When I preached in Houston, there was a visitor who met me in the foyer after worship, and offered to buy the church a piano. He thought we just could not afford one. But it’s not because we cannot afford musical instruments or that we don’t have anyone to play them or that we don’t like music or that we’re just trying to be different. It’s none of those reasons. The reason we don’t use mechanical instruments of music in our worship is because we do not have authority from God to do so.
I hope that you’ll stay tuned this morning and allow me to explain further what this is all about.
What surprises many people is that nowhere does the Bible authorize the church to worship God with a mechanical instrument of music. You can search throughout the entire Bible, and you’ll not find even one verse that authorizes the church of Christ to worship God with a mechanical instrument of music. There’s no example or even a hint that the church of Christ you read about in the Bible ever worshipped God with mechanical instruments of music. The idea of the church worshipping God with a mechanical instrument of music was entirely unheard of.
It is a matter of historic record that the church of Christ did not use instrumental music in worship. Let me read to you this quote from Justin Martyr about 139 AD, very close to the time of the apostles and the first-century church. He said, “The use of singing with instrumental music was not received into the Christian churches as it was among the Jews in their infant state, but only the use of plain song.” This shows that though the Jews had their instruments, the Christian churches refused to accept the musical instrument in its worship.
Here’s another quotation from Clement of Alexandria, who died in 215 AD. He said, “Let the pipe be resigned to the
shepherds, and the flute to the superstitious who are engrossed in idolatry, for in truth such instruments are to be banished from the banquet, that is, the worship. The one instrument of peace, the word alone by which we honor God is what we employ. We no longer employ the ancient psaltery and trumpet and timbrel and flute.”
I also have this quotation I’d like to read to you from the American Encyclopedia. It says, “Pope Vitalian is related to have first introduced organs into some of the churches of western Europe about 670 AD, but the earliest trustworthy account is that of the one sent as a present by the Greek emperor Constantine Copronymus to Pepin, king of the Franks in 775.”
We understand here that the church, for hundreds of years, never used musical instruments in their worship. It wasn’t until the seventh or eighth century that we have any evidence of such being introduced. The Schaff Herzog Encyclopedia states this, “In the Greek church, the organ never came into use, but after the eighth century it became more and more common in the Latin church, not however, without opposition from the side of the monks. The reformed church discarded it. And though the Church of Basel very early introduced it, it was in other places admitted only sparingly and after long hesitation.”
Let me also read this quotation from the Catholic Encyclopedia. It says, “For almost a thousand years Gregorian chants without any instrumental or harmonic addition was the only music used.”
It may also surprise many to know that, when the various religious denominations were formed, many of their leaders
opposed the use of mechanical instruments in worship. Consider these quotations with me. The first is from Martin
Luther, a reformer and founder of the Lutheran church. He said, “The organ in the worship of God is an ensign of Baal.” Baal was one of the notorious pagan gods of the Old Testament.
We have this quote from John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterian church. He said, “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and 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.”
We have another quotation from John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church. He said, “I have no objections to the instrument in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen.”
Another Methodist, Adam Clark, scholar and commentator, wrote, “I am an old man, and a minister, and I declare that I have never knew them,” (musical instruments) “productive of any good in the worship of God, and I have reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music as a science I admire and esteem, 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, who requires His followers to worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
Another quotation is from David Benedict, a foremost Baptist historian. He said, “Staunch old Baptists in former times would as soon have tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries. And yet the instrument has gradually found its way among them with nothing like the jars and difficulties that arose of old concerning the bass viol and smaller instruments of music.”
Finally, here’s a quotation from Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist preacher of much fame. When he quoted I Corinthians 14:15, “I’ll sing with the spirit and I’ll sing with the understanding,” he added these words, “I would as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery.”
I hope you can see that the church of Christ is not alone in its opposition to the use of mechanical instruments in worship to God and that history shows, without a doubt, that instrumental music is an addition to the worship of God. Church fathers, encyclopedias, scholars, commentators, reformers and historians all agree.
