MUSIC–INSTRUMENTAL–SHOULD IT BE USED IN WORSHIP?
T. Pierce Brown
Sometimes we are asked to give several scriptures to prove that the use of instrumental music in the worship of God is wrong. To show how useless that method is, try to find ONE scripture that says that hitting your wife behind the ear with a baseball bat is wrong! What one needs to do is to find some scripture that shows it is right.
However, the simplest way to answer to that question is to ask another one. Since the Bible teaches, “Let all you do in word or deed be done in the name of (by the authority of) Christ” (Colossians 3:17), where do you find the authority for it? Of course you find none, neither in teaching, nor example, so if you are to do all you do by his authority, and you have no authority, you cannot do it without sin. NO HISTORIAN of ANY religious persuasion has documented evidence that ANY mechanical instrument of music was used in the early church until about the 6th century, and then it was an apostate church, not the original church that Christ established. It was during the time of Vitalian (654-672), pope of the Roman Church, that instrumental music was introduced in the Catholic Church. The following is a short, but representative list of what ALL historians of which I have checked have said: (none of these are members of the church of Christ as far as we can discover): Kurt Pahlee in Music of the World, page 27, “Many centuries were to pass before instruments accompanied the sung melodies.” Hugo Leichtentritt, in Music, History and Ideas, page 34, “Only singing, however, and no playing of instruments was permitted in the early church.” Earl Nauman, The History of Music, Vol. 1, p. 177, “There can be no doubt that originally the music of divine service was everywhere entirely of a vocal nature.” In fact the term “acapella,” of ancient Latin derivation has to do with “music used in chapel” which was and is singing without instrumental accompaniment. These are internationally known historians of church music.
When you multiply these historical references by the dozen, then notice what the great leaders of denominational groups such as Spurgeon, (Baptist) Clark, (Methodist) and Wesley said in their refusal to use the mechanical instruments, you can scarcely keep from being impressed with the fact that it NOT merely a hermeneutical problem — an argument from silence — but a HISTORICAL FACT that mechanical instruments were NOT used in the early church. (The reason I mention Spurgeon, Clark and Wesley is that Spurgeon is recognized by the Baptists as one of their greatest preachers,Clarkby the Methodists as one of their greatest scholars, and Wesley as the one who founded the Methodist church. All these churches use instruments of music, but even their leaders admit that is not authorized in the Scriptures. These leaders refused to use the instrument in the churches they served.) What I meant by “an argument from silence” is that many persons use the argument (?), “God did not say NOT to use instrumental music in worship”! God did not say NOT to do 10,000 things, but he never authorized any group in ANY AGE to engage in practices in terms of what he did not say NOT to do. He did not tell Moses NOT to strike the rock (Numbers 20:8-11), but Moses was kept out of the promised land because he did it. He did not tell Nadab and Abihu NOT to offer strange fire upon the altar, but they were killed because they did (Leviticus 10:1-2). In other words, the New Testament EXCLUDES it by specifying the kind of music we are to have–singing. If the Lord had wanted to be worshipped with instrumental music, he could have said, “Praise him with the organ and/or harp,” but he did not. If he had said, “Make music,” any kind of music, either vocal or instrumental–beating on drums, picking a guitar, blowing a trumpet–would have been authorized. But he did not. He said, “SINGING and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph.5:19, Col. 3:16). This excludes playing an instrument just as surely as the statement “The tribe of Levi shall be priests” excluded the tribe of Judah–or any other (Heb.7:14). When God said, “Make an ark of gopher wood” (Gen. 6:14,22), it excluded oak, hickory, ash or pear.
It is even more outstanding that when David said in Psalm 144:9 (and many other places of like nature), “I will sing a new song unto thee, O God; upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee,” nobody questions the instrument used, for the instrument on which he praised God is specified. In such passages as 2 Chronicles 23:5 and Psalm 150:1-4 God specified such things as “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet; praise him with stringed instruments and organs.” There is no question either among scholars or common men about the matter. It is also said about David, “Woe unto them—who invent to themselves instruments of music like David” (Amos 6:1,5). Some other scriptures that show it to be wrong and dangerous are: II Jn 1:9, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”(NIV) Or as the KJV puts it, “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.” And Rev. 22:18, “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.” Since God said in 2 Pet. 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,” and he did not give us this information, then it does not pertain to life and godliness.
So it is in the New Testament that the instrument is specified. When Paul and Jesus referred to instruments of music in 1 Corinthians15:52(a trumpet), 14:6-9 (a pipe or harp), Matthew 11:16,17 (a pipe) and other places there was no question as to the instrument. Neither should there be any question about the instrument specified in Ephesians 5:19. The heart is the instrument specified! Read those passages carefully for yourself!
It is significant that the 47 scholars who gave us the King James Version and the 300 scholars who gave the Revised Version EXCLUDED THE IDEA OF A LITERAL MECHANICAL INSTRUMENT when they translated the words by the expression, “sing (not play) and make melody in the heart (not “praise him with stringed instruments” as David did).
In conclusion, let this important fact be noted: If the words “sing” or “make melody” in New Testament times either allowed or demanded the use of mechanical instruments, it is amazing beyond belief that neither in the New Testament, nor in ANY historical record of either friends or enemies of the church there is any indication of ANY kind that the Apostolic church ever used the mechanical instrument. Keep in mind that the instrument was in popular use among the Jews at that time, and would have been natural to use if God had wanted it. But He did not indicate in any way, by word or by deed, that He wanted it.
The really basic question one must ask is, “Do I, and the church I belong to, WANT TO SUBMIT TO THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST, doing only what He authorizes and doing ALL he authorizes, or do I take the position that I can do anything he did not specifically prohibit?” If one takes the last position, he can use peanut butter and corn bread on the Lord’s Supper, and burn candles and tell beads as acts of worship, or a thousand other things that God did not mention. To help you see the value of doing what God wants, visualize two persons standing before God in the judgment day. The first one has used instrumental music in worship; the second has not. God asks the first one, “Why did you use the mechanical instrument when you offered worship?” and listen to the answer. Then when God asks the second one “Why did you NOT use the instrument of music in worship of me?” and the second one responds, “I could not find any indication that you wanted me to.” Where would you rather stand?