Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 13, 1958
NUMBER 28, PAGE 4-5b

How Can Instrumental Music Be Justified?


Roy E. Cogdill When a man refuses to believe that the Bible is divinely inspired and is therefore the Word of God, there is no basis upon which he will accept a scriptural reason for anything. Scriptural reasons simply do not mean anything to him. He is moved altogether by what he wants, thinks, feels, etc. Divine authority and divine law do not constitute any reason .f or accepting anything. The same attitude is taken sometimes by people who profess to be religious and who claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God. The trouble with them is that they do not depend altogether upon divine law, but want their religion to be a mixture of both divine and human authority. A particular practice does not have to have scriptural sanction to be right in their eyes. They as readily accept a practice based on human reason as they do one based upon divine authority. The Word of God does not mean to them what they should let it mean. We should either let the Bible be center and circumference of our religion, the only rule of faith and practice, or we should quit pretending to respect it as God's law of life and salvation. If the thing God has not said is as good as though God had said it, then what power and authority can be seen in what God has said?

Those who use mechanical instruments in their effort to worship God do not often bother themselves with trying to find a scriptural reason for such a practice. To many of them it has never occurred that they need a Bible reason for practicing such in their worship. Never have they been able to produce one even when they searched for it. No one has ever yet contended or argued that instrumental music should be added to the worship because New Testament scriptures teach that it should be used. Those who have read the New Testament with any care at all know that not one passage can be produced which even indirectly mentions mechanical instruments of music as authorized in the worship of God. Being unable to make this contention for it, those who use it have been forced to defend its use upon other grounds. Some of the arguments which they make for its justification are as follows:

1. It was practiced under the Law of Moses in Old Testament times.

This same argument would introduce incense, infant church membership, animal sacrifices, polygamy, and everything else that characterized the Old Testament period. This argument proves too much and therefore proves nothing.

To practice something taught by Moses but not taught by Christ is fatal to Christianity, because it places the authority of Moses on a par with the authority of Christ. When we undertake to live under the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ too, we commit spiritual adultery. We are like a woman with two husbands.

(Rom. 7:1-4.) When we justify what we do by the law of Moses, we sever ourselves from Christ and fall from grace. (Gal. 5:4.) When men go back to the law of Moses for some practice not taught by Christ and the apostles they implicitly deny the all-sufficiency of New Testament scriptures, and disrespect the completeness of Christ's authority. (Acts 3:22; Matt. 17:5; Eph. 1:21-23.) To depend upon Old Testament authority for Christian practice is to resurrect an invalid law and deny the effectiveness of Christ's death upon the cross. (Col. 2:13-17; Eph. 2:14-16.) For all of these reasons and many more the argument that it was used in Old Testament times fails to justify the use of instruments in worship today.

2. Instrumental music is not expressly forbidden in the New Testament.

If the fact that the New Testament does not expressly forbid the use of mechanical instruments in Christian worship justifies their use, then the way is open for counting beads in prayer, wearing religious robes, burning incense, praying to the virgin Mary, changing the Lord's Supper into a common meal, observing the Sabbath, offering animal sacrifices, baptizing babies, dancing, drinking, gambling, and many other things; for none of these are specifically forbidden. They are excluded by the principles of righteousness, to be sure, but where is the passage which expressly forbids them? This argument puts a premium on the silence of the Bible, and gives this as much authority and consideration as is given to what God has actually said. Who would affirm that one has the right to do anything that the Bible does not expressly prohibit?

3. Instrumental music is only an aid.

Instead of this being true, instrumental music is the addition of another kind of music. It is not on a par with books, seats, lights, etc., for when all of these have been used, there still has been only singing, and that is what the Lord commanded. But when instruments are added, we have not only singing, but playing in addition. We have added another kind of music that God has said nothing about. Besides, instruments do not help carry out the divine purpose for singing. They do not help to "teach and admonish," nor can they "speak one to another." They actually drown out the words of a song, and it is only by hearing and understanding words that teaching in singing is possible.

4. We have instrumental music at home, why not in the church?

There are many things morally right yet religiously wrong. An example is found in Matthew 15. When the Pharisee undertook to make the washing of hands a religious ceremony and a matter of necessity, he erred grievously. There are many things done within the confines of the home that would be an abomination if practiced before God as acts of worship in the church. Instrumental music is not wrong in itself. If such was the case, it would be wrong to have it anywhere. It is all right to have it in the home because it is not morally wrong. It is wrong in the church because it is a human innovation and does not come from God. The father or husband is the head of the home; but Christ is the head of the church.

5. There is instrumental music in heaven.

If this were granted, it would prove nothing with reference to the church. What about angels, babies, golden bowls, etc.? These are all said to be in heaven. Would that justify them in the church? The New Testament scriptures authorize singing and only that. God has chosen this kind of music. Christ has revealed his will with reference to the music in worship acceptable to him. We are either governed by it, or else we manifest our dissatisfaction by refusing to be so governed.

We submit these objections to instrumental music in Christian worship:

1. Instrumental music transgresses and disrespects the authority of Christ by injecting into the worship something which the Lord and his apostles have not taught. (II John 9.)

2. Instrumental music corrupts and makes vain our worship in that it is practicing that which God has not taught. (Matt. 15:7-9.)

3. It creates dissension and division by being offensive to the conscience of many. (I Cor. 10:28.)

4. We cannot worship God in spirit and truth and use it, for it is no part of the "all truth" revealed to the apostles by the Holy Spirit. (Jno. 16:13; John 4:24.)

5. We cannot "walk by faith" and practice it, for it is not taught in the Word of God and faith comes by hearing God's word. (Rom. 10:17; II Cor. 5:7.)

6. It is no part of the Divine pattern and we corrupt the plan for God's house when we use it, and therefore labor in vain. (Heb. 8:1-7; Psalm 127:1.)