Robert Prater asked,
Would you refute the view advocated by Ferguson and Hicks that the early church’s nonuse of IM is that instruments were a divinely prescribed part of temple worship that was superseded by the “higher worship instituted by Christ?”
Surely isn’t that enough authority for us to follow in just singing as the early church were instructed and practiced??
I’d like to consider what the scriptures say about our “higher” worship. We start with a favorite proof text of the conservative Churches of Christ —
(Col 2:20-23) Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Paul was challenging false teachers who wanted the Colossians to worship through asceticism. Paul denies that true worship is found in refraining from the use of things that “perish with use” — that is, that wear out.
Greek thought was heavily influenced by the writings of Plato, who argued that the spiritual is good and the material is evil. Therefore, the false teachers argued that we please God by avoiding worship with material things.
Paul called this “self-imposed worship” or, in the KJV, “will worship.”
We next turn to —
(Heb 9:1, 9-12) Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. … 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
The Hebrews writer argues that worship under the Law of Moses was flawed because it involved “regulations for worship” and items “made with hands” that are a part of this creation.
Notice the paradox. Colossians says we should not refuse to worship with created things. Hebrews says that worship with created things is so inadequate that God had to send Jesus to be our perfect high priest to secure eternal redemption through his own blood.
Here’s the solution to the riddle. Hebrews is speaking of worship that saves — that earns redemption — and only Jesus’ offering of his own blood for us in heaven saves. Nothing else will do.
Paul is speaking of worship that saved people do to honor God. And, of course, we worship with things that perish with use. What doesn’t? We reject the false Greek philosophy that says that created things are evil and unworthy (and which led to Gnosticism), and we instead adopt the Biblical teaching that —
(1 Tim 4:4b) nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
Again, Paul rejects asceticism and the idea that God is pleased by our rejection of fleshly things just because of their fleshly nature.
Yes, we are not saved by created things, and the worship that saves us is the worship offered by the Son of God in heaven — far removed from the corruption of this world. But until the end of time, Paul plainly teaches in Colossians that it’s wrong — indeed, will-worship — to reject the created things of this world for worship because of their materiality.
After all, our bodies wear out with using. I speak from experience. So do our buildings and hymn books. And our voices. They all perish with using.
There is no scriptural justification for declaring words and hymns made by the art of man “higher” and instruments of music made by the art of man “lower.” After all, there was singing under the Law of Moses, too.
Does that mean we still offer animal sacrifices to God? No — the former system has been replaced — indeed, fulfilled — by the sacrifice of Jesus. But we still worship, because of who God is and who we are — and because of the Spirit compels us.
(Phi 3:3) For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—
It’s the work of the Spirit in our hearts that drives us to worship — not external regulations. We put no confidence in the flesh — not in our bodies, our voices, or our handiwork. Our confidence is in the resurrected Jesus.
We no longer come to temple to seek forgiveness. Rather, we have obtained forgiveness, and that fact drives us to worship. But it’s a material, fleshly worship that earns us nothing — and cannot be good enough to earn us anything.