30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM

Clarksville church of Christ

November 7, 1999

Speaker: Richie Thetford

"Instrumental Music in Worship to God is Unauthorized"

Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking you for giving me the opportunity to come into your home this morning as we once again study together the gospel of Christ. Once again, I want to encourage you to get out your Bible and be ready to turn to the scriptures to be able to validate what I am saying this morning is in fact the truth of God. In the first century the Bereans were ready and willing to search the scriptures to find out if the teachings of the apostle Paul were in fact true. It was said of them in Acts 17:11: "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." As a result of their eagerness to validate the teachings of men, with the scriptures, it was said of them in the next verse that many of them believed. It was not just what the apostle Paul said that caused them to believe, it was the fact that they could validate his teaching with the scriptures. Friends, that is what I am asking of you this morning. Validate what I am saying to you with the scriptures.

The subject that we want to discuss this morning is the fact that the Bible teaches that Instrumental Music in Worship to God is Unauthorized. Now I don't want you to close your Bible and turn off this radio program this morning because of this subject matter. I want to urge you to have an honest, open heart, desiring to really know what God instructs of us concerning this matter. Obviously, from the title of today's lesson, we are going to show you that God does not approve of the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship to Him. The way that we will prove that is simply by turning to the pages of the Bible and letting God tell us what is or what is not acceptable in our worship to Him.

It is a fact that instrumental music and church music are nearly inseparable in the minds of the average individual. In most church services you can see the beautifully robed choirs, ornate organs, and even huge orchestras that are a part of the religious service. There are just a few who refuse to use mechanical instruments of music in their worship to God and I want to say that we at the Clarksville church of Christ are among that number. In an effort to explain why, we invite you to consider a few thoughts presented in this morning's lesson.

The earliest mention of the practice of using instrumental music in worship to God discovered is found in the Chambers Encyclopedia which affirms: "The organ is said to have been first introduced into church music by Pope Vitalian I, in 666 A.D." We doubt that any reputable historian will undertake to refute the correctness of this statement. Therefore, it becomes the duty of every sincere child of God to examine the evidence with all care. Upon discovering the mind of Christ in this matter, the question should be forever settled. Now I say, forever should be. For that to happen though, you must have the attitude up front that says "I WANT to know what the will of God is, not what I have been taught by man." Many, many people today do the things that they do in religion simply because that is what they have been taught. If you do what you do because you have been taught by God, through His word, the Bible, able to cite book, chapter, and verse that authorizes your practice, then keep up the good work. However, if you practice whatever you do in religion because of your mother or father, or self-will, then you need to listen carefully to yet another truth of God this morning. When we truly desire to know "What Is Truth?" then we will WANT to learn God's way, not mans.

For years we have invited the world to present evidence that instrumental music was ever authorized by the scriptures or included in the doctrine of Christ. To this moment I have not ever heard of one person that has responded with any evidence that this is an accepted New Testament practice. Think of this for just a moment friends. Here is a religious practice that is almost universally employed and yet it is without the sanction of Christ. The consequences of this act are to fearful to even contemplate.

We now are taking the time to present some teaching to help us all see why every addition to the scripture must be condemned. The Bible is a unit in that every part of it blends perfectly in the presentation of Christ as the head of the church and the savior of the body. The Old Testament is just as much the word of God as is the New Testament; however, in our day God speaks to us through His Son. The inspired Hebrew writer records: "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds" (Heb 1:1-2). Since Jesus speaks in the New Testament, it follows that our rules of faith and practice must be found there. In order to prove that God's law may not be altered or changed in any way we shall read several passages of scripture this morning. These scriptures are not limited to the question under consideration, but they furnish the proper insight to every religious problem that is out there today.

The first one I want to introduce is found in Deuteronomy 4:2. There it says: "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." Proverbs 30:6 says: "Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar." In the Colossian letter the apostle Paul states: "and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power" (Col 2:10). Now did you hear that? Complete in Him. In other words, everything we need, everything we may have is authorized in Christ and His word. If you change something that is complete, you do not make it more complete but you destroy its perfection. The same principle operates here as in the science of geometry and mathematics. The teacher draws a perfect square on the board. The student is taught that the length of every line of it equals that of every other line and that every angle has exactly 90 degrees, none more, none less. Any change in that drawing, far from making it more perfect or more complete, simply destroys its perfection. So it is with the word of God.

