IS INSTRUMENTAL ACCOMPANIMENT
TAUGHT IN THE BIBLE?
It is almost strange that this question would ever come up since throughout the past almost two thousand years musical accompaniment in worship services has been commonly practiced by both sound and heretical churches wherever it was practical to do so. And generally where it has not been practiced, it was simply because churches did not have the monetary ability to afford a musical instrument.
There have been a few isolated groups that have not used musical instruments in worship in various centuries. However, beginning with the rise of those churches founded by Alexander Campbell in the early 1800ís some have been more dogmatic that the use of any musical instruments in churches was not only unscriptural, but clearly of the devil. A lot of Baptists, as well as other denominations, when faced with this dogmatism, have contented themselves by saying with a sickly grin, "Well, we use it. If they do not want to, that is their business." It is the business of every professing Christian and church to do what is felt to be Scriptural. And according to Romans 14:22-23, for anyone to violate his own beliefs is to bring himself under judgment, for if he does what he thinks is wrong he is guilty before God of rebellion whether the thing itself is wrong or not. His need is to learn what Scripture says, so he will clearly know what his duty is. Certainly, no one has a right to dictate the faith of others, (2 Cor. 1:24), yet we have the great example of the apostles and elders of never letting any error go unchallenged and uncorrected. See Acts 7:51-53; Galatians 2:3-5, 11-14; James 2:1-6; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 3 John 9-11, et al.
For any professing Christian to let any erroneous proposition stand unchallenged, though it be, as in this case, something that does not relate to some cardinal doctrine, is to cast a stumbling block before weak brothers. This writer saw this very thing happen, leading a very young and weak believer to be ensnared in a false system of worship, from which he never recovered. A dogmatic assertion was made by one who was bound up in a works for salvation religion, and when a Baptist pastor was asked about it by the new convert, he replied, "We as Baptists just donít talk about that!" No
Baptist, if he knows the Scripture and Baptist history, has anything to be ashamed of, or to be silent about. We do not even remember the specific matter of question, but it is sufficient that the pastorís unscriptural response caused a young and weak believer to be ensnared in false religion. If this pastor had been minding his business, he would have assured the new convert that they could study the matter and determine the truth and conform to it. Instead, his statement cast doubt in the new convertís mind about Baptists having the truth, and he accepted the dogmatism of the false religionist as evidence of truth, and went into his false religion, thereby subjecting his family to the works gospel that was preached there. All because an ignorant Baptist pastor was too lazy to study and give a Biblical answer to a new convert.
Are we saying by this that no Baptist or Baptist church has ever made a mistake, and practiced something unscriptural? By no means! Mistakes are common to all of us, but Baptist churches alone have a history of general soundness spanning all the centuries from the first to the present. They antedated all forms of Catholicism by three or four hundred years and all of Protestantism by fifteen hundred years or more. But we are saying that all Christian history bears witness to the existence and general soundness of Baptist churches throughout all of the past almost twenty centuries, and this includes sometimes using musical instruments in their services.
Is it scriptural to use musical instruments in church worship services. A most emphatic YES! It is taught in both the Old Testament and New Testamentóboth in time and in eternity in the worship of God. It is to be granted that this is not so clearly seen in the New Testament by the layman as by preachers that are acquainted with the inspired languages, yet this cannot be laid to Godís charge, but rather to man, specifically to the translators of the Scriptures.
No one can deny that the Psalmist used musical instruments extensively in his worship, for the Book of the Psalms, as well as a number of the other Books of the Old Testament abound with references to musical instruments. A trumpet or the blowing of a trumpet is used almost one hundred times. The harp is referred to almost fifty times, while cymbals are mentioned sixteen times, not to mention the several times that reference is made to cornets, psalteries and several other instruments.
Of course, the standard reply of the anti-instrument crowd against all of this is to say that David was led of the devil in all this, and was guilty of great sin. But it seems most strange that David could so continuously and flagrantly sin in using these musical instruments, yet still be considered a man "after Godís own heart," (1 Sam. 13:14), and one whose heart was "perfect with the Lord his God," (1 Kings 15:3). Nor will it do to try to contradict this testimony by saying that this was just the Old Testament vindication of one of its own, for Paul was inspired in Acts 13:22 to cite this same thing, adding that God had found David to be one that would "fulfill all my will."
