“WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DOES GOD WANT”
To me music is the greatest of the arts, and the only one for which I have any great interest. From the time I can remember; music has been a part of my life. From the old battery radio we used to listen to the Grand Old Opry and the Louisiana Hayride to the weekly worship service, Sunday afternoon singings and gospel meetings. With a father who was a song leader we attended almost of them that were within driving distance. Music gratifies an esthetic desire in man, has the power to lift a veil of trouble, and uplift the spirit. Music is a dividing line between man and beast and singing with joy in our hearts will help remove such things as hatred, greed, selfishness and seek a pathway to his soul.
virtually, the beginning of time music has played a very definite role in both
the Christian and Hebrew worship of God.
The Psalms of David, and others that are included, comprise the longest
book in the Bible and David was known as the “sweet singer of
Matthew 26:30 “AND WHEN THEY HAD SUNG AN
HYMN, THEY WENT OUT INTO THE
Paul and Silas sang when they were in prison in
Acts “AND AT PAUL AND SILAS PRAYED, AND SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD: AND THE PRISONERS HEARD THEM.”
and this same Paul writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit commanded Christians everywhere:
“SPEAKING TO YOURSELVES IN PSALMS AND HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS, SINGING AND MAKING MELODY IN YOUR HEART TO THE LORD;” Ephesians
We see therefore that no one can deny the importance of music in the worship of Almighty God. The problem comes, however, when people attempt to worship to God with the wrong form of music. To determine the answer to the question of “What Kind of Music God Wants”, since music is a part of worship, we must consider the much broader question of “what kind of worship is acceptable in God’s sight?” In every age of mankind’s existence, man has sought to deviate from God’s commandments in order to please himself or those around him rather than God. This kind rebellion against God’s commandments has created every description of worship man can devise virtually since his creation and led to his downfall repeatedly throughout history. Cain was the first of record to deviate in this manner and the last is probably yet to be born.
In order to pursue the answering of this question and establish a destination for this discussion I am going to adopt as my thesis a writing by one of the greatest religious poets in man’s eyes; John Milton, who said: “True religion is the true worship and service of God learned and believed from the word of God only. No man or angel can know how God would be worshipped and served unless God reveal it; he hath revealed and taught it to us in the holy scriptures by inspired ministers and the gospel by his own Son and his apostles, with strictest command to reject all other traditions whatsoever.” I don’t know Mr. Milton’s religion affiliation but in comparing this statement with God’s Word we can do nothing but agree. The only authority for what kind of worship is pleasing to God is the Word of God.
In order to appreciate the kind of music we must have in true Christian worship we must first understand that we are speaking of music as worship, not music as a medium of entertainment or music as an art form. Music in worship to God must, of necessity, please God first and then man. If there is conflict then we must as Peter and John when brought before the high priest:
Acts “THEN PETER AND THE other APOSTLES ANSWERED AND SAID, WE OUGHT TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN.”
If we are truly Christian or one belonging to Christ we must:
II Corinthians 5:7 (“….WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT:)”
and we’re told further in Hebrews 11:6 “BUT WITHOUT FAITH it is IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE him: FOR HE THAT COMETH TO GOD MUST BELIEVE THAT HE IS, AND that HE IS A REWARDER OF THEM THAT DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM.” This leaves no doubt that God is to be pleased, not man.
There are only four kinds of worship mentioned in the New Testament.
1.) Vain Worship: Jesus said “THIS PEOPLE DRAWETH NIGH UNTO ME WITH THEIR MOUTH, AND HONOURETH ME WITH their LIPS; BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN THEY DO WORSHIP ME, TEACHING for DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.” Matthew 15:8-9 Vain, in this context, means “empty” or “without meaning.” Vain worship is worship according to the commandments, doctrines or precepts of men, worship unacceptable to God.
2.) Ignorant Worship: Acts -23 “THEN PAUL STOOD IN THE MIDST OF MARS' HILL, AND SAID, ye MEN OF ATHENS, I PERCEIVE THAT IN ALL THINGS YE ARE TOO SUPERSTITIOUS. FOR AS I PASSED BY, AND BEHELD YOUR DEVOTIONS, I FOUND AN ALTAR WITH THIS INSCRIPTION, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. WHOM THEREFORE YE IGNORANTLY WORSHIP, HIM DECLARE I UNTO YOU.”
