A Debate on Instrumental Music, Part 1

Angel with harpWell, following my back surgery, I’m finally off narcotics. I’m not sure whether I’m thinking more or less clearly. But I’m sure having some strange dreams!

I was still reflecting on that Christian Chronicle ad as this dream came to me. Two men were debating the issue, a supporter of instrumental music (Mr. IM) and a supporter of exclusively a cappella music (Mr. AC). The two men seem to have been friends, so this debate was more pleasant than most.

IM seemed intent on coming up with a book, chapter, and verse argument for instrumental music for some reason.

AC: I appreciate your inviting me to lunch to discuss your views on instrumental music. As you know, this is a subject that’s been very close to my heart for a long time, and I’m sure I can answer any questions you might have.

IM: Thanks. I know you’re busy. I just wanted to run a few ideas past you and see where I might be in error.

AC: Sure. I love a good Bible discussion! Fire away!

IM: OK. Let’s start with Ephesians 5:18-21. That’s the passage used in the ad, right?

AC: You remember well, my friend. It’s a central proof passage.

IM: And it’s about congregation worship, right?

AC: I think so. That’s what the ad said. Clearly, Paul was writing to people singing to each other–not in the shower!

IM: Well, I’m not so sure myself, but for purposes of this discussion, I’ll agree with your interpretation. OK?

AC: Sure.

IM: Verses 19-20 say, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now, I think we both agree that “psalms” is a reference to the Psalms in the Old Testament written by David and others, right?

AC: Right. I think I know where you’re headed …

IM: Let me make my point and then you can jump all over me.

In classical Greek, “psallo” meant to play an instrument or to sing to the accompaniment of an instrument, right?

AC: Again, you know I’ve heard this all before …

IM: Please be patient with me. Just let me get the words out.

Now, I think you a cappella guys have pretty convincingly shown that by the First Century, psallo meant to sing. It’s neutral as to whether an instrument is involved. So the command “to sing” or to psallo says nothing about the instrument.

AC: You must have read one of my tracts!

IM: But the Old Testament books got their names from the Septuagint, right? I mean the names go back centuries before Christ. In fact, the names may well predate the Septuagint, going back to when Greek became the international language following Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Middle East, including Palestine.

AC: So?

IM: Well, “psalmos” or “psalm” as applied to the Psalms is much, much older than the First Century. In fact, it goes back to a time when psallo referred to singing with an instrument. Psalmos is just the noun form. As used as a name for the poetry of David, it actually refers to verse written to be sung to instrumental accompaniment. That’s the meaning of “psalm” as applied to the Psalms.

Therefore, when Paul implores the Ephesians to sing “psalms” he means the word in the Old Testament sense. He quite literally was saying “sing songs written to be played to instrumental accompaniment”!

Or we could the definition from Strong’s Dictionary: sing “a sacred ode accompanied with the voice, harp or other instrument”!

AC: Well, the Psalms were originally written for the temple service, and God commanded that instruments be used there. But that no more applies to New Testament worship than the commands to sacrifice bulls and goats found in the Psalms. You really are comparing apples and oranges.

IM: No, I’m just doing a word study to see what Paul told the Ephesian church to do. He told them to sing psalms, and psalms were written to be sung to an instrument. The very word carries that meaning!

AC: It’s just such a contrived theory. He said “sing” not “rock out”!

IM: I never suggested such a thing, but there’s more.

He also said they should “speak to one another” using psalms. We often ignore the impact of this phrase. We assume that the singing is unto God only, but the songs are in fact instruction given by one Christian to another. Isn’t that right?

AC: Well, it’s both. Some songs are purely vertical, that is, directed to God, but some have a horizontal component, where we speak to each other.

IM: I think you’re right, but in this passage, Paul was emphasizing the horizontal nature of Christian hymnody. It’s not just sing to please God. It’s sing in order to instruct your brother. Right?

AC: Right.

IM: Well, let’s look at what instructions the Psalms give.

The last psalm, Psalm 150, says,

(Psa. 150) Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. 2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. 3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, 4 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, 5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

These are the words Christians are commanded to speak to one another. These are instructions from God!

Now, it would be easy to argue that these psalms died with the temple worship, except that Paul commanded the church to speak to one another in these very words.

And I know you know that there are dozens of Psalms like this that urge the listeners to use instruments to bring glory to God!

AC: This is just too much! There are Psalms that command us to sacrifice animals! Are you suggesting that we have to do that? For example,

(Psa. 66:13-15) I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you– 14 vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. 15 I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats. Selah

IM: No. You make a good point. But we have to be disciplined about which parts of the Psalms we keep and which we treat as abrogated by the New Testament.