The one Old Testament passage that is generally used to try to indict David for his use of instruments is Amos 6:5, where a woe is pronounced upon some because, among other things, they "invent to themselves instruments of music like David." Of course, this is taken out of its context, as false religionists must always do to establish their false teachings. The woe is not pronounced upon these in Amos because of their invention of musical instruments, but rather because of their wrong attitudes. They had sought only their own selfish pleasures, which, in their case, was what the singing and music making was, as opposed to Davidís using his musical talents to praise and glorify God. These should rather have grieved and been concerned over the "affliction of Joseph," (v. 6).
By contrast to this violent distortion of the purpose of Davidís invention and use of musical instruments is the inspired declaration that David was obedient to God in all this. 2 Chronicles 29:25 is clear beyond all question that this was all done in accordance with the will of God. "And he set Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the kingís seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets." Whom shall we believe, the Word of God, or the rantings of those that believe in a system of self-salvation through baptism. Scripture shows that all of Davidís commandments regarding the use of musical instruments in worship was done in obedience to the commandment of the Lord. As a man after Godís own heart he could not do otherwise. Only a wicked rebel refuses to obey Godís commandments.
"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, throughly furnished unto all good works," (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If we are to believe this Scripture then we must come to one of two inescapable conclusions. (1) If all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction, then what is taught in the Old Testament, being Scripture, can be a basis of doctrine, reproof, correction or instruction. Or, (2) If all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, etc., and we are to believe that instrumental music in worship is unscriptural, then the Old Testament is undoubtedly not Scripture. But that the Old Testament is Scripture as well as the New Testament, and as such is profitable, is admitted by all that know their Bibles to any degree. All of the inspired writers of the New Testament, as well as the Lord Himself, quoted from the Old Testament in order to substantiate their teachings as from God. It is always looked upon as authoritative, (John 5:38-39; 10:35).
Thus, those that indict instrumental music in worship do so without any basis in the Word of God. Such foolish majoring upon minors is generally the mark of those who are not only unsound in doctrine, but have actually trampled under foot the Son of God, Who is the authority for all Scripture, and have counted as a thing of no account His blood that is the basis of any hope of salvation, (Heb. 10:29). Those that are in error about the simple plan of redemption will generally have some wild interpretations of other, more minor doctrines as well.
Leaving the Old Testament Scriptures, let us look to the New Testament, for this is where churches more generally take their authority for all belief and practice. Does this authorize the use of instrumental accomplishment in worship? At this point, some would pose, as a supposedly unanswerable proof against instruments in churches, the question, "Why did not the Lord Himself use them if they are Scriptural?" The Lord Himself shows the main reason, for Jesus said in Matthew 8:20: "The Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Under the conditions of adverse poverty in which our Lord lived all His earthly life, He would not have had the money for even the most inexpensive of musical instruments. The very daily bread that sustained His earthly body was the result of those that ministered to Him of their possessions, (Luke 8:2-3). Often circumstances prevent churches from using what is otherwise right to use.
This same reasoning that is thought by some to be a Scriptural refutation of the use of musical instruments in churches is not applied to other things commonly used in modern worship. For example, Jesus never had or rode in an automobile, yet almost all modern worshippers do so. Some might argue that this was because none existed then, which is true, but the reasoning is still faulty. Jesus also did not have a permanent home, as He said above, yet many of them existed in the first century. Nor did He have a building for His church in which to regularly meet. The first churches met in homes. This practice was again due to circumstances, not to permanent buildings being unscriptural, for before the Church Age, God commanded His people to meet and worship at a centralized place of worship, (Ex. 25:1-8), and He accepted worship nowhere else, (Lev. 17:1-5; Deut. 12:26-28). Nor does John 4:23-24 militate against having specific places of worship, but only shows that there is no sanctity in any geographical location, as the Jews and Samaritans thought.
Jesus spoke not a word against the use of instrument music, but He did speak approvingly of those like David that did use musical instruments in worship. And some of the inspired writers of the New Testament spoke of the use of these, so that all this is ground enough for a scriptural exoneration of the use of them in worship. In proof of this let us notice the following Scriptures and the inspired language used in them.
