by Patrick Andrews
Two weeks ago, at the request of a friend, I wrote a poem about Beulah Land. Someone commented on that poem recently and after I finished reading the comment, I listened again to the song that I had copied to my post. This song was written over a hundred years ago. The words speak of an indescribably beautiful land, beyond this life. It is a beautiful song. This song that I copied was sung a cappella by a group known as “The Table Singers”.
When the song ended, another version of the same song popped up. An African man, named Khana Mhlongo was sitting at a piano and he started singing “Beulah Land”. This man has a beautiful voice and accent. I was drawn in again by the words of this beautiful song.
When he finished singing the chorus to the first verse, he started singing in an African language that I had never heard before. All of a sudden it hit me; I could now hear the piano. I was almost oblivious to it before because the words of the song were plucking on the strings of my heart.
I was cognizant that Mr. Mhlongo was playing it before, but those sounds weren’t taking root; only the words that he was singing. Now that he was singing words that I could not understand, the piano became dominant. There is a lesson in this!
As these thoughts were running through my mind, I started singing along with Mr. Mhlongo. He was singing in his native language and I was singing in mine. I didn’t understand a word he was singing, but when I started singing in English, the piano became nothing more than a tinkling cymbal. Try this out yourself and you will see what I’m talking about.
Maybe this is why the New Testament is silent when it comes to using instrumental music in worship to God. The sounds of an instrument do nothing to teach me. They do nothing to comfort me. They do not encourage me and they do not paint pictures on my heart of redemption, atonement, salvation, the resurrection, or what Beulah Land is going to be like. It’s the words of the songs that do all of that, not the plucking of strings.
There are only nine verses in the New Testament that speak of music (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25; Romans 15:9; I Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12; and James 5:13). Look at each of these verses and you will see that the only type of music that is mentioned is singing.
"What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" (I Corinthians 14:15).
"Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19).
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16).
You will never teach anyone about God by banging on a banjo, gyrating with a guitar or plucking on a piano. However; people can be led to Christ by others who are singing praises to God (Acts 16:25-30). We encourage one another in song. We build one another up in song. We comfort one another in song. We give one another hope in song, etc. etc. It’s the words that we are singing that do all these things.
There are no musical instruments mentioned in New Testament worship. They were not only allowed in Old Testament worship, sometimes they were commanded. That just tells me that God was and is aware that mechanical instruments exist. The New Testament is silent about them. If you want to add them to your worship, you are going to have to step outside the boundaries of the New Testament. That is something that I wouldn’t want to be caught dead doing.
"Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son" (II John 1:9 ASV).