in the midst of our assemblies (Heb. 2:12), how our spiritual sacrifices to God include “the fruit of our lips” (Heb. 13:15), and how the individual Christian who finds themselves happy during their daily lives should sing praises to God (James 5:13). Unlike the Old Testament, there is no mention of instrumental accompaniment. Historically, such did not arrive in worship of professed Christians until centuries after the church began.

Perusing the above passages shows how the music commanded in the New Testament emphasized the spiritual, not the physical. We are commanded to be “making melody to the Lord with (our) heart” (Eph. 5:19). “Making melody” comes from the Greek term psallo, which has multiple definitions that include the playing of instrumental accompaniment. However, listed among these definitions is this: “to touch the chords of the human heart, that is, to sing, to celebrate with human praise.” As with any word that has multiple definitions, one must examine the context of how it is used in order to determine its meaning. In Ephesians 5:19, the inspired writer specifically says that one “psallos” (“makes melody with”) their “heart.” The heart is the instrument God wants played in our worship to Him as prescribed in the New Testament.

The contrast between New Testament and Old Testament musical worship is striking. When one reads the psalms of David, making melody referred to the playing of physical instruments. Yet in the New Testament, the instrument with which one makes melody is our hearts. As cited earlier, Old Testament music was usually performed by a professional choir or band, with the emphasis on how it sounded to the human ear…the physical side of man. Yet New Testament music is sung by all Christians instead of a select few which make up a choir (unlike common denominational practice, sadly), and the melody is made with one’s heart…the spiritual side of man (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). A recent convert out of denominationalism told me just last week how she has noticed the difference and has been spiritually edified by it.

Therefore, churches of Christ in no way despise music. What the faithful among us despise is lack of biblical authority for how we worship (Col. 3:16-17), because we worship and praise a heavenly Father who gave His only begotten Son to die a humiliating, agonizing death to save us from hell. We are bought with that price (Acts 20:28). We belong to Him. In the covenant He shed His blood to purchase (Matt. 26:28), He told us how to worship Him musically. We simply offer Him no more than that.

Worship in spirit and truth is not a show put on by entertainers to entertain the masses sitting in the pews. It is offering to the Lord who saves us praise and adoration in accordance with His will. That last — “in accordance with His will” — is the key. If it’s not in accordance to His will, how can it truly praise and adore Him?            — Jon

The Case For A Cappella Music In Worship — Will Hester

Over the last twenty-eight years we have seen a resurgence of an old issue in the churches of Christ. The trend of moving away from basic non-instrumental worship services has accelerated. Now—more than ever—we need to speak out against blatant doctrinal error. Our focus needs to be on Christ and his teachings and not the ways of man. We must be willing declare that this is not a biblical doctrine. Instrumental music in worship to God, in every form, is doctrinally unscriptural. A cappella music is the only form of music we can use in worship.

Most of us understand certain aspects of our faith and practices. We know that we have to be baptized for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38), pray to God for all we do (1 Thess. 5:17), and love God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:36-39). Yet the fundamentals to the ways we sing are still hard to sort out among some. The questions that arise are about the authoritative nature of Ephesians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 14:15 and Colossians 3:16-17 and where does instrumental music fit, if at all? If a cappella music is the only form of singing that is prescribed in the New Testament, then instrumental music in worship is unauthorized by God and does irreparable harm to the unity of the church.

In the texts listed above, the Greek word that is used is psallo, defined by most reliable Greek lexicons as literally meaning “to pluck or play.” Eric Lyons writes, “By studying reliable Greek lexicons (dictionaries) and various historical documents, one soon comes to understand that the term psallo has had a variety of meanings in different periods of its history” (Lyons, The Meaning of Psallo in the New Testament). We understand meanings of words change meanings over time, as Lyons mentions, and we also must understand context as well. Ephesians 5:19 and 1 Corinthians 14:15 each “singing and making melody with your heart” and “I will sing praise with my mind.” In both of these texts we see that through context the instrument is the heart and the mind.

Ephesians 5:19 states that Christians must be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” The heart is the instrument that is being played. The Greek of this text is αδοντεσ και ψαλλοντεσ τη καρδια ὑμῶν. Literally this clause means, “singing and making melody with your heart.” For those that believe that instrumental music is authorized, they must contend with the fact that the only instrument authorized is the heart.

Instrumental music is not an old issue in religious history. John Price states, “The first recorded example of a musical instrument in Christian worship was an organ introduced in about 670 in a Roman Catholic Church in Rome by Pope Vitalianus” (Price, 79). However, it was not generally accepted by the populous. “By the 9th century, only two organs had been used in Christian Worship” (Price, 80). Though this was the case and fact that the organ was used at this time, “the general acceptance of it did not come until late 1200” (Price, 80). Although the instrument was introduced at this time, opposition arose from many learned men and religious leaders. We must also state that for many religious groups the instrument was a strange innovation and that many did not even add the instrument until well into the 18th and 19th centuries.

