This sermon is going to be different.
The groundwork to introduce this lesson may seem
somewhat confusing to you.
If you are tempted to tune out or to change your
channel, please don't!
Just keep listening carefully, and you will discover
in a few minutes that there is something that will tie all
the pieces of the puzzle together.
First, let's start off with a story.
The other day I took my car to a local mechanic here
for an oil change (this is true, but the rest is fiction).
When I got there, he handed me a bill $545, with $45 for the
oil change and $500 for the four new tires.
"Wait!" I exclaimed, "I didn't ask for any new tires;
I only wanted an oil change!"
"Well now," replies the mechanic, "You didn't say
that I could NOT add those new tires.
I interpreted your silence as permission to go ahead
and add them" (Lewis).
Question: Do you think that mechanic's logic would
win in a court of law?
Here's an interesting history regarding some words that we
have in English.
Did you know that the term "lyric" comes from a
Grecian musical instrument called the lyre?
Now in music, we can have "a lyric tenor," and this
fellow has a high voice with a tone that is light and
Now here's something unusual; the original meaning of
this word changed over the centuries.
If someone says today, "Oscar Hammerstein was a great
American lyricist," what do we mean?
"Lyricist" here means that he wrote the words to a
song, and not its music.
"So," the writer of an article concludes, "if one
says that a certain person is a lyricist, the presumption
must be ... that person writes ONLY the words of songs" (Hadwin).
Now here's an interesting observation someone made: "I
occasionally hear the statement that [giving each Lord's
day] is a 'non-issue.'
I have not been able to determine exactly what any
given individual means by this.
It may mean, 'Nobody around here advocates [giving any
longer], and there is no need to talk about it.'
Or, it may mean, 'I do not consider [putting money in
the plate] to be of any value; it is optional; either [to
give or not to give] is all right.'
Either meaning has its problems.
If the former is the meaning, the person must not
know what is going on.
If the latter, the person is wrong.
[Giving of our means] does matter" (Furgeson).
You all are doing a great job of following!
Keep at it!
Now another question: "How could we discover if the
Lord Supper was being observed in churches after the first
"Well, we could try to find writings from subsequent
centuries that describe what was going on."
That's exactly right!
Three sources that could be quoted are a work called
the "The Didache" or "The Teaching of the Twelve," which was
written around 100 A.D., a Christian named Justin who wrote
in 150 A.D, and an elder named Iraneus who wrote in 180 A.D.
From these three witnesses, we learn that the
churches in the second century partook of the Lord's Supper
in the same manner as it began (Ferguson, ECS).
Congratulations on being good history detectives!
Here's an interesting passage.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:6: "Now these
things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself
and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to
think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed
up on behalf of one against the other."
One commentator states: "This was a catch-cry
familiar to Paul and his readers directing attention to the
need for conformity to scripture. ... And, of course, it was
precisely in this matter of going beyond the word of God
that the factions in Corinth had developed.
They were evaluating the word and authority of men
... thinking of men more highly than they should, and
spurning the meekness and humility taught throughout the
We must not go beyond what is written in the New
Testament as well.
Another Question: “How could we determine if baptism by
immersion was practiced in churches after the first
"Well, we might see if any ancient baptisteries have been
Maybe their structure could help us to see what happened."
Excellent answer, and it just so happens that in
Italy, there are 30 churches with such ancient baptisteries.
From their size, their shape, their depth, and their
inputs for water, there is an interesting conclusion: they
were all designed so that people could be immersed
(Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church, Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 2009, 836ff).
Now to a problem.
This is a fictitious problem, but listen carefully
you noticed that we really have a problem in our worship
is no incense being used here!
Can you imagine that?
It was used "regularly in worship in the Old
it] was offered on the altar of incense both morning and
evening in the tabernacle, and later in the temple.
Incense is mentioned in Psalm 141:2 and Malachi 1:11.
Incense is also mentioned in Revelation 8:4: "And
the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints,
ascended before God from the angel's hand."
Doesn't Paul teach that we are to be "the aroma of
Christ" in 2 Corinthians 2:16, and wouldn't using incense be
a wonderful aid in reminding us of that truth?
Yes, we've worshiped far too long without any
incense, and it's high time that we better start using it!
Here's another interesting observation: "Who could
successfully deny that current culture is characterized by
disrespect for authority?
The 'do your own thing' mentality that has been so
pervasive since the 1960s has led those of subsequent
generations to view themselves as autonomous
(self-governing), with no higher authority than themselves.
