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 Vol. 8, No. 6 

June 2006

Since You Asked

~ Page 20 ~

Image Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.

Music of the First Century Church

By Louis Rushmore

Image Louis, one of your authors says that there were definitely no instruments of music used in the 1st century church.  I am only asking of proof of this assertation. I do not believe that he has that proof. David Fields, MSgt, USAF

Consider: (1) The secular, historical record vouches for the first introduction of instrumental music into Christian worship hundreds of years after the establishment of the church in Acts 2; (2) New Testament directive respecting the use of music in Christian worship is specific as to the designation of singing as the type of music authorized for Christian worship; (3) Apostolic censure in the New Testament for deviation from divinely inspired directive does not appear in the New Testament regarding instrumental music being introduced into Christian worship, though other deviations from divine directive are censured in the New Testament. (4) The worship of the New Testament church was patterned after Jewish synagogue worship, which did not include instrumental music. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that there were no instruments of music used in the worship of the first century church. Furthermore, had any congregation of the Lord's church used instrumental music in Christian worship in the first century, it would have done so without either divine precedent or celestial authorization, which is equally true today whenever anyone attempts to worship God with instrumental music.

(1) Secular history simply does not as much as hint of the use of instrumental music in Christian worship in the first century. No history with which I am acquainted even suggests a first century use of instrumental music in Christian worship.

There is no warrant in the New Testament for their use. (a)  There is no example of such by Peter, Paul, John, James, or the Master himself, nor by any others in the apostolic age; nor have we any in the first three centuries...(b)  We have no command either to make or to use them. ...(c)   We find no directions, formal or incidental, for their use; while we have line upon line about singing--what to sing, when to sing, how to sing. ("Music, Instrumental" emphasis added)

"The general introduction of instrumental music can certainly not be assigned to a date earlier than the 5th and 6th centuries..." ("Music, Instrumental").

(2) The New Testament teaches that all worshipful music associated with the Lord's church in the first century is singing without accompaniment by instrumental music (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:13). A sample of a first century Christian worship assembly identifies singing as the type of worshipful music that had apostolic sanction or authority (1 Corinthians 14:15). "Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" in first century worshipful music were spoken through singing, and the instrument used to make melody was the "heart" (Ephesians 5:19). "Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" through singing taught one another spiritual truths (Colossians 3:16), which instruments of music are incapable of doing. The type of music in a first century congregational assembly was singing (Hebrews 2:12). Irrespective of the place or occasion, first century worshipful music involved singing "psalms" (James 5:13).

(3) Apostolic censure appears in 1 Corinthians 11:20-34 for abuses to the Lord's Supper. The apostle Paul re-instituted what was authorized in the first century pertaining to the observance of the Lord's Supper. The lack of apostolic censure for a deviation from another facet of authorized New Testament worship indicates that there were no other deviations from divine instruction for New Testament worship (e.g., the introduction of instrumental music). Yet, the New Testament is replete with censures for deviation from Christian doctrine, indicating the seriousness of deviating from divine instruction in any area of Christianity. The books of 1 Corinthians and Galatians especially demonstrate the New Testament predisposition to correct deviations from divine instruction in every subtopic of Christianity.  

(4) Synagogue worship, after which the worship of the New Testament church was patterned, did not use instrumental music in worship. "The worship of the Christian Church was afterwards modelled after that of the synagogue" (Easton). "The earliest Christians were Jews. Therefore, church worship followed the synagogue pattern with Scripture reading, prayer, and a sermon" (Nelson's).

Instruments were not used in the worship of the ancient synagogue. They belonged to the tabernacle and the Temple, especially the latter; but were never in the congregational assemblies of God's people. ...No hint is given in Old Testament or New that instruments were ever used in the synagogue worship. (b) Orthodox Jews do not allow the organ or any other instrument in their synagogues. ("Music, Instrumental")

James Burton Coffman in his commentary summarizes:

Historically, no mechanical instruments of music were used in Christian worship until the seventh century, despite the fact of such instruments having been known and used throughout the whole world at the time of the beginning of Christianity and for centuries prior to that time. There is no refutation of the fact that the founder of Christianity, namely, the Christ and the blessed apostles simply left them out.