"And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing (Greek psallo; psallw) unto thy name," (Rom. 15:9). This is a quotation from Psalm 18:49. The Greek word here is the verb form of the noun "psalm," which was a poem or song generally sung to the accompaniment of instrumental music. We see the same truth in the following texts. ". . .I will sing (Greek psallo;) with the spirit, and I will sing (Greek psallo) with the understanding also," (1 Cor. 14:15). "Speaking to yourselves in psalms (Greek psalmois) and hymns (Greek humnos) and spiritual songs (Greek ode), singing (Greek adontes, participial form of ode) and making melody (Greek psallontes; yallonteV, participial form of psallo)," etc., (Eph. 5:19). Here we have three distinct types of songs: psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and unless we see the differentiation between these, we shall have Scriptures, notably Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, which are wholly ambiguous in content. If there were no difference between these, then the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to admonish believers to sing songs and songs and songs. Inspiration wisely chose Greek in which to record the New Testament, and Greek is much more precise than most languages, and every differentiation between words is significant. Biblical truth is often made to turn on these seemingly minor differences. But more about the meaning of these words a little later. For the moment, consider some other verses.
"Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing (Greek psallo; yalletw) psalms," (Jam. 5:13). "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung (Greek ado) a new song (Greek ode; wdhn)" (Rev. 5:8-9). ". . .And I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: and they sung (Greek ado) as it were a new song (Greek ode). . ." (Rev. 14:2-3). ". . .Having the harps of God. And they sing (Greek ado) the song (Greek ode) of Moses. . ." (Rev. 15:2-3). Notice here that God Himself owns harps. "...Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms (Greek psalmos) and hymns (Greek humnos) and spiritual songs (Greek ode)," (Col. 3:16).
And thus we can see a number of instances where we are admonished to sing, and at least three instances where singing is accompanied by the music of harps. That these in Revelation are people, and saved people at that, may be seen from their own testimony in their song: ". . .for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God. . ." (Rev. 5:9). And lest any should try to evade the force of this by protesting that it does not say that anyone of them actually played a musical instrument, let us notice the Greek language used. Thayerís Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament is the standard work used by most modern New Testament Greek scholars. It has the following to say about these words.
"Humneo-1. Trans. To sing the praise of, sing hymns to. . . 2. Intrans. To sing a hymn, to sing. . ." p. 637. "Humnos-in Grk. writ. Fr. Hom. Down, a song in praise of gods, heros, conquerors. . .but in the Scriptures of God; a sacred song, hymn. . ." loc cit. "Psalloóa. to pluck off. Pull out. . . b. to cause to vibrate by touching, to twang. . .to touch or strike the chord, to twang the strings of a musical instrument. . .to play on a stringed instrument, to play the harp. . .to sing to the music of the harp: in the N. T. to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song. . ." Ibid, p. 675. "odeóa song, lay. Ode: in the Scriptures a song in praise of God or Christ: Rev. 5:9; 14:3. . ." Ibid. p. 679. "(SYN. Humnos, psalmos, ode: ode is the generic term; psal. and humn. are specific, the former designating a song which took its general character from the O. T. ĎPsalmsí (although not restricted to them. See 1 Cor. 14:15, 26), the latter a song of praise. `While the leading idea of psalm. is a musical accompaniment, and that of humn. praise to God, ode is the general word for a song, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, whether of praise or on any other subject. Thus it was quite possible for the same song to be at once psalmos, humnos and ode. . ." Ibid. p. 637. Other Greek Lexicons would give basically the same view.
Thus, we have seen that instrumental music was used with Godís approval, yea, by His command, in Old Testament times. And if musical accompaniment were wrong, how can we explain that the saints in glory that have passed from this life and its attendant sin, and now worship in the presence of the Lord, are shown to be using musical instruments? Indeed, they use those instruments that He has supplied them. And will those that are seriously in error about salvation and other cardinal doctrines tell us that we now sin if we use musical instruments in the present age? If so, they will have to delete, or at least change the meaning of numerous Greek verbs and nouns that Inspiration has used, and rewrite a number of inspired verses to do so. It must be clear to anyone that reverences the Word of God that it is scriptural to use instrumental music in the worship services if one desires to do so. Had the Lord not intended this to be done, He would surely have used other words than those used, for the testimony of these is all one direction.
