Serving an international readership with the Old Jerusalem Gospel via the Internet.
Home | Current Issue | Archives | Lauds | Links | churches of Christ | Store
Plan of Salvation | Correspondence Course | Daily Bible Reading | Contact Us

 Vol. 7, No. 10 

October 2005

~ Page 10 ~

Acceptable Music in Worship

By Raymond Elliott

There are many individuals who think that the churches of Christ do not have music in our periods of worship to God. However, that is a misconception. We do in fact have music always in our homage to the Heavenly Father. In fact, this writer has never attended a worship period wherein there was no music. But, you must understand that the word 'music' is generic in usage. The specifics of music are 'instrumental' and 'vocal.' Vocal music is an integrated part of acceptable worship. In Hebrews 13:15, we read, "Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name."

Also, the general populace would be greatly surprised to learn that the churches of Christ use an instrument in their worship to God. This, of course, will be rather difficult to believe since those individuals who have visited our assemblies have never seen an instrument with the visible eye. The New Testament clearly demands that an instrument be used in the praising of God in our songs. If this is not done, such will not be acceptable to God. Christians who desire to please God have no choice in this matter. They must use an instrument in church music. In short, the New Testament requires the usage of the instrument, and, the specific instrument is mentioned in the Word of God.

But, let us observe that the word "sing" in the New Testament comes from the Greek word "psallo," which basically means to "twang," "twitch" and "touch the strings." In the Old Testament, David would "psallo" on the harp. However, when we come to the New Testament, a different instrument is required and even specified. Please turn to the book of Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 18 and 19 and let us read together: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody [psallein, i.e., to twang, twitch, touch the string, metaphorically speaking] in your heart to the Lord."

The requirement to baptize a person can be used as an illustration in this matter. The word "baptize" is not a translation but rather a transliteration. That is, the word "baptize" is from a Greek word "baptizo," which means to dip, plunge or submerge. Thus, the actual translation of "baptizo" would be "immerse." But into what substance should one be baptized? Through a study of the Scriptures, we learn that it is water (See Matthew 3:16; John 3:23; Acts 8:36). In a parallel situation, we are required to sing (psallo) and make melody (psallein), but, upon what instrument? Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, answers that question when he wrote: "...singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19). There is no uncertainty about it; the heart is the God-made and God-given instrument to be used in praising him in our songs.

Christians who follow this teaching relative to acceptable music in worship are not on the defensive. Rather, those churches that use mechanical instruments of music in their worship must prove by the Holy Scriptures the authority to do so. They must defend their usage of the instrument in their assemblies. The burden of proof is on their shoulders.

Have you ever wondered why, when you come to the New Testament, that you never read about the first century church using mechanical instruments in singing praises to God? It is interesting to note of the nine (9) times music is mentioned in the books of the New Testament, Matthew through Jude, that it is always in the specific, that is, to sing. Let us now read the passages of Scriptures in the New Testament wherein this is the case.

  1. Matthew 26:30: "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives."

  2. Acts 16:25: "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises..."

  3. Romans 15:9: "...I will praise unto thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name."

  4. Hebrews 2:12: "I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise."

  5. 1 Corinthians 14:15: "I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the understanding also."

  6. Ephesians 5:1: "Be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be ye filled with the Spirit, speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."

  7. Colossians 3:16: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God."

  8. Hebrews 13:15: "Through Him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips, which make confession to His name."

  9. James 5:13: "Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise."

When the King James Version was translated (1611) and the American Standard Version some years later (1901), one hundred forty-eight Hebrew and Greek scholars were used in these works. Each time that these scholars came to the word "psallo" and its derivatives, they translated it into the English word "sing." Therefore, when one reads the New Testament, he can have full confidence in knowing that when he sings in worship to God, he is doing exactly what the Holy Scriptures authorize.

You might also be interested in knowing that the early church did not in fact use an instrument such as an organ in their song service, at least for the first six hundred years. "Pope Vitalian is related to have first introduce organs into some of the churches in Western Europe about 670; but the earliest trustworthy account is that of one sent as a present by the Greek Emperor Constantine Copronymus to Pepin, king of Franks in 755" (American Encyclopedia 12: 688). "The organ is said to have been introduced into church music by Pope Vitalian in 666 A.D" (Chambers Encyclopedia 7: 112). Either way, one can readily see that the use of instrumental music did not originate with the first century church. The introduction of such caused division among members of the Roman Catholic Church and was discarded until about the first part of the fourteenth century. Along with other digressive practices, the use of instrumental music caused a major schism between the Roman Catholic and the Greek Catholic churches (1311). The Greek Catholic Church rejected the use of the instrument, along with the selling of indulgences, the authority of the pope, etc.

Later, the great reformer, Martin Luther, rejected the use of the organ. He said, "The organ in the worship of God is an ensign of Baal." John Calvin said of the organ in worship, "It is no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of tapers or revival of the other shadows of the Law. The Roman Catholics borrowed it from the Jews." When John Wesley was asked about the use of the organ, he replied, "I have no objection to the organ in our chapels provided it is neither heard or seen" Charles H. Spurgeon, when asked why he did not use the organ in worship, gave 1 Corinthians 14:15 as his answer: "I would as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery." Adam Clark said, "...And I further believe that the use of such instruments of music, in the Christian Church, is without the sanction and against the will of God; that they are subversive of the spirit of true devotion, and that they are sinful...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" ("Amos 6:5." Clarke's Commentary).

Here are some arguments that many use to justify the using of mechanical instruments of music in their worship.

In discussing the matter of whether or not to include the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship, one will inevitably have to come to grips with this very important question, "What is the authority in religion?" There are some things that can be easily excluded from being the authority, namely the following:

Most of the religious world has followed the philosophies of two great reformers of the 16century, Martin Luther and his counter part, Ulrich Zwingli. Luther possessed the desire to retain in the church all that was not expressly condemned by the Word of God. Zwingli, on the other hand, was intent on abolishing all that could not be proven by the Holy Scriptures. There is a vast difference in these two attitudes toward the Bible. The former exclaims that all can be included in our worship if it is not expressly forbidden. The latter emphatically declares that only those things that are taught in the Word of God can be practiced in religious matters. Zwingli had the right concept and attitude toward biblical authority. Peter declared, "If any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God..." (1 Peter 4:11). Paul wrote, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What we exclude in our worship today is a direct result of our attitude toward biblical authority. In short, one must find authority by direct command or a binding example in the New Testament for the avenues of worship. Only that which can be found therein should be retained; all else should be excluded.Image

Go to Page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20

Conditions of Use