The Expository Files.

 God Said "Sing"!

When people visit our assembly and express their curiosity about our vocal music, I reply with this simple expression of our conviction: God said "sing." I make it clear that the absence of the man-made instruments is not a matter of economics (cannot afford one) or preference (we just like to sing). It goes much deeper than any "church of Christ" or "restoration" heritage or tradition. It has to do with faith and our desire to follow God's instructions. We are convinced He said "sing."

When a man offers a gift to his wife, the considerate thing to do is to offer a gift that will please her. She is the recipient of the gift. I may want a rifle, a new computer or a truck. But if I'm going to give something to her that she will appreciate, I will select something I believe will please her, not me.

As God's people, we want to offer worship to Him in response to His greatness and grace to us. In offering that worship, what's important? What I want, or what He wants? You will agree, the most important thing is what God wants. The right course to take is to offer that worship to God that I know will please Him.

How can I find out what pleases Him? I can consult His Word! I don't need to even consider human preferences, denominational practices, historical precedence or majority desire. If I want to know what pleases God I can read what He has said about worship, determined to worship Him in spirit and truth (Jno. 4:24).

This quest takes me to the New Testament. I want to know what the apostles of Christ did, since these were the men through whom the will of God was conveyed (1 Cor. 1:1; 1 Cor. 2:10-12). The apostles - in their practice and instruction - endorse only one kind of music in worship to God, vocal.

Paul and Silas, "at midnight . . . were praying and singing hymns to God," (Acts 16:25). To the church at Corinth Paul said, "sing with the understanding," (1 Cor. 14:15). He instructed the saints at Ephesus: "speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord," (Eph. 5:19). In another place he wrote: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord," (Col. 3:16). Is anyone cheerful? "Let him sing psalms," (Jas. 5:13).

Strange isn't it. All the years of controversy; all the debates, disputes and division. Then you open your Bible and focus on what God said. There is it: God said "sing."

Several generations ago, the founding fathers of some of the modern denominations could see this plainly and said so.

Martin Luther said, "An organ in the worship of God is an ensign of Baal." John Calvin stated "Musical instruments in the celebration of praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of other shadows of the who are fond of outward pomp may delight in such noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing." John Wesley put it this way; "I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither seen or heard." These statements are from the founders of the Lutheran, Reformed and Methodist churches! The greatest Baptist preacher of all time was Charles Spurgeon, who said; "I'd as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery."i They could see then what every Bible student should be willing to freely admit today. Adam Clarke (Methodist) said, "I am an old man, and an old minister; and I here declare that I never knew them productive of any good in the worship of God; and have had reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music, as a science, I esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God, I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music; and here I register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of the Author of Christianity," (Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 4, p.684).

God said "sing." This is serious because, "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son." (2 Jno. 9).

I am indebted to Wayne Wells for the historical quotations. Sources available upon request.

By Warren E. Berkley 
The Final Page
From Expository Files 4.10; October 1997