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The Church - Lesson 25

The Church in 25 Lessons

Jon Gary Williams

Lesson 25 - The Church: Music In Worship (part II)

In the previous lesson we noted that God wants Christians to praise him in acapella singing. We also noted God's design and plan in such praise as well as the kinds of songs he desires. It was pointed out that since singing is the only kind of music authorized for Christian worship the use of mechanical instruments is prohibited.

Though the scriptures are clear on this subject men have tried in various ways to justify the use of instruments in worship. How is the done? Here are some of the most frequently heard arguments and a response to them.

I. Some may say, "Instruments were used in the Old Testament"
A. There is an axiom which says: "That which proves too much, proves nothing at 
all." Such is the case in this argument. There are many other things found in the Old Testament which could likewise be used to "justify" practices not authorized in Christianity. For example: burning incense and animal sacrifices.

B. The Old Testament offers no authority for the Christian system.

  1. Christians are not under the Old Law. (Rom. 7:1-4)

  2. To try to justify oneself by the Old Testament is to fall from God's grace. 
(Gal. 5:4)
  3. The Old Testament law was nailed to the cross. (Col. 2:14) (cf. Eph. 2:15)

II. Some may say, "The Bible does not expressly forbid the use of instruments."
A. Note again the above axiom: "That which proves too much, proves nothing at all." The Bible does not expressly condemn other things that many would find 
sinful for Christian worship. For example, counting beads, praying to Mary and wearing special religious garments. Simply because a thing is not expressly forbidden does not automatically make it acceptable to God.

B. The law of exclusion states that when a way of carrying out a requirement is specified, that automatically excludes any other way.
  1. For example, the requirement to buy "brand X" soap automatically excludes 
any other brand. Since the brand has been specified it is not necessary to say, 
"Do not buy brands Y and Z."
  2. Likewise, since God has specified "singing" for Christian worship (Eph. 5:19; 
Col. 3:16, et. al.) it was not necessary for him say, "Don't use instruments." 

III. Some may say, "Instruments are only an 'aid' to singing."
A. Whether the instrument is an "aid" to singing is, of course, a matter of preference or opinion. This is certainly no basis on which to determine authority.

B. However, the use of mechanical instruments in Christian worship is more than an aid -- it is an addition. Only things that are optional can be considered aids.

  1. For example, plates and cups are aids in partaking of the Lord's supper. However, including beans would be an addition. Why? Because this would be introducing another kind of food. (Remember the law of exclusion.)

  2. Likewise, song books, musical notes and a song leader are aids to singing. However, the use of an instrument is an addition. Why? Because this would be another kind of music.

C. It is important to note that throughout the denominational world using mechanical
instruments is considered more than an aid, it is thought of as worship itself.
IV. Some may say, "There is nothing sinful about musical instruments."
A. This is true - instruments in and of themselves are not sinful. But this is not the issue.

B. The point is that while a thing may be morally right it can be religiously wrong. 
For example, eating steak is morally right, but to use steak in the Lord's supper is religiously wrong. Likewise, playing an instrument is morally right, but to use it in worship is religiously wrong. 

V. Some may say, "There are instruments of music in heaven."
A. Passages from Revelation are sometimes used to show that musical instruments 
are in heaven. (see Rev. 5:8 and 14:2) The inference is then drawn that this 
justifies having instruments in Christian worship.

B. However, this is a false assumption.
  1. Revelation is a highly symbolic book. Hence, "harps" are no more literal than the "golden vials" or "many waters" or "great thunder." (To believe that literal musical instruments are in heaven is to misunderstand the nature of heaven.)
  2. In symbolic writing an object is always a sign or symbol of something else. It does not represent itself. (Note: "vials full of odours represent the prayers of the saints.")
  3. Even if instruments were in heaven, this would offer no authority for using them in worship today -- no more than "viles," "waters" or "thunder" would be authority for using such things in worship.
VI. Some may say, "In Ephesians 5:19 the expression 'making melody' includes musical instruments."
A. "Making melody" in the Greek is psallontes (from the root psallo) and simply means to "pluck." (Note: The instrument to be plucked is not in the word itself. Hence, the instrument must be found outside the word. The text plainly states that the instrument is the "heart." In praising God the Christian plucks the strings of the heart.)

B. Two logical conclusions

  1. If instruments are actually included in the word psallontes, then they would 
have to be used.

  2. Since "making melody" is to be done by all worshipers, this means that 
everyone would have to play an instrument.