WHY THE CHURCH OF CHRIST WORSHIPS WITHOUT INSTRUMENTS OF MUSIC!
People think the church of Christ strange because we do not use an instrument of music in our worship services. I hope the reader will open his heart to this message and try to understand why our music is accapella or without instruments, in our worship to God. We are not against music, nor are we opposed to instruments of music, but we do believe that, 'in worship', our praise to God should be without instrumental accompaniment.
There are those who say, "The church of Christ does not believe
in music." This statement could not be further from the truth. We
do believe in music and we have music in our worship! There are two
types of music: vocal and instrumental. Our music is vocal, but it is
music. I hope I can help you to come to a better understanding as to why
we do not use a piano, organ, guitar, banjo, drums, nor any other
instrument of music, in our worship to God. The first musical instrument
among churches of Christ is reputed to have been introduced at Midway,
Kentucky in 1859. Its usage was not without opposition, even at Midway.
The controversy escalated over the brotherhood with some churches
adopting the instrument, often accompanied by division, and others
standing fast in their opposition.
I regret there is even a need to discuss this subject. For more than
150 years the question of music in worship to God has been debated. For
a number of years those who loved God's Truth have contended earnestly
for "the Faith" (Jude 3), in defending 'singing' in our
worship to God. There are those who continue to contend for the
instrument in worship, but not because of the authority of the
Scriptures. Usually, those who advocate the use of the instrument in
worship, do so on various grounds from, "I like it and want
it" to "Others are doing it", but never
because the Bible authorizes it. Alan Highers made this observation,
"As time has gone by, and the dust of battle has settled, one thing
has become clear--attempted scriptural defenses of instrumental music
are as rare as a June day in January.
This battle has been fought in years past, but in the recent years we have failed to continue to teach on this subject and many have become indifferent to the question. Jesus Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23) and as such, He is the head of the worship of the church. Therefore, the Head would have to authorize the instrument of music in worship, and without His authorization, one would be usurping the authority of Christ!
Let me hasten to point out that the omission of the instrument in our worship is not the result of preference, nor of taste, nor is it the result of wanting to be different, but it is wholly a matter of faith!
I place before you ten Scriptures as a basis for our study of this subject. Our decision to not use the instrument in our worship is based upon God's Word and we hope your consideration of this matter will be in the light of God's teaching. These verses, and all Scripture references in this treatise are from the King James Version of the Bible, unless otherwise indicated.
2 Corinthians 5:7---"(For we walk by faith, not by sight."
Romans 10:17---"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Romans 14:23---"And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
2 John 9-11---"Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is a partaker of his evil deeds."
Colossians 3:17---"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."
Ephesians 1:22-23---"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all."
John 4:24---"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."
Revelation 22:18-19---"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
2 Timothy 3:16-17---"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteous- ness, That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
2 Peter 1:3---"According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." These Scriptures form the basis for this study. I am convinced a matter that is "not of faith", "not of the doctrine of Christ" and "not by the authority of Jesus Christ", is sinful! Therefore, I ask that you study with me and let us accept the teaching of the Word of God.
I propose now to mention a number of reasons why we do not use instruments in worship to God and I hope you will note that each of these reasons are based on the Word of God.
We do not use instrumental music in worship because: IT DOES NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST!
In Matthew 28:18-20, we hear Christ say, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, 'All power (authority-cem) is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.' Amen." There are three great truths stated here:
Let us now look at what the New Testament says regarding music in worship. The emphasis I make in these passages will be noted by capitalization and bold print.
Matthew 26:30---"And when they had SUNG a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives."
Acts 16:25---"And at midnight 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 14:15---"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 5:19---"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 2:12---"Saying, 'I will declare thy name unto my brethren; In the midst of the church will I SING praise unto thee.'"
James 5:13---"Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him SING psalms."
Having read these passages, can you say that the instrument of music is commanded in any of them? Can you find in these passages, or any other New Testament passage, an example of instrumental music in worship? Is there one place where the instrument is implied in any of these verses? There is neither command, example or implication of instruments of music in worship in the New Testament. Thus, we do not use the instrument in our worship because there is no command to do so, no example of its use in the New Testament church and there is not even an implication that it was ever used in New Testament worship to God, with God's approval.
But someone says, "What about the Greek word, 'psallo,' which is translated "making melody" in Ephesians 5:19?" Note the words of this verse: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;".
