This series of 26 lessons was developed for classroom presentation from the book by David Miller that should be required reading for every preacher, elder, and Bible school teacher in the Lord’s church: “Piloting The Strait”. This book is available from a variety of bookstores, Sain Publications at www.sainpublicans.com as well as from David Miller at www.apologeticspress.org.
CHANGES IN THE CHURCH
SPECIFICS OF CHANGE - CHURCH MUSIC
Ephesians 5:15-21 “SEE THEN THAT YE WALK CIRCUMSPECTLY (cautious, prudent, watchful), NOT AS FOOLS, BUT AS WISE, REDEEMING THE TIME, BECAUSE THE DAYS ARE EVIL. WHEREFORE BE YE NOT UNWISE, BUT UNDERSTANDING WHAT THE WILL OF THE LORD is. AND BE NOT DRUNK WITH WINE, WHEREIN IS EXCESS; BUT BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT; SPEAKING TO YOURSELVES IN PSALMS AND HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS, SINGING AND MAKING MELODY IN YOUR HEART TO THE LORD; GIVING THANKS ALWAYS FOR ALL THINGS UNTO GOD AND THE FATHER IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST; SUBMITTING YOURSELVES ONE TO ANOTHER IN THE FEAR OF GOD.”
The third specific change in the church that our change agent brethren want to make pertains to church music. Instrumental music always seems to loom in the background. No doubt a survey of the younger generation among churches of Christ would reveal that many do not consider the instrument in church worship to be objectionable. Prominent preachers and leaders of those who want to change the church from that patterned after the church in the first century have certainly declared their conviction that instrumental music should not be treated as an issue of fellowship. This position approves the instrument in worship and really says that it doesn’t make any difference to them whether we use it or not.
Again we look at history and find that since we didn’t learn the lessons that it has to teach us; that it indeed repeats itself. A century and a half ago; churches of Christ were enjoying the peace and harmony that comes from being unified in doctrine (teaching) and practice; a harmony based upon the first century pattern. Then restless change agents forged new worship practices (i.e. instrumental music, children’s church and others) and began promoting their views around the brotherhood. Those who opposed the change were depicted as troublemakers. They were represented as making human laws and hampering the noble effort to make worship more meaningful. They were denounced as creedal, divisive, and responsible for the sects that exist.
History repeats itself. An objective observer must indeed marvel. For many years during the middle of this past century, churches of Christ enjoyed peace and harmony in their worship. Those who are promoting “special music” are clearly disrupting our congregations. Yet they are masters of acting innocent in this regard while placing the blame for any disagreements on us old hard heads that won’t change God’s worship to suit them or ourselves. They are likewise specialists at moving from “the New Testament allows special music” to “the New Testament promotes special music.” Their militancy on this matter is a real shock when we consider how much they have changed from the truth in which they were once grounded, and we thought, were anchored.
senior year in college I discovered that I needed another humanities credit in
order to graduate. Being somewhat tired
of night school by then I started looking around for a nice easy freshman
course to take for credit and found “Music I.”
The first night of class the professor introduced himself as a
“professional church musician” and indeed a little investigation revealed that
he was teaching part-time and that his regular job was as the organist and
chief musician in one of the biggest Presbyterian churches in
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 are the longest book in the Bible and David was
known as the “sweet singer of
“AND WHEN THEY HAD SUNG AN HYMN, THEY WENT OUT INTO THE
When Paul and Silas were in prison in
Acts “AND AT PAUL AND SILAS PRAYED, AND SANG PRAISES UNTO GOD: AND THE PRISONERS HEARD THEM.”
this same Paul as guided by the Holy Spirit gives us these instructions:
Ephesians “SPEAKING TO YOURSELVES IN PSALMS AND HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS, SINGING AND MAKING MELODY IN YOUR HEART TO THE LORD;”
We can see then, that no one can deny the importance of music in the worship of Almighty God. The problem comes, however, when people attempt to determine what kind of music is acceptable to God for worship. To determine the answer to this question, 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 man, he has sought to deviate from God’s commandments in order to please himself or those around him rather than God. This has created paganism and idolatry of every description since man’s creation and led to his downfall repeatedly throughout history. Cain was the first of record to deviate in this manner and the last is yet to be born.
