The Silence of The Scriptures: Is It Speaking to Us Today?
Denny A. Diehl
El Cajon, California
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of five articles to he carried on instrumental music in worship. These articles were written by five young men, all of whom were students at Florida College last year. The next article in this series is scheduled to appear in the July 11th issue, since next week's issue will he a special issue prepared by request, and there will be no July 4th issue.)
It will be my purpose in writing this paper to clearly demonstrate. our need to listen to the silence of the Scriptures in our worship to God today, i.e., that we should adhere to the words given to us through the Scriptures and cast out anything not found to be in accordance with God's word. In regard to instrumental music, it will not be my purpose to show that the use of the musical instrument in worship to God is not to be found in the New Testament Scriptures, but that should it be the case that it is not found therein, that it would be sinful and against God's will to use it in worship to Him.
Jehovah said to Moses, "I will raise up a prophet from among your countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And it shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him" (Deut 18:18,19). God said that, He was going to send His prophets to His people to speak to the people God's words, all of them. This prophecy is quoted in Acts 3:22,23 as having its ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah. The Christ was sent from God not to do His own will, but to do the will of God the Father. All the words which Jesus spoke were given to Him by God, for He spoke not on His own accord, but only what the Father had showed Him. "And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people" (Acts 3-23). So, if we do not hearken to this Prophet, Christ, we shall be cast out of the realm of God's people. We are to give heed to all His words.
Not only did Peter claim that Jesus was the Prophet to whom we should give heed, but God the Father also made this, very clear when on the mount of the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus in a glorified state. When Peter saw this he said, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah" (Matt 17:4). God heard this statement made by Peter and stopped things short. God told them, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I as well pleased; hear Him!" (Matt 17:5). This statement should be very plain as to the meaning of what just took place. Moses was God's lawgiver and Elijah was representative of God's prophets.'They were the ones whom the people were to look to for direction of God's desires, but now that God has sent His Son, we are no longer to listen to the Law and the Prophets, but we are to listen to Jesus for our direction in how to please God and to do His will. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews sums it up nicely when he says, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken, to us in Ris Son" (Heb 1: 1,2). So, if we are looking for our source of authority in religion today, it does not come by the Old Testament (Moses and the prophets) but by Jesus Christ; whatever He says we are to do. Jesus Himself claimed that,"all authority had been given to Him in heaven and on earth" (Matt 28:18).
Jesus, having received all authority from the Father, had the right to commission men to carry out His divine mission of making known unto the people the will of God, which Christ was sent to the earth to do. This is seen in the book of Matthew when Jesus told the apostles, "whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven" (Matt 18:18). The apostles had right and obligation to bind or loose all things that had been already bound or loosed in heaven. This they were to do through the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, after leaving the earth, sent the Holy Spirit who taught the apostles all things and brought back to their remembrance"everything that Jesus had told them (Jn. 14:26). So the apostles were to be the representatives of Christ here on earth, with the Holy Spirit to guide them in everything that they taught, and even gave them the words in which to teach the truth 0 Cor. 2:13). If a person is to reject the teaching of the apostles, he rejects Christ, and if he rejects Christ, then he rejects God (Lk. 10:16). Suffice it to say that we have for our authority in religion today the writings of the New Testament.
Let us go back to Deuteronomy 18:18,19. God said that He would raise up a prophet like Moses to guide the people, because God would put His words in the prophets mouth, and the prophet would speak all those words to the people. God had commissioned Moses to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt. God, through Moses, gave to Israel His law for them to keep. Moses was careful to tell the people that they were to keep the law of God. He explains this explicitly by telling them, "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you"(Deut. 4:2). And again, "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it" (Deut. 12:32). The principle involved here is that God entrusted His will to the Israelites who were to keep His will; but the only way they could keep His will would be to do exactly as He said. Now if they were to take away from His word, they would not be doing enough, or if they added to His word, they would be doing too much, and, therefore, would not be doing His will, but man's will, since Moses spoke all of God's words to the people. This principle was true then and will always be true as long as it is God's word under consideration.
