An Experiment in Christian Dialogue: Heb 7:14

Angel with harpIn a sermon outline called “The History of Instrumental Music,” Justin Imel writes,

In speaking of the change of the priesthood, the author of Hebrews writes, “It is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests” (Heb 7:14).

1) The Old Testament simply said that the Levites were to be priests and it never once said that those from the tribe of Judah could not serve as priests.

2) Yet because God had specified the Levites were to serve as priests, that excluded all other tribes.

Does Heb 7:14 teach that all things not specifically authorized are prohibited?

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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29 Responses to An Experiment in Christian Dialogue: Heb 7:14

  1. Alan says:

    The scriptures are not silent on the distinction in role of the eleven tribes versus the Levites. For example, the eleven tribes were to bring tithes, and the Levites were to receive them. Similarly, they were given differing instructions about sacrifices and other matters. So for a non-Levite to fill the role of a priest, he would have to violate multiple direct commands. That's not silence, in the sense of the Regulative Principle.

  2. Alan S. says:

    Alan is correct and Justin is in error. Using Hebrews to teach an unbilical princliple ignores three key points that the writer of Hebrews wants us to understand.

    First, as Alan reminds us, God was not silent but was specific. There is no law of silance, but very specific direct commands.

    Second, the rwiter of Hebrews wants to understand that Jesus IS a high priest, not on the order of Levi but on the order of Melchizedek.

    And third, the writer of Hebrews wants us to understand that Jesus IS a high priest because there was a change in the covenant.

    God bless

  3. Concerning the Old Covenant the rule was clear. Even within the Levites certain families were given certain tasks that others were not allowed to do; Aarons sons only could be priests. If we look at God's reaction at the rebellion of Korah, Datan and Abiram we can see, that He was very serious about the rules.

    But it is not about silence in Scripture. Everything (important) was clearly spelled out. Even the change in the priesthood was hinted to in Psalm 110.

    But more than that: The special priesthood was to point to the prophecy that the whole peolpe of Israel should be a royal Priesthood (Ex 19). This has been fulfilled in the New Covenant (1Peter 2).

    This shows that we have to be very reluctant to say that the scriptures are "silent" in an important area of doctrine and life style. If we just concentrate on what has been clearly stated, we should be busy enough obeying that we don't have much time to argue about musical instruments.

    But: The arguments from church history, Justin Imel presents, are still valid; and if you look at the reasons, why such gifted men as Clement of Alexandria were against the use of musical instruments, they are not based on "silence", but on very insightful Biblical principles. We can learn from these guys that the scriptures indeed speak where we think they are silent.

    I have spent 20 years in instrumental churches: Do you really think that as soon as instruments are introduced the quarrels cease? Oh no! Then we bite and devour each other over the issue of CCM! I have watched people leave a worship service because the music was to worldly (as long as I was more "tolerant", I thought that's not appropriate) and a few years later I could not stand it any longer myself. The issue is actually not "instruments or no-instruments", but why are using them? And whom do we want to please? I (personally) have absolutely nothing against using a simple guitar accompaniment, that assists finding the key and the harmonies … but will it stop there? No, the instruments become dominant, the band takes over the worship, your own voice will be drowned by the speakers … and you cannot reproduce it when you are singing with your family at home. Again worship becomes something for professionals. Is it that what you want???

    As CCM was introduced in the 60s and 70s the reasoning was: "We have to adapt to the culture around us in order to reach out to them." The idea is good and sounds convincing, but did it work? Or did it backfire? Has the world around us been improved because we use their kind of music? Or has the church become more worldly? Has it produced unity among the church or constant debates? Remember: This is about instrumental churches; the debate in this Blog focusses on using instruments. But that's only step one in the debate; the second level will be quarrels about CCM that will keep us busy for decades (literally! – I've been in the midst of such). I look at the fruit, and I make my conclusions …

    So, what about this proposal: Why not be satisfied with a-capella for the sake of unity? If you see that your freedom offends your brother … And who brought this issue up anyway, knowing full well that it will cause conflict and division among the churches? If we really want to be more Jesus-focussed, more Grace-oriented, is it really necessary to start with instrumental music? Or is this focus on grace only used to give us more allowance for our wordly desires?

