Why Does The Church Of Christ Not Use Mechanical Instruments Of Music In Worship?
One of the first things people notice is that we do not use mechanical instruments of music in our worship. This seems strange because they are commonly used in other churches. So, people wonder why we do not use them.
When I preached in Houston a visitor met me in the foyer after worship and offered to buy the church a piano. He thought we just could not afford one.
But it is not because we cannot afford musical instruments or that we don’t have anyone to play them or that we do not like music or that we are just trying to be different. The reason we do not use mechanical instruments of music in worship is because we do not have authority from God to do so.
What surprises many people is that no where does the Bible authorize the church to worship God with a mechanical instrument of music. You can search through out the Bible and you will not find even one verse that authorizes the church of Christ to worship God with a mechanical instrument of music. There is no example or even a hint that the church of Christ you read about in the Bible ever worshiped God with mechanical instruments of music. The idea of the church worshiping God with a mechanical instrument of music was entirely unheard of!
It is a matter of historic record that the church of Christ did not use instrumental music in worship. “Let the pipe be resigned to the shepherds, and the flute to the superstitious who are engrossed in idolatry. For, in truth, such instruments are to be banished from the banquet [worship – RD]…the one instrument of peace, the Word alone by which we honor God is what we employ. We no longer employ the ancient psaltery, and trumpet, and timbrel, and flute” (Clement of Alexandria, died 215 A. D.).
The American Encyclopedia, volume 12, page 688 states, “Pope Vitalian is related to have first introduced organs into some of the churches of Western Europe, about 670 A. D., but the earliest trustworthy account is that of the one sent as a present by the Greek emperor Constantine Copronymus to Pepin, King of the Franks in 775.” The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, volume 2, page 1702 states, “In the Greek Church, the organ never came into use. But after the eighth century, it became more and more common in the Latin Church; not, however, without opposition from the side of the Monks. The Reformed Church discarded it; and though the Church of Basel very early introduced it; it was in other places admitted only sparingly, and after long hesitation.” “For almost a thousand years Gregorian chants, without any instrumental or harmonic addition, was the only music used” (Catholic Encyclopedia, volume X, page 657).
It may also surprise many to know that when the various religious denominations were formed, many of their leaders opposed the use of mechanical instruments in worship. “The organ in the worship of God is an ensign of Baal” (Martin Luther, reformer and founder of the Lutheran Church). “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews” (John Calvin, founder of the Presbyterian Church). “I have no objections to the instrument in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen” (John Wesley, founder of the Methodists Church). “I am an old man and a minister; and I declare that I have never knew them [musical instruments – RD] productive of any good in the worship of God; and I have reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music as a science I admire and esteem, but instruments of music in the house of God, I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music; and here I register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of the Author of Christianity who requires his followers to worship him in spirit and in truth” (Adam Clarke, Methodist scholar and commentator). “Staunch old Baptists in former times would as soon have tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries, and yet the instrument has gradually found its way among them with nothing like the jars and difficulties that arose of old concerning the bass viol and smaller instruments of music” (David Benedict, foremost Baptist historian). Charles Spurgeon, one the greatest Baptist preachers ever, quoted 1 Corinthians 14:15 and added, “I would as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery.”
It can be readily seen that the church of Christ is not alone in its opposition to the use of mechanical instruments in worship to God, and that history shows without a doubt that instrumental music is an addition to the worship of God. Church fathers, encyclopedias, scholars, commentators, reformers and historians all agree.
All of the passages that deal with music in the worship of the church use the words “singing”, “sing”, or “fruit of our lips”, except for Ephesians 5:19 which reads, “making melody”. This is a translation of the Greek word psallo. It was synonymous with the word “sing” and is translated so in all of the other passages where it is used. If there be any argument about this word, Paul tells us what instrument to psallo with: “the heart”. Since Paul is giving a command, if he had reference to playing a mechanical instrument of music we would all be obligated to do so. It would not be optional, but mandatory for every Christian. The early church did not understand it this way, as they never worshiped God with a mechanical instrument. Therefore, instrumental music in worship is an addition to the word of God. From passages such as Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32 and Revelation 22:18-19 we learn that God would not have us to add to His word. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:6, “Learn not to go beyond the things which are written” (ASV). In 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul admonishes, “teach no other doctrine”. Remember, “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God” (ASV).
Instrumental music in the worship of the church is:
Not taught by Christ (Mat. 28:18; Col. 3:17; 2 John 9).
Not taught by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; 14:26; Rom. 8:14).
Not taught by the Apostles (Mat. 28:19-20; Acts 2:42; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 6:3-4).
Not in the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
Not helpful (Acts 20:20).
Not a good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Not of faith (Rom. 10:17; 2 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:7).
Not of truth (John 4:24; 17:17).
Not of righteousness (Rom. 1:16-17; 1 John 5:17).
Not as the oracles of God (2 Tim. 1:13; 1 Pet. 4:11).
Not bound in heaven (Mat. 16:19).
Not pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).
It is clear that there is no authority from God for the church to worship with a mechanical instrument of music. Such worship would be based upon the teachings of men and not the teachings of God. Jesus warned, “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mat. 15:9).
God made it abundantly clear to Israel just how He feels about such unauthorized worship in Leviticus 10:1-3. Nadab and Abihu took their censers to burn incense in worship to God, but on this occasion they offered “profane fire” before the Lord. What was profane about it? Just this, God had not commanded it! They had no authority to do what they were doing!
There are some today who offer profane music to the Lord. What is profane about it? God has not commanded it! God’s command is to sing! We have no authority to worship God with any other kind of music!
If God killed Nabab and Abihu for presumptuously offering profane fire in the tabernacle of old, what will He do to those who presumptuously offer profane music in His church today?
In an effort to please God, churches of Christ seek to follow His word without addition or subtraction. We call all men to give up their human traditions and innovations, to come out of man-made churches and simply be Christians, members of Christ’s church you read about in the Bible. According to Acts 2, it began when about 3,000 souls having heard the gospel of Christ, repented and were baptized for the remission sins. When we hear that same gospel and respond in that same way we are added to that same church. According to Acts 20:28, Jesus redeemed this church with His own blood.