During the restoration movement Alexander Campbell and the other restoration preachers dealt with an assortment of issues and doctrines. They wanted to get back to the Bible for every practice, including the way to worship God in song. Although Campbell dealt with the “issue” of musical notes early in the movement, “From 1850 on, the ‘organ in church’ question kept cropping up” (Choate & Woodson, 20). However, it would not be until twenty years later that the issue became a major source of division in the church.

Woodson and Choate assess the significance of the issue at hand and quote from Benjamin Franklin, a well-known preacher and restorer, saying, “The early Christians had no instruments of music. I will not dishonor the Bible by resorting to the instrument” (Choate & Woodson, 22). James S. Lamar, however, states almost the polar opposite of what Franklin does by saying, “I do not wish to thrust an instrument upon anyone…[A]nd I am perfectly willing for every church to worship God with or without such an accompaniment” (Choate & Woodson, 32). Why are we quoting these two men? Are their statements anymore appeasable than others? Not necessarily, but they do start to scratch the surface of both sides of the issue.

The issue came to a head by 1870 and “the differences of opinion over instrumental music widened, while more and more pianos and organs were finding their way from the parlor and Sunday school into the worship service upstairs in the church (Choate & Woodson, 37). The issue was decisively separated into those for and those against. For the next thirty-five years the issue would start severing the ties between the Christian Church and the churches of Christ. By 1906, the issues between the two were finally put to rest. “This was the year that the United States religious census identified the churches of Christ as a separate and unique religious movement” (Choate & Woodson, 107).

In 2006, the one hundred year anniversary of the split between the churches of Christ and Christian churches, a preacher in Texas decided to come out with a stance on the issue that perplexed many people in the church. Rick Atchley, the preacher for the former Richland Hills congregation in North Richland Hills, TX, “delivered three sermons (all entitled “The Both/And Church”) in December 2006 from the Richland Hills pulpit in an effort to explain the rationale behind the change” (Miller, Preface). He tried to explain why the largest church in the brotherhood was about to make the most drastic decision one church could make.

Why did Atchley and the Richland Hills congregation make this decision? Was it to be the first in what they thought would be a wave of change in the church? In the minds of most, the decision was made on “full study.” Brother Atchley even states, “I spent three days in Abilene in the library, reading everything I could on this subject. I let every side have their best shot at me. I read debates that were 100 years old. I read everything the anti-instrument position has produced” (Miller, 1). The most troubling aspect of this quote is not that he spent his time in Abilene, but it is what is really not said. The fact that he “studied” these documents and yet still came to the conclusion he did is baffling, to say the least.

What should be stressed is that, “Historically, people who have argued for instrumental music in church worship have made considerable use of material from the Old Testament. Brother Atchley is no exception” (Alexander, 19). As with all of his arguments, he takes a slanted view of scripture to suit the issue that he is defending. “Atchley’s first attempt to push the Old Testament perspective on instrumental music into the New Testament comes in a passing comment on Psalms 33, 92 and 150, all of which mention instruments” (Alexander, 22). Atchley’s assessment and thoughts on these passages being for instrumental music in Christian worship are weak, at best. However, this is not the end of his argument. He states, “No where in the New Testament is congregational singing specifically authorized” (Miller, 36). The statement is very bold and has major implications in this issue. Miller states, “If God has indicated His desire that our worship of Him include singing, such singing would be mere human invention. And if God accepts mere human invention/inclination for worship, then a person can worship God any way he chooses, no matter how bizarre or outlandish, as long as he/she is sincere” (Miller, 36). He could not have stated it any clearer than that.

While Richland Hills and Rick Atchley were taking these drastic steps there were other congregations that followed suit. One such congregation, the Quail Springs Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, added an instrumental music service. Their preacher “praised Atchley and recommended that the Quail Springs members listen to Atchley’s lessons. He said the Quail Springs church ‘will join the Richland Hills and others in becoming a both/and church’” (Alexander, 12). One decision made by one church shaped the course of events in churches of Christ for years to come.

The train of introducing instrumental music into worship does not stop with Quail Springs and Richland Hills. In 2015, the eldership at Greenville Oaks church of Christ in Allen, Texas, made the decision to introduce an instrumental service on Sundays. In a document found on their website entitled, “FAQ-Greenville Oaks Worship Journey,” they explain what lead them to this decision. They stated that they want to be “culturally relevant,” that they want to meet “a growing need and desire,” and that they want to “provide the younger and future generations with worship experiences that engage and enable their hearts to worship.” These three statements are extremely dangerous in the context they are being used. The “culturally relevant” statement is dangerous because of the conformity to the worldview of what “worship” looks like. Romans 12:2 states, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Notice the first part of the verse. When we decide to be “culturally relevant” and change the nature of worship, then we are in clear violation of Romans 12:2.

