By Keith Pruitt
In a recent issue of Guardian of Truth, brother Weldon Warnock wrote answering a question raised regarding congregational and group singing at funerals and in worship assemblies. While the thrust of this review is toward collective worship when the church comes together, a lack of information herein concerning funerals and the like should not be taken as a dodge.
First, brother Warnock states that these things are according to his judgment. I can appreciate that as I have great respect for this good brother. But I must disagree strongly with his approach to the question and to certain particulars of his exegesis of 1 Corinthians 14:26.
Brother Warnock fills his article full of quotes of various scholarly ones in an attempt to cite approval of his unorthodox position. The quotes could probably have been multiplied many times. Denominational writers could be easily found in agreement since a chorus and quartets have long been the fashion among them. But would that really prove anything to the Bible student interested in truth? Even one of the sources cited was very telling. “As to the persons concerned in singing, sometimes a single person sang alone, but the most ancient and general practice of the church was for the whole assembly to unite with one heart and voice in celebrating the praises of God” (Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 8, p. 738). Obviously this is the most ancient custom, for congregational singing was that required of God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). “But how about 1 Corinthians 14:26?” some ask.
Remember the context must determine our understanding. The context is clearly that of order in the assembly in view of spiritual gifts. This is clear as the rest of the verse mentions tongues, interpretation and revelation. It surely seems plausible that the Spirit inspired some to sing spiritually given psalms before the congregation. These, therefore, are regulated so as to keep order in the assembly. (See Barnes’ Notes, 1 Corinthians, Heritage Edition, pp. 271-272.)
In regards to Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, it is obvious from the structure of the statements (commands) that all are to be engaged in the commanded activity: “Yourselves” and “one another” from heautou suggests a reciprocal action done simultaneously. As one sings he is edifying another and being edified by the other. That the verb is active and not passive suggests a congregational activity in which all are engaged. Thee is little room for solos, a chorus, quartets, etc., to be found in these commands. And if they were included, they would be necessary, as these verses are commands.
Perhaps the thing that ate at me the most was brother Warnock’s refusal to accept his own answer. He states, basically, that (1) it is right to do it at funerals, therefore, (2) it must be right to do so in church worship periods, but (3) we shouldn’t do it in church worship periods because it might be done for show (the wrong reason, in other words), however, (4) one can go ahead and do it at funerals (even though it might be done for the wrong reason). Surely, our good brother has given little thought to his reasoning.
Brother, do a preachers preach for the right reason? Are there any that put on a show? You better believe it! So we shouldn’t allow preaching except at funerals. Is that our conclusion? Brother Warnock, your judgment may allow quartets on Sunday morning but your refusal to accept the usage of them surely says something about your judgment. I am as convinced today as ever that God’s word commands congregational singing in the public worship periods. Perhaps, brother Warnock, the problem is in the comparison of a funeral to a public worship period.
But may I also enquire as to where we shall stop? We get us a chorus (scriptural according to brother Warnock); we put them up front to keep it orderly. Then we put robes on them to keep them decent and to allow visitors to know why they are up front. And just like that you have duplicated every denominational chorus in the land. Brother Warnock says just don’t use them. But why not, if they are scriptural? Brother Warnock, may we use a chorus of women or a lady soloist?
Let us not grow soft on these issues. There are valid reasons why we have condemned solos and quartets. Let us continue to give a thus saith the Lord.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 21, p. 650
November 6, 1986