|Volume 18 Number 7 July 2016||
Ephesians 2:8 is a favorite passage of mine. It tells me that I do not have to earn a salvation that is beyond my ability to deserve. God’s grace saves me. Grace is not giving something for nothing, but it is giving something unearned. Naaman did not earn his cure, but if he had ignored Elisha’s commands, then he would have died a leper. In the same way, we must obey the teachings of Jesus to be saved since He is the “way, truth, and life” (John 14:6).
Most agree that faith is essential to salvation (Hebrews 11:6). Yet, faith does not happen without human effort (Romans 10:17). That does not mean that we have earned salvation, but rather, it means that we are saved because of God’s plan of grace. Most agree that one must obey the Gospel of Christ or he or she will not be saved (Romans 10:18-21). Jesus said that repentance is essential if we are to avoid perishing (Luke 13:3-5). Further, Jesus Himself made it clear that a person will be rejected if he does not confess our Lord’s name before men (Matthew 10:32-33). All of these are necessary acts of faith that do not negate God’s grace, but instead, they place us in line with His grace.
The same Bible that tells us to hear God’s Word so that we can build our faith, to repent of our sinful lives and to confess the name of Christ also says that baptism saves us (1 Peter 3:21). There are no instances of salvation about which we can read in Acts that do not include baptism. In addition, each mention of baptism precedes salvation and/or the remission of sins.
If we were saved by faith only, then why does it take work (hearing) to develop faith? If faith only means that we need to do nothing, then why does Romans 10:13 say we must call upon the name of the Lord? Further, how do we define “calling on the name of the Lord,” and from where do we draw this definition? If we let the Bible define its own terms, then Acts 22:16 defines “calling on His name” pretty well. “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (NKJV).
Following a plan does not mean we earn salvation; no man can do that. What it means is that Jesus reserves the right to determine who is saved. He has given us a plan to follow so that the decision is not arbitrary. What we need to do is find where He draws the line and go that far. I submit that He requires that our faith lead us to hear His Word, believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, repent of our sins, confess His name and have our sins washed away in baptism. Why come up short on this?
The Question of Instrumental Music
The question of the use of instruments of music (other than the human voice) in worship to God continues to plague sincere seekers of spiritual maturity in Christ. On the one hand, these students of the Word are cognizant that the Lord deplores unnecessary division in His body, the church (1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1-16). They, wanting to be good neighbors and friends to other religious seekers, do not wish to be divisive but as tolerant and as accepting as God will allow. On the other hand, they know the need to submit willfully and fully to God’s authority. If division then comes, so be it (Romans 16:17-18; Luke 12:51-53; 1 Timothy 6:3-5).
The question of instrumental music then pits the conscientious between a love of friends and a love of God. If he accepts instrumental music in order to keep peace in the religious community, is he doing so with or without God’s approval? If he rejects it, is he binding the doctrines of men as commandments of God (Matthew 15:7-9)? The question of the instruments, then, is ultimately determined by the authority of God. Once the question of how God authorizes is understood, the question of instruments is understood as well.
God authorizes by general (generic) commands. When God says to do something but does not specify limitations, men are free to make choices. God commanded men to “Go” into the world to preach. He did not specify how. Men are thus free to go by boat, car, airplane or foot. The principle of respecting God’s silence forbids us to add any specifications that God did not provide Himself.
God also authorizes by specificity. When He said, “preach the Gospel,” He limited what should be preached (Mark 16:15-16). The philosophies of men are excluded by God’s silence on the matter. Angelology, astrology, evolutionism, humanism and atheism are never specifically mentioned (i.e., God did not say, “Do not preach…” all these things). Yet, when He said what to preach, He automatically excluded everything else. Common sense is the instructor in this principle of interpretation, often referred to as the “Law of Silence.”
The Law of Silence is biblically illustrated in Hebrews 7:14. Moses “spoke nothing” concerning the tribe of Judah in relationship to the priesthood. However, He had spoken that only Levites could be priests (Exodus 29; Numbers 8). Therefore, Judah, and all the other tribes were automatically excluded. If someone should object, “But God never said men from Judah could not be priests!” their objection would immediately be seen as childish and lacking basic logical prowess.
God authorizes certain practices in worship to Him, that such worship might be “in truth” (John 4:24). God has specified that praying and preaching are to be a part of worship (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 14:15, et al.). On Sundays, He authorized the Lord’s Supper and giving (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). So, what about music? God specified singing and making melody in the heart (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Such specificity leaves out, does it not, all other kinds of music. The music of God is to teach and admonish (Colossians 3:16). Nowhere in all the references to singing within the context of the New Testament church is any instrument other than the voice mentioned. Some object that the Old Testament and Revelation show examples of instrumental music. Neither of these encompasses the covenant under which Christians now live. The old law was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18; Galatians 3:24-25; Hebrews 8:6-13). Revelation depicts the future, glorified state of the church, not that on earth. Respect for common sense hermeneutical principles and the authority of the silence of God demands that only singing – verbal and volitional (1 Corinthians 14:15) be done in worship to God.