They also stated, “Nearly all churches that are really connecting with and reaching the lost have contemporary instrumental worship.” That is a grave assumption. This statement, if taken at face value, assumes that any church that does not have instrumental worship is not effectively reaching the lost. There is no evidence to support this claim. I concede that many people attend instrumental churches; however, to make the claim that they are reaching the lost and teaching the right way of worship is not in corroboration with Scripture.

What can be done to combat this issue? Are there ways that we can speak out against this doctrinal error and help those who have fallen away to see the truth? The answers may come from an unlikely source. In 1987, Rubel Shelly produced a small book entitled, Sing His Praise: A Case for A Cappella Music as Worship Today. He states, “It would be a shallow protest to inveigh against corrupting the action (i.e., adding instruments to the musical praise of the church) without warning against neglecting its very essence (i.e., adoration from a devoted heart)” (Shelly, 53). Yes, even Shelly believed that instrumental music was not the proper way of praising God in song. He further stated, “…Instrumental music should be abandoned” (Shelly, 56).

How should one interpret what has just been said? Is there sufficient data to support the case for either side? I believe there is enough data to support the case for a cappella music. Scripture tells us that our heart and mind are both affected and that we play our hearts — ψάλλω — through our words. Shelly has a statement near the end of his book that, if made today, one wonders if he would still affirm. “If an effort were to be made to introduce the instrument into a local church where I held membership or into our larger fellowship of believers, I would oppose it strenuously” (Shelly, 108). I could not agree more with brother Shelly’s statement as made in 1987.

Price states, “In the first place, this is a misunderstanding of the regulative principle of worship, which has been cherished by the Reformed churches throughout the centuries. The Bible affirms that worship is always a matter of what God commands, never a matter of what He has not forbidden.” He goes on, “In the second place, we may compare this to the Lord’s supper. In the same way that He has not forbidden the use of musical instruments in the New Testament, He has not forbidden the eating of meat at His supper. All would agree that to eat meat at the Lord’s Supper would be presumptuous addition to His will. But if we use the rule that what is not forbidden is acceptable, then to eat meat at the Lord’s Supper must be admissible. Why should the addition of musical instruments in His worship be viewed any differently than the addition of eating of meat at His Supper? The argument that because musical instruments are not forbidden in the New Testament and, therefore, their use is acceptable must be dismissed” (Price). Jividen expands on this idea: “The answer that Jesus gave showed that he used prohibitive silence in His interpretation of Scriptures” (Jividen). He then states, “His Disciples should have the same lofty view of the Scriptures” (Jividen, 140)

Is singing worship? When we worship, do we believe in the words of the songs? According to Jividen, “Singing is for edification. Singing is heartfelt praise to the Lord” (Jividen, 92). He mentions the passages we have discussed and says, “Two points stand out in the passages—both spirit and mind are involved in worship in song, and everyone should understand and benefit from the songs in the assembly” (Jividen, 92). Jividen is correct on these points because worship includes singing. He continues, “James combines singing and praying in describing how worship arises from hearts filled with joy or sorrow [James 5:13]” (Jividen, 91).

What can be taken away from this study, if anything? One of the key points to be made is that the scripture is our guiding principle. Instrumental music, as we have seen, has no place in the worship setting. John Price goes a step further: “To bring them into the church is to transgress the authority of Christ in His Worship” (Price, 228). I agree with him wholeheartedly.

As we conclude, Ecclesiastes 12:13 comes to mind: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Our duty as Christians is to worship in the way set forth in the Bible. Instrumental music in worship is unauthorized by God and does irreparable harm to the unity of the church. We must guard against doctrinal error such as instrumental music and speak out against it. Now more than ever we need sound teaching and it is my firm conviction that we must start at the heart of worship. If we lose the battle for sound worship, then we have lost our way and we may never get it back.

Will is married to Sarah and is the minister of the Pleasant View congregation in Skullbone, TN.


Works Cited

Alexander, Thomas C. Music In Worship: A New Examination of an Old Issue. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate, 2010.

Choate, J.E., and William Woodson. Sounding Brass and Clanging Cymbals. Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman University, 1991.

Elders of Greenville Oaks. “FAQ-Greenville Oaks Worship Journey.” Allen, TX: Greenville Oaks church of Christ, 2015.

Hester, David. Among the Scholars. Tuscumbia, AL: David W. Hester, 1994.

Jividen, Jimmy. More Than A Feeling. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate, 1999.

Lyons, Eric. The Meaning of “Psallo” in the New Testament. Apologetics Press, 2002. Web. 2002.

Miller, Dave. Richland Hills and Instrumental Music: A Plea to Reconsider. Pulaski, TN: Sain Publications, 2007.

Price, John. Old Light on New Worship. Avinger, Texas: Simpson Publishing Company, 2005.

Shelley, Rubel. Sing His Praise: A Case for A Cappella Music as Worship Today. Nashville, TN: 20th Century Christian, 1987.

“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.




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.”