The New Testament tells us that the sacrificial system has been replaced by the sacrifice of Jesus–and by our sacrifices of good works and praise to Jesus. Therefore, we’ve been specifically told that the sacrificial system is over.

But we’ve not been told that the use of instruments is over. And we can’t just assume that to be true. Rather, if God tells me to teach my brother by commanding him to worship with instruments, that seems to be what I’m to do–unless something else proves otherwise.

But I’m arguing from the very passage on which you’ve built your case for a cappella music. And I’ve shown an argument–a persuasive one, I think–showing authority for instruments, indeed, a command. And your whole argument hinges on the absence of authority.

AC: But you can’t be right! I mean, the history of the Christian Ch …

IM: Shush!!

AC: But according to histo …

IM: Shush!!!

AC: Don’t you shush me! I’ve politely listened to your arguments. Now you need to listen to mine!

IM: No, I don’t. We came to study the Bible. You’re not talking about the Bible. If you want to argue from history, then I’ll tell you what Luther said on the subject, or countless church councils, or what great evangelists said. I mean, I’ve got history, too.

But history is completely beside the point, isn’t it. Aren’t you all the people who claim to be silent where the Bible is silent?

AC: Yes, but …

IM: Shush! Be silent. Be true to your principles, if you really believe in them. I’m willing to play by your rules, which I think is more than fair. My church has no such tradition. But I think there’s great wisdom in what you all teach. I’m just asking you to be true to who you say you are.

I mean, until you start binding Justin Martyr and Tertullian into the back of your Bibles as the Church of Christ apocrypha and declare these men inspired and mistakenly left out of the canon, you just can’t make that argument.

AC: [Lost in thought.]

You’re right. But doesn’t it bother you. I mean, I know you. You’ve read the arguments. You know that for 1,000 years the Western churches were a cappella and the Orthodox Churches remain a cappella even today. Doesn’t that concern you at all?

IM: No, it just doesn’t. There are two reasons.

First, I just don’t think we can pick our principles depending on the arguments we want to make. If it’s the Bible only, then it’s the Bible only. I’ve seen the many heresies taught by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches relying on those same uninspired authors, and don’t want to make the same mistakes!

I don’t think I’m wise enough to decide which uninspired teachings are apostolic and which are not. I think true humility is trusting God to tell us all we need to know in the pages of his Bible.

Second, it’s entirely possible that the a cappella tradition of the early church was based on reasons that no longer apply–and thus weren’t preserved in scripture.

We know from pre-New Testament history that the Jewish synagogues were a cappella, because the rabbis wanted to carefully distinguish synagogue worship from temple worship–to make clear that the worship in the synagogue in no way replaced the temple services.

We also know that the early church designed their early assemblies around the synagogue pattern. But this was a man-made pattern. It was designed to serve a time and place. God had no say in the pattern of synagogue worship.

The earliest Christian churches were made up entirely of Jews. It’s hardly surprising they were a cappella. Why change a practice with deep cultural roots?

As Gentiles were added to the church, Jews were also part of the assemblies. Again, why change practice?

And we know that some early Christian writers explained the rationale for a cappella music as an effort to distinguish their worship from the animalistic, sensual worship common in the pagan religions.

But both of these rationales were based on the local culture. We no longer need to yield to the scruples of a Jewish element in our churches. In fact, even Jews we convert usually come from an instrumental tradition.

In modern culture, instrumental music can certainly be animalistic! But it can also be ethereal and Godly. Some of my deepest moments of worship and reflection have been while listening to Ormandy’s orchestral transcriptions of Bach’s Christian music or Handel’s Messiah. For that matter, I love DC Talk and Jars of Clay (most of it! I hate the rap.)

I have no idea what First Century music was like, but I know that modern instrumental music can be the furthest thing from animalistic! Some is deeply spiritual–much more spiritual than some that Stamps-Baxter quartet music you made me listen to the other week!

AC: I love Stamps-Baxter, but that’s because I grew up with it. I’ll admit, it’s out of step with modern styles. But it reminds me of visiting my grandparents’ old church, dinner on the grounds …

IM: Well, that’s my point. We can’t tell someone that their taste in music is wrong. I mean, if Stamps-Baxter [visibly shudders] brings you closer to God, then it just does. It’s like fingernails on chalkboard to me.

But if I tell you that my church’s instrumental music helps be feel closer to God, helps me worship better, you can’t deny that–regardless of what some uninspired Christian writer said.

I mean, I know how the music affects people in my congregation. I’ve been there, felt it, seen it–seen the impact on the lives of my friends. It’s just presumptuous beyond words to say that our music is evil or creates animalistic thoughts. It doesn’t! And you’re welcome to visit sometime to see for yourself.