These people were worshipping ignorantly. Perhaps some allowance could be made for ignorant worship but willful ignorance is not acceptable to God.
Proverbs 28:9 “HE THAT TURNETH AWAY HIS EAR FROM HEARING THE LAW, EVEN HIS PRAYER shall be ABOMINATION.”
The ignorance of the men of
Acts “AND THE TIMES OF THIS IGNORANCE GOD WINKED AT; BUT NOW COMMANDETH ALL MEN EVERY WHERE TO REPENT:”
3.) Will Worship: This term is used to describe worship that satisfies the will of men first before the will of God.
Colossians 2:20-23 “WHEREFORE IF YE BE DEAD WITH CHRIST FROM THE RUDIMENTS OF THE WORLD, WHY, AS THOUGH LIVING IN THE WORLD, ARE YE SUBJECT TO ORDINANCES, (TOUCH NOT; TASTE NOT; HANDLE NOT; WHICH ALL ARE TO PERISH WITH THE USING;) AFTER THE COMMANDMENTS AND DOCTRINES OF MEN? WHICH THINGS HAVE INDEED A SHOW OF WISDOM IN WILL WORSHIP, AND HUMILITY, AND NEGLECTING OF THE BODY; NOT IN ANY HONOUR TO THE SATISFYING OF THE FLESH.”
4.) True Worship: “GOD is A SPIRIT: AND THEY THAT WORSHIP HIM MUST WORSHIP him IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH.” (John 4:24) Therefore we must be conscientious, sincere and worship as the Word of God commands. Even if we are sincere and still do in all sincerity something we call worship that is not as God’s word directs it is unacceptable. Jesus said in John “SANCTIFY THEM THROUGH THY TRUTH: THY WORD IS TRUTH.” True worship restated is the same as “(FOR WE WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT:)” II Corinthians 5:7 for “….FAITH cometh BY HEARING, AND HEARING BY THE WORD OF GOD.” Romans 10:17
If we worship by faith then we must worship by the word of God or as many have said in the past with a “thus saith the Lord” backing all of the things we do in worship. Yet most men have ignored this concept and our own brethren who were taught properly at one time in their lives are joining them by the hundreds and thousands. The most popular idea of this generation seems to be that if something is not expressly forbidden then it cannot be wrong. Just a few years ago I spent an evening in the home of a friend in a gathering and study of God’s word trying to convince their son and his young wife that joining in with a so-called Church of Christ who split off from another congregation so they could use their jazzed up “contemporary” music and praise teams (that’s both men and women song leaders, usually a quartet, using microphones and leading the congregation) were going wrong. We were not successful. We read that “WHOSOEVER GOETH ONWARD AND ABIDETH NOT IN THE TEACHING OF CHRIST HATH NOT GOD…” (II John v9 ASV) We could use this idea of men, approved if not directly forbidden, to justify most anything, including dancing, animal sacrifices and coffee and donuts on the Lord’s table, couldn’t we? But does the New Testament specify what kind of music to use in worship? Definitely; so let’s look at the New Testament scripture regarding the kind of music God wants:
Since God said “HEAR YE HIM”, speaking of his son Jesus, when he chastised Peter on the mount of configuration we must follow His direction. Since the apostles and the first century church were directed by the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent to guide them; at least up until the time that God’s revelation was completed; this applies to everything and only that which they authorized, commanded and practiced in Christian worship. Here follows all of the New Testament scriptures on the subject of music in worship; if you have any doubts they should be studied candidly and prayerfully.
Matthew 26:30 “AND WHEN THEY HAD SUNG AN
HYMN, THEY WENT OUT INTO THE
Acts “AND AT PAUL AND SILAS PRAYED, AND SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD: AND THE PRISONERS HEARD THEM.”
Romans 15:9 “AND THAT THE GENTILES MIGHT GLORIFY GOD FOR his MERCY; AS IT IS WRITTEN, FOR THIS CAUSE I WILL CONFESS TO THEE AMONG THE GENTILES, AND SING UNTO THY NAME.” This verse isn’t directly related to worship, Paul is expressing his joy by quoting Psalms 18:49.