Authority is seen to reside inherently within the
circumstance is reminiscent of the dark ages of Jewish
history (the period of the Judges) when 'everyone did what
was right in his own eyes' (Judges 21:25). ... We are living
in a culture that pays lip service to religion, while
fashioning that religion in accordance with human desire"
Alright, thank you for your patience with this lengthy
There is a common bond that ties all of these puzzle pieces
together, and that is the topic of the usage of musical
instruments in the worship service!
That may be a bit shocking to you, so let's start
over and try to show how all that we've said before in this
lesson has a bearing on this topic.
The first illustration involved a mechanic who
interpreted silence as permissive.
You probably thought that his answer wouldn't stand
up in a court.
But did you know that this is one of primary arguments that
instrumentalists use to try to make their case?
They say, "Well, the New Testament does NOT say that
we can't use them!
The silence then is permissive, and allows us to do
question is really one of authorization isn't it?
I only authorized the mechanic to change my oil, and
I did not authorize him to put on new tires.
My silence did NOT give him permission; in fact, it
prohibited him from doing anything further.
Likewise, the New Testament commands us to sing, and
that in itself prohibits us from doing anything further.
1 Corinthians 14:15 states: "I will pray with the
spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding.
I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing
with the understanding" (1 Corinthians 14:15).
The next example showed how the word "lyricist", which
was once associated with an instrument, is now interpreted
differently to mean one who wrote only the words of a song.
Instrumentalists will tell you that the term for
"make melody" in Ephesians 5:19, the term psallo,
means "to pluck or to play," so Paul is saying that
Christians should sing and play in worship.
There's just one problem with this idea: words CAN
change their meaning over time, just like we saw with the
words "lyric" and "lyricist."
One person makes this correct observation about the
same thing happening with the term for “play” in the New
Testament: "It is the conclusion of this chapter that this
is precisely the way in which psallo ... [was] used
in the New Testament.
This is evidenced by the way those who heard it and
at the earliest period of time responded to it and used it
Psallo meant to 'sing only' (that is without
instrumental accompaniment) unless additional information
was given to the contrary.
... In the first century and beyond, the word psallo
among pagans continued at times to be used in its classical
sense of 'play' on an instrument. ... But when the word was
used alone in contexts with application to Christian
worship, the word was used clearly and consistently in the
sense of 'sing without instrumental accompaniment'" (Hadwin).
Since we are looking at terms, do you know what a
It means "according to the chapel or according to the
And what was the music "according to the church"?
It was vocal music only, and the term still means to
sing something without accompaniment.
You see, we are to sing using our hearts or our minds so
that we are understanding and learning when we sing:
Ephesians 5:18-19 commands: "... but be filled with the
Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to
In the third example, we saw how some think giving is a
same thing can be said about using musical instruments in
fact, a teacher at a Christian university shared this
observation: "It may come as a rude shock to some people
that a sizable portion of those enrolled in our Christian
colleges consider the question of instrumental music in the
worship of church simply a matter of no consequence. ... I
speak of Bible majors, of students who are regarded as
spiritual leaders on campus, and of those who are preparing
to grace our pulpits within the next few years" (McKinney,
HU Lectures 1986).
Now that statement was made almost 25 years ago, so
those students are now in pulpits and maybe even in
You see, this is NOT a non-issue.
Listen, to this wise assessment: "The grounds on which
someone accepts an instrument into the assembly will make
possible opening the door to many other things.
... [The] basis on which [instrumental music] is
accepted or rejected represents an important principle of
Something unimportant in itself may become [very]
important if it is tied to an important principle or if it
becomes an occasion of division.
On both grounds, instrumental music has become
Romans 15:5-6 exhorts: "Now may the God of
patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one
another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one
mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord
So how can we know that vocal music alone was used in
the churches after the first century?
Right, the writings of church leaders.
Here are three.
First of all, Clement of Alexandria, a Christian
teacher in 190 A.D., wrote: "We, however, make use of but
one instrument, the word of peace alone by which we honor
God, and no longer the ancient psaltery [or harp], nor the
trumpet, the tympanum, and the aulos [or pipes], as was the
custom among those expert in war and those scornful of the
fear of God who employed string instruments in their festive
gatherings, as if to arouse their remissness of spirit[s]
through such rhythms (Pedagogus, Book 2, Chapter 4;
quoted in Hadwin).