I also want you to notice this morning that all of the passages in the Bible that deal with music in the worship of the church use the words singing, sing, or fruit of our lips. That’s what we read about the music of the church throughout the Bible, except for one passage, Ephesians 5:19, which reads, making melody. In that passage, the apostle Paul tells us to “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” The phrase, making melody, is a translation of the Greek word psallo. This is a word that was synonymous with the word sing, and it’s translated sing or something similar to that, in all of the other passages where it is used in the New Testament.
If there be any argument about this word, Paul tells us what instrument to psallo or to make melody with. He says to make melody with the heart. The apostle Paul is telling us here to sing and that our singing ought to be accompanied by the heart.
Notice also that Paul in this passage is giving a command. If he had made reference to playing a mechanical instrument of music, then every Christian would be obligated to do so. It wouldn’t be optional, but mandatory for each and every one of us. The early church certainly didn’t understand it this way, as they never worshipped God with a mechanical instrument. Therefore, we can conclude that instrumental music in worship is an addition to the word of God. From passages such as Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, and at the end of the Bible, Revelation 22:18-19, we learn that God would not have us to add to His word. We must not add to it, and we must not take from it. Paul warns in I Corinthians 4:6 not to go beyond the things which are written.
In I Timothy 1:3, the apostle Paul admonishes us, “Teach no other doctrine.” Also we read that whoever goes onward and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God (II John 9). The Bible very strongly encourages us not to add to God’s word.
Let’s notice a few things about instrumental music in the worship of the church. First of all, we can see that instrumental music in the worship of the church is not taught by Christ. That’s important, because Jesus Christ said in Matthew 28:18 that, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” If Christ didn’t teach it, then we have no authority from Christ to practice it. In Colossians 3:17, this is the very point that the apostle Paul was making when he said that, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
That means by His authority. Our deeds, our practice, our words and our teaching must be by the authority of Jesus Christ. Instrumental music in the worship of the church is not taught by Christ.
Instrumental music in the worship of the church is not taught by the Holy Spirit. That too is important, because you remember that Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide the apostles into all the truth. He would bring to their remembrance all things that Christ had spoken to them (John 16:13, John 14:26). And as children of God, we are to be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14). Nowhere did the Holy Spirit teach about instrumental music in the worship of the church.
Notice thirdly that instrumental music in the worship of the church is not taught by the apostles, yet the early church, according to Acts 2:42, “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” In Galatians 1:6-9 we learn that we’re not to change the gospel in any way, and that we’re not to teach anything different from what the apostles had received. To do so is to be anathema, or accursed of God. I Timothy 6:3-4 reminds us not to teach any other doctrine than what the apostles have delivered to us. Instrumental music in the worship of the church is not taught by the apostles, and therefore we should not practice it.
Instrumental music is not in the whole counsel of God. In Acts 20:27, the apostle Paul said, “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” It was important that Paul would teach all that God would have for us in His church today.
He said in Acts 20:20 that he shrank not from declaring anything that was helpful, beneficial and needed. Instrumental music in the worship of the church is not in the whole counsel of God. It’s not helpful. Not only that, instrumental music in the worship of the church is not a good work. I say that because II Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable…that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
All of the Scriptures were not provided with instrumental music in the worship of the church, therefore, it must not be a good work. We can also say that instrumental music in the worship of the church is not of faith. Do you remember Romans 10:17? “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” II Corinthians 5:7 admonishes us to walk by faith and not by sight. Nowhere in God’s word do we read about using instrumental music in the worship of the church. Instrumental music in the worship of the church is not of truth, and we’re to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
Jesus, when He prayed to the Father said, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). But instrumental music in the worship of the church is not of truth. Instrumental music is found nowhere in the revealed will of God, the truth of God. It’s not of righteousness, because Romans 1:16-17 tells us that the gospel is the power of God to salvation, and therein is revealed the righteousness of God.
