Acts of Worship – Participation and Praise in Song (Part 2)

   Christians should be singers (Acts 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13).  This singing requires no unusual vocal talent, or special vocal training, but it does require a heart for God (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

Man discontent with congregational singing has sought to “improve worship.”  Innovations such as the use of mechanical instruments of music (e.g. piano, organ, guitar, even full-blown bands) and special musical performances (such as solos, duets, quartets, choirs, cantatas and the like) have been common place.

Some even try to defend these things with the Bible.  Let’s notice…

Mechanical Instruments

1.  It was authorized under the Old Testament.

This is true (Psalm 150:3-6; 2 Chronicles 29:25).  This we do not deny.

However, there is a vast difference between saying that a thing is authorized under the Old Testament, and saying that it is authorized under the New Testament for us today.  The Old Testament included such things as: a Levitical priesthood, animal sacrifices, the burning of incense, stonings, polygamy laws, various feast days and holy days.

Just because God authorized something once does not mean that such is always authorized.  Moses found this out the hard way (Exodus 17 cf. Numbers 20).

When one returns to the Old Testament for authority, is this not all but a tacit admission that New Testament authority

2.  It was authorized in the Psalms

True (Psalm 33:2; 43:4; 49:4; 57:8; 71:22; 81:2; 92:3; 98:5-6; 108:2; 147:7; 149:3; 150:3-6), but so is animal sacrifice (Psalm 66:15; 118:27-28).There are those who admit that man today is not under the Old Testament law.  However, they claim the Psalms are not a part of the law.  It is called law [John 10:34 (Psalm 82:6); John 15:25; 69:4;35:19); Romans 3:9-19 (Psalm 14:1-ff; 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; 36:1)].  Moreover, if it is still authority for us today, what about animal sacrifice (Psalm 66:15; 118:27-28) and other such things?

3.  It will be in heaven.

This argument is partially based on Revelation 5:8.  Let me get this straight – the incense represents the prayers of the saints, but the harps represent harps?  The book of Revelation is a book of symbols (Rev. 1:1).  Much of the book is built around temple imagery: incense, censer, a sacrificed lamb.

This argument is also based on Revelation 14:2.  The ASV reads, “And I heard a voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunder: and the voice I heard was as the voice of harpers harping” (emp. mine).  The NIV reads, “The sound I heard was like that of harpist playing their harps (emp. mine).  This is a simile.

Another consideration: Whatever we may be doing in heaven has no relevance on earth (Matt. 22:30).

4.  It’s a part of the parable of ‘The Prodigal Son’ (Luke 15:25).

It is claimed that the Father = God, the Father’s house = the church, and mechanical instrumental music = mechanical instrumental music?  If everything else represents something else, is it not possible that instrumental music simply represents rejoicing (Luke 15:5-6, 9-10)?

Moreover, this is not a worship setting.  There is not worshipping of the Father mentioned.

5.  It is my talent.

Okay.  Mary cuts hair.  Joe makes ice sculptures.  Mike can make a car engine ‘sing’.  Sue bakes cakes.  Ted is a great bowler.  Karen is skilled in animal training and can make them do amazing things.

Should we be doing all of these things in the assembly?  Or, should we confine worship to what the New Testament teaches?

6.  It’s an expedient aid.

Some have claimed that mechanical instruments of music serve as an expedient aid to singing.  Let’s see if this is true.

Let’s set forth a distinction between a specific command and a generic command.  An example of a specific command: God instructed Noah to build an ark out of ‘gopher wood’ (Genesis 6).  If God had simply told him to build an ark, then Noah would have been left to his own wisdom as to the type of wood to use.  He would have had many options.  However, God specified the kind of wood to be used.  A specific command specifies how things are to be done.  An example of a generic command: God wants us to ‘lay by… in store’ (1 Cor. 16:1-2).  In to what container we’re to ‘lay by’ we’re not told.  We therefore are left to various options.  We could use a silver tray, a cowboy hat, a shoe box, a bank bag, or numerous other things.  Another example is God wants us to assemble (Hebrews 10:25).  The time is not specified.  Though the day is (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2).  Man is left to human wisdom and the guidance of the eldership to specify what God has not.  A generic command is a command that is given but how to accomplish it has not been specified. God could have generically command us to make music, but He didn`t. He specified the kind of music we are to make.

Let’s also set forth a distinction between obligatory matters and optional matters.  Obligatory matters: Are matters which bear directly on one’s salvation and fellowship with God.  God has, for instance, instructed man to do something.  Man is to obey (Matthew 7:21).  Optional matters: Are matters which flow directly from obligatory matters.  Such choices arise when God has authorized and even commanded a thing to be done, but has not specified such things as where, when, or how it is to be done.

Let’s next consider the word ‘expedient’.  An expedient:  A way to expedite a thing God wants done.  It involves human wisdom as to what is the best, and most efficient and beneficial way to accomplish the obligation – from the options.  Understand that for something to serve as an expedient it must first be authorized (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23).

