Instrumental Music and Institutionalism Compared

Arvid K. McGuire
Kirkwood, Missouri

We are concerned in this article with what the Bible teaches on these subjects. We want to obey the Bible injunction: "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good" (I Thess. 5:21) . We are convinced that instrumental music and church support of human institutions are both without divine authority. Furthermore, that the arguments made to condemn the use of the instrument in Christian worship can also be made to condemn the practice of church support of human institutions.

Violates Law of Worship and Organization

Instrumental music in worship to God is wrong because it violates the fundamental law of worship. Jesus declared acceptable worship to be "in Spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). The word of God is truth (John 17:17). If the word of God is truth and worship must be in truth, then worship can only be what the truth authorizes. Truth is the only standard. All forms of worship, unauthorized by truth, are vain (Matt. 15:9; 2 John 9).

Church support of human institutions violates the fundamental law of organization. All the church has the right to establish is another congregation. This is done by faithfully preaching the word of God. When people in a given community believe and obey the gospel, a local congregation in that community is established. This is the only organization the local church is authorized to have a part in establishing. For the church from her treasury to build and maintain human institutions to do the work God assigned the local congregation to do is to violate the fundamental law of organization. What human organizations and institutions did the church in the first century build except local, independent, self-governing congregations?

Violates The Law of Faith

We walk by faith, not by sight ( 2 Cor. 5:7). Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). Without faith one cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). Instrumental music and church support of human instiutions are no part of the New Testament. One cannot walk by faith and endorse either of these. If no word of God, then no faith. One cannot please God by engaging in either of these unscriptural practices.

Violates The Law of Unity

Brethren are commanded to be one, to all speak the same thing (I Cor. 1:10). We can only speak the same thing as we speak as the oracles of God speak (I Pet. 4:11). Since the instrument in worship and church support of human institutions is not according to truth and violates the law of faith, one is not endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit by insisting upon bringing these innovations into the practice of the church. The inclusion of the instrument and church support of human institutions has caused divisions. These practices are no part of the doctrine of Christ and those who introduced them are responsible for the division their introduction has caused.

Many folks look upon the use of musical instruments as an "aid" or "expedient" in the worship of the church. Others look upon church support of human institutions as an "aid" or "expedient" in doing benevolent work of the church. However, both views or positions are incorrect. BOTH ARE ADDITIONS. Aids and expedients must be lawful (I Cor. 6:12-13; 10:23), must edify (I Cor. 10:23); and must not occasion the destruction of brethren (I Cor. 8:13; 10:32-33) . Instrumental music and church support of human institutions are in direct violation of all three of these principles. Both are unauthorized, both have torn down and destroyed unity and their use has wounded the consciences of thousands of sincere brethren. Aids rest on likes and preference of people. It is a sad day indeed when brethren think more of their preferences than they do of the truth of Christ, the unity of the church and the consciences of sincere brethren.

Doesn't Respect Silence of Scripture

If any man speaks, he is to speak as the oracles of God speak. He is to speak all they speak and if they do not speak, he cannot speak (I Pet. 4:11) . The will of Christ is to be executed on the basis of what it says, not what it does not say. The objection: "The Bible does not say not to" is a negative way of positively saying, "Everything not expressly forbidden by the Bible is authorized for Christian worship and practice." This whole concept is in contradiction to Peter's command. Instrumental music and church support of human institutions are unknown in the New Testament. Their use does not, therefore, respect the silence of the scripture.

Profanes Worship and Organization

As Martin Luther said, "The instrument is an ensign of Baal." This is true because the essentials of Christian worship are cleansed with the blood of Christ. The heart (I Pet. 1:2; Heb. 10:22); the body (Rom. 12:1-2); and the spiritual sacrifices are cleansed with the blood (I Pet. 2:5; Eph. 5:19; Heb. 13 :15-16) . The instrument in no sense has been, nor can be, cleansed with blood of Christ. Its use, therefore, is common and profane!

The organization of the church is perfect, having been planned by God. The simplicity of the organization is a mark of divine wisdom (Eph. 3 :10-11; Acts 14:23 ; Phil. 1:1) . The church is the "fulness of Christ" and is, therefore, as sufficient as He to discharge and accomplish her divine mission in the world. The church is holy, for she is purchased with the blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:2223; 4:11-16; Acts 20:28).

To affirm that the church cannot relieve those who are her proper charge is to declare her incompleteness and to reflect on divine wisdom. Instrumental music and church support of human institutions stand or fall together. If one is right, then both are right. If one is wrong, then both are wrong. It is inconsistent to accept one and to reject the other! Friend, how long will you halt between the two?

Truth Magazine, V:12; 3-4
September 1961