"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.IV No.IX Pg.1,8
April 1942

Does The New Testament Condemn Instrumental Music In The Church?

W. Curtis Porter

Advocates of instrumental music in Christian worship often present such questions as these: Does the New Testament condemn instrumental music in worship? Did Christ and the apostles ever condemn the use of instruments as an aid to singing? Did they ever refuse to have fellowship with followers of Christ who could not sing without the aid of a musical instrument? And they ask for chapter and verse where such things are condemned in the New Testament. If chapter and verse cannot be found that expressly condemns instruments of music by naming them, they insist that those who condemn such are teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.

It seems to me, however, that they should be able to see that they are working from the wrong end of the matter. Instead of asking if the New Testament condemns instrumental music in worship, they should be asking if the New Testament authorizes the use of such. Instead of trying to find where Christ and the apostles condemned instruments as an aid to singing, they should be making an effort to find if they ever sanctioned the use of instruments as such an aid. It would be much better to search for the chapter and verse that commands men to sing with an instrument of music. After all, our worship is not to be gauged by what the New Testament does not condemn by name, but rather by what it authorizes to be done. If we were to do everything in worship that it does not strictly forbid in so many words, there would be no end to which we would go. But we should endeavor to do what the New Testament authorizes as worship to God.

Suppose the advocates of other practices in religion would confront members of the Christian Church with the same argument they make in favor of the instrument, what would Christian Church members do? The Catholic makes an effort to justify his practice of burning incense in worship and of praying to the Virgin Mary. He wants to know where the New Testament condemns the burning of incense in worship. He calls for the passage that forbids praying to the Virgin Mary. What would the instrumental music advocate do in a case of this kind? Would he give to the Catholic the chapter and verse that names these practices and condemns them? And the Mormon contends for his use of light bread and water as elements of the Lord's supper, and he calls for the verse of Scripture that says we must not use them. Where did Christ or the apostles ever condemn light bread and water as elements on the Lord's table? The Methodist could defend his practice of infant baptism upon the same ground. With the same degree of confidence manifested by the musical instrument advocate he would say: Where did Christ and the apostles ever say you should not baptize babies? What would the Christian Church member do with all these problems? By what method would he show the Catholic that it is wrong to burn incense in worship or to pray to the Virgin Mary? How would he prove to the Mormon that he should not use light bread and water on the Lord's table? And how could he show the Methodist that he should not baptize babies? Certainly he could not read the passages that name these things and say, "thou shalt not" do them. I know exactly the course he would pursue. He would show the Catholic that he was laboring from the wrong end of the matter; that he should be asking where the Lord ever authorized men to burn incense in Christian worship or to pray to the Virgin Mary. And he would inform the Mormon that he should find the verse of Scripture that sanctions the use of light bread and water for the Lord's supper. Furthermore he would tell the Methodist to find authority for his infant baptism in the word of God instead of asking for the verse that condemns it. In all of this he would certainly be right. But he is just as wrong as they are when he contends for his instrumental music in Christian worship.

Does the New Testament condemn these practices? Certainly so. Keep in mind, however, that a thing does not have to be mentioned by name in order for it to be condemned. If so, then none of these practices stand condemned, and we are at liberty to practice them all, with a hundred other things that might suit our fancy. But many religious practices are condemned by the New Testament by virtue of the fact that they were left out. As to prayer the Bible is specific as to the one to whom prayer should be offered. In Phil. 4:6, Paul says: "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." This is divine authority for prayer—it tells men to pray to God. Many other Scriptures might be added to this that affirms the same thing. And when the Bible tells us to make our prayer unto God, that eliminates other beings as persons to whom we should pray. This verse is a condemnation of the practice of praying to the Virgin Mary, for Paul says to pray to God, and that leaves Mary out. As nowhere does the Bible authorize us to pray to the Virgin

Mary, then that practice stands condemned by New Testament teaching. The person who condemns such practice is not the one who is teaching for doctrine the commandments of men, but it is the person who adheres to such practice without any divine authority to do so. In Mat. 26:26-28 we have given divine authority for the Lord's supper. The record reads like this: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Other passages give us similar information. They specify bread and the fruit of the vine as the elements to be used to picture to us the body and blood of the Lord. And when Jesus authorized his disciples to use bread and the fruit of

the vine as elements for the Lord's supper, he left out light bread (leavened) and water. And the very fact that he left them out is a condemnation of them. The Lord specified the elements to be used, and nothing else can be added or substituted. The same is true regarding baptism. In Mark 16:16 Jesus said: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." This shows that belief must precede baptism, and no one can be baptized till he first believes. Such excludes infant baptism, for infants cannot believe. So excludes infant baptism, for infants cannot believe. So making such practice out of divine legislation. This applies with equal force to the subject of instrumental music: In Eph. 5:19 Paul declared: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." This tells us definitely the kind of music to make in worship to God. It is not playing but singing. And this excludes instrumental music from the divine arrangement. Instrumental music is thus condemned; God authorized singing and left out instrumental music. Had he wanted instrumental music in Christian worship, he certainly would have put it in. But he left it out, and that condemns it. So Phil. 4:6 condemns praying to the Virgin Mary by specifying God as the one to whom prayers are to be addressed; Mat. 26:26-28 condemns light bread, water, cake and ice cream or any other elements by specifying bread and the fruit of the vine as the elements of the Lord's supper; Mark 16:16 condemns the practice of baptizing babies by specifying believers as proper subjects of baptism; and Eph. 5:19 just as definitely condemns instrumental music in Christian worship by specifying singing as the kind of music to be made in worship to God.

The statement of Paul in Gal. 1:8 is also a condemnation of all of these practices. He said: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." This limits us to divine legislation in our worship to God. No man can read where the apostles ever preached that men should burn incense, pray to the Virgin Mary, use light bread and water for the Lord's supper or baptize babies. And neither can any one read where they ever taught that men should worship God with musical instruments. All of these things belong to a gospel they did not preach. Those who use or practice such things place themselves under the curse of heaven. There is not even any principle that was preached by the apostles that could be made to include these things even in a general way. They are distinctly another gospel and belong to the doctrine and commandments of men.

There are many other passages of Scripture in the New Testament that condemn all of these things, not by naming them in so many words, but by presenting certain principles that exclude the wisdom and the will of man.- Jesus told his apostles to teach men to observe all things he had, commanded. Mat. 28:20. But they never taught men to observe any of these practices. Peter said that God had given us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), and Paul said the Scriptures furnish a man completely unto every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16, 17. But they contain no authority for instrumental music and give no sanction to other religious practices I have mentioned. And on and on we might go with many passages. The fact stands that men who introduce things into worship that God has not authorized are guilty of setting aside the wisdom of God and of following human wisdom. If men want to follow the example of Jesus and his apostles, they can do it by leaving instrumental music out of their worship, for Jesus and the apostles left it out. Those who put it into their service are going contrary to the example left by inspired men. They are teaching for doctrine the commandments of men, and their worship is vain. Mat 15:9.