Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 13, 1967
NUMBER 10, PAGE 1-3,5a

Instruments Of Music In Worship

Edd Holt

The Pharisees followed their traditions and asked Jesus why His disciples did not do as they did. Those who use mechanical instruments of music today often ask why the church of Christ does not use them. In this discussion I am assuming the obligation of showing why I do not do a thing which is not in the New Testament, when, logically, it is the business of him who uses them to show by the New Testament that the instruments should be so used. The majority of people use some kind of musical instrument in their worship today. But majorities do not prove a thing to be right in religion. (Matt. 7:13,14.) If only one man goes by the New Testament he is right.

The Purpose Of Worship

Did you ever stop to ask the question, "What is the purpose of our worship?" Is it to please God or to please men? To ask that question is to answer it that God is the one to be pleased. All of our efforts should be to please Him. Now, stop and think. How could you possibly know what God wants in any way but by what He has said? Once you get this simple thought in your mind, you see, the whole question will be: "Where does God say, in the New Testament, that He wants men to use instruments of music in their worship?" The fact that He has no where said to do so is argument imperative that He does not want them used.

What The New Testament Says

Christians are commanded to SING. The New Testament no where mentions mechanical instruments of music in connection with the worship which Christians are to offer to God. Every reference is to singing. Before Jesus and His disciples went to the garden of Gethsemane, they "sang a hymn and went out" - out of the room where the supper had been eaten. What did they do? "They SANG a hymn." (Matt. 26:30.) It did not say that they played an instrument - "they sang a hymn."

The next reference is Acts 16:25. Paul and Silas were in the jail at Philippi. About midnight they "prayed and SANG praises to God." They "sang praises to God." They did not play praises to God.

In Romans a passage from the Old Testament is quoted which had been predicted of Christ: "I will give praise unto Thee among the Gentiles, and SING unto Thy name." (Rom. 15:9.) Use is made of the same quotation in Hebrews 2:12: "I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I SING praise."

In First Corinthians 14:15, Paul said, "I will SING with the understanding also." Understanding is to be had in and imparted by our singing. Anything which hinders the understanding is a hindrance to the singing. Those who use the instruments say that they are "aids" to the singing. It cannot aid the understanding, can it? and singing is to be done with the understanding. It cannot aid God in receiving the song, can it? It is an "addition" and not an aid.

Ephesians 5:19, says, "Be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, SINGING and making melody in your heart to the Lord." In the song service we make melody in our hearts. In becoming Christians we believe with all our hearts (Acts 8:37,) and obey from the heart the doctrine of Christ. (Rom. 6:17,18.) In our worship as Christians we make melody in our hearts, while our religious neighbors make melody on strings of steel or other mechanical devices. They said our's was not a religion of the heart because we did not "whoop it up" with shoutings and profess to have "gotten religion" and to have had feelings "better felt than told." Ah, they say there is no heart in our religion! But according to the Book we believe with all our hearts, and obeyed from the heart to become Christians; and now in our worship we "make melody in the heart" while our neighbors do theirs with their hands and feet on mechanical material devices! The human heart is the instrument upon which the melody is to be made by Christians.

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, SINGING with grace in your hearts unto GOD." (Col. 3:16.) Singing is commanded. If God had meant for men to use instruments (mechanical) the verse would have read, "singing and a-playing and a-picking and a-blowing," as Bro. Keeble said. But it does not read that way. God wanted singing and He commanded singing.

In Hebrews 13:15 we read, "through Him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, which make confession to His name." When we sing, as God would have us sing, we do these three things: (1) we make melody in our hearts; (2) teach and admonish one another; and (3) offer up a sacrifice of praise to God.

But, finally, James says, "Is any cheerful? let him SING praise." (Jas. 5:13.) Thus you have what the New Testament says about the music in Christian worship.