AC: Okay. Like I said, I have to concede the historical argument. But your interpretation of Ephesians still seems forced to me. What else have you got?

IM: I agree. I mean, I think it’s right, but there’s a better way to present the case. It’s always better to reason from larger principles and to try to avoid getting caught up in Greek definitions and such. Not that that’s wrong, but you keep yourself from making mistakes if you consider the big picture first and foremost.

AC: We are in agreement.

IM: OK. I was reading N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian the other day …

AC: One of my favorite authors, by the way.

IM: I’m glad we agree.

Wright speaks of the role of Christians and the church being to bring heaven closer to earth. The two won’t be fully joined until the End, but until then, we are to work with God to bring them closer.

The Bible begins with the Garden of Eden and ends with the Revelation. In several passages, the Revelation speaks of heaven as the new Eden.

For example, in 22:2, 4, and 14, we are told the “tree of life” is in heaven. Well, if it’s there, it was transplanted from Eden (Gen. 2:7, 3:22,24).

After the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, man was separated from God. Jesus came to undo the curse and begin restoring the world to Eden.

(Rom. 8:20-22) For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

(1 Cor. 15:21-26) For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

You know all this. It’s not controversial in most contexts. But here’s the point.

Heaven is the new Eden, the culmination of the work of Christ in redeeming not only mankind, but the creation itself.

Therefore, when we read about heaven, we are seeing the end to which all Christians are to be working–not to be saved (we’ve already been saved), but to work as Christ’s body on earth to help redeem a fallen creation.

And when we read John’s description of heaven in the Revelation, we read of God being worshiped with instruments.

AC: I know. This is just such an old, tired argument. It’s true, but it’s symbolic. It’s language borrowed from the Kingdom of Israel. It no more means that we should worship with instruments than that we should use incense or other emblems of the old order.

IM: Maybe. Let’s read the actual passages and see if your argument holds–

(Rev. 5:8) And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Here, incense is said to be symbolic, but no such thing is said regarding the use of harps to worship God. Why one and not the other?

(Rev. 14:2-5) And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5 No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.

In this description of instrumental music, it’s a characteristic of the totally “pure” and “blameless.” And this doesn’t sound like a reference back to temple worship.

(Rev. 15:2-5) And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God 3 and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. 4 Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” 5 After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened.

Here, the harps were given by God to those worshiping him. Clearly, the harps were approved by God!

And while they sang the song of Moses, they also sang the song of the Lamb, so this is speaking of worship after Jesus’ sacrifice.

Verse 5 refers to the temple, but this is very Christian. Hebrews teaches that the true temple is in heaven. Because the temple is pictured as being in heaven, this is referring to Christian worship, not worship under the Law of Moses.

(Rev. 18:21-23) Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. 22 The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. 23 The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.

This passage is not speaking of worship at all. Rather, it’s a curse on Babylon (generally thought of as symbolizing Rome). The curse announced for Babylon’s sins is to never again hear instrumental music! The absence of instrumental music is a curse!

Now, let’s imagine that God truly wishes to never be worshiped with instruments following Jesus’ death. Why on earth (or in heaven!) would God inspire John to picture heaven this way?

The heaven we are promised is a heaven where it’s a curse to never hear instrumental music and where God is worshiped with harps–harps he himself made.

This is the heaven that replaces our lost Eden. It’s where man’s relationship with God is perfect and sinless.

There are certainly references back to Israel, as these were God’s chosen people, too, but the worship pictured in Revelation is not temple worship. There are no animal sacrifices in Revelation. Only the Lamb’s one sacrifice (5:6, etc.).

Indeed, we are told that the purest and most blameless worship of God is with an instrument.

AC: But this is all about a different time and place. Maybe we will all have harps in heaven. But that hardly means we are to use harps today!

IM: But recall the beginning of the argument. Heaven is Eden reborn. It’s the Kingdom fully realized.

Sometimes, the New Testament writers speak of the Kingdom as having already come (Col. 1:13), or as coming (Heb. 12:28), or as not yet come (2 Tim. 4:18). And it’s all true. The Kingdom was founded on Pentecost but is not fully realized. Those in the Kingdom are not yet fully yielded to their King. And most of the earth has yet to bow their knees to God at all. It’s still coming! And won’t be fully be here until the End.

But it’s all the Kingdom. We have the “first fruits” of heaven as part of our new lives as Christians (Rom. 8:23) but not the fully realized Kingdom.

The Revelation teaches us what that reality will be like. And it pictures the saved as worshiping with instruments. In a fully realized, perfect, Eden-restored Kingdom.

Heaven is not the fourth dispensation, with new rules and laws. Heaven is already beginning to appear on earth and is coming. The Church is already a part of this same Kingdom! The Kingdom is but a foretaste, but a foretaste it is. We live today in the beginnings of heaven.

