Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why Not Worship with Instruments?

The following is an expanded excerpt from the book, Where Fresh Waters Flow: The Restoration Plea, written by Cory Collins and published by Heritage Press in 2007.
Cory also presented a sermon on this subject in February, 2013. For the mp3 audio go to:
After Jesus Christ shared the bread and the cup with His disciples at the Last Supper, the Scripture says, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30).” They proceeded to Gethsemane, where Judas and the crowd came to arrest the Savior. Their singing serves as a powerful example of worship. It was from the heart, it was full of faith, and it was without mechanical accompaniment.
When Paul and Silas were in prison in Philippi, though they had been harshly mistreated and severely beaten, about midnight they were singing hymns of praise to God. The prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25). Their singing, directed toward God, had a tremendous impact on the lost people around them. They did not use or need any instrumental assistance.
People often ask regarding the worship of the churches of Christ, “Where’s the organ?” Or even, “Where’s the band?” Is simple, unaccompanied singing in worship optional, traditional, or eccentric … or is it biblical?
Let’s consider this question first of all from the Bible’s teaching. Then let’s look at additional matters that are historical and practical.
Biblical Reasons for Singing without Mechanical Instruments
The New Testament has all authority regarding Christian worship. Heb 8:13-10:18 While Christians learn from the Old Testament’s unchanging principles, they do not follow its specific means of worship. Incense, dancing, animal sacrifice, a separate priesthood, the Sabbath, three annual holy feasts, and instrumental music in the Temple worship were all part of the Old Testament administration. They are not part of the New.
In fact, Jesus Himself taught that worship in the New Covenant would be different from that of the Old. Instead of a physical Temple in Jerusalem, with all the outward, physical elements connected to it, He said, “… the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father … the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:19-24).
In the Old Testament, instruments were used specifically as part of the Temple services (2 Chron 29:25-30). So were other worship elements noted in the Psalms.
• Ps 20:3 Burnt offerings: rams, bulls, and goats
• Ps 107:22 Levitical thank offerings
• Ps 50:8; 51:19; 66:13 Burnt offerings
• Ps 118:27 Festal procession with waving of palm branches, as during the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:40ff)
• Ps 26:6 Levitical altar
• Ps 122:1; 27:4 Temple in which God was worshiped
• Ps 5:7 Prayers offered at or toward the temple
Therefore, one cannot simply take authority for instruments, say from Psalm 150, without also considering the other items in Psalms that were part of the Temple worship system. One must look to the New Testament and ask, “How did the early Christians worship?”
The New Testament does not explicitly say, “You shall not use instruments of music.” Neither does it in such a direct way prohibit sprinkling for baptism, baptizing babies, praying to Mary, adding elements to the Lord’s Supper, or installing and honoring a Pope. However, it implicitly forbids all of these things by specifying certain other things. Thus it excludes all substitutes or changes. This is “The Law of Exclusion.”
When we put together a shopping list, we do not list the items that we are not buying. Other items are excluded. If they are added, we will not pay for them! In the same way, since God has specified the kind of music He wants in worship, He does not have to list all the kinds of music that He does not want.
The New Testament specifies that the music of the church is to be vocal music. The “instrument” or “organ” is the human heart, giving praise to God through the lips. The New Testament’s silence on the instrument is a thundering silence, especially in light of the prominence of instruments in Old Testament temple worship. Instruments were available for use; Christians from a Jewish background were accustomed to them; but the early church did not use them.
Read and consider Ephesians 5:18-21. Following the command to “be filled with the Spirit,” in the Greek text there are several participles that describe what Christians do who are filled with the Spirit. They are speaking …, singing …, making melody in the heart …, giving thanks …, and submitting to one another. Mechanical instruments are not necessary or expedient in the carrying out of this teaching, nor are they capable of speaking, singing, etc. Also consider Colossians 3:15-17.
Note the fact that the New Testament references specify vocal music.
Matt 26:30 - sang a hymn
Acts 16:25 - singing hymns
Rom 15:9 - I will sing hymns to Your name.
Rom 15:11 - Sing praises to Him, all you peoples.
1 Cor 14:15 - I will sing with my spirit and my mind.
1 Cor 14:26 - Everyone has a hymn, or word of instruction. (This would have been the place to mention instruments if they had been part of NT worship.)
Eph 5:19 - Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.
Col 3:16 - Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
Jas 5:13 - Let him sing songs of praise.
Heb 13:15 - The sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess His name.
Music scholars, even outside the Restoration Movement, acknowledge the fact that the early church abstained from the use of such instruments.
¨Curt Sachs of Columbia University, one of the most eminent musicologists of modern times, has said, “All ancient Christian music was vocal.”
¨Lyman Coleman, an outstanding Presbyterian scholar: “Both the Jews in their temple service and the Greeks in their idol worship were accustomed to sing with the accompaniment of instrumental music.  The converts to Christianity must have been familiar with this model of singing, but it is generally admitted that the primitive Christians employed no instrumental music in their religious worship (The Primitive Church, pp. 370-371).”
¨Joseph Bingham, of the Church of England, in his book, Antiquities of the Church, says, “Music in the Church is as ancient as the apostles; but instrumental music is not.”
¨Hugo Leichtentritt writes: “Only singing, however, and no playing of instruments, was permitted in the early Christian Church (Music, History and Ideas, p. 34).”
¨Frank Landon Humphreys writes: “The early Christians discouraged all outward signs of excitement, and from the very beginning, in the music they used, reproduced the spirit of their religion — an outward quietude.  All the music employed in their early services was vocal (Evolution of Church Music, p. 42).”
