Instrumental Music in Worship (II)

By Earl E. Robertson

We Walk By Faith

“We walk by faith, not by sight,” said the apostle Paul 12 Cor. 5:7). This statement is highly significant in that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). If God has not spoken about a matter, positive action taken in the performance of any such deed is presumptuous sin. No man can take legislative leadership into his own hands and speak and act when the Almighty has not spoken. David prayed, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins” (Psa. 19:13). The man who acts presumptuously reproaches the Lord and will give answer to God for his high-handed behavior (Num. 15:30). Some justify the use of instrumental music in worship by saying that there is no specific statement in the Bible saying “thou shaft not use instrumental music in worship.” The idea that there must be a “thou shah not” before a thing is sinful is a false premise. When one’s course is cast on a false premise, his conclusions necessarily will be false too. It invalidates Paul’s statement that we walk by faith! There is no substitute for this-we actually and really do walk by faith. The conditional element is the spiritual actions of Christians which are acceptable to the Lord is faith: faith that comes by hearing the word of God! Proof of the proposition that instrumental music in worship to God is acceptable to Him can not rest on the absence of scripture! The right to have instrumental music in worship is not antecedently proven simply in the absence of a divine prohibition specifically stated; rather, it is proven by authorization in God’s word. After all, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4).

Acceptable service to God is based on faith (Heb. 11:6). When we sing unto the Lord we do it by faith, that is, this is what the Lord teaches in his word and as we do what he teaches it is being done by faith. No service can be performed “by faith” if the Lord has not spoken.. Silence of scripture does not give authorization; scripture gives authorization! “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God,” Peter affirmed (1 Pet. 4:11).

Oftentimes the people of God have become dissatisfied with God having absolute control over men in morals and spiritual service. It is at this point that men begin to take liberties that God has not given. The mere fact that one may wish to do a certain service unto the Lord is not the basis to determine whether that service shall be accepted or rejected. It is a well known fact in the word of God that when persons sought to give unto God a service either what God had not commanded or what He had forbidden, both the giver and the gift was rejected. The gift is not offered because God needs it, but because God had commanded it and it is good for man. God rejected Cain’s offering because it was not of faith-God had not authorized it. Therefore, He rejected Cain, too. When God is, by His worshipers, placed in His proper perspective, His word will be the criterion for all worship offered by them.

Whatever music is made unto the Lord must be done “in the name of Christ” (Col. 3:17). This is a most serious matter, yet is taken so lightly by many. The word “name” (of Christ or Lord) translates the Greek onoma, and is defined as follows: “By a usage chiefly Hebraistic the name is used for everything which the name covers. . . i.e. for one’s rank, authority, interests, pleasures, command . . . .to do a thing en onomati tinos (in the name of someone-er), i.e. by one’s command and authority, acting on his behalf, promoting his cause” (Thayer, p. 447). This word is found in Acts 2:38 where repentance and baptism for the remission of sins are said to be “in the name of Jesus Christ”. Peter told us: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The name (authority) of Christ is essential to salvation. It is just as essential to offer praise unto the Lord. Whenever and wherever the name (authority) of the Lord is spoken, it becomes the only means to establish faith within the human heart; to act without it is to act in spiritual darkness and unbelief.

We shall illustrate this by examples. Samuel, the judge in Israel, anointedaSaul the son of Kish to be the first king over the united kingdom of Israel. Upon this, God commanded Saul to “go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Sam. 15:3). We are informed that Saul “smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur,” but that he and the people took Agag the king alive and spared the best of the sheep and oxen, fatlings and lambs, and would not utterly destroy them is told also. In spite of this failure to obey God, Saul contended, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Sam. 15:13). Samuel protested saying, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Saul said “the people” did this! But Saul was king! The Lord had spoken to him! He then stated that their intent was “to sacrifice unto the Lord;” but Samuel said, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). This shows clearly that all service which the Lord has not ordered is unacceptable to Him. Saul made a costly error and then confessed: “I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice” (1 Sam. 15:24). His action was not of faith, but rebellion against faith! Instrumental music in worship to God today is not an act of faith; it, too, is rebellion against faith.

Rebellion against the will of God is rebellion against faith. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram illustrate this point (Numbers 16). God had commanded that Aaron and his sons should burn incense while other Levites (than Korah) performed their assigned duties. They rebelled against God’s order saying that Moses and Aaron were arrogating to themselves too much authority, that they also had a right to burn incense. When Moses heard this, he fell upon his face! These people gathered two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly who were famous in the congregation-men of renown-to more effectively carry out their scheme in the total absence of divine authorization. This would be enough to justify about anything today that brethren would ever want to do! But it was no justification at all. Moses made a speech to convince them that he did indeed have the God-given right to do exactly what he had done and was doing. Then he told them, “If . . . the earth open her mouth and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them . . . then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord.” At the end of that faithful speech, “the ground clave asunder that was under them: and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods . . . and they perished from among the congregation.” Indeed, a supreme price for rebellion! They attempted to serve God in the absence of holy authorization, an act without faith.