We are often told that the instrument is inherent in the word 'psallo'. If that is the case, then the instrument is no longer a matter of expediency or choice, but is a command. And not only that, but it would not be one instrument for the entire congregation, but each one of us would have to have an instrument, or else, we could not psallo or make melody in our hearts. Such would prevent me from being able to worship God, because I cannot play an instrument of music! The verse does NOT say we are to sing unto the Lord, but we are to "sing AND make melody in your heart to the Lord." Therefore, we must do both, not one or the other. By the way, God has commanded that we worship Him (Matthew 4:10 and Jesus 4:24), and He has always told us 'how' were are to worship Him. God has also provided us with all we need to obey that command. Man comes equipped to worship God acceptably, without the addition of an instrument of music. McClintock and Strong in their Cyclopedia, Volume VIII, page 739, says, "The Greek word psallo is applied among the Greeks of modern times exclusively to sacred music, which in the Eastern Church has never been any other than vocal, instrumental music being unknown in that Church, as it was in the primitive Church."
If you look at this verse (Ephesians 5:19), the word 'psallo' does demand that something be touched, but that something is specified in the text--the human heart. Thus, the instrument that is to be psalloed is the human heart. It is interesting that of the 148 scholars who worked on the translation of the King James Version and the American Standard Version, all translated the word 'psallo' without the instrument of music. If the instrument is inherent in the word, why did they not translate it as such? In Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 we are called on to "speak," "teach," "admonish," "sing," and "make melody in the heart". Each of these actions is related to verbal activity. Not one of them can be performed by an instrument of music.
We do not use instruments of music in worship because: WE CANNOT DO SO 'BY FAITH'!
Paul says in Romans 14:23, "And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." I am aware of the fact that this verse does not deal directly with instruments of music in worship, but the principle here does apply. If an action is not "of faith", it is sin! If you were to go back just four chapters to Romans 10:17, you would read that faith comes from the Word of God. Therefore, for a matter to be 'of faith', it must be 'of the Word of God'.
In 2 Corinthians 5:7 Paul says we are to "walk by faith, not by sight." To walk by faith is to walk as God's Word directs. If God's Word does not direct an action, it is not 'of faith' and therefore is sin!
It is sometimes argued that the Scriptures do not condemn the use of instruments in worship and therefore, authorizes it on the basis that it is not condemned. I have never understood why people have the idea that silence gives consent. We do not believe this in any area of life, except with regard to the church or religion.
Parents will sometimes give their children instructions as to what they want them to do, but in doing this, they do not also mention all the things they are not to do. Children understand, though they do not always practice it, that silence is not approval.
We go to the doctor and he writes us a prescription, which we take to the pharmacist. Yet, the pharmacist is not at liberty to fill the prescription with any or all of the medicines the doctor did not prescribe. Do you really believe a pharmacist is authorized to fill a prescription with any medicine the doctor does not specifically say not to use?
People sometimes order things from a catalog. In doing so, they write out the item number, the item name and a description of the item ordered. When the company receives the order and finds they are out of that particular item, they are not permitted to send anything they have that is not listed on the order form. Merely because an item is not listed, does not mean the company can send it and expect payment. Yet, they could argue that silence gives consent, as some do in their justification of the instrument in worship to God.
Priests under the Old Testament law had to come from the tribe of Levi (Numbers 3:9-13). To have a priest from another tribe meant the law had to be changed (Hebrews 7:12). Yet, the silence of the Scriptures regarding a priest from another tribe, other than the tribe of Levi, did not allow them to select a priest from any of the other tribes. The command to select priests from the tribe of Levi, eliminated all other tribes from the priesthood. The fact that nothing is said of a priest coming from the tribe of Judah, did not authorize a priest from this tribe. Jesus Christ was made a priest and He was from the tribe of Judah, but this action necessitated a change in the law. (Hebrews 7:12-14).
We must always remember that the Bible authorizes by what it says, not by what it does not say!
We do not use the instrument in our worship because: TO DO SO WOULD MAKE OUR WORSHIP VAIN!
Jesus said, "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:9). We have already seen that instruments of music in worship is not of God, since they cannot be used "by faith" (Romans 10:17). Since it is not of God, it must be from men and Jesus says that worship that is 'of men' is vain, i.e. it is empty and useless--unacceptable!
In John 4:24, Jesus declares, "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Truth is the Word of God (John 17:17). If we are to worship 'in truth', we must worship in accordance with the Word of God. We cannot choose if we will worship God in spirit and in truth, we MUST worship Him so.
