Mechanical Instruments Of Music In Worship
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
Instrumental music and church music are nearly inseparable in the minds of the average individual. The beautifully robed choirs, ornate organs,
even huge orchestras that are part of religious services are seen as much a part of worship as steeples and belfries. There are a few who refuse
to use mechanical instruments of music in their worship and we are among that number. In an effort to explain why, you are asked to consider
a few thoughts presented in this lesson.
The churches of Christ do not use instrumental music in worship. The only music offered to the Lord is vocal or A Cappella music. Many do not
really understand why we do not use it in worship. In order to clear away any possible misunderstanding it should be noted first that tradition
has no part in our refusal to use organs, pianos, or any other instrument of music. Secondly, it is not due to esthetic values that we prefer vocal
over instrumental music. The only basis for not using instruments of music in our worship to God is our view of the authority of Christ and His apostles.
The authority of Christ is sacred and inviolate. At least that is our view of it. When Jesus spoke for the last time on earth to His disciples,
He said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). And we find three ways that this absolute and complete
authority from Christ is established. First, there is a direct statement or command. Second, there is an approved apostolic example.
Third, there is a necessary inference.
All three of these methods of establishing Christ's authority can be implied by studying the Lord's Supper. First, Jesus authorized His disciples
to eat unleavened bread and drink fruit of the vine in memory of His suffering and death (Matthew 26:26-27; I Corinthians 11:24). That is the basis
for the observance of the sacred feast. But when to observe it can only be learned by reading the record of how the disciples put this into actual practice.
"Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and
continued his message until midnight" (Acts 20:7).
This is a record of what they did, obviously under the tutelage and supervision of the apostles. The apostles had been given the commission directly
from Christ to "teach them to observe all things I have commanded you..." (Matthew 28:20). The frequency, or how often it should be observed,
is learned from necessary inference. A necessary inference is a deduction that is required by facts. Acceptance of certain facts will demand acceptance
of certain implications. In this case, since every week has a first day, and since the church of the Lord in the first century observed the feast on the
first day of the week, every first day of the week is implied for observing the Supper.
To take the last thought one step further, and to learn how necessary inferences differ from fair or ordinary inferences, notice the baptism of Christ.
Matthew records the event by reporting on the trip Jesus made from Galilee to the Jordan River where John, the Baptizer, was baptizing. When John
agreed to baptize Jesus, the record only says,
"Then Jesus, when He had been baptized, came up immediately from the water; and behold the heavens were opened to Him..." (Matthew 3:16).
If Jesus "came up...from the water," He had, of necessity, to have gone down into the water. Even though nothing is said of His going down into the
water it is necessarily inferred. One cannot in any sense come up out of something into which one has not gone down.
When we diligently read the New Testament we find a complete lack of information on the use of instruments in congregational worship to God.
It cannot be authorized by direct statement, approved apostolic example, or necessary inference. Upon what basis then is it authorized, if indeed it is?
Some use what is called "the law of expediency" as authority for instrumental music in worship, along with a host of other things. Where do you read
of church buildings, electric lights, tuning forks, song books, pews, etc. in the New Testament? This is a legitimate question and one that must be addressed.
There are things that are not specified in the word of God that are perfectly legitimate to use in serving God. Some things in this category "expedite"
the carrying out of God's requirements of His people. Take the case of Noah. He was commanded to build an ark
(Genesis 6:14-16) and told the dimensions and materials he was to use. But nothing was said of the tools that would expedite the construction of the ship.
Noah was not at liberty to add to the ark as he saw fit, nor substitute other wood for the gofer wood. God specified the kind of wood and dimensions He chose.
The same principle applies today. We are authorized to sing praises to God. Please take time out to read the following passages of Scripture
(Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; Romans 15:9; I Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:13). All of them specify
singing as the kind of music associated with worship in the New Testament church. That is parallel to the kind of wood Noah was commanded to use.
But what kind of singing, or how songs are to be sung, is not so specific. Psalms, hymns, and "spiritual songs" are to be sung, but there is obviously
some choice involved. The church could then and now sing either Psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs. Furthermore these songs could be sung using
harmony, responsive choruses, or in any particular order. So long as the only kind of music involved is vocal (singing) nothing is added to the worship
when song books, tuning forks, harmonious parts, etc. are used. These latter things are expedients, in the category of Noah's tools.
Please study the following diagram.
Hebrews 10:25 -- ASSEMBLING is authorized - The Place is expedient
Matthew 28:20 -- TEACHING is authorized - Methods are expedients
Corinthians 16:1-2 -- GIVING is authorized - Baskets or Buckets are expedients
Ephesians 5:19-- SINGING is authorized - Song Books, etc. are expedients
In all the above cases, a passage of Scripture authorizes an action. But no such passage exists for playing instruments of music in worship to God. If so,
where is the passage? A building is an expedient place to assemble, commanded by the Lord. Methods of teaching are authorized by the command to teach.
Collection baskets are authorized by the command to contribute. Song books, etc. are authorized by the requirement to sing. But what does a piano
or any other mechanical instrument expedite? It certainly does not expedite singing. In those places where it is used, the singing is subdued, or forgotten,
when the soft and melodious tones of the organ fill the "sanctuary."
If the Lord had simply said, "Make music," and let it go at that, any kind of music would satisfy the command. But, in point of fact, He didn't.
He specified singing. And those who walk by faith limit their musical worship to singing, offering "the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips,
giving thanks His name" (Hebrews 13:15).
We offer this final thought. Consider the history of instrumental music in worship. It was never a part of the New Testament church, and no early saint used it.
But much later, during the "dark ages," it found its way into an apostate religion. Here is the historical record, given by the inimitable Philip Schaff.
"The use of organs in churches is ascribed to Pope Vitalian (657 - 672). Constantine Copronymos sent an organ with other presents to King Pepin of France in 767...
"The attitude of the churches to the organ varies. It shared to some extend the fate of images, except that it never was an object of worship...The Greek
(catholic) Church disapproves the use of organs. The Latin (Roman Catholic) church introduced pretty generally, but not without the protest of eminent men,
so that even in the Council of Trent a motion was made, though not carried, to prohibit the organ at least in the mass." (History of the Christian Church, Volume IV,
The use of instruments of music in church worship is not authorized by Christ. The only authority for it comes in two forms. First is Roman Catholicism,
and second is personal preference. Those who disregard the authority of Christ say, "I like it, I want it, and I will have it." There is no other authority for it anywhere.
To get instrumental music in worship one must go beyond the teaching of Christ, for it is not within those sacred precincts.
We, therefore refuse to use it in our worship to God. We endeavor to worship "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24) and will take our stand only on authorized ground.
It is always right to do what the Lord commands, what the early church did under the guidance of His apostles, and what is necessarily implied in obeying His word.
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