Mike Benson cites several brief references to the historical introduction of instrumental in Christian worship in his article at:

Therefore, biblically (from the New Testament) and historically, there is obviously neither divine sanction nor precedent in the first century for the adoption of instrumental music in Christian worship. Furthermore, there is no Bible for (not authorized) the use of instrumental music in Christian worship, in the first century or now. These articles in the Gospel Gazette Online Archive provide more extensive information about the type of music that God authorized for use in Christian worship.Image

Works Cited

Coffman, James Burton. Burton Coffman's Commentaries. CD-ROM. Abilene: ACU P., 1999.

Easton, M. G. Easton's Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Oak Harbor: Logos, 1996.

"Music, Christian." McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2000.

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Nashville: Nelson, 1986.

Elders Necessary

By Louis Rushmore

Hi, I have become a faithful reader of GGO. I have a question for you. How important is it for a congregation to have elders?? If they are "getting along" just fine doing business by means of a men's business meeting are elders necessary or just an option? Also if a man is qualified to be an elder with the exception of having one adult child who does not attend the assembly, is not a member at all, or is divorced does that totally disqualify the man? Thanks. Darletta Myers

Sometimes a congregation cannot have an eldership at a certain juncture in its history because it does not have two or more men who are biblically qualified, willing to serve as elders and men that the congregation respects well enough to follow their guidance. The biblical qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 both include certain male Christians and exclude other male Christians for consideration as appointment to be elders. However, when two or more men satisfy the biblical qualifications for appointment as elders, God's divine plan for the guidance of a congregation is for it to have elders.

Notice Titus 1:5: "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee" (emphasis added). By inspiration, the apostle Paul referred to a congregation without elders as "wanting." The same Greek word translated "wanting" in Titus 1:5 appears as "lacking" in Luke 18:22, "lack" in James 1:5 and "destitute" in James 2:15. Review each of these verses and determine if "wanting," "lacking" or "lack" and "destitute" matters. "Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me" (Luke 18:22). "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food" (James 2:15). Yes, "wanting," "lackest" or "lack" and "destitute" matters.

Barnes, Poole and Wycliffe equate "wanting" in Titus 1:5 as "left undone" respecting the appointment of elders. Adam Clarke uses the word "defect" to describe a congregation without elders. Matthew Henry dismisses the possibility of the appointment of elders as being an optional matter: "Where a fit number of believers is, presbyters or elders must be set; their continuance in churches is as necessary..." Accordingly, it was the procedure of the apostle Paul to appoint elders in every congregation he established. "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed" (Acts 14:23). "There is not a single argument made against the appointment of qualified elders in every church that will stand the test of God's word" (Phillips 275).

The second question pertains to the qualifications of elders, namely the one that reads: "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" (1 Tim 3:4-5) and "having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly" (Titus 1:6).

First, our brethren are not in complete agreement as to whether these verses respecting the conduct of an elder's children primarily refer to those residing in his home (e.g., before they leave the home to establish their own homes and families). So the question is whether the qualification pertains to the way in which and time during which the children were reared, or does it include adult children who are not residing at home any longer.

Second, it can be established from Scripture that having a single child satisfies the biblical requirement of "children" (Genesis 21:2, 7). Therefore, having one or more "faithful children" though one or more children are not "faithful" would not necessarily disqualify a man from consideration for appointment to an eldership. However, a congregation must have confidence in the men under consideration besides their biblical qualifications (Acts 6:3, 6).

Third, though in every divorce at least one party to the divorce bears the guilt and sin for the divorce, in some divorces there is an innocent spouse (Matthew 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:15). What God styles as innocence should not be held against one where God does not.

Every fully organized congregation will have biblically qualified elders serving and overseeing it (Acts 20:28). Any congregation that does not have elders is not fully organized according to the pattern for primitive Christianity discernible in the New Testament. Although the biblical qualifications for elders should not be taken lightly, it is possible to misconstrue them, making them so stringent that no mortal could qualify to be an elder. God designed local congregations of the churches of Christ to be ruled by elders who themselves are accountable to God for each soul of the congregation (Hebrews 13:17). That is divine law and pragmatic also for the well being of any local church.Image

Works Cited

Barnes, Albert. Barnes' Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.

Clarke, Adam. Adam Clarke's Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.

Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. New Modern Edition. CD-ROM. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1991.

Phillips, H.E. "No Elder Theories." Paul's Letters to Timothy and Titus. CD-ROM. Joplin: College P., 1975. 264-275.

Poole, Matthew. Matthew Poole's Commentary on the New Testament. CD-ROM. Escondido: Ephesians Four Group, 1997.

Wycliffe Bible Commentary. CD-ROM. Chicago: Moody, 1962.

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