In like manner, in the New Testament dispensation, we have Christ speaking to us all the words of God. Since we have all of God's words, then we are not deficient in any way of having what God would have us to know. Let us hear the New Testament on this matter. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35). We have Christ's promise that His words shall endure forever. If that is the case, then today we have everything that God ever intended for us to have. We have all the words of God in the Scriptures. Paul states that "all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16,17). Through the Scriptures, we have everything, all things, that we need for every good work. If that is the case, then there is not any good work as pertains to religion that is not found in the Scriptures. The same principle holds true in the New. Testament as it did in the Old Testament; that is, if we are going to do God's will, we can not add to it, nor take away from the words which He has spoken to us.
From I Pet. 4:11, we see the idea behind the authority of the silence of the Scriptures, as it says "Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God." Since we have all of God's words, then the only way a person should speak religiously is according to the New Testament. Anything spoken religiously that is not in the New Testament would not be according to "the utterances of God," hence, we see that we need to be silent where the New Testament is silent. This is one of the biggest problems in religion today. People do not give heed to the silence that God has placed in the Scriptures. Let us develo"p this argument more fully.
In the book of Hebrews we find the writer telling of Jesus being a priest after the order of Melchizedek, but not being a priest according to the Old Testament standard. Why couldn't Jesus be a priest under the old law? Because the old law stated that the priests were to come from the tribe of Levi, even though the law had not said that a priest could not come from the tribe of Judah. "For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests" (Heb. 7:14). Moses had not spoken concerning this, therefore, a person from a tribe other than Levi could not officiate at the altar. Moses was silent on the subject, therefore, it was not sanctioned.
Let us examine an Old Testament example to see if they were restrained to that which was spoken in the Old Testament. "Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them" (Lev. 10: 1). God had given the source from whence the fire was to come, Lev. 16:12, but He had not condemned any other source of fire. Was God pleased with these- two men who took it upon themselves to offer to God something that He had not commanded? Not in the least! "And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord" (Lev. 10:2). Why did God require the lives of Nadab and Abihu? They were worshiping the true and living God; by all evidence in the Scriptures, they were worshiping sincerely; they were burning incense unto the Lord as the Lord God had commanded them; so why was God displeased with these two men? It was because they had not used the fire that God had commanded them. They took it upon themselves to get fire from some other source which the Lord had said nothing about. They had disobeyed God by offering something that He had not commanded them, even a little thing like the fire for which to burn incense.
Even though God had not expressly forbade, any other source of fire, Nadab and Abihu sinned and God required their lives for it. We will find the reason for God's action farther down in the same chapter in verse 10, "and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean." Nadab and Abihu had substituted the profane for the holy and the unclean for the clean; they had substituted that which was not, commanded for that which was commanded; in short and simple words, they had not respected the silence of God's Scriptures.
It will do us well to keep this example fresh in our minds when we get the urge to introduce or substitute anything into the worship service of our Lord God, for "these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction" (I Cor. 10:11). For us to introduce or substitute into the church of our Lord any such thing that has not been commanded by God to worship Him, would he for us to parallel our actions with Nadab and Abihu. But let us hear what the New Testament has to say on the subject of worship to God.
Throughout the ministry of Jesus, He repeatedly exposed the efforts of the Pharisees and the scribes to make the people walk in line with their own commandments and traditions instead of God's commandments. "And He said to them, 'Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, this people honors Me with their lips but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" (Mk. 7:6,7). By teaching the precepts of men, they had made void their worship unto God. They were not adhering to the silence of the Scriptures. Where the Scriptures were silent, the Pharisees and scribes had not felt restrained in putting in their own wants and desires. Jesus said that this deemed their worship vain.