    I don't want to make anyone feel bad with such questions, I don't want to point with fingers either. But when I see how it always comes back to instrumental music (this thread started with a quote from a sermon on IM), I have the impression, that something is seriously fishy …

    Alexander (written with sincere love and concern – as everything I have posted so far, even if it sometimes did not sound that way …)

  4. konastephen says:

    Like Alexander, I have spent a lot of time in and out of churches that use instruments—and I agree that merely adopting instruments doesn’t end strife in itself—however, unlike Alexander, I don’t think that eschewing instruments, on the basis of unity, is necessarily the answer to the problem. The issue of discord, perhaps unfortunately, is something much closer to us than any musical instrument. I wonder, following Alexander’s logic, how much we would throw away and abstain from all in the name of unity? How much of our responsibly as stewards, as ambassadors for the kingdom, are we willing to forgo in the interest of peace. I’d suggest we put blame where blame is due.
    I have seen many respond to the issues inherent in using instruments (entertainment, audience/performer dichotomy, sensationalism, etc) with strong and effective teaching and reproof that cuts to the heart of all worshipers, and not merely critiquing the form as the root of all evil.

  5. Doug Young says:

    Alexander B,

    I agree with you about remaining non-instrumental for unity's sake. Unfortunately, this isn't good enough for some brethren. To many, not believing the right things about the issue itself is damnable.

  6. Freddie says:

    When we argue over non-redemption issues, the Devil wins.

    First things (I Cor 15:: 3-5) must mean something. And we must not elevate anything else to the status of "first things".

    Sing! Praise God! And whatever enhances our worship to Him, then let it burst from us!

  7. konastephen says:

    Jay, to your question—yes! Heb. 7 can be used to say that anything not specified is prohibited (if one wants to run roughshod over the rhetorical force of what the Hebrews writer is saying ,and to instead make it a pretext for a pet logical theory). But the onus is then on someone to show how something has been specified from among a general class of items. Where is this McDonald’s menu of forms of worship, where God has ordered the happy meal of singing-only? We all know that oak is a species among a class we call trees—where is this same list of types of worship???

    Really I’m more curious who innovated the Regulative Principle of worship which the Lord spake nothing of. For have you not read of all the additions to worship where God was silent? Was the Jewish temple God’s idea? Not according to II Sam. 7. Who instituted the singers in the temple? What of the feast of Purim in Esther 9, did God condone this?! Who authorized Jesus to be present at the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22,23)? What about the Jews adding wine to the Passover, Abraham building an altar, the gifts of the Magi…??? The palm branches in Luke 19…? The list goes on and on…

  8. Alan says:

    Alexander has taken the conversation into a deeper and more meaningful area: why we do what we do, and whether we are doing what is best. Those are the kind of questions that can help us grow.

    I've seen instrumental music done in a very spiritual way, and I've seen it done in a worldly way. When it's worldly, it's not the instruments that are at fault, but the people. Instruments don't inherently make the service worldly… and you can't make a worldly person spiritual by taking away the instruments. (Col 2:23). It's what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.

  9. John says:

    The fact that the use of instruments brings its own set of problems and battles does not disqualify them in any sense. I remember the battle at Harding University in the 70's over the use of Stamps-Baxter hymns; there were those in the music department very much against them; while many students and their families fought strongly for them. All practices bring about a certain amount of debate (I can't believe I used that word) depending on the times. I do not care for the praise band myself. It does produce a "show" atmosphere, as well as allows the musicians to sneak in a few songs they wrote themselves; which are not usually very good. But I do love the organ. Some practices of worship, how they are carried out, ARE a matter of taste…and we make out choices.

  10. konastephen says:

    I like John’s comment, “[…]as well as allows the musicians to sneak in a few songs they wrote themselves”. I always thought each of us were to bring a song, a hymn, a spiritual song…singing to one another. I’ve seen churches (with instruments) that actually do this—each sneaking in their own song to worship God and edifying one another. Instead some of us just mechanically repeat the canonical songs from the hymnal which merely mediates the leadership of someone else who probably tapped out those songs on a piano on a Friday night outside the church building (say, Fanny Crosby).

