Sunday, December 24, 2006

God Said "Sing"

by Warren E. Berkley

When people visit our assembly and express their curiosity about our vocal music, I reply with this simple expression of our conviction: God said "sing." I make it clear that the absence of the man-made instruments is not a matter of economics (cannot afford one) or preference (we just like to sing). It goes much deeper than any "church of Christ" or "restoration" heritage or tradition. It has to do with faith and our desire to follow God's instructions. We are convinced He said "sing."

When a man offers a gift to his wife, the considerate thing to do is to offer a gift that will please her. She is the recipient of the gift. I may want a rifle, a new computer or a truck. But if I'm going to give something to her that she will appreciate, I will select something I believe will please her not me. I will take into consideration all I know of her, in particular, what she has said she likes and wants. My gift will be based on her will not mine.

As God's people, we want to offer worship to Him in response to His greatness and grace to us. In offering that worship, what's important? What I want, or what He wants? You will agree, the most important thing is what God wants. The right course to take is to offer that worship to God that I know will please Him.

How can I find out what pleases Him? I can consult His Word! I don't need to even consider human preferences, denominational practices, historical precedence or majority desire. I do not need to bother myself with a "market study" or poll of human opinion. If I want to know what pleases God I can read what He has said about worship, determined to worship Him in spirit and truth (Jn 4:24; 2 Jn 9).

This quest takes me to the New Testament. I want to know what the apostles of Christ did, since these were the men through whom the will of God was conveyed (1 Cor 1:1; 1 Cor 2:10-12). The apostles -- in their practice and instruction -- endorsed only one kind of music in worship to God, vocal. If any instrument is involved at all it is only in the figurative sense, the heart (Eph 5:19).

Paul and Silas, "at midnight...were praying and singing hymns to God" (Acts 16:25). To the church at Corinth Paul said, "sing with the understanding" (1 Cor 14:15). He instructed the saints at Ephesus: "speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19). In another place he wrote: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16). Is anyone cheerful? "Let him sing psalms" (Jas 5:13). (See also: Mt 26:30; Mark 14:26; Rom 15:9 & Heb 2:12.)

This clear and simple evidence demands the kind of admission you will read in the Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia (p. 1163): "There is no record in the N.T. of the use of instruments in the musical worship of the church." Or in A History Of The Christian Church (p. 112): "Singing formed an essential part of the Christian worship, but it was in unison and without musical accompaniment" (Lars P. Qualben). Other early historians and writers agree: "Simply singing is not agreeable to children (Jews), but singing with lifeless instruments and with dancing and clapping is. On this account the use of this kind of instruments and of others agreeable to children is removed from the songs of the churches, and there is left remaining simply singing" (Justin Martyr, 139 AD). Augustine describes the singing at Alexandria in 354 AD by saying "musical instruments were not used. The pipe, tabret, and harp here associate so intimately with the sensual heathen is easy to understand the prejudices against their use in the worship."

Strange isn't it? All the years of controversy; all the debates, disputes and division. Then you open your Bible and focus on what God said. There it is: God said "sing." Don't you think this is what He wants us to do?

Why did Noah use gopher wood in building the ark? God said "gopher wood." Why did Abraham leave his homeland and venture into Canaan? God said "go." Why did Joshua instruct the Israelites to march around Jericho? Because God said to do that. Why did the apostles wait in Jerusalem after Jesus ascended into heaven? That's what Jesus told them to do. Why do Christians today partake of the Lord's Supper on the first day of every week? God has communicated His will regarding this memorial in the New Testament.

So, why do we sing? God said "sing." This is serious because, "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son" (2 Jn 9).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wonder what you think about congregational reciting of the psalms.

It seems to me that "speaking to one another in just as acceptable and proper as "singing.....

Thanks and have a nice day.

7:59 PM  
Anonymous Emory Jones said...

Greetings Larry,
As a Christian Church / Church of Christ we do use musical instruments. We do this not only from a biblical standpoint but also from a matter of choice. Contrary to popular belief there are musical instruments used in the new testament (Revalations specificly). This aside, God does not condemn something he has created. The songs of David (played with a harp) and were pleasing to God. In the New Testament God did not voice his displeasure with the use of instruments he just made a statement to sing. Having said this I would add that I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy worship in both instrumental and non instrumental churches. I might add that some non instrumental churches take this issue so seriously as to have told me that our entire congregation is going to hell because we use a piano. There is no thus sayeth the Lord in this matter. The use or non use of instruments should not be made a test of fellowship.
For the Good of His Kingdom,
Emory Jones
Marengo Christian Church

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Jackie Case, Waterford church of Christ said...

Thank you for this lesson. You are right on point with this. In Matthew 7 we are told to enter by the narrow way. This excludes the broader way. You have provided both biblical and historical evidence. After reading through the entire Old and New Testaments, there is no doubt about the consequences of adding or taking away from the Word of God. (Deut 4, 12, Prov 30, Rev 22) How arrogant to do so. God states He desires obedience above sacrifice. I Sam 15:22, Mark 12 & Heb 10. His command in the New Testament is to sing.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

some Pslams specifically say to use an instrument, are we to ignore those psalms?

Also, Revelation 5:8 states...

8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

why are harps ok in heaven but not on earth?

2:06 PM  

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