January 20, 2017

“Do Ye Not Hear the Law?”

By P.J. Casebolt

“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written . . .” (Gal. 4:21, 22).

The Galatians had already heard the message of Christ and him crucified (Gal. 3:1), and Paul marveled that they had been “so soon removed . . . unto another gospel,” which was not really another gospel, but a perversion of the true gospel (Gal. 1:6, 7). Like Israel of old who had left “the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13), the Galatians had forsaken the law of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, and the grace of Christ for bondage under “the weak and beggarly elements” of the old law (Gal. 4:9).

When people make a comparison of two completely different ideas, and choose the one of lesser value, about the only alternative we have left is to show them the folly of their choice. Paul did this by challenging the Galatians to “hear the law” which they had chosen, even a law which was inferior to the law of Christ.

For different reasons, many religious people, including some in churches of Christ, journey back into the fulfilled, abolished law of Moses for sundry religious practices. As a general rule, these same people do not even hear what that law says about their favorite doctrine or practice. As a result, they are left without any authority or encouragement in their futile efforts from either the law of Moses or the law of Christ. In addition, such advocates are branded by both the law of Moses and the law of Christ as workers of iniquity,” or lawlessness (1 Sam. 15:22, 23; Matt. 7:23).

There are those who use mechanical instruments of music in worship because they like them, not because God likes them. Having no authority in the New Testament by way of command, approved apostolic example, and therefore not even a necessary inference, these “workers of iniquity” (lawlessness), return to the “weak and beggarly elements” of the Mosaic law in an attempt to justify the use of their mechanical instruments of music.

In their journey back to the Old Testament, passing efforts may be made to use the Greek term psallo or the symbolic language of Revelation to justify mechanical music in the worship of the church, but when they are faced with the conclusion that every worshipper (not just the piano player) has to psallo, and that the symbolic language of Revelation will also admit different colored horses and other beasts, birds, thunder and lightning into the worship of the church, these defenders of mechanical music generally end up saying, “David did it.”

“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law” (of Moses) with respect to your mechanical instruments of music in worship, “do ye not hear the law?”

The law of Moses specified that certain instruments of music be used by specified men among the Levites, at specified times (Lev. 23:23-25; Num. 10:1-10; 1 Chron. 16:4-6, 40-42; 23:3-6, 30-32; 2 Chron. 29:21ff). On many of these occasions, burnt offerings and sacrifices and the observance of sabbaths and other feasts were also enjoined in conjunction with the instruments of music. Also, these things were obligatory to the Jews “for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations” (Num. 10:8).

Some of these instruments of music were invented by David. God permitted (or suffered) their use as he did other practices under the Mosaic dispensation, but all such practices ended with the Jewish generations along with the law itself (2 Chron. 29:25-28; Amos 6:1-6; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14-17). Even while David and others were using specified instruments of music at specified times/seasons, by specified Levites (Ps. 81:1-4), David said, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also will please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs” (Ps. 69:30, 31). God had no pleasure in these “burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin,” and the Lord said, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second” (Ps. 40:6-8; Heb. 10:5-10).

As Paul said to the Galatians concerning their departure from Christ back to the “weak and beggarly elements” of the law, I say unto the users and defenders of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the church, “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written . . .” (Gal. 4:21).

Having heard what “the law” said about instruments of music in worship, and having seen that the advocates of that practice do not even conform to the law in the use of their instruments, let us hear the law on similar subjects, such as the Sabbath, polygamy, divorce and remarriage.

The Sabbath pretenders of our day not only return to “the law” for justification of Sabbath keeping, but they compound their error by dividing asunder the very law which they pretend to honor. Sabbatarians claim that the Ten Commandments constitute the law of God, and that the statutes/judgments/ordinances which Moses wrote in a book constitute the law of Moses; that the law of Moses was abolished at the cross, but that the Ten Commandment portion (including the Sabbath commandment), remains.

The terms “law of Moses” and “law of the Lord” are used interchangeably in the Scriptures (Luke 2:22-24; John 7:19). When Jesus died on the cross, he fulfilled and abolished the entire law, not just part of it (2 Cor. 3; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14-17); he took away the first law/covenant, including Sabbath observance (Deut. 5:2, 3, 15), “that he may establish the second” (Heb. 10:9; 9:15-17). No one observes the Sabbath today as it was given, and no one is stoned to death for failure to observe the Sabbath. “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law” with respect to instrumental music, Sabbath observance, polygamy, divorce and remarriage, “and such like” (cf. Gal. 5:21), “do ye not hear the law?”

When children of God attempt to justify themselves by “the law,” they fall from grace (Gal. 2:21; 3:11; 5:4). And let those who reject the law of Christ for the law of Moses, then refuse to hear the very law which they claim to honor remember this one thing: you will not escape with just the penalty of death by stoning for despising “Moses’ law” (Heb. 10:28). There is a “much sorer punishment” awaiting those who have forsaken the cleansing fountain of the blood of Christ and have returned to “broken cisterns” which can no longer hold even the blood of animal sacrifices (Heb. 9:13, 14; 10:29).