    As some who has had a very good experience in churches who do use instruments but now happily enjoys an ‘A Cappella’ church, my only wish is to see people writing, creating, offering up their own vocal songs. Even if to sneak them in when they don’t appear to be any good. But oh, if I could only hear people voicing, with the idioms of our day and age, a theologically rich expression of worship and praise, spontaneously spilling from the lips…(I miss those days)…

  11. Dan H. says:

    Jay is asking about the implied question raised by this sermon. The question is important because the churches of Christ have said historically that where the Bible is silent, there is no authority for a religious practice. The Hebrew writer states that Moses said nothing about priests coming from the tribe of Judah. So, is this an example of the truth of our long held position on establishing authority? (As to the matter of musical instruments in worship the Bible actually has several things to say so Hebrews 7:14 alone does not settle the instrument question.)

    So, in answer to Jay's question, 'Does Heb.7:14 show that all things not specifically authorized are prohibited?' , the answer is "No".– that cannot be established from this passage. "Why?"

    I think we must understand that while it is true that Moses said nothing about the tribe of Judah being priests; it does not automatically follow that Moses was "silent" about the issue of the priests. Moses specifically said that priests were from the tribe of Levi. By being specific Moses eliminated the possibility that priests could be drawn from the tribe of Judah. So while Moses "said nothing" about priests coming from Judah, he was not silent about the subject of from which tribe the priests should be drawn; because he did in fact specify that the priests should be from Levi. Therefore the so called argument from silence of the scriptures which churches of Christ have used in the past to prohibit many practices is not upheld from this scripture.

    So what does all this prove about instruments of music? I believe it proves nothing. Can churches abuse the use of instruments? Of course. Just as they have abused the use of a-capella singing in the past. (I have seen churches argue over who leads the singing, how long the singing should last, how fast the singing should be, should we be singing "new" songs or the old songs, how many songs before the preaching , how many songs after the communion, should we sing while waiting for a convert to be baptized, should we sing while the convert is being baptized, should we sing during the communion, and on and on. One songbook I used stated in the introduction that the book did not include songs with "common syncopated rhythms"— an example of a song with syncopated rhythm would be the song 'Sing and be happy'.)

    We tend to love our favorite issues. So when a scripture is brought up, we like to think that scripture is saying something about the Biblical issue that interests us at that time. I noticed that Alexander wrote "this blog is about instrumental churches". I can understand his having that perception, but Jay's question was "does Heb 7:14 provide a rule for prohibiting religious practice?" Hebrews 7:14 sheds no light on his question at all, except in the broad terms of showing that all scripture must be viewed in context.

  12. Guy says:

    If Justin Imel is wrong, then in what sense is part of the statement true: "and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests" ?

    This is a statement given by an inspired writer–moved by the Spirit to write precisely what God wanted written. If silence has *nothing* to do with the point being made, then why does the writer bring attention to what Moses did *not* say? Many of the commentators here have pointed out, "but Moses DID say thus and such." Yes, he did. But the Hebrews writer makes his point about what Moses did *not* say.

    Now, i think moving from this verse to the fully developed Regulative Principle is unwarranted, and rather, would require several additional premises. However, again, if this verse has *nothing* to do with "silence," then in what sense is it true?


  13. bradstanford says:

    It seems unwise to draw any particular verse in Hebrews 7 out of context. It is such a lush scene, a deep canyon of beauty and explanation of God's wisdom and planning that a single verse can not begin to contain enough meaning to be discussed.

    So, Hebrews 7:
    There was no "accepted" authorization for Melchizedek, just like in the Mosaic Law there was no authorization for a priest to come from the tribe of Judah. But God is not conforming to the Old Law. He is writing a New Covenant, and to demonstrate how new it is, he brings the new priesthood out of Judah, a younger ("newer") brother to Levi.

    (There is something about God and younger brothers. That's a study in itself.)

    The Hebrew writer uses the fact that there is no authorization for a priest to come from Judah to show that the Old Law is completed. For he states:

    "If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?"