A preacher, named John Chrysostom (347-407), said in
a sermon: 'Where aulus players are [those who play the
pipes], Christ is not.'
He then referred to cymbals, auloi (a style a of
dancing), and obscene songs as 'the Devil's great heap ...
of garbage" (Hom. On 1 Cor. 12:11; quoted in Lewis).
An early church historian who wrote around 325 A.D.
named Eusebius made this comment: "The unison of voices of
Christians would be more acceptable to God than any musical
Accordingly, in all the churches of God, united in soul and
attitude, with one mind and in agreement of faith and piety,
we send up a unison melody in the words of the Psalms"
(commentary on Psalm 91; quoted by Hadwin).
So, we see that the church leaders condemned musical
instruments in worship and exalted the voice or the unison
of voices as the most pleasing instrument to praise God!
This is just three examples, and more could be added.
A scholar, who is not a Protestant, wrote a
dissertation in 1965 about early church leaders and music,
and said in a summary statement that there were two
outstanding facts: "There is the fact that early Christian
music was vocal, and there is the patristic [or early church
leaders] polemic [or argumentation] against instruments"
(James McKinnon, Columbia University, 1965).
[You might read that last statement again.]
Another source dealing with church matters made this
assessment: “... it
is generally believed that the primitive Christians failed
to adopt the use of instrumental music in their religious
worship. ... The general introduction of instrumental music
can certainly not be assigned to a date earlier than the 5th
centuries [the 400s-500s]. ... The first organ is believed
to have been used in Church service in the 13th
century [the 1200s]” (McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia
of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature,
NY: Harper and Brothers: 1876, 6:759, as quoted in Miller).
History verifies that musical instruments never were
used and did not continue to be used in worship services.
And here's another interesting lesson from history:
"So what reason is powerful enough to account for the
dramatic and immediate change in Jewish and pagan practice
regarding instrumental music on their becoming Christians?
Only a belief that the use of instrumental music in
Christian worship was sinful could have abruptly changed
such a deeply ingrained and centuries-long practice.
Only a command of God could have produced such a
Hebrews 13:15 admonishes: "Therefore by Him let us
continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is,
the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
The passage in 1 Corinthians 4:6 about not going beyond
what is written shows us that the use of instrumental music
in worship is a salvation issue.
"Salvation not only includes what Jesus required to
be saved, but also includes refraining from sin when one is
Sin is lawlessness or acting outside the scope of what is
written by the inspired writers of Scripture.
"So then faith come by hearing, and hearing by the
Word of God" (Romans 10:17).
Since the use of musical instruments in worship
services cannot be found in New Testament teaching, those
who use them are exceeding what is written and practicing
something that is not of faith! ... And obeying God is
crucial to our salvation" (Olbricht).
Question: How could we determine if instrumental music was
practiced in churches after the first century?
"Well, we might see if any ancient music has been
Maybe something there could help us."
Yes, indeed, ancient discoveries do help us.
There is a fragment of a hymn that dates back to the
200s which was discovered in Egypt.
Interestingly, "... it contains notations for vocal
rendition, but none for instrumental accompaniment"
Ephraem Syrus was a church leader in the 300s and
wrote at least 15 hymns.
According to a hymn historian: "We might have
supposed them to be poems intended to be simply read, but
from notes found on manuscripts giving directions as to the
singing, it appears as though, at least in some cases, they
were actually sung or chanted in connection with religious
services" (John Julian, A Dictionary of Hymnology NY:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1892, 1109).
Note again, there was no notation with regards to
What little evidence we have does not sustain the use of
musical instruments in worship services.
Hebrews 2:11-12 says this of Jesus: "He is not ashamed to
call them brethren: saying, 'I will declare Your name to My
brethren; in the midst of the assembly, I will sing praises
Just change the arguments for using incense to using
musical instruments, and you'll clearly understand the
weren't instruments used in the Old Testament?"
The answer to that is: "Yes and No!"
God approved their usage in the worship of temple (2
After the exile, however, musical instruments were
not found in the worship of the synagogue!
Nonetheless, all systems under the Old Testament have
been nailed to the cross, and we now live under the New
Testament (Colossians 2:14)!
The instrumentalist will probably come back, "Yes,
but there are harps in Revelation, and that's New
Let's look at two passages there very quickly.
Revelation 5:8-9: "Now when he had taken the
scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell
down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls
full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
And they sang a new song."