Therefore, it would hardly make sense for God to picture his blameless saints as engaging in sinful activities! Do God’s saints in heaven worship in vain? I think not. If they do the same thing here, do they worship in vain? No, they’re just getting a head start on heaven.

AC: It’s nicely worded. Clever, even. But I think you’re still confusing symbolic language with literal language. It’s really an elementary mistake in hermeneutics.

IM: I’ll grant the symbolism. But notice that God approves instrumental music under the Law of Moses–even honors it in the Psalms that command its use!–and calls on Christians to speak to one another in these very same Psalms.

He then shows us that the blameless before him will worship him in heaven with instruments. Perfect, blameless worship is conducted with instruments!

Our present age has roots in the Law of Moses and branches that reach into heaven. How could it possibly make sense for God to deny the use of instruments in an imperfect, only partly realized Kingdom and yet to command instruments in David’s kingdom and in the Kingdom of heaven fully realized?

Surely this gives you some pause. Isn’t this the same God?

AC: Pause? Yes, I suppose. But if God really wants instruments in his worship, why not just say so? Why the silence?

IM: I would challenge your characterization of the message of the scriptures as “silence.” It seems pretty loud to me.

But let’s take this conversation in a different direction. Is it possible, do you think, that I’m right? Even if the odds are only 1 in a 100 or 1 in a 1000, might I be right?

AC: I really just don’t see it, you know. But, yes, you might be right.

IM: And if I’m right, then instrumental music might actually be commanded, right?

AC: No. It might be authorized, but hardly required. I think you are pressing too hard.

IM: Well, the Psalms command it. And the ad we’ve been discussing–it cites a passage (2 Chr. 29:25) saying God commanded instruments in the temple. And in Revelation, God actually gave the saints harps to worship with. Surely, they’d have sinned had they refused to play!

AC: Ok. It’s possible. Not likely. Remote, even. But possible. I’ll give you that.

IM: And so, what does the principle of safety say? According to this ad, when there any doubt, we need to err on the side of obedience. If God just might maybe be commanding the use of instruments, then surely the safe thing would be to use them!

AC: I think you’ve seriously misunderstood the argument. The argument is that we shouldn’t use things where the authority for them is doubtful. And there’s certainly some doubt as to your arguments!

IM: But the logic works both ways, doesn’t it? I mean, if it’s a question of what might be authorized but not commanded, then err on the side of caution. Don’t do it. There’s no sin in not doing it.

But if it just might be commanded, then there’s no safety in refusing the command! I mean, it’s a command, for crying out loud! The safe course is to obey.

AC: [looks decidedly puzzled] But both are true, aren’t they? I mean, the authority for the instrument is unclear. Whether God actually desires instrumental music is unclear. The argument cuts both ways!

IM: You’re right there. It does cut both ways. Which means we have to toss the argument in the waste heap. Safety is simply beside the point.

AC: Agreed, but I’m not sure where this leaves us. My head hurts. Let’s meet again, but next time, I’m taking aspirin first!

IM: Agreed.

[At this point, IM and AC began debating who should pick up the check–and I woke up with my own headache. Maybe I got off the pain meds too soon!]

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to A Debate on Instrumental Music, Part 1

  1. Alan says:

    On the topic of symbolism… It is frequently argued that serving in the military is not sinful, since the scriptures use soldiers as a positive metaphor for serving Christ (2 Tim 2:4) without any qualification. If that argument is valid, it can also apply to the (admittedly symbolic) examples of instrumental music in Revelations.

  2. Jay Guin says:

    Yes, the symbolism thing is tricky. But even symbols have meanings.

    It's one thing to say Christians are like soldiers in that we are fighting a war against the foes of the Christ. But what do the harps symbolize if not pure and blameless worship? In what sense is pure worship like the playing of a harp–if God detests harp music?

    Nonetheless, as I say in Part 3, I really don't think instruments are commanded. It's just that argument for their being commanded is stronger than the argument for their being unauthorized.

    I mean, anyone can cobble together a decent-sounding argument. The trick is knowing how to tell whether the argument touches the heart of God.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I love Jay Guin! I have " The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace" on my shelf. It guided me to a concise Biblical definition of "fallen from grace".

