INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC REVISITED

 I read an article from each of two brethren who want to persuade us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them.” There I found an interesting enigma. One of these bretheren condemns instrumental music in worship and the other condemns the condemning of instruments in worship. One says an instrument in worship is a work of darkness and the other says condemning instruments in worship is a work of darkness. God has not issued a command in the New Testament either way, “Use instruments” or “Do not use instruments” and this seems to leave the door open for a lot of speculation. I suggest that we can do a much better job of undrestanding this matter.

Looking at the broad picture: Throughout the 20th century most of us in churches of Christ focused on the question “WHO introduced instrumental music into worship?” That is not the right question to clear this matter up. That led away from some facts and toward some mistakes and resulted in division. Instead of that question we need to first recognize that it is a fact that instruments have always been there. Our question then really should be “Who introduced the idea of opposing them?”

An important fact: God and instruments go back a long way together, in fact all the way back to the creation. Going back to Gen. 4:21 we find that one of the early off spring of Adam and Eve, Jubal, was “the father of all those who play the harp and the flute.” Thus among the beginnings that God created, light, gravity, weather etc, there was instrumental music and the ability to play it. God has always loved music, such as David’s harp. In the final Psalm through David He referred to many different instruments and said He should be praised with each one. Then He said, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” God considers Himself associated with instruments and sees them as belonging to Him much like prayer and worship. He refers to them with such expressions as “My instruments.” (Hab. 3:19)

The first ones to separate instruments from God and silence them was the Israelites. When they were displaced from their homeland they believed they should not offer the full temple worship procedure until they were restored back to Jerusalem and to the temple. So they began to have “synagogues” in which instruments were omitted. The early church began for the most part out of the synagogues and brought with them the omission of instruments. Some of the “early church fathers” even thought of instruments as evil, partly because they were used in pagan festivities. It was a human choice, not God’s choice.

Did God ever accept opposition against instruments? When instruments later began to be used in the church it was not an addition or new innovation but rather a return to something that was as old as our own creation. The New Testament does not give a specific command either to use them or not to use them so it is not a law matter either way. But since the church is commanded to “psallo” instruments appear to be implied. Actually it seems this is one of the things Paul referred to in Romans 14:5 when he said, “Let each one be fully persuaded in his own mind.” That scripture says that the one who does wrong is the one who despises a brother who does differently than he on one of the things not specified in scripture .Vs. 3 & 4. If you prefer acapella singing that is fine. If you prefer to have it accompanied with an instrument that is fine also.

God’s choice:  The point is that God has never said anything negative about instruments but rather is pleased with them. Among the things placed in the temple God put instruments there and assigned the Levites to play them. In 2 Chronicles 5:13 several instruments were used and it brought a direct reaction from heaven. In Revelation 5 we are given a look into heaven where worship is taking place. We note that this was during the Christian age because the “lamb” (Jesus) is there and the worshipers have been cleansed by His blood. That, in fact, is what they sang about. The 24 elders and the 4 living creatures fall down before the throne and they sing a new song, and the text says each one has a harp. Here then is an example of worship in the Christian age and instruments are used, right at the throne itself.

The law of silence: As we said, God did not give a specific law on this issue but men made one for themselves. Daniel Sommer got the attention of the brotherhood with his theory that anything not specifically prescribed by name is not permissible in the church. It developed into what is called “The law of silence.” It is a theory, not an inspired declaration. Jesus rejected the idea of such  law. (Mat. 15:24-26, Mat. 12:3-4) Instrumental music is not something alien to God, with which He has not identified himself. We need to revisit this subject and consider all the facts. We could double our size over night if we reject the division over instrumental music. Think about it.

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