"Although they hold harps, one could point out that they
are not said to play [them], but only to sing.
This may not be just a quibble, for the bowls of
incense are said [explicitly] to be the prayers of the
The harps would seem to symbolize singing in the same way
that incense symbolizes prayers. ... Such an interpretation
is strengthened by Revelation 14:2-3: 'And I heard a
voice from heaven like the sound of many waters, and like
the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the
sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they sing a
new song before the throne.'
What is heard is a
'voice'. It is
compared to the sound of rushing water, the sound of
thunder, and to the sound of harpists.
There is no literal water, thunder, or harp; only a
voice. And the
voice is the singing, [a loud and beautiful singing] of the
redeemed. ... [So], these passages do not offer as much
support as is often claimed.
By the way, if we can argue that Revelation upholds
using musical instruments, then we can rightfully argue that
thrones, altars, bowls of incense, a sea of glass, and robes
dipped in blood should be in worship services too because
all those things are found in Revelation as well!
"It will aid us," instrumentalists say.
Perhaps a parallel idea will refute this argument.
When Christ told us to use bread and fruit of the
vine for the elements of the Lord Supper, He did not specify
the containers that could be used (the ways to serve aren't
specified, so we may choose what to use).
Would it be an aid if we were to have lemonade and
hamburgers instead of bread and fruit of the vine?
No, of course not, these things would be an
unauthorized replacement and not an aid!
Likewise, when the apostles gave the command to sing
vocally, they did not specify the style, the type of
harmony, and the way to remember the music and the words
(these ways aren't specified, so we many choose what to
use). Would it
be an aid, however, to have guitars, pianos, and drums
instead of vocal music?
No, of course not, these things would be an
unauthorized replacement and not an aid.
"The general experience of religious bodies is that
the presence of an instrument works against congregational
participation in the music.
The emphasis shifts from active involvement to
passive listening, from accompanied singing to playing only"
don't have or need incense because there is no command or
example in the New Testament that it was ever used in the
early church; in the same way, there is no command or
example in the New Testament that musical instruments were
ever used in the early church.
What are the purposes of worship in the New
Romans 15:6 says that it is to glorify God, 1 Corinthians
14:26 says that all things must be done to edify one
another, and 2 Timothy 2:2 says that it involves teaching.
Note how singing fits so beautifully with all these
Singing shares in heaven's praise to God (Luke
Singing confesses faith (Hebrews 13:15).
Singing gives thanks to God (Colossians 3:16-17).
Singing builds us up as members (1 Corinthians
exemplifies the unity of the church through one voice (Rom.
Now how can musical instruments do any of those
can't praise, nor give thanks, nor confess faith, nor build
up members, nor exemplify unity through one voice!
They can't utter a single word, and it is words that
glorify, edify, and teach!
In fact, musical instruments through their melody,
volume, and amperage can often detract greatly from the
vocal content, from the understanding and learning that
should take place.
The voice is the only instrument God created, and it
is peculiarly suited for accomplishing the purposes of the
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all
wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and
hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your
hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16-17).
So what does it boil down too?
It boils down to one's preference, and letting each
call the shots about worship, instead of letting God call
the shots about it.
As we saw, in a culture where each individual no
longer wants to hear any authority, everyone does what is
right in his own eyes.
One preacher has sadly noted: "The great tragedy of
our own period of American history, for both the nation and
the church, will surely be shown in the light of eternity to
be the stampede to the left, the encroachment of secularism,
the dulling of spiritual appetites in exchange for
enshrining fleshly allurements, the shift from the rational
to the emotional, in short—the betrayal of God" (Miller).
We have let our emotions, our feelings, and our
personal preferences take first place in religious matters.
Another preacher has rightly noted: "God requires
that those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in
truth (John 4:23-24).
One must wonder how an unscriptural practice, began
centuries later by men, can be from heaven or according to
Men have no right to change God's plan or His
teaching on any matter.
When they do so, they act on their own authority—not
the authority of God" (Phil Sanders quoted by Ron Williams).
As we have seen, there is no biblical, no historical,
and no doctrinal support for the usage of musical
instruments in worship services of the Lord's church!
Obeying God is crucial to our salvation.
Jesus challenges us to become His disciples.
Won't you become His disciple through repentance and
Won't you return to your first love if you've drifted away!
Then, let's continue to worship together in spirit
and in truth!