By Ron Daly
The New Testament teaches that worship must be “in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24). Worship, from the Greek proskuneo, is the respect, reverence, adoration, obeisance, or homage that we render to God by means of specific acts. When we survey the New Testament, we find that the Lord’s people in the first century, under apostolic guidance, engaged in the following specific acts: (1) apostolic teaching and preaching (Acts 2:42; 20:7); (2) the eating of the Lord’s supper also called the “breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-34); (3) praying to God through the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:42; 12:5; Eph. 6:18-20); (4) placing a sum of money into the treasury on the first day of every week (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8,9); and (5) the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12).
Worship which is “in spirit and truth” occurs when the participant is aware of the following elements: (1) the proper object of worship – God, “God is spirit: and those who worship him”,- (2) the proper acts – implied by the word for worship, proskuneo; (3) the proper attitude, mental cognizance, disposition, and state of mind – “in spirit”,(4) the proper standard, pattern, and instructions – “and truth. ” This possibly implies “with proper motives” (Jn. 4:24; cf. Phil. 1:18). All of the aforementioned elements must be present in each of the acts of worship in order for the worship to be acceptable to God. “Music” is an element of our worship, and the New Testament teaches the following facts regarding the “music” we offer unto God and for the benefit of the saints:
First, we are “teaching and admoinishiing” as we sing (Col. 3:16). “Teaching and admonishing” (didaskontes kai nouthetountes), are two plural present participles, showing that the actions enjoined occur as “the word of Christ dwells in you richly.” It is “the word of Christ” which is the instrument used in the teaching and admonishing! To teach is to instruct or impart information, and to admonish is to warn. It is, therefore, imperative that the songs we sing express scriptural sentiments. We must vigorously insure that the truth is sung as well as preached! No song should be sung on the basis of melody and rhythm alone. The legitimate criterion by which we determine the worth of a song is, whether or not it is true to the word of God.
Second, we are told who is to sing unto God and the saints in worship. “Teaching and admonishing one another” (Col. 3:16), “speaking one to another,” (Eph. 5:19) are expressions which include all those addressed and exclude none of the ones addressed. The pronoun heautois in (Eph. 5:19) is dative masculine plural, and the term heautous (Col. 3:16) is accusative masculine plural. Both pronouns are used in both texts with present active plural participles, demonstrating that one or several are not told to sing (1) to the saints, (2) for the saints, or (3) instead of the saints, but each one is to sing with the saints. Whenever God issues a command and stipulates who is to perform it, none less than those whom God has specified are excluded. The same ones who are to do the “teaching and admonishing” are to do the “singing,” and the “teaching and admonishing” are to be going on as those who are singing are “allowing the word of Christ to dwell in them.”
Third, we are told what kind of songs we are to sing: “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” A psalm is a pious song, a hymn is a sacred song in which God is praised, and a spiritual song is a song relating to spiritual things. The kinds of songs specified by God disallows Blues, Bluegrass, National patriotic songs, Rock-N-Roll, Country and Western, songs with empty repetition, and songs teaching error.
Fourth, we are told how we are to sing, “with your heart to the Lord.” We must sing heartily, with great emotion and understanding. Though we may not be the most professional artistic performers on earth, we can be among the most lively.
Fifth, we are told what kind of music we are to offer to God, “singing and making melody with the heart.” We are to offer only one of the two kinds known – vocal. And this vocal music is to be a certain kind, namely speaking and singing, not whistling, humming, or any other unintelligible vocal sounds! Mechanical music in New Testament worship is unauthorized. God the Father’s plan does not include it, Jesus Christ his Son did not shed any of his precious blood for it, nor did he execute a plan that mentions it. The Holy Spirit did not reveal a message that teaches the use of it. The apostles of Christ did not preach a gospel that allows its use in worship, nor did any congregation under apostolic guidance use it instead of singing or as an accompaniment to the singing! Therefore it cannot be right and pleasing to God.
Mechanical music in worship violates the following: (1) The clear distinction of the covenants. Most of those who participate in its use appeal to the Old Covenant for authority, ignoring the fact that we are bound by the precepts and edicts of the New Testament. (2) God’s silence. The Lord has simply not authorized us to use it by direct statement, approved apostolic example, or implication. (3) The separation of human and divine legislation. Many use it on the dangerous assumption that it does not matter what God’s will is. As they presumptuously think, God will accept human admixture with the divine will. It would do them well to consider “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron” (Lev. 10:1-2). Man has no right whatsoever to alter God’s word, nor may we substitute our own will and expect God to be pleased.
May God be our ruler, his word our guide, his Son’s obedient life our model, and his home our eternal abode on the last day.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 22, pp. 677-678
November 21, 1991