In order to pursue the answering of this question and establish a destination for our study I would like for us to consider the a suggestion made by John Milton, one of the greatest religious poets of all time 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 in the gospel by his own Son and his apostles, with strictest command to reject all other traditions whatsoever.” Mr. Milton was a very wise man; his words are the very essence of truth. Therefore, the only authority for what kind of worship is pleasing to God is God’s Word.
In order to appreciate the kind of music we must have in true Christian worship we must understand that we are speaking of music as worship, not music as art, or entertainment. Music in worship to God must, of a necessity, please God first and then man. If there is a conflict then we must follow the admonition found in:
Acts “THEN PETER AND THE other APOSTLES ANSWERED AND SAID, WE OUGHT TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN.”
In Christianity: II Corinthians 5:7 “FOR WE WALK BY FAITH, NOT BY SIGHT.”
Faith comes by hearing: Romans “SO THEN FAITH cometh BY HEARING, AND HEARING BY THE WORD OF GOD.” and 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 should leave us absolutely no doubt that we are to diligently seek out what God requires and that God is to be pleased, not man.
There are only four kinds of worship listed in the New Testament and since we studied those just in a prior lesson ago I will only mention them and then go on:
Vain worship, worship that is “empty” and “without meaning”; like that in Matthew 15:9.where Jesus said that if we do not teach what God commands our worship is in vain, means nothing except perhaps to our own conscience.
Ignorant worship, worshipping something not knowing
what it is, or why such as those in
Will worship, worship that satisfies man’s will rather than God’s will Colossians 2:20-23.
True worship, worship in spirit and in truth as God wishes: John 4:24
If instrumental music in worship is not true worship to God, but rather will worship; that is worshipping as we wish, as we please, rather than to please God, then where did all this business start and why?
It didn’t start with the reformation leaders:
John Calvin - “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.” Commentary on Psalms 33
John Wesley - “I have no objection to the organ in our chapel provided it is neither seen nor heard.” Clarke Commentary Vol. 4, page 686.
Martin Luther classed the organ in the worship of God
as “an ensign of Baal.” Otey-Briney Debate
Adam Clarke - “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 TRUTH’” Commentary on Amos 6:5
music was not even known in the worship of
However, if we turn to the Old Testament for our justification to support using instrumental music in worship today we would also need to add dancing: Psalms 150:3-4 “PRAISE HIM WITH THE SOUND OF THE TRUMPET: PRAISE HIM WITH THE PSALTERY AND HARP. PRAISE HIM WITH THE TIMBREL AND DANCE: PRAISE HIM WITH STRINGED INSTRUMENTS AND ORGANS.” Of course, our wayward brethren that are trying to change our worship to that of the community churches would love it. In Old Testament Law and worship (as taught and practiced) there were many things were not in God’s original plan nor continued in Christianity. And even in the Old Testament God through his prophets voiced his displeasure with their practice Amos in Amos 6 says in verse one “WOE TO THEM that are AT EASE IN ZION, AND TRUST IN THE MOUNTAIN OF SAMARIA, which are NAMED CHIEF OF THE NATIONS, TO WHOM THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL CAME!” then in verse 5 he includes in those to whom woe would come “THAT CHANT TO THE SOUND OF THE VIOL, and INVENT TO THEMSELVES INSTRUMENTS OF MUSIC, LIKE DAVID.”
We cannot use the old law to justify instrumental music in worship today because we are not under that law. Speaking of the old law and Christ’s death Paul said in Colossians 2:14 that Christ: “BLOTTING OUT THE HANDWRITING OF ORDINANCES THAT WAS AGAINST US, WHICH WAS CONTRAY TO US, AND TOOK IT OUT OF THE WAY, NAILING IT TO HIS CROSS;” and that if we try to justify something today because it was commanded in the law given through Moses that “YE ARE SEVERED FROM CHRIST, YE WHO WOULD BE JUSTIFIED BY THE LAW; YE ARE FALLEN FROM GRACE.” Galatians 5:4 (ASV).