Consider the following charts:

Command (obligatory) Expedient (option) Addition (unauthorized)
ark of gopherwood hammer, saw, workshop oak, cedar, pine
Church is to assemble house, school, riverside
Lord’s Supper table, container, how passed milk, meat, vegetables
Give container   (hat, basket, bag)
Sing song selection, song books, song leader mechanical instruments of music
God’s Command Aid or Addition ? Man’s Response Conclusion
Baptize Baptistery Baptize Aid
Meet Church building Meet Aid
Sing Songbooks Sing Aid

Keep in mind that under the Old Testament mechanical instruments of music wasn’t just an expedient.  It was a command (2 Chronicles 29:25).

7.  It’s just as authorized as church buildings and electrical lights.

This would fall under point six above.  Church buildings and lights are expedient in carrying out the general command to assemble.  Mechanical instruments of music is an addition.

8.  The word rendered ‘make melody’ (Ephesians 5:19) means to pluck, to strike, to play upon an instrument.

This was dealt with in Acts of Worship – Participation and Praise in Song (part 1).  The instrument which we are instructed to play is the heart.

Moreover, if Ephesians 5:19 speaks of mechanical instruments of music, then all not just one is required to play due to the reflexive language used in this passage.

9.  It’s mentioned, and everything which is mentioned in the Bible is either mentioned to be upheld, condemned, or is held in neutrality.

While it is true that the use of mechanical instruments of music is mentioned in the New Testament (Luke 7:32; Luke 15:25, etc.), and while it is true that the use of mechanical instruments of music is not condemned in those passages, it does not follow that it is approved of, or neutral in worship.  This is the case because it is not mentioned even one time in connection with New Testament worship.  The passages mentioned involve daily life.

10.  I like it.

This is not the point.  The point is how did God tell us to worship.  Our worship is to be according to His revealed truth (John 4:24; cf. 17:17).

If God has given unto us all that we need to please Him (John 16:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3), who are we really adding it for, Him or us?

Yes, ‘I like it’  may be the real issue with many.  However, worship is about Him.

Special Music

1.  Solos are authorized by 1 Corinthians 14:26.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind here: (1) The term “everyone” is not usually used favorably in this book (1 Corinthians 1:12; 11:21; 14:26).  This is a rebuke, not an approval of action.  This seems a rather strange place to seek authority.  What was happening is that many in the congregation wanted to lead the assembly.  They wanted the attention on themselves (1 Corinthians 14:4).  Multiple people wanted to proclaim a doctrine or a revelation.  Multiple people wanted to use their gift of tongue even if no one understood them, and they  even were prone to do so at the same time.  Still others were running over one another to used their gift of interpretation on occasion that they could interpret.  Still others were doing likewise with a psalm.  (2) There’s more than one possible meaning to “everyone of you hath a psalm.”  (a) It could mean everyone had a psalm they wished to read.  Remember psalms could be read or quoted.  (Acts 13:33; 1:20, etc.)  (b) It could mean that everyone wanted to lead a psalm.  That is multiple people wanted to lead singing, possibly even jumping up to do so at the same time without any decency or order.  (c) It could be that each had written or received by inspiration a psalm and each wanted to share such with the church without proper regard to decency and order.  (d) It is possible that they were jumping up and singing solos.  If this is the explanation there still would be nothing to warrant the conclusion that such is approved of, this is a rebuke!  No one can even prove that this refers to solos!

2.  We didn’t use mechanical instruments of music.

Some have argued that hand clapping in song and mimicking the sound of mechanical instruments of music with the human voice is okay, because we didn’t use the instrument.  This shows a lack of understanding of Bible authority.  The reason why the use of mechanical instruments of music is wrong is the same reason these things are wrong.

Moreover, the type of vocal sounds to be made was covered in our previous article.  Our voices are to be used in song to convey words which ’teach’ and ’admonish’ (Colossians 3:16).  No other sound has been authorized in our singing.

3.  In versus Out of the Assembly

Some have attempted to justify hand-clapping and the use of mechanical instruments of music with worship songs at youth gatherings and the like by saying, “It is not the assembly.”

Are the rules different in and out of the assembly?  I know of a few differences.  (1) Prayer in the assembly is mindful of others.  It is to be audible and understandable (1 Corinthians 14:14-17).  A prayer outside the assembly is between oneself and God (Matt. 6:6).  It may not even be audible (1 Samuel 1:9-13; Romans 10:1).  (2) A woman is not to teach over a man in the assembly (1 Timothy 2:8-12).  They are to be silent when it comes to publicly teaching over men (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).  However, a woman may privately instruct a man (Acts 18:24-26).

In general, things stay the same in or out of the assembly when it comes to worship.  Prayer, for instance, is still addressed to God the Father in the name of Jesus outside the assembly.  What differences exist, I only know to exist due to indication of such in the scriptures.  Where is indication that we have a difference set of rules outside the assembly when it comes to approaching Him in song?

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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1 Response to Acts of Worship – Participation and Praise in Song (Part 2)

  1. S.J.Sugumar says:

    It was very informative. In churches singing brings harmony and unity. This is a very good lesson.

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