I. As we look at the denominations around us, we find that the vast majority use musical instruments in their worship services.
A. Oddly, we don’t. Why not? What harm would there be in using them? Why can’t we be like those around us?
B. I heard a similar reasoning before - I Sam. 8:4-7. We want a king like everyone else.
C. Following the crowd is not enough reason.
II. What kind of music did God ask for?
A. New Testament music
1. Matt 26:30 - They sung a hymn, Mark 14:26
2. Acts 16:25 - Paul and Silas sang in jail
3. Rom. 15:9 - I will sing to your name
4. I Cor. 14:15 - I will sing with spirit and understanding
5. Eph. 5:19 - Sing and make melody to the Lord
6. Col. 3:16 - Sing with grace in your hearts to God
7. Heb. 2:12 - I will sing Christ’s praise in the congregation
8. James 5:13 - If you are cheerful, sing praise
B. There are no verses indicating that the New Testament church used instrumental music
III. What kind of music did the early church use?
A. These Biblical verses should be sufficient, but it sometimes we can affirm what we know is true through history.
B. Instrumental Music in the Worship, M.C. Kurfees, 1950 - “We know that instruments preformed an important function in the Hebrew temple service and in the ceremonies of the Greeks. At this point, however, a break was made with all previous practice, and although the lyre and flute were sometimes employed by the Greek converts, as a general rule the use of instruments in worship were condemned. Many of the fathers, speaking of religious song, make no mention of instruments; others, like Clement of Alexandria and St. Chrysostom, refer to them only to denounce them.”
C. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Samuel Macauley Jackson - “Because the organ was a means of enjoyment by society in general, its use was rejected in early Christian circles.”
D. A History of the Christian Church, Lars P. Qualben - “Singing formed an essential part of the Christian worship, but it was in unison and without musical accompaniment.”
E. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, John M’Clintock - During later periods, “neither Ambrose, nor Basil, nor Chrysostom in the noble encomiums which they severally pronounced upon music make any mention of instrumental music. Basil indeed, expressly condemns it as ministering only to the depraved passions of men . . . Even Gregory the Great, who towards the end of the sixth century added greatly to the existing church music, absolutely prohibited the use of instruments.”
F. Do we see a pattern here? The fact that the New Testament was silent on the matter of instruments was taken as a commandment by early Christians to forbid the use of musical instruments in worship.
IV. So why is it used today?
A. Various attempts are mentioned in history at introducing musical instruments into the worship.
1. The earliest mention attempt was by Clement in Alexandria during the second century where he suggested substituting the harp to prevent the use of the wordly sounding flute. As the earlier quotes show, this move was rejected by the church as a whole.
2. “Pope Vitalian is related to have introduced organs into some of the churches in Southern Europe about A.D. 670, ...” Pepin, the king of the Franks, then placed one into the Church of St. Corneille at Compeigne and Charlemagne had one installed at Aix-la-Chapelle. Upon its introduction, it nearly threatened division in the Roman Catholic Church, so it was removed to preserve the unity of the church.
3. It was later introduced a second time and the objections were ignored and overridden.
B. What is the Church of Christ?, V.E. Howard - “In the Greek church, the organ never came into use [though it has been added recently], but after the eighth century it became common in the Latin church, not, however, without opposition form the side of the Monks -- the reform church discarded it; and though the church of Basil very early introduced it, it was in other places admitted only sparingly and after long hesitations.”
C. Notice the introduction was gradual, having to overcome many objections.
D. Jackson - “Smaller organs were at first employed before singing classes, especially in cloisters, to fix the correct tune.”
E. “It was used in the churches, first, to give the key-tone, then to accompany vocal music alternatively, and finally also to prefix a prelude a hymn.”
V. History repeats itself
A. “In the Dallas Morning News of June 3, 1995, an article by Helen Parmley reported that many churches of Christ are interjecting mechanical music into their worship assemblies. An interview with the ‘Music Minister of the Farmer’s Branch Church of Christ’ revealed that this church has begun the use of mechanical instruments of music in their worship.
“This article also reported that other churches of Christ in the Dallas area have begun using mechanical music in their special programs but have not moved them into the worship assemblies for fear of alienating older, more traditional thinking members. The music director of another large Dallas church, who asked not to be named, said, ‘We are moving ahead. The banning of musical instruments is more of a tradition than something based on Scripture.’
B. Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like a repeat of the actions taken during the seventh century?
VI. Is accapella singing, which by the way means “in the style of the church”, just a tradition?
A. We noted at the beginning that the only style of music mentioned in the New Testament in connection with worship is singing.
B. The Bible claims to contain every good work - II Tim. 3:16-17, II Pet. 1:3.
C. The Bible warns us to prove all things and all people - I Thess. 5:21-22, I John 4:1
D. The Bible tells us to speak only as God would have us speak - I Pet. 4:11
E. To go beyond God’s teaching is to abandon him - II John 9, Gal. 1:6-10