The true origin of instrumental music in Catholic and denominational worship today has been documented in the history of mankind and is quite simple to understand when we find the proper information. We must go to history outside the Bible to find it because it isn’t in the Bible; it came hundreds of years after God’s revelation was complete.
“Pope Vitalian is related to have
first introduced organs into some of the churches of
Further research into closely guarded Catholic publications and history records will show that the early attempts to introduce mechanical instruments of music into their church worship created such an uproar that general acceptance was delay for almost 200 years. Thus both historically and scripturally, this practice represents a departure from the faith and practice of the New Testament Church
Since God said in Matthew 17:5 that we should “HEAR YE HIM.” this applies to everything and only that that Christ or his inspired apostles authorized in Christian worship. Here follows all of the New Testament Scriptures on music in worship; they should be studied candidly and prayerfully.
“AND WHEN THEY HAD SANG 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.”
I Corinthians “WHAT IS IT THEN? I WILL PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT, ANDI 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.”
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.”
eight passages of scripture the kind of music God, through the Holy Spirit
directing these writers, specified is vocal music. Whatever arguments or justification 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 so doing we are allowing the Scriptures to
furnish us “COMPLETELY UNTO EVERY GOOD WORK.”
II Timothy 3:16-17 and at the
same time we are not “GOING BEYOND THE THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN.”
However, the older generation has done a commendable job of emphasizing the unacceptability of instrumental music to the extent that for the most part our problems today in many congregations is not with the instrument but with other “special music”, i.e. solos, trios, choirs and praise teams. Some have argued that they find permission for “special music” in Paul’s writings:
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.” v26. “HOW IS IT THEN, BRETHREN? WHEN YE COME TOGETHER, EVERY ONE OF YOU HATH A PSALM, HATH A DOCTRINE, HATH A TONGUE, HATH A REVELATION, HATH AN INTERPRETATION. LET ALL THINGS BE DONE UNTO EDIFYING.”
But anyone who insists that Paul was referring to solo singing in these verses could not prove it if his life depended upon it. At least four other equally plausible interpretations fit the context. “EACH ONE HAS A PSALM” could refer to (1) inspired solo-singing that terminated with all other spiritual gifts; (2) song leaders; (3) recitation of an inspired psalm (i.e. poem); and (4) hymn writers teaching the congregation a new song. Evidences for hymn writers in the early church is seen in the references by Justin Martyr (Apology, V, 28), Tertullian (De Anima c.9), and Eusebius (Eccesiastical History, V, 28). Regarding this last reference (John M’Clintock and James Strong, Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological and Eccesiastical Literature, vol.6 1876).
“Here we have not only testimony to the use of spiritual songs in the Christian Church from the remotest antiquity, but also that there were hymn writers in the apostolic Church, and that their songs were collected for use at a very early date of the Christian Church.”
Despite the clarity with which God has presented His will on this subject, change agents insist that in some churches, connecting culturally may require the use of a “worship team” (praise team) with occasional solos or singing groups. By “worship team” they mean men and women who are situated in front of the assembly or scattered throughout the auditorium with their own microphones. But this invention of man mitigates against the biblical principles of acceptable worship.
A song leader is authorized by the Bible on the grounds that the congregational singing that is enjoined upon the church worship assembly must be implemented in harmony with at least the following three principles of worship:
1.) assembly activity must be “decent” and “orderly” without creating confusion and distraction (I Cor. , 40)
2.) only males are to function in a leadership capacity (I Cor. -35; I Tim. 2:8-15);
3.) worship is to be directed toward God and refrain from being a “performance” for other worshippers or calling attention to the skill of worship leaders (Matt. 6:1ff; 23:5-7)
A single song leader serves a useful, scripturally valid purpose in harmony with these and other biblical principles. But multiple song leaders, on the other hand, serve no necessary or justifiable purpose, but only introduce additional factors into the worship event, i.e., performance and entertainment. And to add women to those groups of multiple song leaders is to add insult to injury because of God’s prohibition for women to usurp authority over men.