    Apparently, the intent of God is to make us "perfect", since the Hebrew writer says that the reason the Old Law was done away with is because perfection could not be attained.

    This New Covenant is not on the order of the Levitical priesthood, where perfect obedience of the Law was simply not possible. It is on the order of Melchizedek – a direct authorization from "every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord". (Det 8:3, Matthew 4:4). Likewise, we have the commands of God directly given to us (Heb 8:10, Heb 10:16). We are priests, not by Law, but by faith in God.

    To answer "yes" to the proposed question is the same as saying, "Jesus broke the Law by being a priest, because He did not come from Levi." Instead, the point the Hebrew writer is making is that the very lack of Mosaic authorization is what makes Jesus "Melchizedekian". It is not by Law that Jesus is priest, but by appointment, like Melchizedek. Or else Jesus would have come from Levi.

    Instead of never being able to obey Scripture (perfection by law), we are enabled by the Spirit to obey God (Heb 8, Heb 10), with our perfection obtained by the blood of Jesus (Heb 10:12-13), with a promise of the unholy being made holy by God, rather than by Law.

    Continuing to 8:1, the author Himself tells you the context of 7:14:

    The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.

    Indeed, the last verse of 8 sums it up well: "By calling this covenant 'new,' he has made the first one (perfection by law) obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging (perfection by law) will soon disappear."(parentheses mine)

    Therefore, using any of Hebrews to teach that the New Covenant is simply a new way to be under the law is questionable at best, and false at worst.

  14. Jerry Starling says:

    When God specifies, he is not silent. When God specifies, we must listen.

    The IM argument drawn from Heb 7:14 is that since God has specified sing we violate this if we play an instrument.

    However, there are assumptions in that. Judah and Levi were both of the same class, and were mutually exclusive. Are singing and playing mutually exclusive? In what language? Certainly not in English. If I go to a concert to hear Amy Grant sing, do I walk out if she picks up a guitar?

    Oh, you say that in Greek it is different? On what Greek authority do you say that? The historic use of all three words in the New Testament included playing. At least one of them began by meaning to pluck a string. By the time of the NT, by reason of its use in the LXX, this word came to include singing.

    It is a stretch to say that another of these words cannot include playing when Revelation uses ode/ado in a context where God gave harps to those singing.

    Yet, Alexander has a good point. There is much we can do for the sake of unity. The issue, though, is not just what do I do – but do I refuse to accept others as disciples of Jesus simply because they sing with or without an instrument? Or does this whole question fall into the disputable matters of Romans 14-15?

    Jerry Starling

  15. Anonymous says:

    So, what about this proposal: Why not be satisfied with a-capella for the sake of unity?

    How about love your neighbor and quit daming them over something that you feel is a sin that God doesn't say is a sin for the sake of unity.

    I’ve seen instrumental music done in a very spiritual way, and I’ve seen it done in a worldly way.

    I’ve seen many people sing a capella with such obvious snobbish pride, puffed up like leavened bread, that it was absolutely sickening and sinning.

    Btw posting constantly on things people conflict about is a great blogging strategy, can’t say much about the unity part though.

    Continue with your bashing people you don't even know.

  16. I had a short conversation with a commenter on my blog a few days ago about Hebrews 7 and silence (Our Singing Idol), and my commenter threw in a couple of other scriptures from Hebrews for good measure.

    I could vaguely remember from reading on a conservative site somewhere that there was a conclusion that should be obvious from these, but I could not remember what it was nor intuit it for myself.

    And I ended up responding: "So it occurs to me that it has to be a conclusion that someone came up with, since it's not self-evident from the scriptures themselves."

    I obviously guessed wrong in my response what the conclusion was supposed to be.

    So thanks, Jay, for reminding me what it was supposed to be!

    Hebrews also makes it plain that God made exceptions to the rule of Levite-only priesthood: Melchizedek (<a href="; rel="nofollow">Genesis 14:18), and Christ himself (<a href="; rel="nofollow">Hebrews 5:10). Peter makes it plain that we are priests, too (<a href="; rel="nofollow">1 Peter 2:9). So does the revelation to John (<a href="<a href="; rel="nofollow">1:6, <a href="; rel="nofollow">5:10, and <a href="; rel="nofollow">20:6). So, both before and after the ordination of tabernacle/temple priesthood through the tribe of Levi, there were exceptions about which the law (Moses, as Hebrews refers to its author) is silent.