Also remarkable is this. The term “a cappella” is Latin, meaning “in the manner of the church.” The very existence of this term further evidences the fact that singing “in the manner of the church” is singing without instrumental accompaniment.
In the past, some who have advocated the instrument have tried to claim biblical authority for it in the use of the Greek term psallo (> psalm) in Ephesians 5:19. They have said that the term meant to “pluck” a stringed instrument. If so, each Christian is required to pluck a stringed instrument in worship!
In fact, the word psallo appears also in 1 Cor 14:15 and Jas 5:13, where only vocal expression is in view. The Septuagint (Greek OT) also sometimes uses psallo in this purely vocal sense (Ps 135:3; 138:1; 146:2). If psallo in Eph 5:19 does allow or call for the use of an instrument, that instrument is specified: it is the heart.
Historical Reasons for Singing without Mechanical Instruments
These indisputable facts are evident from a study of church history. First, churches did not use musical instruments in worship for 600-plus years after Christ. Second, Protestant groups did not use them just 200 years ago. Third, many religious leaders have spoken against their use. Note:
¨Clement of Alexandria (150-210 AD): “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.”  As quoted in Restoration Quarterly, Vol. I, No. 1, 1957, p. 3
¨Origen (325 AD):  “For the unison song of the people of Christ is more pleasing to God than any musical instrument.  Thereby in all the churches of God with one mind and heart, with unity and agreement in faith and worship, we offer to God a unison melody in our singing of Psalms.” Quoted in Restoration Quarterly, p. 4
¨John Chrysostom (345-407 AD): “There is no need of lyre there, nor stretched strings nor plectrum, nor of musical skill, nor of any instruments.  But if you choose, you will make yourself the lyre, putting to death the members of the flesh, and making a great harmony of the body with the soul.” “But I would say this, that in olden times they were thus led by these instruments because of the dullness of their understanding and their recent deliverance from idols.  Just as God allowed animal sacrifices, so also He let them have these instruments, condescending to help their weakness.”  Quoted in Restoration Quarterly, p. 45
¨Augustine (c. 400 AD):  “Has not a rule been established in the name of Christ with reference to those ‘vigils’ of yours, that harps (citharae, that is, lyres) should be excluded from this place?”
¨Jerome (c. 400 AD):  “A Christian should not know what a lyre or flute is, nor what their use is.”  Quoted on p. 144 in Instrumental Music in Worship, by M.C. Kurfees.
¨Thomas Aquinas, a leading Catholic Scholar of his age (1250 AD):  “Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize.”  Quoted in McClintock and Strong’s Encyclopedia, Vol. VII, p. 739
¨John Calvin, founder of the Presbyterian Church:  “Musical instruments in celebrating the praise of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting 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.”  John Calvin’s Commentary, Thirty-third Psalm.
¨John Wesley, reputed founder of the Methodist Church: “I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen.”  Quoted in Clarke’s Commentary, Vol IV, p. 686
¨Adam Clarke, the greatest commentator of all times among the Methodists: “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.”  Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. IV, p. 686
¨Martin Luther called the organ “an ensign of Baal”.  McClintock & Strong’s Encyclopedia of Music, Vol. VII, p. 762
¨Charles H. Spurgeon, a very influential Baptist preacher in London years ago, said: “Israel was a school, and used childish things to help her to learn, but in these days, when Jesus gives us spiritual food, one can make melody without strings and pipes … We do not need them.  They would hinder rather than help our praise.  Sing unto Him.  This is the sweetest and best music.  No instrument like human voice … We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it.” Spurgeon would not preach in a congregation where the instrument was present.
So the burden of proof is not upon the churches of Christ, as if we must prove why we do not use instruments. We need not feel defensive. The burden of proof is on those who would introduce and defend the instrument, without biblical warrant or historical precedent.
Practical Reasons for Singing without Mechanical Instruments
The introduction of instruments, without biblical warrant, continues to create division. Churches that use instruments have divided further over the question of what kind of instruments they prefer. The “traditional” service will have an organ, while the “contemporary” service will have a rock band. Singing without instruments promotes unity, since everyone agrees that vocal singing is Scriptural by itself.
The suggestion that instruments are necessary to attract lost people, or young people, is very troubling. The purpose of worship is to glorify God. The question is, “What pleases Him?” The question is not, “What kind of worship do we, or the lost, or the young, or the old, prefer?”
The use of instruments has taken various church assemblies from edification to entertainment ... from worship service to concert performance ... from participation to passivity ... and from the spiritual to the mechanical.
Instead, we choose to follow the simple, clear, New Testament teaching. The writer of Hebrews put it this way: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Heb 13:15


Phil Sanders said...

Cory Collins has done an excellent job in telling us reasons not to worship with the instrument. I highly recommend him and his book.

Thanks Cory for this article!

Bill Keele said...

By definition, psallo excludes the instrument in worship. At one time it included the instrument but in the NT, the mechanical instrument accompaniment is excluded. God chose a word that excludes the instrument. I believe, by definition, that mechanical instrument accompaniment to singing in worship is specifically forbidden by both definition and approved practice of the early church.

Virgil Davis said...

Excellent article. A big Amen brother.

C of C traveler said...

Sociologists claim one seeking to find fellowship wont feel accepted unless he begins to know a minimum of 3 people & attends a min. of 6x. If one hears the true beauty of a well-taught acapella congregation - can he not be moved at the holiness of it? I don't understand our brethren that don't hear the holiness of it. Lets pray to have congregations that sing together well.