Now listen to the word of God in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: "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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." Here we see that God tells us what a good work is, not man. In 2 Peter 1:3 we find these words: "as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness..." In Revelation 22:18-19 we read: "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

If these passages mean anything whatsoever, they condemn the person who adds anything to the work and worship of the church as described in the New Testament. We lack nothing when we are guided by its sacred message. Any alteration, addition or subtraction is met with impending doom. We are clearly told in our Bible that "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Pet 4:11). The prophet Isaiah said: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa 8:20).

Now since Christ has revealed His wishes in the New Testament, and since it is to be received as the final word on every matter pertaining to our salvation, we shall notice its teachings on this point of music in worship. There are only nine New Testament scriptures that mention what we are to do concerning our music to God. Here are the references and the quotations from the Bible:

Matt 26:30 "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

Acts 16:25 "But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them."

Rom 15:9 "and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, And sing to Your name."

1 Cor 14:15 "....I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding."

Eph 5:19 "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,"

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

Heb 2:12 "I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You."

Heb 13:15 "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."

James 5:13 "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms."

Now friends, this is the sum total of what the New Testament has to say concerning music in worship to God. Every time the text speaks it says sing. Not once is anything else allowed. The entire question of church music then is one of respect for the teachings of Christ and what He has said. The great restoration movement was launched upon the slogan "Where the Bible speaks, we speak, where the Bible is silent, we are silent." Any other attitude is dangerous as it involves utter disregard for instructions given by our Lord.

Sometimes people don't think too deeply on these matters, as indicated by a statement made to me in a letter several years ago. The letter in part read: "I do not find a command to preach against the use of instrumental music." We are certain that the command can be found, but let's notice the fallacy of such reasoning. The Bible does not list all of the things we may not do, nor does it list every individual sin and innovation against which we must cry out against. If it did, you couldn't read all of it in a lifetime. In it we are told what to believe and what to do, and all additions and subtractions are strictly forbidden.

The statement read above may be applied in such a manner as to justify anything under the sun. Now watch it. I do not find a command to preach against instrumental music. Let's use another example. Suppose I would say that I do not find a single command to preach against beating your wife, therefore go ahead and beat her if you want to, or if you think she needs it. Again: I do not find a single command to preach against the burning of incense, the lighting of candles in religious services, or praying to the dead, thus whatever you may fancy will be fine concerning these things. Now friends, we know of course, that the Bible condemns sensual immorality of every description (Gal 5:19-21; Rom 1:24-32). The Old Testament command of "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" is a cardinal principle of God's plan in every age, yet with the sophistry of this kind of reasoning, one might say, I do not find a command to preach against flirting with the wife of a man who lives in a distant city.

This argument, seeking to justify what we want because it is not specifically condemned, is very much like the case of the judge who was trying a young man on the charge of stealing a pig. The judge was seeking by fair or foul means to excuse the culprit who was obviously and unquestionably guilty. The judge finally reasoned that there was a statute upon record forbidding theft and stealing, but the case was dismissed on the grounds that he could not find in the law the specific prohibition against stealing a pig. Truly with Solomon we may also say: "Like the legs of the lame that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of fools" (Prov 26:7).

The justification for this discourse is found in the words of 2 Timothy 2:1-2. Here the apostle Paul said: "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Notice here that this young evangelist Timothy was to preach exactly what Paul had received from Christ. A gospel preacher in our time may well follow that example. We should not seek to justify anything introduced centuries later.