    A response to Wayne Jackson
    I have read your article “What is A Cappella Music”. You quote “renowned” uninspired sources, even those you consider to be apostates and denominationalist false teachers, to establish historical fact from which you draw a spiritual conclusion. The word A Cappella has no Biblical authority. The absence of instruments in early congregational worship does not prove that early Christians considered them to be a salvation issue. They were no issue at all. They were not even an issue for the circumcision party for the synagogue did not use them. Paul does not even mention them in Romans 14. The great men you quote, did they believe instrumental music in worship to be a salvation issue? I personally agree with C. S. Lewis. I do not use them "in church" and I do not intend to use them "in church". But, is God the one who has made instrumental music a salvation issue? That is the question!
    Obviously, there will be people in Heaven who used instruments in approved Temple worship. Concerning Hezekiah we read, “He stationed the Levites in the temple of the LORD with cymbals, harps and lyres in the way prescribed by David and Gad the king's seer and Nathan the prophet; this was commanded by the LORD through his prophets….”(2 Chron 29:25-26, NIV). I noticed that you failed to include this verse in your article, “Amos, David and Instruments of Music” and you also suggested that David’s instruments were not God’s instruments. I sure this verse will clear up the confusion. Hezekiah restored God’s worship.
    Also, in the Revelation the Lord gives the great apostle John the metaphor of harps or stringed instruments to represent the worship of the 144,000 in Heaven. “They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb (Rev 15:2-3, NIV)”. It seems to me very doubtful that God would use as a symbol for the worship of the church of Christ in Heaven a carnal sin that if literally practiced by the church of Christ on earth would condemn it to Hell. Your opinion seems to be that in the book of Revelation God uses a present day unapproved carnal evil rebellious sinful act of will worship to represent the approved celestial worship of the redeemed. In one article you call incense carnal. I wish you would abstain from accusing God of using carnal sin to symbolize the worship of victorious saints.
    The New Testament is not silent about instruments. The undefiled redeemed are pictured with God's harps in their hands! Is God playing games with us? Honestly my brother, would you object to the words of a beautiful song, if it said, “In Heaven they sing a new song and have the harps of God in their hands”? I question that such a song would live long in many of our brotherhood congregations for I believe it would soon be damned as a liberal corrupting influence that would soon lead to false worship. Pretty soon you will accuse Jesus of being liberal with His symbols.
    Sandwiched in between Calvary and Heaven you exegete an interim in which instruments are an abomination to God equal to the rape of innocents. I can imagine a believing baptized virgin little ole lady burning in Hell. She turns to a man who has just hailed her. He asks with great curiosity, "Why are you here"? "What is your work of iniquity?" She replies, shaking with the torment of separation from God, "I sang gospel songs with the piano". Quickly she responds with the same inquiry. He replies, "I am Joseph Stalin"! "I murdered 40 million people!" Oh well, maybe you think she will be damned at a cooler level.
    I really do not personally know anyone who teaches that the use of instrumental music in worship is a salvation requirement, but if so that would be parallel to Matthew 15:8-9. In fact, to even make instrumental music a salvation issue is parallel to Matthew 15:8-9. Jesus did not object to the washing of hands before meals. However, He did object to it being imposed as a salvation issue.
    When God uses His harps as a divine metaphor of heavenly worship it sure creates serious doubt in my mind that in earthly worship they are a stinking abomination to Him. I am sure that if you were called to serve on a jury trying a capital case, you would want to hear evidence that would take you beyond a reasonable doubt before you would consent to convict. Are you convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that God is the one who has made instrumental music a salvation issue?
    Quit all this damning! How do you know Nadab and Abihu are condemned to burn in torment? Do you have any Biblical evidence that Uzzah is eternally lost? My dear brother, I can hear Jesus say, “He that believeth not is damned”. I can not put “He that plays and sings is damned” in His quotation marks; only yours!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Right On!

  5. Hi Jay,

    Just a note to say you have a brand new fan. Someone brought your site up on my forum and I can't stop reading. I love the way you think and communicate,


  6. Ken says:

    You should begin with noting that the kings were imposed on the nation with the promise that they would lead them into captivity and death. David was king and the Levites (Old Dionysus clergy in Egypt) were under the KING and commanders of the army. Psalms used as PRAISE meant to make yourself vile. The penalty for not turning coward was that from their time in Egypt that the enemy would be sodomized to prove the superiority of the king.

    The word PSALLO has absolutely no musical meaning: Psallo and the Hebrew equivalents mean to PLUCK and nothing more. Psallo means to PLUCK a STRING with the fingers and NOT with a plectrum. Therefore, Psallo EXCLUDES guitar picks, pianos, drums, cymbals or flutes.

    There is no literature which uses PSALLO as "to play a harp." If you pluck the enemy's hair out it may go "twang" but twang doeth not music make.