    But scripture is not!

    So … I would have to say that Heb 7:14 does not teach that all things not specifically authorized are prohibited, because it does not exist in a vacuum, excised from the context of the book surrounding it, nor the rest of scripture.

  17. paul says:

    Anonymous, Said:

    "How about love your neighbor and quit damning them over something that you feel is a sin that God doesn’t say is a sin for the sake of unity."

    Having been a victim of these self-righteous people, and having been condemned to Hell for leaving and going to an instrumental church of christ, I agree that the true problem with the CENI/CFTF crowd is that they violate Jesus' new commandment to love (which if they want specifics, they can read 1 Cor. 13). I am reminded of the irony by this verse in Matthew 5:20 " For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."

    p.s. 40years of being in the a-capela church will not soften their attack.

  18. Guy says:

    "How about love your neighbor and quit daming them over something that you feel is a sin that God doesn’t say is a sin for the sake of unity?"

    The people who damn others over the IM issue–
    Do they, themselves, believe that God doesn't say it's a sin?
    Do they, themselves, believe that they merely feel it's a sin?
    Do they, themselves, believe that in the act of damning others over the IM issue, they are failing to love their neighbor?

    As long as the people in question believe that they are being obedient in what they do, then questions like this is akin to asking someone, "have you stopped beating your wife?" The interviewer assumes something the interviewee does not accept in the very asking of the question.


  19. Anonymous says:

    I would say if someone has been beating their wife, as if she were some low life IM church attending Gentile dog, absolutely someone should talk to them. You can't love someone when hitting them.

  20. Steve says:

    In discussing music in chuch, let us not fall for the thinking that says, "everybody uses a band, so we won't be able to reach people if we don't have one. Visitors expect it and will avoid us if we don't."

    We must get rid of that thinking. If it were true, then, none of the first six-hundred years of the church would have happened. In truth, the world was turned up-side-down by …something else. Christians in those years pursued that "something else" — even if it cost them everything. Christians went to their deaths by terrible means, and expectantly and joyfully sang as they went.
    Those who weren't dying, were living and telling others. They were evangelizing. Don't trade the mindset of "you evangelizing someone else" for marketing (i.e., what will attract or disappoint people).

  21. Jay Guin says:

    I think several of you hit on my own view of this one.

    The scriptures are in fact not silent. Ex 28 gives the priesthood, not to the tribe of Levi, but to Aaron and his descendants. The other Levites served in the temple, but only the descendants of Aaron were to be priests.

    The "silence" is a prohibition only because appointing a Judean priest would violate God's command — if that command remained in effect.

    PS — Why are no conservatives defending their own proof texts? I'm getting close to running out.

  22. Jay

    I guess I'll speak for the "conservatives" (though not really becasue I'm nothing and nobody special) Although I'm clearly outnumbed and outgunned here:)

    And BTW, I greatly disagree with your mischaracterization of "defending their own proof texts" kind of a cheap shot if you ask me….but then again, it's your blog and your promotion of progressive thoughts!

    But nonetheless, let’s talk about Hebrews 7:14.

    The argument of verses 11-19 constitutes a bold, and even radical, declaration by the writer. This section does assert unequivocally that the death and resurrection of Jesus has introduced a new and permanent priesthood that brings the Levitical priesthood to an end and, with it, the demise of the law of Moses

    If (as some Jews thought) perfection could be achieved by means of the law and priesthood, the author asks in verses 11-14 what need would there be for God to announce a new priesthood as he did through David in Psalm 110? He clearly implies that the Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus was in the mind of God centuries before the Levitical priesthood and the law.

    The Hebrew writer makes the argument that if the priesthood of Jesus has now replaced that of Levi, then the law of Moses must also be replaced because it is the natural accompaniment of the Levitical priesthood.

    He further indicates Jesus' priesthood as being different from the Aaronic in that those priests all belonged to the tribe of Levi while Jesus came from the tribe of Judah. Since Moses said nothing about that tribe serving as priests, it is plain that the present priesthood of Jesus does not rest on Moses or his law.

