In the July 21, 2006 issue of The Birmingham News the headlines in the Religion section read, “Church offers hip-hop service to reach a younger generation.” The article related how April Richardson “…rapped, and churchgoers came to the front of the stage to dance…Soon dozens of people crowded around her moving to the beat…It was the first Sunday night service of ‘The Alternative Hip Hop Church.’” The founder of this movement, Steve Green, said “… he wants the new service to be an outreach to a younger generation fond of rap music but not necessarily interested in church.” This represents an extreme effort on the part of some to become all things to all people without any consideration being given to the teachings of the Bible.
The April 1, 2006 edition of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer included an article about recent efforts of some in the churches of Christ and the Independent Christian Church to reconcile with each other after 100 years of separation. The two religious groups were first recognized as being separated in the U.S. religious census of 1906. One of the major reasons for the split was over the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship. The Independent Christian Church embraced the use of the instrument in worship; whereas, churches of Christ did not regard their use as being authorized in the New Testament.
The common question among people like the religious rappers as well as members of the Independent Christian Church and some in churches of Christ who would like to reunite with the Christian Church is, “Does it really make any difference whether or not a mechanical instrument is used in worship to God? Should religious people be divided over something as insignificant as instruments?”
Undoubtedly, unity is a biblical and noble quest. Jesus prayed for it in John 17:20-21, “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us, that the world may believe that Thou didst send me” (NASV). The apostle Paul commended unity when he wrote, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). We ask, however, should unity be sought after at the expense of truth?
There are several specious arguments made to support the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship. First is the SILENCE ARGUMENT. The argument simply states, “The Bible does not forbid instruments.” The conclusion reached is that if the Bible does not specifically condemn instruments, then it is permissible to use them. Is that a fallacious argument, or is it true? It can be seen in the example of Nadab and Abihu that man is not permitted to do something merely because it is not specifically condemned. God had specifically instructed the priests regarding the fire that was to be used in the sacrifices (cf. Leviticus 16:12). These men, however, offered unauthorized fire and lost their lives as a result (Leviticus 10:1-2). When God is specific about a matter, man is not permitted to do as he pleases. Walking by faith necessitates Biblical authority (cf. Romans 10:17). Those who introduce as worship to God things on which the Bible is silent, walk by opinion and not by faith. The proper question to ask is where does God authorize using mechanical instruments of music in worship?
Second is the HOME ARGUMENT that says, “We use instruments in our home, why not in worship?” There are some things a person can do in his home that is not proper in public worship (1 Corinthians 11:22). In other words, some things are domestically right, but religiously wrong. It is permissible to kill, cook, and eat chicken at home, but not in worship.
Some appeal to the OLD TESTAMENT ARGUMENT to justify the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship. The argument is, “David used instruments and he was a man after God’s own heart; so, why can’t we use them?” It is true that David and his contemporaries used instruments, but the Law from God under which he lived has been done away (Colossians 2:14). When Jesus died at Calvary the new covenant was enacted (Hebrews 9:15-17) which does not authorize mechanical instruments in worship.
The HEAVEN ARGUMENT is used by some saying, “Instruments will be used in heaven; so why can’t we use them on earth?” Revelation 14:2 is frequently used by proponents of the use of mechanical instruments in worship, but a close examination of the passage does not support their argument. Notice that the text says the voice heard from heaven was “like” the sound of harpists playing on their harps. The verse also says the voice was “like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder.” The author was merely telling us what the voice sounded like, not necessarily what would actually be in heaven.
The AIDS ARGUMENT states that “an instrument is an aid, like a song book is an aid.” An expedient aids the performance of an instruction, but it ceases to be an expedient when it changes the instruction. A song book aids in accomplishing the purpose of singing which is authorized by God (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19). The use of mechanical instruments is an addition, not an aid, to the kind of music that is authorized by God. Instruments make a different kind of music; hence, they add a new form of worship. There can be no scriptural way to do an unscriptural thing.
“Playing an instrument is a way in which people use the talent God has given them” is the line of reasoning used in the TALENTS ARGUMENT. If merely the possession of a talent authorizes the use of that talent in worship, why specify anything? Everything classified as a talent could then be used in worship. That would open the proverbial “Pandora’s box” to the practice of many things in worship.
There are some who say that worship is not a regulated activity. This is the NON-REGULATED ARGUMENT. However, there are plain instructions in the New Testament regulating corporate worship (e.g., 1 Corinthians 11:17-34) and the use of mechanical instruments is not among them. Singing is authorized (Colossians 3:16). Instruments cannot speak, teach, admonish, give thanks, praise, proclaim, confess, or make melody on the heart. All of these things can be accomplished when we sing, but none of it can be fulfilled by the use of an instrument. Christ nowhere commanded the use of instruments; no apostle sanctioned them; no New Testament penman ever taught their use; and, no apostolic church ever used them in worship.
The issue of mechanical instruments being used in worship is far greater than the instrument itself. It really has to do with the issue of authority. In religious matters, the only two choices available to us is divine authority or human authority. There is no other. Either the use of instruments in worship is from man or it is from God. If from God, then to oppose their use or to divide over it is ungodly and unspiritual. If from man, then their use amounts to spiritual haughtiness and rebellion.
Divine authority for any action settles the matter whether we accept it or not. The proper question to ask is, “Where does God authorize the use of instruments of music in worship in the New Testament?” Such authorization is nowhere to be found. That settles it and makes all the difference in the world!