Thursday, February 22, 2018 5781 visits to this site
Church Music

Pianos, organs, bands, and orchestras are commonly used in churches today.  Yet, all the major denominations rejected instrumental music until recent generations, and several (e.g. Orthodox churches) still object to it.  The musical term for singing without instruments is a cappella, which, in Italian, means "in the style of the chapel."  In past years, it was common knowledge that church music was vocal while secular music was instrumental  Until the 1500's, Catholic church music was predominantly a cappella.  Protestants generally sang a cappella until the nineteenth century.  Consider the following quotes:

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) — Baptist
"I would as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery."
John Wesley (1703-1791) — Methodist
"I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen."
John Calvin (1509-1564) — Protestant, formerly Catholic
"Musical Instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law."
Martin Luther (1483-1546) — Lutheran, formerly Catholic
"The organ in the worship service is a sign of Baal."
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) — Catholic
"Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize."

If we accept Jesus as our Lord and the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23), then we will seek his will concerning church worship.  Here are the New Testament passages dealing with music.
Singing & making melody in our hearts Ephesians 5:19
Singing with grace in our hearts Colossians 3:16
Sacrifice of praise = fruit of lips Hebrews 13:15
Sing with the spirit & understanding 1 Corinthians 14:15
Sing praise James 5:13
Jesus and disciples sang a hymn Matthew 26:30
Paul and Silas sang hymns in prison Acts 16:25

Church music has two objectives—praising God and teaching/admonishing one another (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19; Hebrews 13:15).  While musical instruments can communicate emotion, they can neither teach nor admonish.  Concerning worship services, Paul stressed the importance that church members understand prayers, songs, and prophecies (1 Corinthians 14:15-17).  If unintelligible words, though spoken with sincerity, are of no use to the church, how could unintelligible musical notes be of any use to the church?  Are musical instruments added to church worship to accomplish God's objectives—or are they added for personal pleasure?

Only in the Old Testament is instrumental music found in worship (i.e. Psalms 92, 149 & 150).  Yet, the Old Covenant has served its purpose and has been replaced with the New (Galatians 5:2-4; Acts 15:28-29; Hebrews 10:1-10).  After all, the Old Testament was a mere "copy and shadow" (Hebrews 8:5) and "carnal ordinances imposed until a time of reformation" (Hebrews 9:9-10).  Paul expressed great concern when Christians tried to introduce Old Testament worship into the church (Colossians 2:16-17; Galatians 4:9-11).

Even though instrumental music was a part of Old Testament worship, it was strictly regulated by God just like the animal sacrifices and feast days.  God instructed Moses to make two silver trumpets to be played by the priests as signals and during sacrifices (Numbers 10:1-10).  No other instrumental music was commanded until the ark was permanently stationed in Jerusalem in the days of David, some 400 years later.  At that point, the Levites' tabernacle duties (Numbers 1:49-51; 4:15-33) become obsolete, so God instructed David to assign them new duties, including a temple choir and orchestra (1 Chronicles 6:31-48; 15:16-28; 25:1-8).  The sons of Asaph, Heman, and Ethan (Jeduthan) were appointed this service (2 Chronicles 5:12-13; 29:12-15; 2 Chronicles 35:15).  David made instruments specifically for temple use (1 Chronicles 23:5) just as the holy articles were made by Moses centuries earlier.  These "instruments of David" were used at least 400 years, mentioned in the days of David (1 Chronicles 16:42), Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:6), Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:25-30), and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 12:45-46).  In subsequent centuries, it was noted the music was according to the commandment of David, underscoring how acts of worship must be divinely authorized (2 Chronicles 35:15; Ezra 3:10; Nehemiah 12:45-46) .  Moses and David were the human rulers who organized temple worship per God's wishes.

instruments of David played by sons of Asaph by commandment of David

is exactly parallel to

holy articles used by sons of Aaron by commandment of Moses

God expects to be "sanctified" in his worshipers by having his wishes honored (Leviticus 10:1-3).  In the Old Testament, temple musicians worshiped by the authority of Moses, David and the prophets.  Let us worship by the authority of Christ.  They sang and made melody with the instruments crafted by David.  Let us sing and make melody with superior instruments crafted by God alone—our hearts!

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