Paul speaking to the Corinthian brethren and directing them regarding their conduct in worship:
I Corinthians “WHAT IS IT THEN? I WILL PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT, AND I WILL PRAY WITH THE UNDERSTANDING ALSO: I WILL SING WITH THE SPIRIT, AND I WILL SING WITH THE UNDERSTANDING ALSO.”
Ephesians “SPEAKING TO YOURSELVES IN PSALMS AND HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS, SINGING AND MAKING MELODY IN YOUR HEART TO THE LORD;”
Colossians 3:16 “LET THE WORD OF CHRIST DWELL IN YOU RICHLY IN ALL WISDOM; TEACHING AND ADMONISHING ONE ANOTHER IN PSALMS AND HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS, SINGING WITH GRACE IN YOUR HEARTS TO THE LORD.”
The Hebrew writer uses another quote from Psalms to express the praise that should be raised to God because of the Son that he sent:
Hebrews “SAYING, I WILL DECLARE THY NAME UNTO MY BRETHREN, IN THE MIDST OF THE CHURCH WILL I SING PRAISE UNTO THEE.”
James “IS ANY AMONG YOU AFFLICTED? LET HIM PRAY. IS ANY MERRY? LET HIM SING PSALMS.”
In the eight passges of scripture just noted the kind of music specified is vocal music. Whatever arguments we might put forth in favor of instrumental music in worship we are worshipping God “IN TRUTH” only by “SINGING AND MAKING MELODY IN OUR HEARTS” to him. In doing so we are allowing the Scriptures to furnish us completely “UNTO EVERY GOOD WORK” as we’re told in II Timothy (ASV). And at the same time we are not going beyond or “ABOVE THAT WHICH IS WRITTEN” as we’re told we should not do in I Corinthians 4:6. The Holy Spirit of the Godhead tells us through the inspired writers that one is walking in truth by singing in worship and leaving out the mechanical instrument and the early church writers and leaders who up to a point in time were directed by the Holy Spirit agree. We can read further that:
“AND WHATSOEVER YE do IN WORD OR DEED, do ALL IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS, GIVING THANKS TO GOD AND THE FATHER BY HIM.” Colossians 3:17
Vocal music or singing exalts the human voice that God created and authorized for worship by his Son; instrumental music used in worship exalts men’s desires and pleasures to the level of worship and is vain worship that God will not hear. Since the New Testament nowhere authorizes the use of mechanical music in church worship then it can only be by the authority of men. This is the type of rebellious conduct which kept the Hebrews in difficulties for centuries and finally destroyed them.
brethren where do people go to try to justify their desire for this addition to
God’s command. One place is the Old
Testament. But instrumental music was
not even known in the worship of
II Chronicles 29:25 “AND HE SET THE LEVITES IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD WITH CYMBALS, WITH PSALTERIES, AND WITH HARPS, ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDMENT OF DAVID, AND OF GAD THE KING'S SEER, AND NATHAN THE PROPHET: FOR so was THE COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD BY HIS PROPHETS.”
Yes, instrumental music in worship was used in the Old Testament worship but so were many other things that God did not carry over into New Testament worship. Why don’t our denominational neighbors dance in their worship? After all we can read about that in Psalms 150:3-4; why don’t they make animal sacrifices for we know that was commanded?
In the Old Testament Law and worship there were many things not in God’s original plan; nor where they continued in Christian worship. God tolerated instrumental music in worship along with polygamy and easy divorce under Judaism but later not tells us that he hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and says “WOE UNTO THEM THAT (v.1)…SING IDLE SONGS TO THE SOUND OF THE VIOL, THAT INVENT FOR THEMSELVES INSTRUMENTS OF MUSIC LIKE DAVID.” Amos 6:5
Even though instrumental music was permitted in Jewish worship; Christians are not under that Law. Speaking of the old law and Christ’s death Paul said that Christ came:
“BLOTTING OUT THE HANDWRITING OF ORDINANCES THAT WAS AGAINST US, WHICH WAS CONTRARY TO US, AND TOOK IT OUT OF THE WAY, NAILING IT TO HIS CROSS;” Colossians 2:14
By the same token God tells us again through Paul:
“CHRIST IS BECOME OF NO EFFECT UNTO YOU, WHOSOEVER OF YOU ARE JUSTIFIED BY THE LAW; YE ARE FALLEN FROM GRACE.” Galatians 5:4
Therefore, if we try to justify any religious practice today by what the Old Testament Law teaches we fall from the grace of God. That grace that freely gives us salvation is removed!
