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The Early Historical View of Instrumental Music in Christian Worship

By Terry Benton.

With Reasons Its Use Was Abandoned

1. Clement (church father, Alexandria, AD 153-217)

The one instrument of peace, the Word alone by which we honor God,  is what we employ. We no longer employ the ancient psaltery, and trumpet, and timbrel, and flute.

2. Origen (church father, Alexandria), Commentaries on the Psalms
(3rd century)

The kithara is the active soul being moved by the commandments of God, the psalterion is the pure mind being moved by spiritual knowledge. The musical instruments of the Old Covenant understood spiritually are applicable to us.... The organ is the church of God composed of contemplative and active souls. The pleasant sounding cymbal is the active soul captured by the desire for Christ.

3. Eusebius (church historian/bishop, Palestine), Commentary on Psalm 91
 (4th century)

Of old at the time those of the circumcision were worshiping with symbols and types it was not inappropriate to send up hymns to God  with the psalterion and kithara and to do this on Sabbath days (breaking the rest and transgressing the law concerning the Sabbath). But we in an inward manner keep the part of the Jew, according to the saying of the apostle...(Romans 2:28f.). We render our hymn with a living psalterion and a living kithara, with spiritual songs. The unison voices of Christians would be more acceptable to God than any musical instrument. Accordingly in all the churches of God, united in soul and attitude, with one mind and in agreement of faith and piety, we send up a unison melody in the words of the Psalms.

4. John Chrysostom (church father, Eastern/Greek), Homily on Psalm 149
 (4th century).

It was only permitted to the Jews as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls. God condescended to their weakness, because they were lately drawn off from idols; but now, instead of organs, we may use our own bodies to praise him withal.... Instruments appertain not to Christians.

5. Erasmus  -In Novum Testamentum...Annotationes (1522)

We have brought into our churches a certain operose and theatrical music; such a confused, disorderly chattering of some words, as I hardly think was ever heard in any of the Grecian or Roman theatres. The church rings with the noise of trumpets, pipes and dulcimers;  and human voices strive to bear their part with them.... Men run to  church as to a theatre, to have their ears tickled. And for this end organ-makers are hired with great salaries, and a company of boys, who waste all their time in learning these whining tones.

6. John Calvin (Reformer, Geneva), Sermons on Second Samuel (1562)

It would be nothing but mimicry if we followed David today in singing with cymbals, flutes, tambourines and psalteries. In fact, the papists were seriously deceived in their desire to worship God with their pompous inclusion of organs, trumpets, oboes and similar instruments. That has only served to amuse the people in their vanity, and to turn them away from the true institution which God has ordained.... In a word, the musical instruments were in the same class as sacrifices, candelabra, lamps and similar things.... Those who take this approach are reverting to a sort of Jewishness, as if they wanted to mingle the Law and the Gospel, and thus bury our Lord Jesus Christ. When we are told that David sang with a musical instrument, let us carefully remember that we are not to make a rule of it. Rather, we are to recognize today that we must sing the praises of God in simplicity, since the shadows of the Law are past,  and since in our Lord Jesus Christ we have the truth and embodiment of all these things which were given to the ancient fathers in the time of their ignorance or smallness of faith.

Summary of Earliest Perspective

  • The Church of Christ Was Established IN The "Time of Reformation" – Heb.9:10
  • The Earthly Tabernacle Found Spiritual Reformation In The Church of Christ
  • The Earthly Furnishings And Instruments Found Spiritual Reformation In The Spiritual Temple, The Church
  • The Types & Shadows Were Replaced By The Spiritual Substance In Christ
  • The Church Is Subject To Christ And Only What He Authorizes

Why Some Today Use Instruments of Music In Worship

1. They Do Not See Any Harm In It

  • The Things of God Are Spiritually Discerned – 1 Cor.2:12-14
  • God’s Thoughts Are Higher Than Man’s Thoughts – Isa.55:8-9
  • David Saw No Harm In Carry The Ark On A New Cart -2 Sam.6:6-7; 1 Chron.15:13
  • Nadab & Abihu Saw No Harm In The Fire They Used – Lev.10:1-2
  • Some Things Are Morally Fine, But Religiously Objectionable – Like Washing Hands As A Religious Requirement – Mk.7:2-5
  • It Is Wrong To Impose Our Wishes To The Division of The Lord’s Church – Col.2; 1 Cor.1:10

2. They See It In The Old Testament

  • But, Fail To See That We Are Under Christ Who Now Has "All Authority" – Matt.28:18
  • They Fail To See The "Time of Reformation" Moves Us From The Earthly To The Spiritual – Heb.9:1-10
  • They Fail To Employ ALL The Things of The Old Testament  - Gal.5:1-4

3. They Think The Visions of Revelation Approves It

But, This Would Approve Us Having:

  • The Physical Temple – Rev.11:1; 3:12; 7:15; 15:5,8
  • The Physical Altar of Burnt Offerings -6:9; 8:5
  • The Physical Altar of Incense -8:3; 9:13
  • Gold Bowls Full of Incense – 5:8; 8:3
  • Olive Trees & Lamp Stand – 11:4
  • Signal Trumpets – 8:2,6; 9:14
  • Ark of the Covenant – 11:19
  • Physical Jerusalem For God’s Throne & Presence -21:2
  • As Well As The Instruments
  • Can We Rebuild The Temple & It’s Services???  If not, Why Not?

4. They View It As Just An Aid

  • Tools, hammers, saws, etc. were aids to Noah in fulfilling the command to build an ark of Gopher Wood. But, since the kind of wood was specified, then oak and pine would not "aid", but would be an "addition" to what God commanded.
  • Fruit of the vine and unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper can be "aided" by table, containers, trays, etc., but using lamb, bitter herbs, cola, and other foods do not aid but ADD to what God specified in the Lord’s Supper.
  • Likewise, singing with melody in heart can be aided by songs, songbooks, leader, pitch, etc.  But, since the command is sing, and the instrument specified is in the heart, then guitars, piano, drums, etc., are additions. We know the difference in singing and playing. Singing is specified.  A common song aided Paul and Silas in prison as they sang (Acts 16).  Instruments did not and would not aid, but would be another act, namely, "playing".

5. They Think "If Can Be Used In The Home, Why Not In The Church?"

    • Can Eat Common Meals At Home  -              1 Cor.11:17ff
    • Can Burn Incense For Fragrant Purposes
    • Can Light Candles For Light
    • Can Roast Lamb For Consumption
    • Can Play Music For Entertainment
    • Can Be Romantic With Wife/Husband

6. Think Using "Talents" Requires It

  • Some Make Statues Real Well – Use In Church?
  • Some Cook Mexican Food Real Well – Use On The Supper Table?
  • Some Are Acrobatic – Perform In Church?

Conclusion:

We Are In The Time of Reformation

  • The Earthly Has Been Replaced With Spiritual
  • The Church is Subject To Only Christ
  • We Cannot Act Without Proper Signal From Our Head
  • Instrumental Music Is No More Authorized Than Incense, Lamps, Altars of Burnt-Offerings, etc.

Are You Getting The Right Signal From Christ?

  • Are You Hearing Him? –Matt.17:5
  • Do You Believe Him? – Jno.8:24
  • Have You Repented Toward Him? –                  2 Cor.7:5f
  • Have You Confessed Him? – Rom.10:9
  • Have You Been Buried With Him In Baptism? – Rom.6:3-5

 

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