Since the Holy Spirit has inspired the writing of all Scripture, it is to be seen from all this that unless He intended to change the meaning of the language used, which we have no indication that He did, then musical accompaniment in worship is justified by Scripture.
And this is derivable from another line of Scripture duty. Every good gift is from God, (Jam. 1:17), and everyone that has been given any talent or ability is obligated to minister the same as a good steward of what has been graciously given, (1 Pet. 4:10-11). Therefore can we come to any other conclusion than that it would be sin for any person with a musical ability to not use that for Godís glory as he has opportunity?
Is it required that musical accompaniment be used. No! Certainly not! And circumstances sometimes make this impractical, if not impossible. It has been the experience of many churches, including one of those that this writer pastored, that they did not have anyone that could play a musical instrument at times, and so, they had to get by as best they could without it. But musical accompaniment is a definite asset to almost any church, helping the members to glorify God with better harmony.
That this idea of the use of musical instruments is not just the extreme view of a few people is to be seen in that the saints in all ages, when they had the facilities to do so, used musical accompaniment in their worship. And until very recent centuries few found any fault with this except those that were men of heretical opinions otherwise, or those with the legalistic view that the saints ought never to do anything that was enjoyable. It is wrought into the very nature of most people to want to sing when they are happy, and the use of musical instruments to aid in better doing so is a natural extension and corollary to this. How can the desire to glorify God better be wrong?
Having seen the Scriptural justification for the use of instruments in worship, a caveat must be sounded about the use of music generally. Some Christians abuse music and run it to extremes so that it becomes the chief thing in a church service. It is all too common for there to be forty-five minutes to an hour of music, then the people complain if the preacher takes more than fifteen minutes in his sermon. Such is a clear evidence that such people are at least carnal, if not indeed unsaved, for they have no love for that which is most for their profit that they might be the servants God intended them to be, (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The teaching and preaching of the Word of God must always be the chief thing in any sound church, and nothingónot even the most heavenly of musicómust be allowed to supplant that. The "man after Godís own heart," (Acts 13:22), repeatedly voiced his love for Godís Word, (Ps. 119:47-48, 97, 113, 119, 127, 140, 159, 163, 167). And this ought to be every saintís attitude.
However, the love of music can become an end in itself, and it may exist in one that has absolutely no love to God. This is to be seen in many of the professional singers in all musical genres, for they often record albums of hymns, even while having nothing to do with God, and even living as contrary to Godís will as possible. This is hypocrisy of the worst kind.
And even in church services the use of music may be nothing more than an ego trip for the musician, for sadly, there is almost as much pride in worship places as in worldly places. We must always remember Proverbs 16:5, and recognize that "everyone" there is not restricted just to the people of the world.
And one other thing needs to be considered in this connection. Though it is scriptural to use musical instruments in worship services, yet care must be used that there be no waste of church money for musical instruments that have no other use than carnal enjoyment of the members. We have known of church members seeking to justify the purchase of an expensive musical instrument by speaking of it as "home missions." That is a perversion of language, and is often used by those that are the least faithful in the financial support of the churchís primary ministries. Never must anything be allowed to hinder or be detrimental to the preaching and teaching of the gospel of the grace of God. If a church desires to purchase expensive musical instruments, let it raise the money by voluntary contributions above and beyond the regular tithes and offerings. Then there will be no danger of "robbing God," for purely selfish reasons by using money that is for the ministry of the Word.
It is right and good to use musical instruments in worship services, for these may be helpful in keeping the singers in tune. And even instrumental music may help set the worshipful air of the service by promoting a calm and meditative atmosphere in the services. Musical instruments are scriptural, and yet they can, like anything else, be put to a wrong use. They, like anything else of this world, (1 Cor. 7:31), may be used so long as they are not abused. May the Lord help us that whatever we do and however we do it, we "do all to the glory of God," (1 Cor. 10:31), and not just to be seen and heard of men.
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