Another place that people go to try to justify bringing instrumental music into Christian worship is the book of Revelation. They cite scriptures that speak of harps and trumpets in heaven and conclude that whatever is suitable there must be suitable here as well. A favorite scripture used to support this argument is:
Revelation 14:2-3 “AND I HEARD A VOICE FROM HEAVEN, AS THE VOICE OF MANY WATERS, AND AS THE VOICE OF A GREAT THUNDER: AND
THE VOICE WHICH I HEARD was AS the voice OF HARPERS HARPING WITH THEIR HARPS: AND THEY SING AS IT WERE A NEW SONG BEFORE THE THRONE, AND BEFORE THE FOUR LIVING CREATURES, AND THE ELDERS: AND NO MAN COULD LEARN THAT SONG BUT THE HUNDRED and FORTY and FOUR THOUSAND, WHICH HAD BEEN PURCHASED OUT OF THE EARTH.” (ASV)
Now brethren what is it that the Apostle John said he heard? Did he say he heard many waters? Did he say he heard a great thunder? Did he say he heard harps? No; he said he heard a voice, a voice from heaven, a voice that sounded like many waters, a voice that sounded like thunder, a voice that sounded like harps being played not their literal sounds. And these voices were singing! The book of Revelation is a highly symbolic writing and anyone studying it or attempting to support an argument using it must keep this in mind.
Another argument used is that if the use of mechanical instruments of music is all right in the home, then why not in church worship? If we just would stop and think a little we can readily see that there are many things used in the home that would be unacceptable in church worship by anyone’s standards.
Others say that the use of mechanical instruments in worship is a parallel with the use of pews, songbooks, lights, etc. Apparently some cannot distinguish between a silent piece of furniture which keeps silent during the worship and something that drowns out a portion of the worship and in many cases distracts the worshippers from the thoughts that they should have.
Casting aside all prejudice, can’t we honestly say that the reason churches have instrumental music today in their worship is because of the traditions of men and a desire to do what they want in worship rather than what God has commanded? History supports this conclusion. We have to go outside the Bible to study the institution of this practice into so-called Christian worship. The American Encyclopedia, volume 12, page 688 tells us:
“Pope Vitalian is related to have first introduced organs
into some of the churches of
The Chambers Encyclopedia in volume 7, page 112 says simply:
“The organ is said to have been introduced into church music by Pope Vitalian in 666 A.D.”
Further research into closely guarded Catholic publications will reveal that the early attempts to introduce mechanical instruments of music into their denominational worship created such an uproar that acceptance was delayed for 200 years. Even the men who are credited with starting many of our manmade denominational churches today opposed the use of instruments in worship.
John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterian Church stated in his commentary on Psalms 33 “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of other shadows of the Law.”
Adam Clarke in his commentary, volume 4, page 686, quotes John Wesley, founder of Methodism as saying “I have no objection to the organ in our chapel provided it is neither seen nor heard.”
Martin Luther, founder of the
denomination that would become the
Adam Clarke, himself, whom I
believe was also a Methodist, I could stand corrected on that; in his
commentary on Amos 6:5 states the
following “I have never known
instrumental music to be productive of any good in the worship of God and I
have reason to believe that it has been productive of much evil. Music as a science I esteem and admire, but
instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music and I here register
my protest against all such corruption in the worship of the Infinite Spirit
who requires his followers to worship ‘him in spirit and in truth’”
Savonarla, a Catholic dominican who rebelled against much of the teachings of the Catholic denomination in Italy said when he preached the doctrines of human invention he pleased an impatient and fickle people, but when he turned to the Bible, he shook men’s souls. Surely it is safe and right in time and in eternity to worship just as it is written in God’s word without addition or subtraction. For these reasons and all the others mentioned in this study the true churches of Christ throughout the world and throughout time do not and have not used mechanical instruments of music in worship and plead with those who love the Bible to return to apostolic practice in Christian worship.