    Now, Hebrews 7:14 is an argument from the silence of the Scriptures, what Moses did not say. Or to say the same thing is another way, he was silent about it!

    Now silence by itself amounts to no authority. It's the silence in the face of the God's specific commands. One scholar expressed it in this way: “It was from the tribe of Judah that our great High Priest descended. The Mosaic legislation never authorized anyone from that tribe to be a priest.” (McDonald 1971, 102).

    It was the renowned scholar John Owen, who in his monumental seven-volume set of commentaries on the book of Hebrews: “And this silence of Moses in this matter the apostle takes to be a sufficient argument to prove that the legal priesthood did not belong, nor could be transferred, unto the tribe of Judah.” (1980, 442)

    Again, Jesus cannot be a priest after the order of Levi, as the Old Testament priests were. Why? Jesus is not a Levite. He cannot be a part of the Levitical priesthood. Why? Jesus is of the tribe of Judah. In support of that argument, the Hebrew writer says that Moses spoke nothing about priesthood from Judah. The Hebrew writer is arguing from the silence of the Scriptures – what wasn’t said.

    My dear progressive friends, when God does not authorize a thing, we must respect His specific command.

    Now, in response, progressives love to argue, “God had made it very clear that ONLY those from the tribe of Levi were ever be allowed to serve in the priesthood.” That God had spoken, and God had specified. That the Lord was far from silent. And therefore, the tribe of Judah was excluded from serving in the priesthood not because God was silent about Judah serving as priests, but rather because He had specified that ONLY those from Levi could serve as priests.

    I hope some of your heard clearly what they are saying and the implications of if. But first, where is the passage in the OT where God uses the word “ONLY” where commanding that priests must come from the tribe of Levi? Where is the passage in the Old Testament stating “ONLY Levites could serve as priests?” It cannot be found.

    But this is where the Regulative Principle really comes into play and helpful and we need to come back to what I just said above about what progressives argue, "God had specified" You see, God had expressed His will and had been specific in this matter.

    Here we have the principle of exclusion or silence, combined with the use of regulative principle to show that yes, indeed, even though God did not specifically say “only Levites” but by SPECIFYING Levites, we rightly conclude that indeed only Levites were authorized by God to serve as priests in Old Testament times.

    Again, the word of God impresses us with the fact that what God does not say is just as important as what He does say!

    This is how the regulative principle works. There is scriptural warrant for singing as worship to God. God regulates by what He positively says—sing and make melody.

    Progressives want God to regulate in the negative. This is not how the regulative principle works. It regulates—and can only regulate positively. If I understand it correctly.

    The silence of Scripture by itself authorizes nothing. Silence does not authorize action, only revelation does. Instead of speaking in the wake of silence, "Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God…" (1 Peter 4:11).

    Christians are admonished to employ their lips in offering up praise to God (Hebrews 13:15). They are to "teach and admonish" with their songs (Eph. 5:19-20; Colossians 3:16). The expression of what God wants excludes all else.

    If the New Testament had simply said, "Make music," the commandment could have been complied with by making either vocal or instrumental music, or both. God, however, did not say that. He said sing, and that restricts the music to vocal music.

    The specification and limitation is as clear here as it was in the command to build an ark out of gopher wood and Noah did just that and ONLY THAT! Thus, the Hebrew writer stated he acted “by faith” (Heb. 11:7) which means the patriarch did “according to all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22), or, as the NIV states: “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”

    You see Jay, here is something of a fundamental between those who favor instruments in worship and those who oppose them. Conservatives are of the opinion that to sing AND play is substitution obedience. Progressives have regulated 1) singing AND playing to 2) singing. 1 and 2 are one and the same to you. We are of a different opinion. They are not in essence equal.

    Let’s again come back to Noah’s example. Though the question is frequently ridiculed these days—when authority is held in contempt—it is still appropriate to ask: would Noah have been preserved if he had acted upon the presumption that “whatever is not forbidden is allowed,” and so had altered the divine pattern for the building of the ark?