    1. The word is used PRIMARILY of plucking a BOW string which made a twanging sound to send a singing arrow into Apollo's enemies heart.
    2. Secondly, it was used of a polluted red rope used to FORCE those who dallied around the musical girls in the marketplace and forc them to attend ekklesia. There they were marked as polluted, fined and NOT permitted to speak.
    3. Thirdly, it is a metaphor for "shooting out a hymn" and plucking the "heart strings" is a common expression.
    4. Fourth it is USED of singing or plucking a harp (nothing more). You must tell the reader WHAT is to be plucked. In all of the instrumentalist's proof text from secular literature always speaks of an older male plucing a harp to groom a young male whose hairs had been plucked.
    In Colossians 3 the PARALLEL word is GRACE: both melody and grace were qualities of the spoken language.

    The PSALLO word had warrior or polluted meanings in the Greek world and that is why the LXX used the word to translate MAKING WAR but never WORSHIP which for the spiritual thread was in the synagogue. Psalm was a word of the NOBILITY whom God had abandoned to worship the starry host. Furthermore, the direct command was to SPEAK the Psalms. Because the whole law period was a SHADOW or wholly erroneious system, the Psalms are now used to EDUCATE and ADMONISH and never used for worship. That is because the BOOK of psalms which has only 57 TRUE psalms (not instrumental) were called TEACHING psalms which covered lmuch of the PROSE history.

    Psalmos also appears in the LXX as equivalent to the Hebrew word neginah. This Hebrew term is used to describe a wide variety of songs. Neginah is translated by psalmos in Lam 3:14 (song), in Lam 5:14 (music) and in Ps 69:12 (song). It is striking to observe that in the LXX translation of Lam 3:14 and Ps 69:12, psalmos, or its verbal form, is used for songs that are not only uninspired but are in fact the product of the wicked, even drunkards, who mocked God and His word. The Hebrew term neginah is used elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures of: the songs of the wicked, Job 30:9 (song); the inspired praise of God, Psalm 61 title (Neginah-a song performed on a stringed instrument); and the uninspired praise of the Lord composed by King Hezekiah, Is 38:20 (my songs).

    For instance,

    Lam. 3:12 He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
    Lam. 3:13 He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.

    The PSALLO word is PRIMARILY of shooting literal bows to strike the heart and only as a metaphor to SHOOT someone with a song or love arrow.

    Lam. 3:14 I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.

    Derision includes laughter in merriment or defiance, mocked, sport: this is the RISING UP TO PLAY as the musical idolatry they began at Mount Sinai:

    DERISION as David rose up to play:
    7832. sachaq, saw-khak´; a primitive root; to laugh (in pleasure or detraction); by implication, to play:deride, have in derision, laugh, make merry, mock(-er), play, rejoice, (laugh to) scorn, be in (make) sport.

    7833. shachaq, shaw-khak´; a primitive root; to comminate (by trituration or attrition):—beat, wear.
    Same base as PSALLO.

    Psomion (g5596) pso-mee'-on; dim. from a der. of the base of 5597; a crumb or morsel (as if rubbed off), i.e. a mouthful: – sop.

    He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night John 13:30

    Psocho (g5597) pso'-kho; prol. from the same base as 5567; to triturate, i.e. (by anal.) to rub out (kernels from husks with the fingers or hand): – rub.

    5058. ngiynah, neg-ee-naw´; ngiynath (Psa. 61: title), neg-ee-nath´; from 5059; properly, instrumental music; by implication, a stringed instrument; by extension, a poem set to music; specifically, an epigram: stringed instrument, musick, Neginoth (plural), song.

    Nagan (h5059) naw-gan'; a prim. root; prop. to thrum, i. e. beat a tune with the fingers; espec. to play on a stringed instrument; hence (gen.) to make music: – player on instruments, sing to the stringed instruments, melody, ministrel, play (-er, -ing..

    Naga (h5060) naw-gah'; a prim. root; prop. to touch, i. e. lay the hand upon (for any purpose; euphem., to lie with a woman); by impl. to reach (fig. to arrive, acquire); violently, to strike (punish, defeat, destroy, etc.): – beat, (* be able to) bring (down), cast, come (nigh), draw near (nigh), get up, happen, join, near, plague, reach (up), smite, strike, touch.

    And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot. Isa 23:15

    Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered. Isa 23:16

    And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely [erotic praise song] song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. Eze.33:32

  7. Adam Davis says:

    I am glad the "historical argument" came up. lol…it always amuses me when Campbelites appeal to a historical argument, as it is only used when convenient. Growing up CofC, I was raised to have a complete disregard for church history, except when it came to instrumental music, of course. The thinking was, and still is, that there was the first century church followed by seventeen-eighteen centuries of apostasy and then the great and infallible Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone came and restored the "one true church" and Pope Guy M. Woods perfected and set it in stone. The interesting thing is, that's the very same claim the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists make about their movements. These three groups are considered cults.