Nadab and Abihu worshipped God, but their worship was not accepted because they added "strange fire" to their worship (Leviticus 10:1-3). By the way, if silence authorizes, there would have been no sin on the part of Nadab and Abihu, but the passage reveals there was sin and they were consumed by the fire from the altar, because they "...offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not." (Leviticus 10:1). Cain worshipped God, but did so unacceptably because he injected his own ideas into the worship, rejecting God's. Cain could have said, "But you did not say NOT to offer the fruits of the field." When God gives a command, He does not authorize by what He does not say! Abel's sacrifice was acceptable because it was offered "by faith" (Hebrews 11:4). To offer the sacrifice "by faith" meant Abel offered the sacrifice according to the Word of God. (Romans 10:17). Why then should one think he can add to what God has authorized and his worship be acceptable to God? If God rejected the worship of Cain on the grounds he did not worship as God had directed, will he not reject our worship also, if we do not worship as He has instructed? Since God rejected the worship of Nadab and Abihu because it was not 'in truth' (according to the instruction of God in His Word), why will He not reject worship today that is not according to His will (Truth)?
We do not use the instrument of music in worship because: TO DO SO WOULD REJECT CHRIST AS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH IN ALL THINGS!
The apostle Paul said, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1:22-23). Jesus is the one and only head of the church and He is "head over all things to the church." This means He is head over the worship and everything pertaining to the church.
If that is not clear enough, turn to Ephesians 5:24, "Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." The church is subject to Christ, i.e. the church is to look to Christ for her authority in worship. Christ has ALL authority (Matthew 28:18), and since the church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18), it is imperative that the body (church) act in accordance with the directions (will) of the head (Jesus Christ).
Friends, that which the church does is to have the authority of Christ, its head. The instrument in worship does not have the authority of Christ and to add it to the worship is to reject His authority. Adding unauthorized items to the worship is to reject Christ's headship over the church. Singing praises unto God does have the authority of Christ (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), and therefore, the approval of the Head of the church.
Therefore, using the instrument of music in worship is sin, because it rejects the head of the church--Jesus Christ!
We do not use the instrument of music in worship because: IT IS CONTRARY TO THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST!
Please note the warning in 2 John 9-11---"Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house neither bid him God speed; For he that biddeth him God speed is a partaker of his evil deeds."
If instrumental music in worship is a part of the doctrine of Christ, where is the evidence? If it is not a part of the doctrine of Christ, then we are told not to adhere to it. To do so would be to transgress the doctrine of Christ. And, to transgress the doctrine of Christ is to be "without God". To be without God and Christ is to be without hope (Ephesians 2:12). Therefore, we cannot abide in the doctrine of Christ while placing in our worship that which Christ has not authorized.
While some advocate we fellowship those who use the instrument in worship, this passage says we cannot. Those who transgress and do not abide in the teaching (doctrine) of Christ are not to be fellowshipped and encouraged in their false doctrines. God does not want us to set aside the teachings of Christ for unity.
There are those who advocate compromise in order to have unity. They are willing to 'tolerate the instrument' to have unity. While unity is important and while we should strive to be united in Christ, WE MUST NOT set aside the Will of God to achieve unity. Unity on any basis, other than the Word of God, is not acceptable to our Lord (John 17).
Thus, we see again why it is sinful to use the instrument of music in worship to God. It is sinful because it is contrary to the doctrine of Christ!
We do not use the instrument of music in worship because: IT CAUSES DIVISION!
Those who have followed the history of the introduction of instrumental music into the worship, know that it is also a history of divisions and splits. Efforts have been made to attempt to lay the blame for the division at the feet of those who oppose it. This is among the most ridiculous of all the ideas men have ever contemplated. That's like one attempting to introduce sprinkling for baptism and then arguing, if any oppose it, they would be the cause of any division that might result. The Bible teaches we are to oppose false doctrines and not fellowship those who teach things contrary to the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9).
Alexander Campbell said, "I am an old man and an old minister, and I here declare that I never knew them (instruments of music) productive of any good in the worship of God, and have had reason to believe that they were 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 here I register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of the Author of Christianity." (Adam Clarke (Methodist--Clarke's Commentary, Volume IV, page 686). Where the instrument was introduced, churches split and division is an ugly picture, contrary to true Christianity (I Corinthians 1:10).
In 1868 Benjamin Franklin guessed that there were ten thousand congregations in the brotherhood, and not over fifty of them using instrumental music (Biblical Notes, Volume IX, July 1975, Page 27).
I know of no cases where the instrument was already in use and non-instrumental brethren tried to force it out and possess the property, but the reverse has occurred many times. The little melodeon at Midway, Kentucky, caused such a disturbance that Adam Hibler, an elder at the Midway church, sought to rid the church of this divisive element. He took his slave, Ruben, to the building one night and they passed the melodeon through a window. They then took it and hid it on the farm of Robert Alexander, president of the first bank in the state of Kentucky. (Biblical Notes, Volume IX, July, 1975, page 27).