    We must presume that God will accept in worship what He has not specified. Who are we to sit in judgment upon His wisdom? The Scripture furnishes us with all of the instruction we need to approach God acceptably. It equips us "for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16,17). By singing with our lips, we can accomplish everything God intended our worship in song to be. Why not be content to do just that? Improvising is dangerous!

    John Price comments on this win his book when he says:

    "Some will say that the New Testament command to sing implies the use of instrumental music. But we must understand that singing and the playing of musical instruments are two entirely different acts. Each can be performed independent of the other. Singing can be done without the use of any musical instruments and it is in no way dependent upon them. In the Temple worship, it was very clear that both were commanded. In the New Testament, it is very clear that only singing is commanded………..In the New Testament God has commanded singing with the voice only, and any addition to God’s will is disobedience. The use of musical instruments is Christian worship is such an addition, and therefore, becomes an act of disobedience.” (Old Light on New Worship, p. 46)

    Price later on comes back to this issue and talks about the issue of how we interpret silence:

    “We return now to our question concerning how we are to interpret silence of the New Testament on musical instruments. Does this silence mean that instrumental music were simply assumed by the apostles and nothing was written about them? Or does this silence mean that instrumental music did not exist in the apostolic church? The historical evidence of unaccompanied singing in both the Jewish synagogue before the apostles and the church of the second century after the apostles provides the most powerful evidence in interpreting the silence of the New Testament. If the worship of the synagogue, from which the worship of the church was derived, and the worship of the second century immediately following the apostles were both without musical instruments, then surely the apostolic churches had no musical instruments either. How can it possibly be assumed that musical instruments existed in the apostolic church when they were absent from the periods immediately prior and following. It is placed beyond any doubt, by these historical facts, that the silence of the New Testament must be interpreted to mean that musical instruments did not exist in the apostolic churches. Those who hold to the regularve principle of worship believe that the church today should follow the apostolic model. The question must be asked, if musical instruments did not exist in the times of the apostles, then under whose authority do we bring them into the church today?"

    Are we looking to justify what we want to do or are we "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:9,10)?

    Well….I think the "sharks" are swimming around by now:)lol! So I'll get out of the water now:)!

    Robert Prater

  23. Guy says:


    Conservatives move from this verse to the Regulative Principle, but it's clearly insufficient to do so. If it proves anything close to the Regulative Principle, it only proves it with respect to the priesthood legislation in the OT, and if it proves anymore than that, it still doesn't demonstrate that the Principle still applies in the NT.

    Progressives try to point out in every possible way the *non*-silence of the OT on this issue. They point to what Moses *did* say. They need this verse not to be about silence when responding to conservative arguments. Explaining silence in terms of specificity-elsewhere is just a way to say this verse really isn't about silence at all.

    But the verse *is* about the OT and doesn't by itself necessarily imply anything about the NT in terms of the Regulative Principle. And the verse *is* about silence–the Hebrews writer draws attention to *silence*–what Moses did *not* say–not *specificity* what Moses did say.

    Seems to me that both camps are more true to their respective positions than to the verse itself.


  24. konastephen says:

    Robert, you are certainly correct to say that "what God does not say is just as important as what He does say!”, and you are right in asking, “Are we looking to justify what we want to do or are we trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” But, methinks, this cuts both ways. I’m baffled to find people wanting to read Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 as specifying the authorized circumstances of worship—to sing-only? It seems spurious to see the illocutionary force of these verses as prescribing a specific type of worship from among a list of other types in which he is silent. So, if I asked you to run down to the store to get a few things for me…am I specifying that I want you to run? There is a metonymic quality to the exhortation for us to sing—one which for the early church was 'sui generis'.

    But let’s give you the benefit of the doubt. What is the list of musical types from which God specified for us to sing? So with the priests we see the 12 tribes, with gopher wood we have a class called trees. In every single example proffered in defense of this view of exclusion we are given a clear list, like a store menu…Where is this taxonomy of worship such that we can rightly use the law of exclusion?!

  25. bradstanford says:

    Disagreement #1:

    If the New Testament had simply said, “Make music,” the commandment could have been complied with by making either vocal or instrumental music, or both. God, however, did not say that. He said sing, and that restricts the music to vocal music.