It is quite evident from the next passage that not everyone who believes himself to be a Christian shall inherit sonship with Jesus Christ and enter heaven in the last day. "Not every one who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father, who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles.= And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness=@ (Matt. 7:21-23). People who want to follow Christ should guard against self-deception. Sometimes there are those who want something in religion so bad that they overlook what the Bible has to say on a subject. They believe that it has to be right because it makes them feel good or because they want it so much. How could this be wrong? Jesus tells us of disciples who were working in His name, but when it came time for judgment day, Jesus had to say to them that He never knew them and that they were to depart from His presence. Why? Because they were workers of lawlessness! The Greek word translated 'lawlessness' is anomia. Thayer renders the meaning of this word as, "l. the condition of one without law, either because ignorant of it, or because violating it. 2. contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness." So the reason they were not given admission into heaven was because they acted without law, they were not letting themselves be regulated by the law. Jesus has given us His law in the Scriptures. If we refuse to let ourselves be limited by this law, then we are the very same people whom Jesus said were going to be cast out of the kingdom of heaven. "Since this is true, many who claim to be his servants and doing wonders in his name will be driven from the presence of God for doing what they imagine good service to him. We can not be too cautious in doing his commandments and in rejecting from his service everything not commanded by him.2
We shall cite one more author of the Holy Writ and then draw a conclusion from the sources herein presented. In his second epistle, John exhorts his readers to walk in truth. To walk in truth would be to walk according to that which is in the gospel of truth, nothing added and nothing lacking. This can be done because we have all the words that God has chosen to give us. We should not add to nor take away from the word (Deut. 4:2), so that we may walk according to truth. The apostle John gave strict warning to those who would not limit themselves to the words given to us by God. "Any one who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son" (2 Jn. 9). To walk, according to truth would grant us fellowship with both the Father and the Son, but he that "goes ahead" (RSV), "runs too far ahead" (NEB), or "goes beyond" (REV) that which was given us does not abide in the teaching (the words given to us by God), and therefore, does not have fellowship with God. From this Scripture, it is evident that we must give heed to the silence of the Scriptures to be pleasing to God; for if we do not, we do not have God.
In this paper, I have tried to show that we must regard the Scriptures as completely authoritative in everything we do in the name of Jesus. To be pleasing to God, we must observe His commandments and obey them; but we must be careful to cast out, reject, everything that is not to be found in the Holy Scriptures when we are trying to adhere to God's commands. It is my sincere desire that "whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God ... so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" (1 Pet. 4: 11). Dear brethren, allow God to be glorified and not man; allow the Scriptures to speak and man be silent. Moses E. Lard has well stated his view of anyone who would consent in any way to not limit himself to the doctrine of Christ, in that, "as a people we have from the first and continually to the present proclaimed that the New Testament and that alone is our only full and perfect rule of faith and practice. We have declared a thousand times and more that whatever it (the Bible) does not teach we must not hold, and whatever it does not sanction we must not practice. He who ignores or repudiates these principles ... has by this become an apostate from our ranks; and the sooner he ... goes out from amongst us the better, yes, verily, the better for us."3
1. Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon (Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers and Authors Inc., (n.d.) ) 48.
2. H. Leo Boles, A Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1936), 183.
3. Moses E. Lard, "Instrumental Music in Churches and Dancing," Lard's Quarterly (Rosemead: The Old Paths Book Club, 1952),1,330-331.
Bales, James D. Instrumental Music and New Testament Worship. Searcy: James D. Bales, 1973.
Boles, H. Leo. A Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1936.
Girardeau, John L. Instrumental Music in Public Worship of the Church. Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson, Printers, 1888.
Lard, Moses E. "'Instrumental Music in Churches and Dancing." Lard's Quarterly, I, Rosemead: The Old Paths Book Club, 1952.
Lewis, John T. The Voice, of the Pioneers on Instrumental Music and Societies. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1932.
Roberts, J. W. The Letters of John. Austin: R. B. Sweet Co., Inc., 1968.
Thayer, Joseph H. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon. Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers and Authors Inc., (n.d.).
Truth Magazine, XVIII:33, pp. 11-13