Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 19, 1951

Essentials And Incidentals -- No. 2

Forrest D. Moyer, Post, Texas

As was pointed out in the preceding article, God has appointed certain laws that must be obeyed by all if salvation is to be received. These laws are essential and cannot be changed or altered. We cannot leave the mountain of obedience for the valley of substitution. Surrounding these laws are incidentals that do not become a part of the law. This is true in worship as well as in doctrine. When the church of God was established, certain acts or items of worship were ordained. These might well be listed as prayer, the Lord's Supper, the contribution, and singing. With these there are some things that are incidental and cannot be made binding; on the other hand, there are some things that are additions and cannot be made commandments or incidentals.

It is our purpose in this lesson to consider the music that God has ordained for worship. We recognize that there are two kinds of music—vocal and instrumental. If God ordained both, then both must be used. If he ordained only one kind, then it would be an addition to use the other kind even with the kind commanded. If God had just said "music," that would have allowed either or both. But what is the New Testament teaching?

In the New Testament there are some commands that are generic and some that are specific. The Great Commission says, "Go." "Go" is generic; I can walk, ride in a car, or fly in an airplane. Regardless of the means I use, I would be doing nothing but "going." If God had said, "Go on a donkey" that would have been specific, the only way I could go. Let us consider an example or two in order to understand it better.

1. Had God told Noah to build an ark out of wood, that would have been generic; and he could have used any wood whether pine, oak, or gopher. But God specified the wood: "Build thee an ark of gopher wood." Here is a specific command; it excluded all other kinds of wood.

2. God told Naaman to dip seven times in the river Jordan. That was a specific command. It excluded all other rivers by specifying Jordan.

So it is in the worship of the New Testament church. If God had said for us to use "music," that would have allowed either vocal or instrumental music. But not one passage tells us to use "music." God has given a specific command—sing. In the following passages we find that "sing" is the limit of the command: Matt. 26:30; Acts 16:25; Romans 15:9; I Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12; and James 5:13. In each of these the command or example was "sing." That is specific. It excludes the instrument of music. When he said, "sing," he did not mean "play."

Is The Instrument An Incidental?

Some people make the argument that the instrument is an incidental in obeying the command to sing. They say it is an aid just as the song-book is. Just as glasses are an aid to seeing so is the organ an aid to singing. Such reasoning is illogical and is nothing more than a quibble. When a person wears glasses he does only one thing, he sees. If a person uses a walking cane, only one thing is done—walking. While using a songbook, we do only one thing—sing. But when an instrument is used, there are two things done—singing and playing. If God commands walking, can one ride as an aid? The answer is "No." Then, if God commands singing, can I play as an aid? The echo is "No." The instrument sustains the same relation to singing that an airplane does to walking.

There are certain incidentals connected with singing that do not become essentials. The pitch the song is sung in, the time, the length of notes is incidental; only one element of worship is used. Regardless of whether we sing soprano, alto, tenor, or bass, still there is only one element of worship and that is singing. So is the songbook an incidental to singing. The instrument is not an incidental; it is an addition.

The instrument of music is an innovation introduced by men many years after the church was established. It is not of God. In following our only creed, "the perfect law of liberty," let us lay aside all human practices and plead for a "thus saith the Lord."