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Are We Opposed to Music in Worship?

This lesson is part of a series entitled "Ready to Make a Defense."

 
CHARGE #5: MEMBERS OF THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST ARE OPPOSED TO MUSIC IN WORSHIP.

 

I.        AN EXPLANATION OF THE CHARGE

A.      This charge is made because the churches of Christ do not use mechanical instruments of music in their worship assemblies.

                                                             1.      The practice in most churches of Christ is to worship God by singing only without the accompaniment of pianos, organs, harps, or other musical instruments.

                                                             2.      This is probably the most commonly known aspect about the churches of Christ among the general public.

                                                             3.      The churches of Christ are unique in this now because nearly every other church uses instrumental music today.

B.      The purpose of this lesson is to defend the belief of members of the churches of Christ regarding music in the worship.

                                                             1.      Let it be understood that there is no opposition to musical instruments among the members in general.  Many members of the churches of Christ own and play musical instruments.  They simply do not play them in worship.

                                                             2.      Also understand that singing without the accompaniment of musical instruments is still a form of music.  The churches of Christ practice and perform music in their assemblies, but that music does not include mechanical instruments.

                                                             3.      While this is a peculiar belief in the churches of Christ today, it has not always been so.  It will be demonstrated that this belief is not a radical departure from tradition, but rather the opposite is true.

 

II.      WHAT DOES GOD WANT?

A.      In all things, a Christian must seek to understand what God desires from man, and he must then present to God that which pleases Him.

                                                             1.      “Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” (2 Cor. 5:9)

                                                             2.      “…trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:10)

                                                             3.      “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:9-10, emphasis SED)

B.      From these and other New Testament passages, we see that one must first understand what God’s will is before he can perform His will and please Him.

                                                             1.      This concept is simple, but many neglect it by doing what they think will please God or doing what pleases men rather than doing what God has revealed as His will.

                                                             2.      We know what God wants of us only because He has told us in His word.  This is true in everything, including worship.

C.      What does God want in worship?

                                                             1.      Consider John 4:20-24.

a.       In verse 20, the Samaritan woman prompted Jesus to comment on the topic of worship.  She pointed out the conflict between what the Samaritans taught and what the Jews taught about the correct physical location for worship.

b.       Jesus answered her first by declaring, “‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father’” (v. 21).  Therefore, this debate about the place of worship would soon be irrelevant.

c.        Now, let us give particular attention to verses 23 and 24: “‘But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’”

i.         Jesus indicated that a change was happening.  God’s desires for His worshippers were changing.

ii.        No longer would the place of worship be significant, for God seeks worshippers who worship in spirit and truth.

                                                             2.      What is this worship “in spirit and truth” that God wants?

a.       We can understand from this passage that to worship God “in spirit” must be different from worshipping Him in flesh.

i.         Jesus said, “God is spirit,” meaning that His nature is spiritual rather than physical.

ii.        By comparison, the worship He desires is also to be spiritual rather than physical.

iii.      Thus, we can understand that the place of worship, whether on a mountain in Samaria or in a temple in Jerusalem, has no bearing on true spiritual worship.

b.       Worshipping in spirit is in contrast to the fleshly worship done in Jesus’ day.

i.         Consider Hebrews 9:1-10.  Notice the elements of this style of worship according to the Law of Moses.

                                                                                                                                     1.      There was a physical temple or tabernacle.

                                                                                                                                     2.      There was a fleshly priesthood.

                                                                                                                                     3.      There were physical sacrifices.

                                                                                                                                     4.      Suitable to this type of worship was mechanical instruments of music.

ii.        Now, God’s worship is spiritual:

                                                                                                                                     1.      There is a spiritual temple or tabernacle (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:19-22).

                                                                                                                                     2.      There is a spiritual High Priest (Heb. 4:14-15; 9:11).

                                                                                                                                     3.      There is a spiritual priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5,9).

                                                                                                                                     4.      There are spiritual sacrifices (Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:15).

                                                                                                                                     5.      Suitable for this type of worship is spiritual music, not the music of mechanical instruments.

                                                             3.      Thus, we have the commandment, “…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).

a.       This is what God desires from His worshippers in regards to musical worship.

b.       Singing is spiritual worship (as will be demonstrated below), and spiritual worship is true worship, i.e., worship “in spirit and truth.”

c.        Those who seek to justify the use of musical instruments in worship by citing Old Testament law are advocating a return to an inferior, fleshly type of worship.

 

III.   “MAKING MELODY WITH YOUR HEART TO THE LORD”

A.      The phrase “making melody with your heart to the Lord” indicates that the harp, the lyre, and the tambourine of the Old Testament worship have been replaced with the strings of the heart.

                                                             1.      The word “melody” is translated from the Greek word “psallo”, which means “to twitch, twang; to play a stringed instrument with the fingers” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).

