13 Steps to a Better Understanding Why the Use of Mechanical Instruments of Music in Christian Worship Lacks New Testament Authority

Step #1. Know that Amos 5:21-23 and Amos 6:3-7 Don’t Prohibit the Use of Musical Instruments among the Israelites

a) Previous generations were taught that these passages are the most direct and most potent argument against the use of mechanical instruments, but proper interpretation tells us that prohibition of musical instruments is not the message of the Book of Amos. A false argument proves nothing.

b) Amos condemned the injustice and lack of faith in Yahweh that prevailed in the nation in the midst of external religious activities which showed the hypocrisy of the Israelites. It’s the same hypocrisy in Isaiah 1 and Matthew 23.

c) Amos 5:23 negates singing as well as stringed instruments, but why prohibit only the latter? To condemn musical instruments based on this passage automatically condemns singing.

Step #2. Know that King David Was not the First to Use (discover and originate) Musical Instruments
a) “Invent” (chasab in Heb) in Amos 6:5 means “to design” (Young’s Analytical Concordance, page 519) just as architects today design houses but they don’t discover and bring out for the first time the use of houses.

b) Genesis 4:21 tells us that the first users of harps and flutes were Jubal and his sons who lived thousands of years before David became king in the year 1010 B.C.

c) Jacob went to Haran in the year 1929 B.C. and his father-in-law already chanted songs to the sound of timbrel and harp. See Gen. 31:27. Miriam, Moses’ sister, and the Israelite women, danced to the sound of instruments after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea which happened about 500 years before David was born. See Genesis 15.

d) All of the above prove that King David didn’t originate the use of musical instruments in worship.

Step #3. Know that the Use of Musical Instruments in Israel’s Religious Activities during the Mosaical Dispensation Was Commanded by Yahweh the True God

a) The priests, thro Moses, were commanded to make trumpets for religious services. See Num. 29:1-6; Lev.23:23-25; 25:29.

b) King David’s producing instruments of music for the tabernacle worship was a command of Yahweh, the true God, through the palace prophets Nathan and Gad. See 2 Chronicles 29:25.

c) Read 2 Chronicles 30:1-27. Specifically v. 21, “…the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing to the LORD, accompanied by loud instruments.” And v. 27, “The priests, the Levites, arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard; and their prayer came up to His holy dwelling place, to heaven.” These passages tell us that during the Mosaical dispensation, God accepted mechanical instruments in worship and praise.

d) In view of the above, it is wrong to claim that musical instruments in worship is sinful from the very beginning of time.

Step #4. Know the Attributes of the God We Worship to Create in Us Awe, deep Respect, godly Fear, and Obedience

a) God is the Creator and maintainer of the Universe

b) God is immense, awesome, glorious, majestic, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient.

c) God is Judge at the last day when all men give account of their obedience or disobedience.

d) Capture the worshipful attitude of those surrounding the throne of God in the Book of Revelation.

e) Honor, respect, be in awe, and pay reverence to the God we serve.

f) Observe decorum and protocol in your worship of God for He demands such in John 4:24.

Step #5. Know that there Are Three Dispensations with Different Modes of Worship

a) Patriarchal: worship was mainly through burnt animal sacrifices on stone altars and by prayers.

b) Mosaical: worship acts are defined in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy.

c) Christian: worship was defined by Christ in John 4:24 in a general sense and the specifics are found in the gospels and New Testament books. There’s no mention of mechanical instruments of music in the church worship in apostolic times.

Step #6. Know the Evolution of the Synagogue Worship which provided the Background for many Church’s Practices

a) During the United Kingdom, the center of worship was the Tabernacle with animal offerings mediated by the priests and the giving the tithes of farm produce, the weekly Sabbath rest of staying in their abodes plus the annual feasts; during the Divided Kingdom, the center of worship was the temple

b) During the Captivity Period and after, worship evolved: Weekly gathering in local places called the synagogue; Scripture reading in the synagogue; Exhortation or sermon; Reading of Doxologies; Prayers, and Singing. Mechanical instruments of music were not employed in the synagogue worship. You may check these up in Edersheim’s book, “Life and Times of Jesus Christ.”

Step #7. Know the New Testament Passages that Specify the Kind of Music Stated for the Church

James 5:13; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:15 Romans 15:9; Hebrews 2:12. There’s no generic term “make music to the Lord” but the specific act in the NT is “vocal music” which sing with your heart.

Step #8. Know the New Testament Greek Lexical Meaning of the Word Psallo & Psalmos

a) Notice the evolution of the verb psallo which has its root from psao which meant “to rub, to wipe; to handle, to touch” without music attached to the word. Note the different stages and changes of meaning of the word: (Stage 1) “To pluck off; to pull out.” Note that music is still out of the meaning. (Stage 2) “to cause to vibrate by touching, to twang, to touch or to strike the chord, to twang the strings of musical instruments so that they gently vibrate” Note that vibration, an association with pleasing sound now comes out. (Stage 3) “to play on a stringed instrument, to play the harp.” Note that the meaning is entirely on the music produced by the physical instrument and singing is excluded. (Stage 4) “To sing to the music of the harp” Note that the two acts go together at this stage: vocal and instrumental. (Stage 5) “In the N.T. to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song, James 5:13 (R.V. sing praise; … in honor of God, Eph. 5:19 (here A.V. making melody); Romans 15:9, psallo to pneumatic, psalo de kai to noi – I will sing God’s praises indeed with my whole soul stirred and borne away by the Holy Spirit, but I will also follow reason as my guide, so that what I sing may be understood alike by myself and by the listeners, 1 Cor. 14:15.” Note: The mechanical instrument is now dropped off from the meaning at this stage; singing became the only activity meant in the word. (See Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, page 675)
b) Psalmos, meant “a striking, twanging , specifically a striking the chords of a musical instrument; hence a pious song, a psalm, Ephesians 5:19; Col. 3:16.” (See Thayer’s Lexicon, same page) Note that the “musical instrument” is not material, but the heart because the meaning now is simply “a pious song, a psalm.”