    It is interesting that Churches of Christ would appeal to a historical argument though considering their contempt and almost total disregard for it. The question must be raised "Why?" Why completely disregard church history with this exception. I believe the reason is to uphold this distinctive of a capella singing that we believe makes us above superior to other Christians but makes us the one and only true sect of Christians. The other purpose is to keep people in line and to keep them from dare questioning the issue.

    I believe the impression we're supposed to get when we hear that John Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon, the Wesleys, etc. were opposed to instrumental music is that if these hell bound pseudo-Christians were opposed to it, how much worse will it be for you who are of the "one true church."

    Neither a capella or accompaniment is anything, but a new creation is everything. If you love and serve God with all of your heart and soul, if you love mercy and are merciful, and trust in Jesus and His merit and righteousness and not your own, you are saved. If you do believe that a capella gives you some kind of special favor with God, if you believe that a capella is a condition of salvation, you believe in a merit-works based salvation and you need to repent. Having grown up CofC, I can say for sure there are many who "honor" God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him.

  8. Ken says:

    Remember that what you HEARD once upon a time in the west (I doubt much of it) comes now from "singers, actors, communicators, and rhetoricians" discovering that sowing discord is just really funny.

    The Bible is NOT metrical: indeed, when the Spirit delivers words it is WITHOUT METER as the word most often means. That this is corrrect, you could not SING the commanded Biblical Text (Only) if your life depended on it. The Catholics chanted or cantillated the commanded BIBLICAL TEXT which agrees with Paul's command to SPEAK where speak is defined as the opposite of poerty or music. Only myth writers were permitted to write poetry or songs but never TRUE HISTORY. Myth and music derive from mystery meaning to "silence the voice of the victime." That is what musid INTENDS to do and DOES very well.

    The Catholics never used the organ to accompany congregational singing. Organs were not introduced by the Catholics but rich patrons who used them for composing: they played before the MASS, during intercessionals and AFTER mass as recessionals.

    To prove that when John Calvin and the Reformation came on the scene you COULD NOT sing the Psalms. Because people enjoyed the musical concerts they wanted to sing the Psalms. They had to be radically recomposed before they could be sung. Then in UNISION which is the direct command to use "one mind and one mouth." When very simple harmony was added it was nothing like the mind destroying complex harmony especially by the FALSETTO "worship teams" (a blasphemy word).

    The churches belonged to the state and gradually the instruments were removed because the public performances DESTROYED any ability to teach the Word and observe the Lord's Supper (that defines church). If you want to understand Calvin you have to search through His sermons and commentaries. I have posted a few to PROVE that John Calvin rejected instruments as destructive to spiritual worship. Only when the Scotish State presbyterian church imitated the Church of Engand did they SOW DISCORD by introducing instrument.

    1. ONE of what became the Disciples approved of instruments.
    2. None of what became the Christian Church (c 1927-1971) approved of instruments.
    3. None of what became the Church of Christ approved of instruments.
    4. None of the American Presbyterians approved of instruments.
    5. None of the Baptists appoved of instuments before the 20th Cent.
    Only rarely did the Black Methodist use instruments BECAUSE the preacher discovered that it was a cash cow to a broke and divided congregation.
    They ALL repudiated them because they were NOT EXPEDIENT (ie divisive) or would VIOLATE the direct commands of the Bible.

    Full carpet bags brought on a building-organ race among the Northern churches and split THEM. Both Campbell and Stone deny that the radically different groups were UNIONED by the 1932 handshake.

    I will not SPOOK you but it is FALSE that the instrumentalists pile up historical scholars to PROVE that they approved instruments. However, they treat church history with the same "narrative theology" as they treat the Bible. In postmodernism it is not lying if you "gonna save more souls."

    Now that you are PERMITTED to read history it is almost assuredly a MYTHOLOGICAL version to keep the audience in check and still supplying fleece, flesh and bonens to craunch.

    Because I haven't found a modern "scholar" who does not rest on other scholars and almost never the original writers, if you DO begin to read church history you will find that they ALL were Bible literate and knew that as "school of Christ" was totally impossible if accompanied by the "lust of the eyes, the lust of the ears and the lust of the flesh." So, your task, if you choose to take it, is to go diligently seek any church history which tries to PROVE that music of any kind is not NOT destructive making being a STUDENT impossible. While there you might try to find any Bible which does not have Satan (Luciffer etal) as the SOURCE of singing with instruments to silence the Word, to warriors doing the PRAISE word threatening sexual abuse to the enemy, to sacrificial systems called NOISE and identified as SORCERY or EXORCISM, to prostitutes or Sodomites right there in and around the Jerusalem Temple at a Jebusite High placec called SODOM.