Chart Goes Here Objections Considered

We will now notice a few passages thought by some to authorize the use of instruments in the worship. How about Luke 15:25? When the prodigal son returned to his father's home his father made a feast for him. The record says that when his elder brother drew near the house he "heard music and dancing." Nothing is said about whether the music was vocal or instrumental. But we will grant that it was instrumental. But that was not worship. They killed the fatted calf. If it had been worship, and approved of God, and an example for us today, then we would be found offering the fatted call in our worship. And besides that, it illustrates the joy in heaven over a sinner that repents - not what takes place on earth. But in heaven angels do not make music and dance, nor kill fatted calves.

Instruments Were Used In The Old Testament, But:

Some one will say, "Instruments of music were used in the Old Testament worship." That I know. But Christians are not under law to Moses - "but under law to Christ." (I Cor. 9:21.) "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17.) And, to show you how serious our question is, note this: "Christ is become of no effect unto you whosoever of you are justified by the law are fallen from grace." (Gal. 5:4.) "Ye are fallen away from grace" (ARV). To contend for musical instruments because David used them in the Old Testament is to propose to build a tabernacle for David, as well as for Moses and Elijah. God says, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: HEAR YE HIM." (Matt. 17:5.) "He has spoken unto US in His Son" (Heb. 1:1); "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh." Heb. 12:25; Acts 3:22,23.

Where Does It Say, "Thou Shalt Not"?

It is almost always objected that "the Bible does not say not to use the instruments." The New Testament does say not to use the instruments, and soon we shall see how, but not in just so many words, as: "Thou shalt not use mechanical instruments of music in Christian worship. " It does not say, "Thou shalt not have two wives at the same time" but you know that it teaches you not to do so. What is not commanded is excluded. To illustrate: God commanded Noah to build the ark of gopher wood. He did not say, "Thou shalt not build it of pine, nor cedar, nor chestnut, nor persimmon." He told him to build it 300 cubits long; but he did not say not to build it 299 nor 398 nor 297, etc. cubits long. The book would be unending at that. When my father would send me to the store for a nickel's worth of eight-penny nails, he never did have to say, "Do not get any candy with the nickel, neither any ten-penny nails, nor six-pennies." His command to get a nickel's worth of eight-penny nails excluded all other items. If you think it did not - well, you just do not know my dad!

When God says for us to sing, that excludes playing instruments. But even if the New Testament did say, "Thou shalt not use the instruments" some of those who want them would use them anyhow. Did He not say, "Call no man on earth your father?" (Matt. 23:9.) And are there not millions of people on earth who now call Catholic priests "Father" anyhow?

Heavenly Home Versus A Homely Heaven

In the word heaven are concentrated our fondest dreams and affections, our highest hope and purpose. Heaven is "the recompense of reward" for which we might, like Moses, refuse the riches and honors of an Egyptian nation. When heaven is described as a city, it is done in terms of jewels and metals most precious to man. The fellowship there is with celestial intelligence - God and Christ with all the redeemed of all the ages. However dear the word "home" may be here, it is insignificant when compared to the home in "a better country, that is a heavenly." (Heb. 11: 16.)

Yet there are many whose desires are so carnal that the power of the gospel of Christ does not divorce them from the things of the world. Many will not flee youthful lusts" for the spiritual blessings in Christ. Their idea of pleasure is base and coarse. They do not realize that in the presence of God "is fullness of joy" and that in His right hand "are pleasures for ever more." Their affections are set upon things below - not upon the things above. But our discussion has to do with those whose animal devotions burn within them for the things of the world to enliven their worship. When they hear the sweet strains of the organ, chills play up and down their spines while their topography is goose-pimpled. They sigh, "this is heavenly!"

It is argued on one hand that what is in the home ought to be in the worship of the church and on the other hand that what is in heaven ought to be in the worship - if we like it. But it is absurd to think of mechanical instruments of music being in heaven. Think of it! material instruments of music in heaven (?), yet, there will be no flesh and blood there. (I Cor. 15:50.) "Ah," you say, "I have read where it speaks of musical instruments in heaven." "What about Revelation 5:8?" It says, "And when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." (Quoted from the American Standard version.) Now, let us study this verse that is supposed to prove that literal mechanical instruments of music are in heaven. First of all, remember that the book of Revelation abounds in symbols and figures. John tells us that the "bowls of incense," of this verse, "are the prayers of the saints." They symbolized the prayers of the saints. Why assume then, that the harps of the same connection are literal while the bowls of incense are symbolical? The verse does not teach that literal harps are in heaven.