Having outlined in the gospel truth just what God would have us know and just what Christ would have us believe and practice, Paul said to Titus: "But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:" (Titus 2:1). Again to Timothy Paul indicated: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine..." Therefore he said: "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Tim 4:2). Now look at that again. Sound doctrine is set forth in the Bible. The Bible does not provide for the use of mechanical instruments of music in Christian worship today. Such practice is therefore no part of sound doctrine. If it is not sound, it must be unsound. Paul, anticipating such departure, prescribed the kind of preaching that was required. He made it the obligation of every faithful child of God to cry out against the actions of anyone who so completely disregards the scriptures.

To reprove means to express disapprobation, to censure. To rebuke is to reprehend sharply, to chide, to reprimand. There is the authority to condemn all additions that divide truth. To exhort means to advise and warn earnestly. When Paul said preach the word, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, he placed us under obligation to say, with David of the Old Testament, "Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way" (Psa 119:104).

But someone is ready to say, what difference does it make anyway, music is music and one will do just as well as the other. That kind of reasoning is man's reasoning. That is "our will be done" and not Christ's will be done. Such statements may sound well enough in idle conversation, but no one familiar with the Bible believes that God will permit anything so specifically spoken to be thus lightly esteemed. For generations students of the scriptures have pointed out that Bible commands may be either generic or specific. The illustration most commonly sighted is the statement of the Great Commission as recorded in Mark 16:15-16. There the text says:"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." The Lord said "go", the word "go" is a generic term. Action is required but you may go anyway or by any means available. You may walk or ride. If the Lord had said "ride a mule", then all else would have been excluded, but he used the generic term "go".

The Great Commission, according to Matthew, says also "go teach". That, too, is generic. The method of teaching is not specified. It may be written on the blackboard or on a piece of paper. If some eloquent and able man were to lose his powers of speech, he could still convey his ideas to those interested by submitting them in writing. "Go teach" is the command; the manner is not specified. God commanded Noah to build an ark and told him what kind of material to use. God said, "Make thee an ark of gopher wood", and I think undoubtedly the greatest compliment ever paid to any man was that spoken of Noah in connection with this project. Of him the Bible records, "Thus did Noah according to all that God commanded him, so did he." If God had said simply to use wood, the circumstances would have been far different. In that case Noah could have chosen pine, gopher, or any other suitable material native to his community. But God didn't say wood, a generic word, he used the specified and said "gopher wood." When God thus specified "gopher" that did not mean wood, that meant "gopher wood."

Again, the Ancient Israelites were often required to offer animal sacrifices. The word animal is a generic term. If that had been the full extent of the command, they might have offered a lamb, a pig, or even a cow. On one occasion God required that each man take a lamb of the first year without spot or blemish. Such instruction excluded the pig, the cow and every other kind of animal except the one that was specified, a perfect lamb, one year old. When God said gopher wood, that excluded hickory and knotty pine. Anything else would have been an addition or a substitution. When God said lamb, that excluded the pig and cow.

It is necessary now to make the application to today's lesson. Suppose that when God was legislating regarding the church he had required simply that we have music. Had that been the case, we could have made the choice as between all kinds of music. We could have had mechanical music or we could have had vocal music or both, if we so desired. But, as already shown, God didn't use the generic or general term, music, he used the specific and specified the exact kind of music required. Not once, but many times, he said "sing". Let's look at the matter again. When God said, Noah make thee an ark of gopher wood, Noah was not at liberty to use anything else. When God said to Israel, choose a lamb of the first year, nothing else could be pleasing to God. By the same token today, when God through Christ and his apostles said "sing" and make melody in your hearts, everything else is excluded.

Once again we plea that you weigh these matters with deep and prayerful thought. They are presented in the spirit of gentleness and love on this radio program. Friends, if you are yet in doubt, write any questions that you might have concerning this subject of music in worship and send them to me. I only ask that you state your objection or question in a dignified, Christian spirit. No inquiry, no matter how trivial will be ignored. Please don't tell someone else what you might think about it, but write to me. If these conclusions and teachings are faulty, I need to know it for the judge of all the earth will take me into account for what is spoken here. By the same reasoning, if this presentation this morning concerning the subject of music in worship represents the truth, you can't afford to disagree with it. Not only your reputation in this community, but your eternal destiny is at stake.

This is Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"