The church meeting in the chapel of Thorp Spring Christian College, voted two to one in opposition to the adoption of the organ in the fall of 1895. They had employed the services of W. M. Davis to preach for them in a meeting, knowing that he favored the instrument. They had already brought in an instrument to use during this evangelistic effort. The President of Add-Ran College rose to begin the services when A. J. Clark, the father of Addison and Randolph Clark, founders of the school, led a fervent prayer. He followed this by presenting a petition which had been signed by members of the congregation, requesting the instrument not be used. Addison Clark said that they had promised the students they would have the instrument and instructed the organist to "Play on Miss Bertha." The majority walked out, only a few attended the succeeding days of the meeting, which closed in failure. (Biblical Noes, Volune VII, December,1973, Pages 86-87). Here is a clear case of forcing the instrument in and causing division in the body of Christ. This story has been repeated many times over the years. Joseph Lynn Clark, director of social sciences at Sam Houston State College, says in his book, Thank God We Made It, "...the organ episode...at Thorp Spring had far-reaching effects...It has been truthfully said, 'The organ split the church.'" (Biblical Notes, Volune VII, December, 1973, Page 87).
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned; and avoid them." (Romans 16:17). This is reason enough to describe the sinfulness of instrumental music in worship. The instrument has caused division. The instrument in worship is contrary to the doctrine of Christ. Since it is not of the doctrine of Christ, it is also not of faith; and if it is not of faith, it does not have the authority of Christ. Friends, that which causes division, is contrary to the doctrine of Christ, is not 'of faith', and does not have the authority of Christ, is sinful. The instrument in worship causes division, is not of faith, nor of the doctrine of Christ, is not authorized by Christ, and is therefore sin!
We do not use the instrument of music in worship because: IT IS NOT A 'GOOD WORK'!
Paul wrote to Timothy and in his second letter to this young preacher, he said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Paul assures Timothy that the Word of God furnishes us with ALL GOOD WORKS! We do not need to invent or devise things because we think they are good---God, in His Word, has provided us with such. However, when we begin to look in His Word for a command, example, or inference for the instrument in worship to God, it is obviously absent. If the instrument is not commanded in the Scriptures, and we cannot find an example of its use in worship in the New Testament, and there is no implication of its use in New Testament worship, then the only conclusion is that 'instrumental of music in worship is not a good work'!
We do not use the instrument of music in worship because: IT DOES NOT PERTAIN TO LIFE AND GODLINESS!
Peter said, "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." (2 Peter 1:3). In this verse, Peter announces that God has given us "all things that pertain to life and godliness." If God has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness, then there is not anything omitted. How has God given us all things pertaining to life and godliness?
Peter tells us God did this by "His divine power". What is God's divine power? It is the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16). Thus, by the Gospel of Christ, God's power to salvation, God has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness.
But what does that have to do with instrumental music in worship? Is instrumental music in worship a part of the Gospel of Christ--i.e. of God's divine power? The answer is, "NO"! Since it is not a part of the Gospel of Christ, it cannot pertain to life and godliness. What this really says is what we have been saying for many years--there is absolutely no authority for the instrument in worship to God and to use it in worship is SIN!
WHAT IS THE CONCLUSION?
I have never had anyone tell me that singing praises to God, without the use of instrumental music, is sinful or wrong. Instrumental music in worship is seldom justified with a Scripture (because it cannot be). I have had some to say that the use of instruments in worship is at best questionable or doubtful. Therefore, my question is, "Why take a chance on losing your soul simply because we like something, especially if that something is not authorized by the Word of God?
Someone says, "But it is such a little matter." Is it? Was striking the rock when God told Moses to speak to the rock, a little matter? (Numbers 20). Was it a little matter for Nadab and Abihu to disobey God in Leviticus 10? I wonder if Adam or Eve would think taking just one bite of the forbidden fruit was a little matter? (Genesis 3).
Alexander Campbell thought instrumental music in worship was as thrilling as 'a cowbell in a concert'. (Spiritual Sword, Volume 21, Number 4, July, 1990). But friends, Campbell, nor any other man, is our authority religiously--God's Word is, and we dare not use the instrument in our worship to God because such is not authorized by His Truth!
Why cannot we simply worship as God has directed in His Word, without additions or subtractions?
We, as members of the churches of Christ, do not use instruments of music in our worship:
God, knowing my heart, is aware that the design of this publication is not to create animosity, but to help you see why we, in the church of Christ, do not use the instrument in our worship. I hope you now understand that our reason is wholly Scriptural and out of a sincere desire to worship God as He has directed in His Word, the Truth. If this is wrong, where is right?
Charles E. Moore, Minister
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