    This conclusion is not a settled matter. It is disputable. Both sides of the issue have their verses and apocrypha they quote, so it is of little use to discuss it. much less command it over everyone.

    Disagreement #2 (at least a disagreement of the conclusion from it):

    Here we have the principle of exclusion or silence, combined with the use of regulative principle to show that yes, indeed, even though God did not specifically say “only Levites” but by SPECIFYING Levites, we rightly conclude that indeed only Levites were authorized by God to serve as priests in Old Testament times.

    And thus, it could be argued that God was breaking His own law by anointing Jesus through the tribe of Judah. But since God can not break the law, something else must be happening.

    The conclusion is that the prior law is no longer in effect, including any regulative principle found in the Old Covenant. The need for the Old Law was to prove to man that man was unable to obey all of the laws. God proved this point so that we could recognize the New Covenant as NOT that. This is what "new" means: not old.

    Therefore, setting an entire doctrine on a principle of the Old Law that was completed and fulfilled by Jesus is trying to live under the imperfect Old Law, which was replaced by the New Covenant, which makes us perfect by the blood of Jesus and His merciful grace.

    To such a one who would try to require others to once again live under The Law, Paul says:

    Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.


    As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

    If the entire law of God is summed up as love your neighbor as yourself, then how does forcing everyone to sing a particular set of songs in a particular style represent obedience to God? It does not.

    In another thread, Robert and I found a point of disagreement about the operation of the Spirit outside of scriptures. My second one would be to disagree that we are still under the Law of Moses, since the Hebrew writer clearly stated otherwise. I understand that "conservatives" do not believe that it those who live by the Regulative Principle are under the Law of Moses, but that's why it's called a "disagreement".

    Paul clearly states that rather than Law, we have freedom, which is why he must specifically warn us not to use our freedom to sin, because sin is no longer defined by the list of rules – since Christ completed that system, and declared it loudly by coming through Judah. Sin is now defined as "not having the mind of Christ". (It was always defined this way, but until Christ came, there was no Christ to imitate. just a set of laws illustrated what would be required for a man to perfect himself, which he could not). Any imperfection is sin, but now covered by blood of Jesus which continually offers atonement. The purpose? To protect us from God's justified wrath against our sin while we are still in the process of being transformed from objects of wrath to objects of glory.

    The prohibition for a priest to come from Judah was used as a sign to the Hebrews that the law – and all that it encompassed – had changed. Since Jesus did not break the law of silence by coming from Judah, then the Regulative Principle of the Old testament must no longer be an issue, as confirmed multiple times by Scripture referring to that way of living as "completed", with harsh penalties for anyone who tries to bring it back.

    As passionately as "conservatives" believe that instrumental music is a continual sin, there is an equal passion from "progressives" (I really do despise both labels) for people to not be slaves to the Old Law. The solution is far from a simple study of scripture, as we have seen, and this is because of disagreement #1, the role of the Spirit.

    If you really want to find where the division is, it would be better to step through statements of faith, like "Jesus is Lord" and "The Bible is inspired", and allow everyone to post just one word: either "agree" or "disagree". One you find a "disagree", try to discuss that. Stop with the multiple topics so you can focus. What other topics are more important than helping us love one another better?

  26. bradstanford says:

    Aside: I have no idea why that log out link got posted in the middle of my above post. Odd.

  27. Anonymous says:

    While you guys stay here and argue over this, there are people who don't know Jesus as their Savior. Ah but you'd rather argue constantly on Jay's posts that are nothing more than merely repeating themselves from the other posts he's put up.

    If I were just starting to believe and were to come on here, seeing the arguing that you guys do constantly, I'd be convinced by you guys that I'd be better off on the streets.

    I am so glad I there are churches out there that do shine bright showing the love Christ to others.

  28. Jay Guin says:


    I fixed the typo for you.

    I'm leaving in the morning for ElderLink, so you'll have a reprieve from my posting for a couple of days.

    I thought about delaying the Cruciform God posts, but they are so incredibly important to this discussion I couldn't make myself do it.

    But the pace will slow a bit.

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