Now, you ask, "What about Revelation 14:2?" Read it from the Revised Version too. John says, "And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps." John, did you say that you heard some water? He has already said, "the voice which I heard was as the voice of many waters." Did you say that you heard it thunder? No, he said, "the voice which I heard was as the voice of a great thunder." Did you say that you heard harpers harping on their harps? No sir. He said, "the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps. " You see then, friends, that there is no proof here that literal instruments of music are in heaven.

The reason for giving so much time and space to the discussion of this question is that it is thought to prove that we ought to use it in the worship on earth - in the church. But here we have seen that the passages supposed to prove that there are instruments in heaven are symbolical or figurative. They are found wanting of authority for saying that literal instruments of music are in heaven.

But even if such instruments were in heaven, would it follow that they ought to be in the church? Not at all. Jesus is our high priest in heaven, but "if He were on earth, He should not be a priest at all." (Heb. 8:4). But the question is asked, "Did Jesus not teach His disciples to pray, "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven? "' Yes, He taught them to pray for the will of God to be done in earth as it is done in heaven. But He did not say that God's will on earth is the same as His will in heaven. He did not say, "Do on earth what is done in heaven." The will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven, does not mean that the will of God to angels is the will of God to men. His will in heaven is none of our business - yet. The New Testament is His will to men - for this dispensation.

Argumentum Ad Absurdum

Now let us suppose that what is done in heaven ought to be done in the church (if you can stretch your "supposer" that far); would it not follow that what is not in heaven ought not to be in the church? If what is done in heaven ought to be done in the church, then, what is not done in heaven ought not to be done in the church. One is as logical as the other. So, unless you can read of "angels" taking up a collection in heaven, nen do not take up a collection in the assembly of the church! Jesus said, "In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven." (Matt. 22:30.) Angels in heaven are such as do the will of God in heaven. But they do not marry nor are they given in marriage. It is not the will of God for those in heaven to marry. But the will of God in earth says, "Let marriage be had in honor by all." (Heb. 13:4.) Do you not see how ridiculous it is for men to argue that what is in heaven ought to be in the church? By such ridiculous reasoning some would conclude that men ought not to marry in the earth because angels do not marry in heaven! Now, are you not ashamed, you who have supposed that instruments of music are in heaven and have argued that they ought to be in the worship of Christians for that reason?

The argument has been advanced it is one of the most common that instrumental music is in the homes of many Christians, and therefore it ought to be used in the worship. And of course, since we have vegetables on our tables at home it would follow that such things ought to be on the Lord's table in our worship! Nonsense! Paul uproots such plants with one question: "Have ye not houses (homes) to eat and drink in?" (I Cor. 11:22.) By this he shows us that though we eat our meals at home without sinning (all things else being equal) we cannot eat them in the assembly for worship. What was right to do in the home was a sin to-do in the worship, in that case. Again, it is a good idea to wash hands in the home as as act of cleanliness, but they worship God in vain who do so as an act of worship to Him. (Matt. 15:1-9)

If men could prove that what is in heaven ought to be in the church and that what is in the home ought to be in the church - and they have tried to do both; and since by the same reasoning, what is not in either heaven or the home ought not to be in the church, we would have the following consequences:

1. What is in the home equals what is in the church.

2. What is in heaven equals what is in the church.

3. Therefore, what is in the home equals what is in heaven.

(Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.) What then would be the difference in the home, the church and heaven? It looks like a homely heaven instead of a heavenly home! if such reasoning were correct. But even the "yea fools" of Isaiah 35:8 can see the absurdity of such nonsense. What has appeared to some to be an argument for the use of instrumental music in Christian worship, has been reduced to absurdity.