                                                             2.      The instrument of our melody is clearly designated as the heart.

                                                             3.      This would have been a logical place for the Holy Spirit to endorse instrumental music, but He did not.

B.      The phrase “making melody with your heart to the Lord” also indicates a depth of worship that has meaning.

                                                             1.      Christians are not commanded to sing simply because it is enjoyable, beautiful, or pleasing to the ear.  These reasons are often used to justify the use of musical instruments in worship, but these neglect the true purposes of music in the worship.

                                                             2.      There are a variety of purposes for Christians to sing:

a.       To be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18)

b.       To speak to one another (Eph. 5:19)

c.        To have the word of Christ dwell in us (Col. 3:16)

d.       To teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16)

e.        To express thanksgiving to God (Col. 3:16)

f.        To express praise to God (Acts 16:25; Jas. 5:13)

                                                             3.      These purposes are achieved by communicating through words.  It is the words of the songs that give the depth of meaning.

a.       It is the message conveyed in the words that makes worship in music spiritual.

b.       Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63).

c.        Paul stated, “I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also” (1 Cor. 14:15).  This indicates the necessity of understanding the message of the songs we sing.

                                                             4.      Singing in the worship is not about excellence in music.

a.       For singing to be done properly, the mind must be fully engaged upon the words that are sung.

b.       Therefore, the best singers are not necessarily those who have the best voices or the best musical understanding.

c.        The best singers are those who sing every word from the heart with understanding.

                                                             5.      This meaningful worship cannot be achieved with a musical instrument.

C.      Although the words give the depth of meaning to our worship, there is power in music and singing that gives a benefit.

                                                             1.      If there was no benefit to the music, then we would merely speak the words to one another and to God.

                                                             2.      The music makes an impact and enables us to remember.  Music employs the emotions and gives expression beyond simple speech.

 

IV.    “DO ALL IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS”

A.      As stated before, in anything that Christians do, we must seek to understand and perform the will of God.

                                                             1.      “Whatever you do in word of deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Col. 3:17)

                                                             2.      To do anything “in the name of the Lord Jesus” is to act on His authority.

B.      Therefore, regarding music in the worship of God, we must seek the authority of Christ just as we do for everything else.

C.      In the New Testament, there are commandments and examples of singing.

                                                             1.      Jesus and His disciples (Matt. 26:30; Mark 14:26)

                                                             2.      Paul and Silas (Acts 16:25)

                                                             3.      1 Cor. 14:15

                                                             4.      Eph. 5:19

                                                             5.      “…singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3:16)

                                                             6.      “Let him sing praises.” (Jas. 5:13)

D.      However, there are no commandments or examples in the New Testament for the use of musical instruments in worship.

E.       Therefore, the only authority for music that we have from Christ is to offer vocal music in worship.

 

V.      WHY IS THERE ANY DEBATE ABOUT MUSIC IN THE WORSHIP?

A.      The Scriptural evidence is strong and convincing that God’s desire for His worshippers regarding music is singing alone.  So then, why is there controversy?

B.      At one time, there was no debate because no church used instrumental music.

                                                             1.      The use of mechanical instruments in worship is a relatively new concept to all churches (nineteenth century).

                                                             2.      History records that musical instruments were unknown in the worship of all who called themselves Christians.  Notice these quotes:

a.       “... the first Christians were of too spiritual a fibre to substitute lifeless instruments for or to use them to accompany the human voice.” – Catholic Encyclopeida

b.       “The execution of Byzantine church music by instruments, or even the accompaniment of sacred chanting by instruments was ruled out by the Eastern Fathers as being incompatible with the pure, solemn, spiritual character of the religion of Christ.” - Constantine Cavarnos, Bysantine Sacred Music (Greek Orthodox Church)

c.        “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostle is far more pleasing to Him.” – John Calvin (founder of the Presbyterian Church), Commentary on the Book of Psalms

d.       “I have no objection to instruments of music, in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen.” – John Wesley (founder of the Methodist Church)

e.        “Music as a science, I esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music; and here I register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of the Author of Christianity.” – Adam Clarke (commentator, prominent Methodist teacher)

f.        “Martin Luther called the organ an ‘ensign of Baal’.” – McClintock & Strong’s Encyclopedia (quote attributed to the founder of the Lutheran Church)

g.        “I would as soon attempt to pray to God with machinery as to sing to Him with machinery.” – Charles H. Spurgeon, (prominent Baptist preacher)

                                                             3.      These men are not quoted because they have any divine authority, but rather these quotes prove that the modern practices of these churches have departed from their former tradition, which was to worship with vocal music only.

C.      The debate exists now because most churches have returned to worshipping God in the flesh rather than in spirit.

                                                             1.      This is not because it is God’s will but because it is man’s will.

                                                             2.      God’s will has not changed from the beginning of the church.  His word in the New Testament still stands as the standard.

 

VI.    CONCLUSION

A.      This issue has long been associated with the churches of Christ, but the real issue is with those who have departed from the will of God regarding music in worship.

B.      The churches of Christ should not follow the denominations into this error any more than they should follow the denominations into any other error.

Christ is the Head of the church, and we have His will for the church regarding music and worship and any other topic.  Let us follow Him and not




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