My explanation: Since the direct object of the action verb mentioned in Eph. 5:19 & Col. 3:16 is the heart, the musical instrument is the human heart; not any mechanical instrument like organ, guitar or trumpet. The longing of the human heart is expressed by singing, the fruit of the lips.

Step #9. Know the Typology of the Bible that Points to an Evolution from the Physical to the Spiritual Realm

Hebrews 10:1-3 teaches us the existence of shadows or types or representations and the antitypes or realities. The Mosaical Law was a teacher that led the Jews to Christ’s Law, the New Testament, which means there’s a change. Note some of the shadows and their realities:

a) OT Passover was a lamb or a goat, but NT Passover is Christ.

b) Day of Atonement to bring away Israel’s sins was a escape goat, but NT escape goat is Christ.

c) OT high priest came from Aaron’s family, but NT high priest is Christ from the tribe of Judah.

d) OT temple was a physical building, but NT temple is the church and individual bodies.

e) Israel’s goal was to reach the promised land of Canaan, but NT goal is heaven.

f) OT music included material musical instruments; but NT specifies the heart/lips.

g) To include in the NT worship the mechanical music maker of the OT is the same as going back to the OT Passover lamb, OT escape goat, OT high priest, OT temple, etc.

Step #10. Know the Early Historical Testimonies on Church Music

You may refer to the two articles of our brother Jack P. Lewis “Music and the Church Fathers” page 14 and “Music in Worship During the Reformation” page 16 of TRUTH FOR TODAY, March 2008. He quotes from historical books which give evidence that vocal music was the practice of early centuries. See also Marshall Clement Kurfees’ book “Instrumental Music in the Worship” and Guy Caskey’s booklet on the same subject.

Step #11. Know how to Use the Authority Diagram to Determine Biblical Acceptance

This is exemplified by J.D. Thomas’ diagram.

Step #12. Know how to Explain the Law of Specifics and Law of Exclusion on Religious Matters

a) The Law of Specifics could be stated like this: “Where an item of faith or religious practice is specifically authorized in a NT passage and no other item of the same level in the NT amends it in another passage, the specified item becomes exclusive. Example: Issue on divorce in Matt. 19:1-10. Are we free to add any other grounds?

b) Examples: (1) Mark 16:15-16 state that belief and baptism are items related to forgiveness of sins; but Acts 2:38 amends and adds repentance; Acts 22:16 further adds “calling on his name” as another item on the same level; therefore, all these should be taken together as acts required by God for the forgiveness of an alien sinner. On the other hand (2) Christ is mentioned as the “only begotten Son of God” – since there’s no one else mentioned in the NT as begotten Son of God, Christ remains to be believed as the exclusive Son of God and nobody else.

c) This is the case of “Singing” as the specified music in the church that becomes exclusive.

Step #13. Know the Danger of the expression “Anything not expressly prohibited in the New Testament, that thing is allowed.”

a) This statement would give liberty to every Bible teacher and religious leader to introduce any kind of belief and practice that is not expressly prohibited in the New Testament. Following have no expressed prohibition in the NT: Withholding the cup from the laity in RCC Lord’s Supper; canonized saints serving as mediators; the Pope as head of a universal church; the pope as the vicar of Christ on earth; Purgatory as an intermediate state of the dead; Limbo as an intermediate state of innocent dead children but non-Roman Catholics call these beliefs as errors because they are not found in the NT. Also claiming Muhammad as the last prophet, believing in Felix Manalo as the last messenger of God,
allowing Joseph Smith to add to the Bible the Book of Mormon as a basis of religious beliefs are not acceptable because they are not found in the Bible. Sprinkling as a form of baptism, having a special priesthood in the church, having cardinals as officers of the church are digressions because these are not in the NT.

b) What forbids me as a religious leader to add the following items to the Lord’s Supper observance: pizza, coke in can for each participant, fried chicken, etc.?

c) The above expression destroys the basic presumption of the Reformation Movement: “Sola Scriptura” and also contradicts the starting principle of the Restoration Movement: “Speak where the Bible speaks; be silent where the Bible is silent.”

d) Further, it destroys the authority of Christ recorded in John 12:42-50; 1 Cor. 4:6-7; Matt. 7:21-23.

e) Therefore, the expression “Anything not expressly prohibited in the New Testament, that thing is allowed” is dangerous and should be avoided as a principle in Biblical Interpretation.

(Note: I will give a more detailed discussion during the Northern Luzon Churches of Christ fellowship on April 10, 2009 in Baguio City.)