May these illustrations of attempted service without faith serve to impress upon our minds the awful price one must inevitably pay for such sinful action! Faith or trust in God’s way of doing things comes because of hearing (Eph. 1:13). The acceptation of one’s action does not depend only upon one knowing what the Lord says, but also upon his attitude toward that truth. Jesus said, “Take heed therefore how ye hear” (Lk. 8:18). “How” one hears is his attitude. A proper attitude toward the truth will not permit a flaunting of it in any way, but rather will demand reverence in seeking a prosecution of it. Transportation of the Ark of the Covenant by the right people illustrates this matter rather very well. After Aaron and his sons covered all the vessels of the tabernacle, the sons of Kohath were responsible for carrying it, “but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die” (Num. 4:15). The Kohathites were sons of Levi (Gen. 46:11) authorized to bear the sanctuary (Num. 10:21). God had charged them with this responsibility (Num. 3:30, 31). Any change in this arrangement would be without faith and, consequently, disobedience. Circumstances and situations could not alter this order; it was God’s way and He would tolerate no deviation! A deviation from this would be a manifestation of a wrong attitude toward God and His word. God was so stern in His demand about this that Uzzah “died by the ark of God” when he “put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it” (2 Sam. 6:6, 7). Not only did this man not have authorization to touch this Ark, but even before the crossing of the Jordan, God instructed the people saying, “When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore” (Josh. 3:3, 4). Maintaining a distance of “two thousand cubits” would make impossible a touching by the hand, and when unauthorized hands got close enough to so touch it, the sinful attitude toward God’s authority was wrong enough, much less the actual touching of the Ark by the hand. Proper respect for the word of God would not allow one, unauthorized, to get close enough to touch it! Lack of proper respect for the word of God is the real problem concerning instrumental music in worship to God today. Uzzah paid with his life for acting without faith, although his intentions were good. He did not want the Ark to fall from the Ox Cart on which it was being transported to the city of David! An unauthorized means of transportation and an unauthorized hand touching it, were disrespectful of God’s authority and, therefore, sinful! Friend, our attitude toward what God says will determine whether we obey or disobey Him; it will determine whether we walk by faith or whether our walk is by sight.

God Specified The Kind

There are two kinds or species of music: vocal and instrumental; singing and playing. If God had commanded, “Make music,” then we could sing or play, or sing and play. But he did not give a generic command merely authorizing “music;” God gave specifying authority-authority naming one kind out of the general term “music.” God authorizes “singing” and not playing. This specific does not include another kind; singing does not include playing. Therefore, playing is eliminated. How many kinds of music are there? Just two. Sing and play- are coordinate terms. Neither is dependent upon the other; they both are music. But of the two, God said, “sing”! When God, therefore, specifies one coordinate, man does not have a choice as to which kind or coordinate he shall use in worshiping the Almighty!

Here are some Biblical illustrations to help us see that only what God says is authorized. Additions of other coordinates cannot be made to what God says and those additions be authorized. Only the coordinates which He authorizes are permissible. God commanded Noah, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch” (Gen. 6:14). Of this directive Moses said, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Gen. 6:33). A New Testament writer said, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11:7). God’s command to Noah embraced specific authority, not general. God said make the ark of “gopher” wood. “Wood” is generic; “gopher” wood is specific. Oak, poplar, and cedar, are all coordinates-kinds separate and distinct from each other. Noah could not have done the will of God had he used any other kind of wood but gopher. It is not man’s right to inquire why God limited the wood to gopher in the building of the Ark; and, it is none of man’s business why God only commanded singing in worship to Him. Let us be satisfied with what He wants! The Ark would not have accomplished the intent God had in saving man if Noah had taken “liberty” with the silence of God’s word. Noah could have reasoned as some do today that since God did not specifically say, “Noah, thou shalt not use oak wood in the building of the Ark,” that he then could, in the absence of such a prohibition, use oak. But oak was not included in the authorization.

In the land of Egypt God spake unto Moses and Aaron giving instructions for the beginning of the Passover. He said, “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house” (Ex. 12:3). If God had only commanded the offering of an “animal” for the Passover feast, any kind of animal would have been accepted. However, the command was not general authority, but specific. Cow, hog, and horse are all animals and are coordinates with neither “kind” depending on the other. When God said “lamb” that authorized only the lamb for service out of the entire animal kingdom. To have assumed that since God did not say, “Thou shalt not offer a horse,” it would be acceptable to offer the horse, would have been without authorization-without faith-and, consequently, presumptuous and sinful. Another animal than the lamb would have been different in kind and rejected by the Lord. Just as “horse” would have been another coordinate in the animal kingdom, so is “instrumental music” another kind of music than singing. Another kind then is both unauthorized and lawless. Jesus said such action cost men their souls (Matt. 7:21-23).

Carefully looking at the very nature of this service as worship paid to the Creator one must conclude that it is spiritual. All service to God is spiritual in character and nature. This necessarily comes from the human heart. The design of the gospel is to save (Rom. 1:16), but it must get into the heart to accomplish this (Lk. 8:12, 15; Rom. 10:8-10). Belief is with the heart. Love for .God is with the heart (Matt. 22:37). Obedience to God is with the heart (Rom. 6:17, 18). It is just as true that all our worship to God is with the heart (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). It is not with the piano or organ; it is with the human heart. This is the instrument and object of the specific to sing!

Truth Magazine XXI: 8, pp. 122-124
February 24, 1977