Where is your organ?

I usually don’t do posts on worship, but this one caught my attention.  Ken forwarded me an E-Mail that he received.  He has no idea how he got onto this mailing list.  This denomination does not believe that any musical instruments should be used for New Testament believers to worship God with, not to mention they shouldn’t be allowed in any church building either.  They have some scriptures they use to back their case up as well.  Here are some portions of the E-Mail.
Where is your organ?

This question is personal for me. Some 30 years ago when I first visited a church of Christ I made the assumption that they couldn’t afford musical instruments. I liked the people so I actually started trying to figure out how to raise the money to buy an organ. Then I found out they didn’t want one!  I asked some of the usual questions like, "Don’t you like instrumental music?" They responded, "Does God want instrumental music?" Each time I raised questions of preference, these godly people asked me what the Bible taught finally dawned on me that they were asking the right questions!

What does the Bible teach? Answer: Firstly, Peter demands that if you practice something you must be able to explain it…"Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always {being} ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence." I Peter 3:15.  Peter also requires that when it comes to godly things… "Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God." I Peter 4:11. In other words, when I wish to do something in the name of God, I need to be able to explain it from the word of God.

Okay, we’re good so far.  It is important to go to the scriptures and be able to give a reason for the things that we do or don’t do.

So, what does the Bible teach concerning music? Well, it exhorts Christians to be "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." Ephesians 5:19-20

Notice that we are to sing making melody with the heart. This is different from the OT isn’t it? We are NT Christians not OT Jews! In the NT there is a profound emphasis on the heart rather than ritual in worship. Through Jesus, we are admonished to "continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." Hebrews 13:15

Here we have a false dichotomy between Old Testament worship and New Testament worship.  Since the author of this E-Mail uses the word "praise" in conjunction with worship, let’s do a little study in the Old Testament on the word praise.  Is it used in the Old Testament to refer to something that happens in the heart?

Psalm 9:1 ~ I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.

Psalm 28:7 ~ The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

Psalm 108:1 O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory. 2 Awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. 3 I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: and I will sing praises unto thee among the nations.

So first off, to say that the emphasis in the New Testament with worship and praise being in the heart is different than the Old Testament, is to ignore the Old Testament scriptures on what it was about at that time.  The worship of the heart in the Old Testament was accomanied by musical instruments according to the instructions of God.  Just because those musical instruments were used in the Old Testament does not mean that worship was not happening in the heart.

Are you aware of the oldest known reference to instrumental music and Christianity? In 139 A.D., Justin Martyr stated the following about Christian singing: "Plain singing is not childish, but only the singing with lifeless organs, with dancing and cymbals, etc. Whence the use of such instruments and other things fit for children are laid aside, and plain singing only retained."

#1- This is not scripture they are quoting.  #2 – The reason for not wanting to be identified with certain types of singing or dancing may very well be a cultural issue.  If there were pagan practices identifying themselves with other religions as they danced, sang, and played instruments in a certain way, then certainly the Christians leaders would admonish Christians to not partake.  We can’t be sure of the cultural implications of what Justin Martyr is speaking about.

Justin is explaining why Christians did not use "lifeless" instruments in worship under the New Testament. Justin echoes Paul’s assessment: "Things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp." I Corinthians 14:7)

This verse is being taken completely out of context here.  The context is that of speaking in tongues.  Only if those who are hearing can understand what is being said will it be of any value.  Then Paul gives an example of musical instruments to illustrate what is meant by understanding what is being sounded.  If musical instruments do not give distinct sounds to understand the melody, no one will know what has been "piped" or "harped".  The implication here is not that using musical instruments is wrong, but a definite possibility for New Testament believers as long as they are used in a way that communicates grace to the hearers.  Simply because they are described as "without life giving sound" does not mean that there is a prohibition on using instruments in New Testament worship services.  It simply means they are "without-a-soul sounders", which distinguishes the flow of thought as Paul has been speaking about actual human voices speaking in tongues.  But we would certainly agree that musical instruments have no life (soul) of their own.

What is {the outcome} then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. I Corinthians 14:15.

This interpretation goes against the grain of everything in the Bible.  Whatever interpretation we have of singing here, we must also apply to prayer.  If we interpret this the way this denomination does, we must come to the conclusion that no singing be done out loud so others can here, since it only happens in the spirit.  Can we say the same about prayer?  Of course not.  The New Testament is filled with examples of those who prayed aloud.

This verse has been misapplied sometimes, but there is a great truth here. "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."  II Corinthians 3:17.  The truth is that there is a freedom when we worship the LORD in spirit and in truth.  The entire passage is speaking of the Old Testament veil being done away with in Christ.  When that happens there is an awesome freedom that the Holy Spirit gives us.

To sum up, there is nothing in the New Testament to prohibit believers from worshiping with instruments.  Further, there is nothing to prevent an assembly from having a musical instrument to praise God with in a building dedicated for Christ’s service.  I think the LORD is quite pleased with those who are using their gifts and talents to praise and worship God with musical instruments.

My biggest problem with the stance here is not that they don’t want instruments in their churches, but that they relegate huge portions of scripture as being completely inapplicable to the church simply because they are in the Old Testament.  Gentile believers have been grafted in to spiritual Israel.  Our new heritage in the Messiah is an Israelite heritage.  Those Old Testament scriptures DO apply.  And since we have countless scriptures in the Old Testament commanding us to praise the LORD with musical instruments, we are compelled to do so.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P.S.  Some prophecy scholars try to do the same thing with scriptures.  They take huge portions of scriptures and relegate them as being completely inapplicable to the church.  I’ll most likely deal with that as well.  Someday.

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One Response to Where is your organ?

  1. Jim says:

    As soon as I read: "Notice that we are to sing making melody with the heart. This is different from the OT isn’t it? We are NT Christians not OT Jews! In the NT there is a profound emphasis on the heart rather than ritual in worship," I stopped. I\’m not sure how to say this without being offensive to the original author of the email, but that statement is totally unbiblical and demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the Scriptures.
    False dichotomy indeed.

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