    If you choose to do so you can find many good programs–beyond the sacred clergy pages–which shows you how words were USED (not defined) which will link you to the ancient literature where you can see how the word was used. There you will find that PSALLO is never used to define MELODY which even so is "a series of single tones" and had then no tuneful content. You will find that like the PSALMS it was primarily a warfare form of spooking the enemy, always attached to Apollo (Abaddon, Apollyon) and his musical worship team or MUSES which John defines as SORCERERS.

    If the modern spawn has to twist but cannot find more than 0% against the 100% opposed why would you not recognize that as lying wonders which defines the HYPOCRITIC arts and crafts which Christ in Spirit identified as rhetoricians, singers and instrument players.

    If you aren't ready to stop sermonizing and versifying and become a SEEKER of the word, this tape MAY destruct quickly. 😉

  9. Ken says:

    P.S. when Jesus spoke of mouth religion he pointed to Isaiah 29 and Ezekiel 33 to mark the Pharisees and Scribes as hypocrites.

    He names speakers, singers and instrument players.

    He says tha they are NOTHING MORE than rhetorical and musical performer which was a MARK that they came to listen but would not obey and ran out to make another buck.

    Because the SPEAK word identifies "that which is written" the Spirit or word of Christ (John 663) or the Word of Christ, and SPEAK is the opposite of poetry or music, anything that attemts to AID God is defined as hypocritical: by absolute definition a hypocrite is a "rhetorician, singers, dancer, instrument player" and John called them SORCERERS. ALL of the singing terms (meaning of A BURDEN) in our style was callled ENCHANTMENT or SORCERY.

    It still works, huh?

  10. Jon says:

    In my opinion, I believe that, as long as your genuine, heartfelt motive is to praise God, worship could be anything. If you seek to praise the Lord in all you do, then everything you do would be considered worship, wouldn't it?

    If you TRULY mean to worship/ praise God with whatever you do, no one can justly argue that your actions are sinful. I believe that if the worship is fulfilling, you're going in the right direction, so to say.

  11. Dale Meador says:

    A musical instrument is neither good or evil. Mechanical music is a misnomer; a musician cannot perfectly duplicate any given performance. Music does not come from an instrument, it originates in the heart of the player and comes through the instrument.


  12. Dale Meador says:

    P. S to the above comment:

    The word "instrument" has its root in the word "instruct." 1 Corinthians 4:15 (book, chapter, and verse) declares: "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."

    Simply put: An instrument implements an instruction.

    Thanks for the informative article and your attention,


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  14. i.Am Hymn says:

    Interesting (and even humorous) debate here.

    The focus that often gets left out (and replaced by legalism) is that it is not provided that Paul was speaking to the church at Ephesus regarding “worship service” structure, and/or IM vs. AC music at all! Rather, Paul seems to be lightly chastising/encouraging these saints on how to live unto Christ more perfectly.

    He writes in verse 17-18:

    “… become not fools, but–understanding what is the will of the Lord, and be not drunk with wine, in which is dissoluteness, but be filled in the Spirit…”

    Now, either they were getting drunken during (an assumed) “Sunday worship service”, or doing this in their respective lives. I believe Albert Barnes suggested these former pagans may have been continuing their rituals/feasts; singing odes in an inebriated fashion as if this was acceptable to God. It is not fully clear what the exact situation was. However, it is clear (according to the language/content given) that Paul was not commanding them to adhere to some unwritten rule of a cappella style ONLY singing (whether in daily life or w/i the confines of a “worship service”).

    For all intents and purposes, the word a cappella is Latin anyway for “in the style/manner of the chapel” – which were small offshoots of the larger Catholic church buildings. Even at this, a cappella did not have the “vocal only” connotation it bears now but, rather, had a small ensemble singing in unison with an organ/piano player in turn.

    Regardless of all of that, the main focus Paul seems to imply is that which comes forth from one’s heart unto God (and subsequent others in edification)! It’s not about one’s vocal ability, nor that of one’s talent with an instrument but, rather, the intent/purity of one’s heart – which, spiritually/historically, is what God has ALWAYS searched out.

    So, in conclusion, that we/they, us/them, still debate on MI or AC really only shows how spiritually immature the subject and/or we are in Christ/spirit!

    What difference does the type of music used in praise to God matter to us? Is it worship unto ourselves or unto Him?

    I’m not advocating anyone to run out and lease music equipment for the church no more than I am affirming ONLY the best singers lead congregational singing! Rather, if/as the shepherds of the given congregation are in line with the word of God in the expediency of MI, or AC, or BOTH, things should be done in decency and in order unto God first/foremost, and then toward edification of the saints/visiters…simple and plain.

    Two mites cast in faith :O)