Nowhere has God revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ that the church should worship Him with mechanical instruments of music.
Mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the church is not as the oracles of God. I Peter 4:11 teaches us to speak as the oracles of God. Nowhere does God have anything to say about that. II Timothy 1:13 reminds us to “hold fast the pattern of sound words,” the words that God has given us.
God’s word does not give us musical instruments in the worship of His church.
Musical instruments in the worship of the church is not bound in heaven. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus promised Peter the keys to the kingdom, that whatever he would bind on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever was loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven. But Peter did not bind such a thing, so we know it’s not bound in heaven.
It’s also not pertaining to life and godliness. II Peter 1:3 tells us that God has granted unto us “all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him.” He has not granted us the practice of using musical instruments in the worship of the church.
You can see how clear it is that there is no authority from God for the church to worship with a mechanical instrument of music. Such worship would be based upon the teachings of men and not the teachings of God. Hear this morning from Jesus in Matthew 15:9, “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
As we near the end of this lesson, I want us to go to Leviticus 10:1-3, because here we see how God made it abundantly clear to Israel just how He feels about such unauthorized worship. Here in Leviticus 10 the Bible says, “Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke, saying, “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ So Aaron held his peace.”
Nadab and Abihu took their censers to burn incense in worship to God. But on this occasion, they offered what the Scripture says is “profane fire before the Lord.” What was profane about it? Just this—God had not commanded it. Nadab and Abihu had no authority to do what they were doing.
In the same way, there are some today who offer profane music to the Lord. What is profane about it? Simply this—God has not commanded it. God’s command is to sing. We have no authority to worship God with any other kind of music. If God killed Nadab and Abihu for offering profane fire in the tabernacle of old, what will He do to those who offer profane music in His church today? In an effort to please God, churches of Christ seek to follow His word without addition or subtraction.
We call all men to give up their human traditions and innovations, to come out of man-made churches and simply be Christians, members of Christ’s church that you read about in the Bible. Remember, according to Acts 2, how the church began with about three thousand souls, having heard the gospel of Christ and repented of their sins, they were baptized for the remission of those sins (verse 38). When we hear that same gospel and respond in that same way, we’re added to that same church. According to Acts 20:28, Jesus redeemed this church with His own blood.
Let me tell you about a friend of mine who I’ve known for a number of years. He told me that he had worshipped in a denominational church for some time. The denominational church decided they were going to have a New Testament day, and they were going to go back to the New Testament and just worship as the Christians did then. So on that particular Sunday, they didn’t have any musical instruments in their worship. This got my friend to thinking that since they didn’t have instruments in the New Testament, why do we have them today? When he approached the denominational preacher about it, the denominational preacher said, “You need to go to the church of Christ. That’s what they believe. That’s what they teach.” And so he did.
Visiting the churches of Christ, he noticed that they didn’t have musical instruments in their worship. He noticed some other things about this church and about their teachings that he had not seen before, and he began to search the Scriptures to see how to become a simple New Testament Christian, to be a part of Christ’s church and to just be the church you read about in the Bible. We need to just go back and do what they did. Take the Bible, and no other book, and take Jesus Christ and follow Him, and nobody else, to be a member of His church and none other. So this one became a Christian, and continued in faithfulness, and he preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ today.
I want to ask you this morning, have you come to Jesus to be washed in His blood? If not, why are you waiting? “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If some who are listening today have been unfaithful to the Lord, the One who died for you, you need to confess your sin to God. In I John 1:9, we have this wonderful promise, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I hope that you’ll consider very carefully the things that we have talked about today, that you will make sure that your worship is in spirit and in truth, that you have indeed obeyed the gospel as we read of it in the New Testament, and that you’re a part of the Lord’s church which He redeemed with His own blood. I hope you’ll let us know how we can help you towards heaven today.
© 2012 The Truth in Love
Robert Dodson, Speaker
The Truth in Love
P.O. Box 865
Hurst, TX 76053